Chef Chat, Part 1 : John Schenk of Strip House

You think it's tough overseeing one kitchen? Try running six, all scattered around the country in such places as Houston, Las Vegas and New York City. Welcome to Strip House Executive Chef John Schenk's life. We caught up with him on his last visit to Houston.

EOW: What's it like being the executive chef of so many locations?

JS: It's a challenge for sure. I'm very lucky in that I've had the same chefs at almost all my locations. We changed chefs in Houston about 14 months ago, but everybody else has been there for years. There's a consistency and a long history of conversations and training. They are all well versed in the recipe book. I oversee this one (Houston) and Vegas. These are my real time focuses.

EOW: How much of your time is spent in Houston and Las Vegas?

JS: 60 percent Vegas, 40 percent Houston.

EOW: How many people do you oversee in each kitchen?

JS: Houston is the biggest one. It's by far the largest Strip House. It's open for lunch, so you have that crew here. And then for dinner. Then you have so many parties. This is by far the most complicated Strip House to do. You see every possible way to do business at this location. The kitchen here in Houston is really solid. I give the chef here, Mario Vidal, great credit.

EOW: How long have you been with Strip House?

JS: I joined Strip House in 2004. I moved from Las Vegas to Houston to open this restaurant. I lived here for almost three years.

EOW: Where do you call home now?

JS: Las Vegas.

EOW: What are the differences between the Strip House restaurants?

JS: There are subtle differences. You just see product. What moves in one location and what doesn't move in another location. In New York, the #1 side is creamed spinach--far and away! In Vegas, it's mushrooms--far and away! You wonder why that is. In New York, you can sell tons of porterhouses. Here in Houston, it's very rare to sell a porterhouse for two.

EOW: What's big in Houston?

JS: Well, anything outside of New York City, it's filet. In New York City, it's all strip. Check back tomorrow as Chef John Schenk talks about how he prepares those steaks.

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