Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 1: Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

Chef Lynette Hawkins had already made a name for herself in Houston years before opening her casual Italian restaurant, Giacomo's Cibo e Vino. Hawkins' prior endeavor was La Mora Cucina Toscana. She operated it for 16 years before shutting it down for some very sensible reasons. (We'll cover those details later in this interview.)

Hawkins' Tuscan cuisine was missed, so there was much rejoicing when she opened the new place. Even so, Giacomo's was not an overnight success. Hawkins originally envisioned a counter service setup where customers would order cichetti (small plates) and other items. Customers rejected the setup.

These days, Giacomo's provides table service for both lunch and dinner. Why didn't the initial concept work? How has Giacomo's evolved into a stable, successful neighborhood restaurant after that misstep? Today, get up to speed on Hawkins' restaurant background, then come back tomorrow to learn more about Giacomo's evolution.

EOW: How did you first get into cooking?

LH: Well, I was definitely a late bloomer as far as getting into professional cooking. I had no idea I could make a living at it. I was very interested in cooking when I was a little girl but it was just a fun thing I did with Mummy.

The first time I realized I could make a living at it was when I was a manager at Driscoll Street Café [no longer open] and the chef didn't show up for work. I had to make quiche. I came up with a soup that I'd seen him make before and the customers loved it. I thought, "Well, this is really cool. Maybe I can be in the kitchen instead of just being in the front."

So, I decided that I was going to work in restaurants where I admired their management and food. I went to work for Damian's as the manager but I did a lot of training there in the kitchen to prepare for opening the Carrabba's on Woodway. I was the general manager and--again--the chef didn't show up. I worked there for two years and that gave me the confidence to open [La Mora Cucina Toscana].

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Phaedra Cook
Contact: Phaedra Cook