Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 2: Greg Lowry of VOICE

Yesterday, we spoke with VOICE executive chef Greg Lowry about how he became a chef and the evolution of the menu under his direction. Today we talk sharks, Toque 5 dinners and molecular gastronomy.

EOW: Have you recovered from the Final Four?

GL: Business-wise it was fantastic, but hour-wise it was not fantastic. My sous chef and I worked 14 days straight and almost 200 hours. We had UPS here, all the bigwigs and some of their big clients: the president of Amazon, the president of Overstock. And a bunch of coaches--we actually had the trophy here for one of the dinners. Then this past Wednesday we had a big Disney luncheon where they announced that Disney Cruises would be coming to Galveston. But it was one of those deals where they said, "We're going to have 55 people," and then, as we started plating they said, "Oh, now it's up to 77 people." We're like, "Great, we have mako shark. Where can we find that real quick?"

EOW: I think Aquarium has a shark or two.

GL: Yeah, exactly. "Let's see if we can borrow one."

EOW: Tell me about the Toque 5 monthly dinner series (for which five different chefs, including Lowry, collaborate on dinner, with each month's installment hosted at a different chef's restaurant).

GL: When I worked at Mulberry, on the first Monday of each month we would do something called Meaty Monday Madness. In February, for example, our restaurant would buy bison hearts and chicken hearts and all kind of hearts; chefs from around town would come pick them up and take them away, and then we'd all meet that night at my boss's house and have dinner. Once all the chefs found out about these dinners, it started to be a really big thing. Then the liquor reps started coming and the beer reps started coming and the press started coming, and it began to unite the community. And I don't think Houston has enough of that, so Jorge [Valencia] from Sushi Raku and I, our idea was to bring together five chefs who were completely different. [Sushi Raku was originally part of the dinner series, but they dropped out shortly before it started; Valencia has recently left Sushi Raku.]

We talked to Taylor Byrne Ray of My Table, and she helped with the overall logistics and brought in some of the other chefs, and then we brought in Robert Gilroy from Moët Hennessy, which is sponsoring all the beverages, and it's gone from there. The chefs in the series--John Sheely, Hugo Ortega, myself, Juan Carlos Gonzalez from Bistro Alex, and Jason Chaney from The Barbed Rose--we all come from different culinary backgrounds, different walks of life, and we're different ages. It's been a good way for us to get to know each other, and we have a blast. We go in, have a couple beers and cook dinner. It's nothing pretentious and it's not a competition; everybody's there to help everybody else. And it's been a huge success. We're going to do a second series during summer.

EOW: Does the molecular gastronomy movement have any relevance to what you do at VOICE?

GL: I think it does. We don't base our dining experience on it, but we do play around with it. One of the Toque 5 dishes we did was fried Hollandaise, which was pretty heavily molecular. Is it feasible every day? Probably not, because people don't understand it. But it's a lot of fun. We've got tons of hydrocolloids and stuff downstairs that we play around with. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, we try it again.

EOW: What's been the most successful experiment in that area?

GL: The fried Hollandaise worked out really well.

EOW: Anything that didn't work out that you thought was going to be great?

GL: The fried Hollandaise again. We were going to put it on the menu, but we had problems standardizing the recipe. We couldn't do it every day; it'd be too time-consuming.

EOW: Do people ever come in and order things that aren't on the menu?

GL: Not here so much; when I was at Tony's it happened all the time because they'd been open for 60 years. His clientele knows exactly what they want and they've had it for years.

EOW: Even if it's not on the menu.

GL: Most of the stuff wasn't on the menu.

EOW: Are you originally from Houston?

GL: I'm originally from Goshen, New York, but I moved here when I was two months old, so I'm about as Houstonian as it gets. But I'm also a Boston Red Sox fan. I don't know why; I think it was because the Red Sox was the team I played on when I was a little kid. It's really uncomfortable when I go back and visit my family, because they're all Yankees fans.

Check back tomorrow, when we try the food at VOICE.

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Matthew Dresden
Contact: Matthew Dresden