Chef Chat, Part 2: Kevin Bryant of The Capitol at St. Germain

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Today we're chatting with Kevin Bryant, the Executive Chef at The Capitol at St. Germain, about how he got started in the industry and what it was like working as a private chef for country music singer George Strait. Today, we chat about his role as executive chef and get to know what he's like when he's not in the kitchen.

EOW: So you had this peachy job as a private chef, how did you come to be here at The Capitol?

SB: It was just someone that I'd worked with in the past. He knew the manager here and said, "Hey do you know anybody, they're looking for a chef, there's a new venue downtown?" And I said, "Yeah, me. I'll come check it out." I came here, it was still in the rough stages, and it sounded like a great concept.

EOW: So for people who don't know, what is the concept here? What is The Capitol at St. Germain?

KB: It's a music venue that has a high-end restaurant attached to it. We're going to a supper club theme that's also tied in with shared bites. It's similar to a tapas style -- most people think Spanish theme -- but we really want people to come to a show, come and have a nice dinner if they want, do the shared bites concept where a table of three can have four or five different things and share it amongst themselves versus one main entree. And desserts are the same thing -- shared small bites.

EOW: How much of the menu was driven by you?

KB: I put together 98 percent of the menu. Mark Parmley, my sous, helped me out on some of the things, but he came a bit late on the project, so he didn't have as much influence on this first menu, but the plan is to change the menu six times a year.

EOW: Do you have music here everyday?

KB: Ultimately it's going to be Tuesday through Saturday. Fridays and Saturdays we always have a show. 99.9 percent of the time we'll have it Wednesday and Thursday, and we just posted that Tuesdays are going to be a talent search night. So from 6 to 9 p.m., you'll be able to come in, pay $3, we give you 10 minutes of time on stage, then at the end of the entire deal, the judges pick the top three who get to play again at the end of the night. And then at the end of 12 weeks, the winner gets $500 cash, and they'll get to be the opening act for one of our headliners. We're bringing in singers, songwriters, we're not trying to do one type of music, we're mixing it up -- jazz, rockabilly, rock, soul.

EOW: What do you want people to come away with when they eat here?

KB: I want them to enjoy the whole experience. Food is a section of what we're doing here. I want some of it to be learning, some of it to be enjoyable, some of it to kind of bring back home-ness. Simple food, good cuisine. We're going to change the menu six times a year to stay seasonal, so it doesn't get stagnant.

EOW: What are your favorite dishes on the menu? Top three.

KB: I'd do the crab cakes, the pork chop, and the menage a foie is really fun for a foie gras lover. Dessert-wise, it would be the lavender creme brulee. But I'm really biased, I like all of them.

EOW: On to fun things about you. Are you from Houston originally?

KB: I was born in Manhattan, Kansas, grew up from Knoxville, Tennessee. My dad worked for Boeing, and we moved here my senior year in high school. I swam and played water polo. I graduated from Clear Lake High School, then went to college and studied everything except what I ended up doing. I studied mechanical engineering, graphics engineering, then I studied forestry, then I said forget it, I'll do business.

EOW: So, you played water polo. What are your other pastimes?

KB: I'm a fisherman. Anything outdoors. But I'm not a hunter. I'm not a big TV guy. Other hobbies are salt water fish, I have a tank. I'm a dog lover. I foster dogs for Lucky Dog Rescue.

EOW: So if you're cooking at home, what do you make?

KB: Usually it's quick and easy. I've always wanted to do a TV show, like what's in the chef's kitchen -- Don't take this idea, this is Kevin's idea. I enjoy entertaining, so I don't mind cooking when I have people over on a day off, but if I'm by myself, I might just have a bowl of cereal, some Raisin Bran Crunch.

EOW: Where do you go out to eat?

KB: I try to go to a lot of places that I know people because I like to support the friends that I have. Lately, I've been going to Arturo's, I know the general manager there. When Olivier was working at a restaurant, I'd go there a lot. I go to Hugo's often. I'll even go to Genji's -- this karaoke place -- they have this cow's tongue and octopus dish that I like.

EOW: Do you have a cheap eats?

KB: Not really. When I do get a chance to go out and enjoy, I like to relax and enjoy -- you know, get a couple cocktails, try a couple of things, enjoy a nice bottle of wine. Sometimes I do a happy hour crawl with some of my friends, and we'll map out five or six places to do a happy hour.

EOW: Where? Do you do drinks or food?

KB: We don't have any specific places, we'll pick an area of town, whether it's the Westheimer, the Heights, down south, out by the university. We're usually strict about one drink and one appetizer at each place. Fleming's has a great happy hour, and their burger, that prime rib burger, oh my God. I also like Kata Robata, but I always stray from the happy hour menu when I'm there.

EOW: Okay, last question. If you were to have a last meal, what would it be?

KB: It would probably be a ribeye, pounded out, chicken-fried, with mashed potatoes and gravy on it.

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Check back with us tomorrow as we taste some of Bryant's dishes.

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