Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 2, Philippe Schmit of Philippe Restaurant + Lounge

You might remember Philippe Schmit as the executive chef at the former Bistro Moderne at Hotel Derek. If you've been wondering where he's been since BM's closing in 2007, look no further. It's a new year and new beginning for the chef as January 25 marks the long-awaited launch of his restaurant, Philippe Restaurant + Lounge. Today we continue our chat with him.

EOW: Will you be serving primarily French food?

PS: Yes, absolutely. I never use the word fusion, but it will be French-influenced. So you can expect food from a Frenchman that has adapted to Texas.

EOW: Did you bring staff from Bistro Moderne with you to Philippe?

PS: Yes, quite a few. I brought both the pastry chef and chef de cuisine that I worked with at Bistro Moderne. I'm lucky to have a few waiters and several chefs that want to work with me here. The kitchen is quite big so I think people will enjoy working in it.

EOW: What was your favorite component in the planning of the restaurant?

PS: One, to create the tasting menus -- it's my thing, and I love it. I created 25 or 30 tasting menus, and they were a lot of hard work because they had to be ambitious, realistic and consistent. Second was discovering the design that I wanted. I wanted the design to have a distinct style, so I was very fortunate to have a great designer, architect, consultant, and investors. It's like life; you have the pain, sadness, and stress, but it's always worth it from the joy you get from it. That's my perspective about life in general.

EOW: Why are tasting menus not very common in Houston? PS: A lot of restaurants want to do a tasting menu, but they aren't able to. It's easy to be a great chef, but if you don't have the right team and the right kitchen and enough equipment, it's very hard to reach. Our kitchen is very large and we have a separate line just for the tasting menu, which makes it possible for Philippe.

EOW: What are some of your interests outside of the kitchen?

PS: When I don't work, one of my favorite hobbies is running. But I love dining out, and I like to practice ballroom dancing. I was the dancing chef in New York. I love to have hobbies and I'm interested in so many other things, but I'm very lucky because I love what I do, and for me, it's also a hobby. It sounds like a cliche, but the restaurant becomes your family and the customers become your friends.

EOW: Is it possible to get a decent baguette in Houston?

PS: I think the best baguette that I've seen so far is at the French Riviera Bakery; it's a small baguette and it's pretty good. Le Mistral also has great baguettes. You have to take into consideration the humidity in Houston -- during the winter, it's okay, in but the summer because of the humidity it's hard to make a good baguette.

Tomorrow we'll take a peak at Philippe's artistic décor.

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Nancy Kerschen