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Chef Gone Wild: Chris Shepherd Has Big Plans for One Fifth

Chris Shepherd stands by his Pitmaker smoker.
Chris Shepherd stands by his Pitmaker smoker. Photo by Catchlight Photography

Chris Shepherd is not a man to rest on his laurels. He was named Best Chef in the World by The Robb Report in 2019. He owns and operates four successful restaurant concepts in Houston. He released his cookbook, co-written with Kaitlyn Goalen, Cook Like a Local, last year and The Robb Report gave it a glowing review as well. He is also an admired philanthropist due to his Southern Smoke Foundation which has raised 1.6 million dollars for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the foundation's emergency relief fund for employees in the hospitality industry.  Needless to say, he's a busy man. And now, he's got even more news.

In 2017 he leased the former Mark's American Cuisine space, which was also formerly a church, with a plan to create five different concepts in five years, allowing him and his team to flex their culinary muscles and explore the many different cuisines of the Gulf Coast region's diverse cultures. The first iteration was One Fifth Steak followed by One Fifth Romance Languages and One Fifth Mediterranean. The Mediterranean concept seemed to connect with his team and Shepherd is currently looking for a location to flesh out that concept. He was successful in turning the One Fifth Steak concept into his modern steakhouse, Georgia James. The fourth and current concept, One Fifth Gulf Coast, opened August 12, 2019.

click to enlarge One Fifth Gulf Coast  will close to make way for a new One Fifth concept. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
One Fifth Gulf Coast will close to make way for a new One Fifth concept.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Today, Shepherd issued a statement through Lindsey Brown PR about his eureka moment upon waking one morning and thinking about what is next for One Fifth. He thought about the building's wood-burning oven having never been used to make a pizza for his guests. Shepherd thought that for a few months, he might be able to do a pizza concept, but he wouldn't want to do it for 11. Shepherd says, "Then I thought about that with a lot of  different concepts and came to the realization: Why not do them all? Crazy, right? So here we go!"

Shepherd is calling this new concept One Fifth Lightning Round. After One Fifth Gulf Coast closes March 23, Shepherd and his team will begin preparing for the new concept, starting with Vietnamese food. Originally, the Gulf Coast theme was slated for a July 2020 shuttering. The upcoming lightning round concept will be fluid, moving through other ideas and concepts without a dedicated time frame. The new concepts will not be released ahead of time (building the anticipation, of course) but the restaurant will give three week's notice before each concept closes.

Sounds crazy? Shepherd admits it's a bit confusing but says, " I don't want to end the five years and think 'what if or why didn't we try something?'...we have so much more to explore in such a short time... I wanna go fast. Who wants to ride with me?"

click to enlarge What will I, Chris Shepherd, think of next? Hmmmmm. - PHOTO BY JOHN DAVIDSON
What will I, Chris Shepherd, think of next? Hmmmmm.
Photo by John Davidson
Not only will loyal fans be along for the ride but Shepherd also has a devoted team at Underbelly Hospitality, many of whom have followed him through various concepts and building their own careers as they go, like chef de cusine Matt Staph and pastry director Victoria Dearmond. General manager Jeff Buhrer, wine director Matthew Pridgen and sous chef Hayden Hulings are also part of the creative process at One Fifth. There's also Nick Fine who has been with One Fifth since its inception and is now culinary director at Underbelly Hospitality and spirits director Westin Galleymore.

With all that talent, expect some amazing food and fun coming from One Fifth Lightning Round.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.