Restaurant News

Stella Sola: Behind the Review

What happens when the chef de cuisine at a chef-driven restaurant -- the man who, in Stella Sola's case, runs the kitchen on a day-to-day basis -- tenders his resignation after you've already written your review?

You rewrite it. Mostly.

Especially when it contains lines like, "And considering that Basye wasn't the restaurant's first chef de cuisine (the original partnership with chef Jason Gould fell apart days before the restaurant opened), it's a tribute to Basye's young talent that I can't even picture Stella Sola without him."

The truth is that now I do have to picture Stella Sola without one of the most talented young chefs in the city at the wheel. But I'm enthusiastic about his replacement, Adam Dorris. And as much as I thought the original idea of Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd -- Stella Sola's owners -- leaving Basye to his own devices in the massive kitchen was an intriguing and exciting idea, I think promoting Dorris to the chef de cuisine position was an equally smart move.

And the real truth is that many more of the things I love about Stella Sola won't be affected all that much by Basye's departure. The wine list that's creative and well-priced under the stewardship of sommelier Nathan Smith; the relaxed bar area and excellent cocktails; the dining room that's both impressive enough for a fancy dinner yet comfortable enough for a lazy brunch with friends; these things will stay intact.

At least, one can hope. It's the nature of things in this industry, after all, where the only constant is change.

Not that change is a bad thing, of course. As the Upanishads teach us, creation comes out of an act of destruction. In the same way that I'm excited to see Chef Chris Shepherd "destroy" Catalan to create his own restaurant, Underbelly, I'm equally excited to see what newly appointed chef Brandi Key will make of Catalan's new incarnation, Coppa Ristorante Italiano.

And as much as I'll miss Justin Basye at Stella Sola, I'm just as intrigued to see what paths of creation he'll take here in Houston and to see what young Adam Dorris makes of the place now.

For more photos from Stella Sola's busy kitchen, check out our slideshow. And be sure to read the review itself here.

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Katharine Shilcutt