After five years with F.E.E.D. TX Restaurant Group, first at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar in the Heights, and then at Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette in River Oaks, Little Liberty in the Rice Village, Liberty Kitchen in Garden Oaks and, most recently, Liberty Kitchen at the Treehouse in Memorial City (which opened to the public less than two weeks ago, on September 21), Travis Lenig has left his position as one of the group's executive chefs as of yesterday evening.
In an exclusive phone interview with the Houston Press, Lenig says that the departure was wholly amicable. “It was just time,” he says. “I was with them for five years. I felt like I’ve done a lot with Liberty, and it was time for me to branch out and do my own thing and take the next step.”
Additionally, he says, “I believe it’s every chef’s dream to own your own kitchen. It’s just what we strive and work to do, and if you’re given an opportunity, how can pass that up?”
A Houston native who attended Memorial High School, the 35-year-old toque got his start in the restaurant industry as a teen working for Dominic Mandola at Ragin' Cajun. He graduated with a degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Houston, and the majority of his career has been spent in upscale fine dining at restaurants such as Rainbow Lodge, Bistro Moderne, Ibiza, Mark’s American Cuisine and most recently Liberty Kitchen.
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Lenig and his partner, Christopher “Chico” Ramirez (the former director of operations for F.E.E.D. TX), will soon open a restaurant concept called Field & Tides. They have already signed a lease for the former Zelko Bistro space as well as the gas station adjacent to it.
Asked if he already has a vision for the new restaurant, Lenig says that it will be upscale casual, with what he predicts will become the best patio in the Heights. The focus of his menu will be American cuisine that will be locally sourced as much as possible. From the “field,” his menu will offer everything from farm greens to poultry, pork, beef and game (things on the ground and in the field), while the “tides” side will offer seafood, especially from the Gulf Coast.
Lenig says he hopes to open before Christmas this year. “I feel great about it, but I’m a little scared. It’s a scared excitement,” he says. “I’m really happy with the partner that I have. We’ve both been in the industry for a long time, and if you add our time together, it’s close to 50 years of experience together, so we’re really excited to show the Heights what we’re all about. I’m sad to leave the F.E.E.D. TX family, but I truly just wanted to be able to do my own thing at this point and to be an owner and operating partner — any chef put in my position would have done the same thing.”
F.E.E.D. TX group is overseen by culinary director and owner Lance Fegen and executive chef Eric Laird. A representative from their public relations company released the following statement concerning Lenig’s departure: “Travis Lenig will be pursuing a new opportunity and will no longer be a part of the F.E.E.D. TX restaurant group. We wish Travis luck in his future endeavors.”