Chef Chat

Where the Chefs Eat: Rebecca Masson, Philip Speer, Chris Leung

For this week's Where the Chefs Eat, we check in with three pastry chefs who are making waves for their infinitely sweet treats: Rebecca Masson, Philip Speer and Chris Leung.

A favorite among chefs in town, Rebecca Masson, aka the "Sugar Hooker," is known not only for her spunky personality and fun sense of style (she has a weakness for shoes), but also for her delectable dessert creations. Her talents showcase anonymously across Houston, where she's consulted on the dessert menus of some of Houston's top restaurants. The current proprietor of Fluff Bake Bar, she has even been known to compete on TV in Bravo's Top Chefs Just Desserts Season 2.

Philip Speer may officially be based in Austin, but the native Houstonian commutes to Houston every week for his current role as Director of Culinary Operations of Uchi. His award-winning desserts are some of the most creative you'll ever encounter, with layered textures, flavors and nuances that either hit you in the face with an immediate wow, or slowly build before exploding on your senses.

Chris Leung's desserts always leave me wanting more. Since taking over as Pastry Chef in charge at Kata Robata and Azuma Group, his little ditties are so good and change so often, that people will visit Kata just to taste his desserts. Also a must-try is his recently launched Cloud 10 Creamery, found at places like Underbelly, Phamily Bites food truck, and Sundance Cinemas, in flavors like toasted rice, or café sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee). If cloud nine is a state of bliss, Cloud 10 is sweet nirvana.

Rebecca Masson Pastry Chef/Owner of Fluff Bake Bar

Standard go-to: I'm probably going to have to say Uchi. Obviously, it's not everybody's go-to. Being such good friends with Philip Speer - I've helped him with events, and they called me with questions when they first opened - it's almost like I'm their honorary Uchi girl. When I walk in, the joke is that I always have my pink bag with cookies for the kitchen. I go there twice a month and have a sort of "Sugar Hooker" menu - the Brussels sprouts, the madai, the chicken kara age (you have to try this!), and I love the jar jar duck.

The second is going to be Underbelly. Again, it's family. I used to work for Chris [Shepherd] at Catalan. Get the Korean goat and dumpling and the charcuterie - the tete de cochon is amazing. Also, if there's a fruit-filled fried pie, I'll have it. Victoria's pastry dough is impressive.

Lastly would be Coppa because Brandi is a wonder woman! Whatever she comes up with is awesome, but the carbonara is always delicious.

Cheap eats: H-town StrEATs food truck. They're going to kill me for this, but you must get the Monte Cristo ball. Those things are so good! They are like a Monte Cristo sandwich, fried up in a ball with cheese and ham around it - you just have to try it. Their tacos are right on, grilled cheese is awesome - they make it with sage, bacon, and apple butter. Tuesday night is chicken-fried steak night at Grand Prize Bar, and my whole family will go. You can get a whole chicken-fried steak dinner for about $11.

Holidays: If it's any holiday for my mom, we always hit Ninfa's on Nav - it's her favorite. Their margaritas are so good. I usually get the tacos al carbon, and my mom will get nachos.
Philip Speer Director of Culinary Operations at Uchi

Standard go-to: When I actually get to go sit down at a restaurant, during regular business hours, my first choice would have to be, Underbelly! The all-star culinary team at UB, always kills it with such a variety of styles and options, from goat and Korean dumplings to Pigface and house-made pickles, I am never disappointed with my meals here! I am super excited to try Chris's in-house fish sauce, and his sesame oil is unbelievable. I always let the kitchen send me out whatever they're digging at the time. UB gets so many fresh daily options; I like to be surprised by my plates. 

Cheap eats: Definitely, Aladdin Mediterranean on Westheimer. You can get two or three meals worth of fresh options for about $10 bucks. Perfect for eating healthy and light, with their myriad of salads and fresh or grilled veggies, paired with delicious shawarma or kebab lamb, chicken or beef. Or you can go the other route with the hangover cure-all, delicious curry or beef brisket over panko fried Lebanese mashed potato, with a side of hummus, baked-to-order pita bread and perfectly browned, yummy roasted cauliflower.

Food trucks: Considering that the majority of my dining is done later in the evening, due to kitchen hours, a lot of my favorites are food trucks. From Serena's Seafood for delicious ceviche and the special tacos al pastor, or the Eatsie Boys for a Pork Snuggie, to Lobster Rolls at the Modular, there's nothing like grabbing a few Houston friends and coworkers and pigging out on some delicious street treats. However, the best late-night options recently have to be the Grand Prize bar, guest Chef Truck series, that The Modular's Josh Martinez has been throwing, this is a great way to sample many of Houston's food trucks, in one location, with cold drinks and fun company.

Chris Leung Chef/Owner of Cloud 10 Creamery Pastry Chef at Kata Robata

Standard go-to: My go-to restaurant would have to be Fu Fu Cafe.  Not the restaurant facing Bellaire, but the original Fu Fu's. Somehow, I end up there on most nights after work.  I always get the green onion pancake, clear noodles with chile oil, pork blood with intestine and pickled vegetable, and the salted fish fried rice.   
 Cheap eats: During the day, whenever I have a day off, my favorite cheap eats would have to be Banh Cuon Hoa.  I love the combination banh cuon ($7) that has all the different types of meats, and the fried sweet potato sticks is the only way I'll eat sweet potatoes.  Late at night, my favorite cheap eat would be Bun Bo Hue Midnight Duc Chuong (12148 Bellaire Blvd Ste 124, 832-351-2644).  They only serve one thing, bun bo hue ($10), and I always get the large.  Go get the large, its HUGE! 

Other faves: Recently, I have been going to Mala Sichuan Bistro.  The cold appetizers there are killer.  I also love going to Underbelly, it's always fun going with a large group, so you can order the whole menu and try everything.  Whenever I need a good caffeine hit and learn something new about coffee in the morning, I go visit David & Ecky at Greenway Coffee.  And my guilty pleasure is the chimichanga lengua or chicharron with extra queso from Brenda's Taqueria.  

If you missed our previous posts, click below to see more of Where the Chefs Eat:

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham