The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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In the Kitchen with Chef Randy Evans

In the Kitchen with Chef Randy Evans

In the Kitchen

August 24, 2008

Randy Evans, 32, is the Executive Chef at Brennans of Houston in Houston, Texas. Born and raised in Texas near his grandfather’s farm, Evans learned first hand the importance of using the highest quality, fresh-from-the-earth ingredients. His creative recipes blend Texas and Creole cuisine seamlessly, always incorporating products from local farmers and purveyors. Evans’ famed six-course tasting menu, which was developed at Brennans and focuses on freshness and flavor, changes weekly.
What is the main focus of your cooking?
Our cooking style is Texas Creole. We have taken the traditions of New Orleans city food and added our own little Texas twist – exactly what New Orleansians did centuries ago. I like to think that the Creole style of cooking was the first “fusion” cuisine out there. Here, we have taken that cooking style and turned our focus on indigenous ingredients from Texas. My menu highlights Texas game, like sika venison, Nilgai antelope and quail, from the Hill Country.
Is there a particular nutritional focus of your menus?
Our focus is to use the best of the best from quality growers, some being organic and others growing conventionally. Our use of game is certainly a healthy reduced fat option that is still packed with tons of flavor.
 What is your relationship with local farmers?
I like to say we were country when country wasn’t cool. We have been dealing with farmers and ranchers here in Texas for over 15 years before it was the “popular” thing to do. Houston has really embraced the farmer’s market concept in the past three years, but before that, if I wanted local produce, we would make filed trips out to the farms weekly for our menus. I have fostered great relationships with our growers and now they grow specifically for me and our needs. 
Are you incorporating locally grown foods into your dishes? How?
I am. We change our menus in-house weekly, and that allows me the opportunity to buy the best the growers have that week. I would say that depending on the season, up to 80% of our menu is from the Texas-Louisiana region.
What are the major concerns today of your patrons when it comes to dining out? And how are you addressing them?
I see more and more people coming back into the kitchen to see the raw produce with their own eyes. From October to May, I have a farmer that grows hot house tomatoes in Waller, Texas. Customers cannot believe how tasty and beautiful they are, so the next thing I know, they are in the kitchen asking to see the tomatoes. Also, our customers are now more educated now. They understand seasonality and demand to see the menu evolve throughout the year. They do not want to feel like they are in a hotel having food from anywhere in the world. When they are in Houston, eating at a fine Texas Creole restaurant, they want cuisine that screams local and seasonal.
How important is sustainability?
I think it is hugely important. Chefs are the main influence on what people eat. If we change the way we procure food, we will have an influence on the food ways of the public. I have stopped using American Red Snapper for almost two years now because we have not been fishing it in a sustainable manner. It is our responsibility as chefs to pay attention to these matters and make changes accordingly.
How important is traceability?
Again, traceability is paramount in today’s market place. I may go to extremes, but I feel it is important to see the fields and farms where my produce comes from. I make every effort to see the source before I purchase from a new farmer/rancher.
What steps does your restaurant take toward conservation?
We are trying to make inroads in recycling. All of our fry oil is recycled along with all cardboard and paper from our offices. I use reusable plastic containers for our produce from the farmer’s market and from my cheese maker’s fresh goats milk cheese. We are working on a glass recycling program for the restaurant as well.