The Local Voice

City Grocery Welcomes Chef de Cuisine Jesse Houston (from TLV #169)

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City Grocery Welcomes

Chef de Cuisine Jesse Houston

Article by Jesse Yancy – photographs by Newt Rayburn

 

from The Local Voice #169 – Download the PDF here

 

 

City Grocery in Oxford, the flagship of award-winning executive chef John Currence’s City Grocery Restaurant Group, has a new chef at the helm.

Jesse Houston, former chef at Jackson’s trendy and popular Parlor Market, joined the team at City Grocery as chef de cuisine this month. A native of Dallas, Houston graduated with honors from the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin, a Le Cordon Bleu program. He has previously worked for such noted chefs as Stephan Pyles, Wolfgang Puck, Tim Byres, John Bates and Jesse Griffiths. Houston assumed the executive chef position at Parlor Market after chef Craig Noone’s untimely passing. 

At Parlor Market, Houston further developed his passion for utilizing responsibly sourced ingredients, as showcased at an “Outstanding in the Field” event, where he and Currence realized their shared affinity for the region’s tremendous natural resources, including quail, rabbit, sorghum, and especially, its fresh vegetables.

Currence said that Houston brings “a fresh look at the food of the new South. With him comes a youthful exuberance and talent set that will help propel the Grocery through the next few years as well as leadership to help mold an already solid team.”

“In looking for someone to fill this position, I needed to identify someone who is genuinely engaged in both Southern food, its history, carrying it forward and provenance of the ingredients we use,” Currence said. “City Grocery has to adapt to a changing landscape to survive and remain relevant, and we need a youthful set of eyes and hands to help us rethink how we have done things and how we will do them in the future.”

Currence said that it is both challenging and exciting for him to hand over these responsibilities. “As my ‘first born,’ City Grocery is very special to me, and its continuing to remain at the forefront of the conversation about Southern food is of much greater importance to us than anything. We have to create with the understanding that our guests must be able to connect with the food in order to embrace it. Jesse is the perfect person to shepherd us along that path.”

“He seems to have a very genuine interest in exploring food and examining the elements in order to create a narrative. We could not be any more happy to welcome Jesse to the City Grocery team.”

Houston said, “John and I share a very similar philosophy when it comes to food: Tell a story with great ingredients, try to source locally and seasonally as much as possible and pay homage to southern recipes and tradition. John is always encouraging me to research and learn as much as I can about our southern roots.”

“I bring a real passion and eagerness for creating a memorable bite of food. I like exploring modern techniques and styles, keeping up with the current trends,” Houston said. “My plans are to keep refining what John has been doing so well for the past 20 years. I want to absorb as much as I can from a place and a chef that has always been respected in the restaurant scene. I’d also like to explore modern vegetable cookery and be able to highlight seasonal vegetables more as the star whenever I can.”

“There’s no denying that Oxford’s restaurant scene has been positively affected by the presence of John Currence and City Grocery,” said Liz Barrett of EatingOxford.com. “Oxonians regularly relish inventive, seasonal menus that also serve as inspiration for surrounding restaurants. Visitors to Oxford are always interested in trying the restaurant owned by a James Beard award winner, and Currence’s culinary popularity attracts chefs such as Jesse Houston from far and wide for visiting chef events and permanent restaurant staff positions.”

Mary Margaret Andrews, director of marketing for Favorite Recipes Press, said, “Chef Houston’s popular pop-up restaurants and shared menu creations with guest chefs that he conducted in restaurants in and around Jackson could become an exciting addition to Oxford’s role as a focal point of the Southern culinary scene.”

Houston said that he hasn’t had much time to spend exploring Oxford yet. “It is an extremely beautiful town, and while I may miss some of the big city perks, I am looking forward to the culture and arts Oxford has to offer.” When he is not working in the City Grocery kitchen, Houston can be found making plans to transplant his beloved all-season garden, chicken coop and beehive to his new home in Oxford with his wife, Rachel.

This article appeared as a feature in The Local Voice #169 (November 29-December 13, 2012).

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