Houston Restaurateur Duo Part Ways After Two Decades & Divvy Up Restaurants
After 20 years of opening — and sometimes closing — multiple Houston restaurants, chef Charles Clark and restaurateur Grant Cooper of Clark Cooper Concepts are parting ways. Clark is now exclusively with Brasserie 19 at 1962 West Gray in River Oaks, while Cooper is retaining ownership of the other restaurants: Coppa Osteria, Gratify and The Dunlavy (currently closed, but set to reopen as Flora, a full-service restaurant, which is already seeking staff). Flora will serve Mexican food and also have an extensive tequila and mezcal program.
With Clark Cooper Concepts now dissolved, each will run their respective restaurants under their own business entities. Clark is running Brasserie 19 under Clark Concepts, while Cooper’s is called Good Vibe Hospitality.
Cooper also has new business partners: Josep Prats and Marc Cantu, who are overseeing operations and business development. Prats started his career in Mexico City before relocating to Houston and working his way up from head trainer and server at Rosie Carrabba’s, to manager of the venerable Joyce’s Seafood & Steaks, and then joining Clark Cooper Concepts as general manager of both Coppa Osteria and Punk’s Simple Southern Food. Before joining Clark Cooper Concepts in 2014, Cantu was Director of Food & Beverage for Allegra Hotel, a Kimpton property and the East Coast Director of Operations for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, pre-scandal.
According to a press release, Clark and Cooper are splitting up because the former wants simplicity while the latter wants to continue growing a multi-restaurant business. “There is no bad blood between me and Grant,” said Clark. “We just wanted different things. Grant wants to expand and do different concepts and I want to grow in a different way. I want to do a lounge and continue the legacy and tradition of Brasserie 19. Why should we be locked to each other? We have worked well together for over 20 years and have built many successful restaurants. I value the partnership and success Grant and I have both seen over the years. This separation gives us both the opportunity to do what we want.”
For his part, a press release issued by Cooper’s camp says, “Cooper is grateful not only for his hard-working staff and faithful guests but also for the partnership with Clark that enabled him to make his mark in the industry.”
Over the years, Clark Cooper Concepts has had its share of ups and downs. Clark was chef and owner at Ibiza in midtown, and credited with making wine in a restaurant setting more affordable for consumers. Ibiza closed almost exactly two years ago. Both before and after that, there were other closings.
The original Coppa Osteria on Washington Avenue shuttered in 2013 after a good start with chef Brandi Key at the helm, who would later play an instrumental role in the growth of Clark Cooper Concepts. She was promoted to corporate executive chef and oversaw the development of the opening menus for the current Coppa Osteria and Punk’s Simple Southern Food (both in Rice Village), The Dunlavy and SaltAir Seafood Kitchen in Upper Kirby. SaltAir closed in 2017 and Punk’s Simple Southern Food is now the site of Gratify. Key left the company in 2018 and now has a similar role with a different group, Five 12 Restaurant Concepts, which owns Dish Society and the new Daily Gather in CityCentre.
Clark plans to update Brasserie 19’s restaurant interior and diversify the wine program to include a larger variety. Although Clark is a chef and plans to be onsite regularly to oversee restaurant operations, current Brasserie 19 executive chef Michael Hoffman, formerly the executive sous chef of Ibiza, will remain in charge of the kitchen.
“I am thrilled to be at Brasserie 19 every day, greeting customers who have been dining with us since we opened, meeting new faces and seeing Chef Michael’s creativity in the kitchen as he evolves and expands the menu,” said Clark.
Considering Clark’s history with Ibiza, Brasserie 19, with its French food and wine focus, and trendy patio scene, seems like it could be both a great fit — and a simpler way of life for the chef.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.