Chef & Owner Chris Shepherd Is Revealing The Final One Fifth Concept — And It’s a Doozy

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Never say that Underbelly Hospitality chef and owner Chris Shepherd doesn’t challenge his team — or diners’ ideas on what a restaurant can or should be. With only 18 months left of the One Fifth building lease — the old cathedral that formerly housed Mark’s American Cuisine — Shepherd is rolling out the ultimate pop-up restaurant concept. On March 23, the current One Fifth Gulf Coast iteration ends, and the team is then preparing for, simply, One Fifth. The final year is going to be executing one restaurant idea after another at a quick pace, without necessarily having a firm time limit. Shepherd is calling it the “Lightning Round.”

Here’s how Shepherd says his rapid-fire pop-up idea came about: “I woke up this morning and started thinking about the building’s wood burning oven—arguably the oldest wood-burning oven in the city—and we have never cooked a pizza for a guest in that oven. No, I don’t want to do a pizza place for 11 months, but I would do it for a few. Then I thought about that with a lot of different concepts and came to the realization: Why not do them all?”

jambalaya at One Fifth Gulf Coast
The jambalaya “for two” at One Fifth Gulf Coast. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Shepherd already knows what he wants for the first menu. “We will start with Vietnamese and then move through other ideas and concepts without giving them a time limit,” he said via press release. “I want to try as much as I can but still give each one our full devotion.” In theory, the pizza place idea is getting a turn later in the year.

“This will be arguably the most challenging thing we have ever done, but the team is ready,” Shepherd said. “We will not release what concepts are in the future, and we’ll give three weeks’ notice before we close a concept. I know it’s confusing, but I don’t want to end the five years and think, “What if or why didn’t we try something”. One Fifth is all about education and learning and experimenting and exploring, and we have so much more to explore in such a short time. I hope you all enjoy the ride with us and understand that this is insane in the BEST way possible.”

Besides the forthcoming, multicultural pop-ups at One Fifth, diners may also be able to look forward to a permanent One Fifth Mediterranean, one of the previous iterations. Shepherd says he is actively looking for a space for it.

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