Chris Shepherd’s Shows in Houston Reveal the People Behind Big Names in Food

Chris Shepherd hosting Table to Stages.

Chef Chris Shepherd, formerly of Underbelly Hospitality, has been on a journey to complete all of the culinary quests. In addition to being a James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur, he runs the charity Southern Smoke Foundation, creates concessions for NRG Stadium, is a cookbook author, a wine columnist and hosts a television program that showcases Houston’s food scene. Now, he is partnering with Stages Theatre at 800 Rosine to host discussions with chefs from Houston and around the country. Called Table to Stage, these talks allow visitors to get to know the people behind the food.

Table to Stages has been in the works for a while now.  “A few years ago, I was asked by Performing Arts Houston to interview cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi onstage on his national book tour stop in Houston,” Shepherd explained. “I had the most fun talking to him on stage, and afterward, he told me I was good at this and I should do it more often. My wife was doing PR for Stages at the time, so we pitched the idea of an onstage conversation series, similar to my conversation with Yotam. They loved the idea, and Table to Stage was born!”

Chris Shepherd and Johnny Carrabba at Table to Stages.
Chris Shepherd and Johnny Carrabba at Table to Stages. Photo by Anne Ousey.

The series began in September. The upcoming shows are:   

The shows start at 7:30 p.m. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $45 to $100. Seats are limited to 250, which gives each night an intimate atmosphere. You can purchase tickets at the Table to Stage page at the Stage’s website.

Evenings are split into three parts. First, Shepherd interviews the guests,  asking questions about their life and specialties. Next is a Q&A segment when the audience can interact with the guests. Additionally, the evenings end with a meet and greet.

Houston Food Finder was invited to the recent show featuring executive chef and restaurateur Aaron Bludorn of the eponymous Bludorn and Navy Blue. As a host, Shepherd excels at never letting the discussion feel like a typical interview, but a conversation between friends. Whether he asks questions that he knows the answers to or ones he doesn’t, the interview is fresh and entertaining. Audience members learn why the chefs are where they are, both geographically and career-wise. Much like the opening chapters to Kitchen Confidential, Shepherd and Bludorn talked very little about what it is like to operate a successful restaurant. The discussion was more about favorite dishes on Thanksgiving and the moments they realized that they wanted to create food professionally. The conversation went beyond food and delved into music, family and travel plans.

Stages is a great venue. The stage extends into the audience, which surrounds it on three sides. The limited number of seats keeps the encounter more personable. The setting is minimal, with the background being whatever is left from whatever other show is currently running. “One of the reasons I love doing the show at Stages is that our ‘living room’ gets to be on a different set for every show!” Shepherd said. “I’ve interviewed Johnny Carrabba in the Oval Office (on the POTUS set), I talked to Italian cookbook author Katie Parla in a honky tonk (on the set of Always…Patsy Cline), and I interviewed Patrick Feges, Leonard Botello and Greg Gatlin literally in Wonderland (on the set of Alicia in Wonderland). Chris Williams’ show was in a Swiss chateau (on the set of Switzerland), and I interviewed Aaron Bludorn from a Miami art gallery during Art Basel (on the set of Laughs in Spanish). Elijah Craig is one of our sponsors, and they built the coolest coffee table for our “living room” out of a whiskey barrel. The space is so intimate that I want everyone to feel like they’re in my living room…with a theatrical twist!”

In 2020, Shepherd was the first person I interviewed as a food writer. The chef took several minutes of his day to speak with a fledgling writer. Since that day, every interaction with Shepherd has been similar. He is consistently personable, from holding doors for everyone around him to approaching me at restaurants just to say hi.

His sincerity translates well to the conversations onstage. The “Table To Stage” shows are not just an opportunity for Houstonians to learn more about their favorite chefs and restaurants. They are also a reminder that the host and guests, despite being some of the most well-known names in food, are people, too.

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