Forthcoming River Oaks Restaurant Hires Former GJ Tavern Chef

Tim Reading

Chef Tim Reading is ready to take the helm of another kitchen. The talented chef, who was most recently with the now-shuttered GJ Tavern, will lead the team at the new Leo’s River Oaks. The fine dining establishment will be located at 2009 West Gray in the River Oaks Shopping Center with plans for a late Spring of 2024 opening. The group behind Leo’s is Culinary Khancepts, whose other concepts include Liberty Kitchen and State Fare Kitchen & Bar.

Reading, a Boston native, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. His résumé reads like that of a culinary veteran. In 2017 at only age 25, he became a chef de cuisine while working under chef Michael Schlow in Boston. Reading’s career in Houston started in 2018 at Caracol, and he worked for chef-owner Hugo Ortega from 2018 to 2020. He then spent time as a private chef before exploring regional Mexican cuisine on his own with Ixim inside of Bravery Chef Hall. His last executive chef stint at Underbelly Hospitality’s GJ Tavern seemed to be an ideal fit, with Reading bringing his knowledge of classical Italian, Greek and South American cuisines and infusing those flavors with Gulf Coast seasonal ingredients.  When GJ Tavern closed, diners were disappointed but eager to see where Reading would land.

Leo’s 5,100-square-foot space will be located next door to the historic River Oaks Theater, currently being renovated by Culinary Khancept’s sister company, Star Cinema Grill Theater Group. Guests can expect a luxurious atmosphere, private dining rooms and an outside patio dining area. No menu is available yet, but guests can expect prime steaks and seafood. Given Reading’s background, it’s likely that the focus will be on freshness, flavors, and quality ingredients.

Reading expressed his eagerness and gave a teaser on his approach to the menu in a statement, saying, “I’m extremely excited to begin my new Houston chapter with Culinary Khancepts at Leo’s Restaurant. I’m a ‘purest’. I like to let the ingredients speak for themselves. I try to make the least-favorite item on the plate the best-tasting.”

The historic theater’s revitalization paired with Reading’s new venture promises a fresh start for that little corner of River Oaks. We will keep readers updated on the official opening date.

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