Restaurant Shocker: Bryan & Jennifer Caswell’s Oxbow 7 Contract Has Been Terminated
As first reported by Alison Cook of the Houston Chronicle, chef Bryan Caswell and wife Jennifer have been “released from their contract” to operate Oxbow 7, the restaurant they opened this past October. It’s on the first floor of the Le Méridien Houston hotel at 1121 Walker. A representative for the restaurant says Oxbow 7’s chef de cuisine Michael Hoffman, previously of Mark’s American Cuisine, is currently the acting executive chef.
Le Mériden’s owner is Development Services Group, Inc. The Houston Chronicle article quotes managing partner Gary Prosterman as saying, “With the unfortunate — terrible — impact that Hurricane Harvey had on Houston, with Reef shutting down, it made sense for them to focus on Reef.”
When we asked the Caswells about that comment, they stated, “While we cannot elaborate at this time, Reef is not the reason for the current situation.”
Bryan Caswell came to prominence both locally and nationally soon after starting his first restaurant, Reef. Currently, that restaurant is closed due to flood damage from Hurricane Harvey but it is expected to reopen in February. The Caswells also help manage El Real Tex-Mex and Jackson Street BBQ. They closed burger joint Little Bigs in September due to higher rent costs. Jennifer Caswell says they do still plan to reopen it elsewhere and have “big plans for ‘Bigs’.”
After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, the couple was an instrumental part of relief efforts as one of the teams that established a rescue kitchen. They set up a base of operations at Reef once flood waters receded there, sending out thousands of meals to evacuees and first responders with the help of dozens of volunteers. After that, they traveled from Houston to help in Rockport, Texas, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall.
Oxbow 7 was ranked number two on Houston Food Finder’s “Best New Houston Restaurants of 2017” list. A main factor in that was the menu, which reflected Bryan Caswell’s journey as a chef. Just a few favorites included Crispy Field Peas & Okra, the East Texas Caviar Service (Shupeck caviar smoked with ghost pepper, finely chopped egg and sauce gribiche served over huge, crispy potato chips stacked upright) and Buckshot Gumbo with the roux-based stock poured tableside over duck and andouille sausage. Cook’s report for the Houston Chronicle indicates that while Development Services Group plans no “wholesale changes,” “there have already been a few changes made to Oxbow 7 over the past week based on feedback from guests and customers.”
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.