David Chang has discovered Houston—and he wants you to know it. The outspoken chef penned an essay for GQ on Saturday, alerting us all that there's a new "global food Mecca" in Texas, and it has nothing to do with Austin, barbecue, or hipsters.
Houston, Chang reasons, is the most ethnically diverse city in the U.S. — "a bunch of New Yorkers just choked on their halal kebabs reading that, but it's true," he says—and broke chefs can afford to open shop there, thanks to the city's cheap rent, lax zoning laws, and lack of state income tax. Mix all that together in one city, and "the food scene is guaranteed to be bonkers."
"I've always wondered where the food in a Blade Runner-like future would appear first and what it would taste like," the chef writes, "and I genuinely believe it's here."
Chang notes that the two chefs at the cutting-edge of Houston's food awakening are Justin Yu of Oxheart—a "New American Creole" restaurant in the city's popular Warehouse District—and Chris Shepherd, who runs the acclaimed eatery/butcher shop, Underbelly. Sure, the city is dotted with plenty of barbecue joints, but Chang notes that Houston is also home to some of the country's best Southeast Asian food, as well as a whole new culinary mash-up that's blowing his mind: Vietnamese-Cajun.
"It's weird in the best possible way," he says of the fusion of seafood, rice, herbs, and spice—all with a French twist. "If I ever leave New York, I'm moving to Houston. This time I'm not joking."
In recent months, Houston has finally seemed to capture the attention of the country's leading chefs. In October, Anthony Bourdain headed to the city to drink moonshine, party at a quinceañera, and eat barbecue with the rapper Slim Thug. Chang, himself, even joked about opening a restaurant in the city after Jeremy Lin signed with the Houston Rockets in 2012.
Perhaps after the chef's recent revelation, a Momofuku in Houston will finally get underway.