At the helm of the kitchen at Underbelly – a Houston-based restaurant that seeks to demonstrate through food the city’s rich cultural tapestry – Chris Sheppard is a nationally regarded chef who gives credit where credit is due. He recognizes that farmer’s markets, mom-and-pop chefs, and restaurants that inspire him have influenced what goes on not only in his restaurant but in the heart of Houston.
Underbelly in Houston is a Culinary Treat & a Great Corporate Citizen
Underbelly’s foyer and website feature a display of photos of the very same – chefs that inspire, farmers and their produce, and restaurant meals that look like an Instagram guru had a hand in the photo shoot – all of which have taught Sheppard something. His business is named as a descriptive reference to Houston’s lesser-known and easily missed places and the people that have shaped his perspectives on food. To highlight this and his belief that there is no more intriguing city in the U.S. to eat, Underbelly hosts collaborative dinners and special events that focus on the countless cultures as well as Texas farming, ranching, and fishing which have helped make Houston the culinary epicenter that it has become.
The winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southwest, Sheppard brings Underbelly to Houstonians and the world while focusing on the value of great food prepared well and in a manner that can be enjoyed as a foray into another culture. In doing so, he also gives back to Houston in the form of a $30 thousand culinary scholarship to The Art Institute of Houston which is awarded to a student who has gone above and beyond in his or her desire to become a chef. The owner of Underbelly together with as Hay Merchant Restaurants in Houston recently gifted the “Underbelly Scholarship Award” to Dominick Lee, who is enrolled at The Art Institute of Houston, working toward a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Management and is also a full-time executive sous chef. The award marks the fourth year of giving back in this manner for Sheppard, forever inspired by the city of Houston, and going full circle in his pursuit of culinary perfection.