This array of dishes was created by chef Dominick Lee, who spent two years in Europe discovering the food pathways that led to the development of Creole cuisine. Now, he's come back to Houston to open Augustine's. (Photo by Shawn McCarnney)
Chef Dominick Lee is back behind the range in Houston set to debut the new restaurant Augustine's at the Hotel King David. (Photo by Shawn McCarnney)
A New Orleans favorite, bananas Foster. One of many dishes chef Lee is quite familiar with cooking. (Photo by Shawn McCarnney)
A little over three years ago New Orleans-born chef Dominick Lee left Houston and headed to Europe for two years to study Creole food derivatives with the intent of further evolving this storied Louisiana cuisine. Good news. This talented toque is back in the Bayou City to lead the kitchen at a soon-to-be-unveiled restaurant dubbed Augustine’s. This new progressive Creole spot is due to debut on the ground level of the Hotel King David poised in the Riverside Terrace at the edge of Houston’s Third Ward this fall.
The name Augustine references the surname of an African American family which planted roots in Cannes, France before being transported to Louisiana and then migrating to Texas and back. The menu will tell a culinary story of that journey — a narrative that encapsulates the experiences of many African American families in the South. Augustine’s aims to serve as a tribute to the rich cultural exchange of migration with the menu mirroring the diversity, vibrancy and distinctive flavors that have characterized Creole cuisine throughout the decades.
“Creole cuisine developed from the true blending of European cultures (Spanish, Italian, French German), African Slaves and Indigenous People,” says Lee, who fled New Orleans with his family during Hurricane Katrina. “The nuances of the cuisine eventually began to plateau, and the typical food New Orleans is known for is all we kept creating. My life’s work has been to understand my city’s past and how the culture has developed.
“The term that I’ve coined — Progressive Creole — creates a new history and new recipes that celebrate the idea of this original melting pot.”
A graduate of the Art Institute of Houston and winner of the inaugural “Underbelly Scholarship Award” created by chef Chris Shepherd, Lee brings a multi-faceted CV with experience working in the kitchens of Kiran’s under its founder Kiran Verma. While he was still in school, Lee was offered the position of executive chef at Poitin Bar & Kitchen earning him kudos and accolades galore. Last July, he journeyed to New York City to open Alligator Pear, a new American-style restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.
“After cooking across Italy and opening a restaurant in New York, it’s incredible to be back in Houston introducing this concept,” Lee says. “I went to culinary school here, led my first kitchen as an executive chef here, and the people of this city helped me hone my culinary perspective. I always knew I’d be back. I just didn’t know when.
Houston is my second home, and I’m looking forward to sharing the fullness of Creole cuisine with Augustine’s.”
In preparation for the opening of Augustine’s, Lee will host a series of dinners this month. The first are set to be held this Saturday, February 10 and Sunday, February 11. These dinners will explore the story of Mardi Gras via a five course tasting menu. Lee will then host a collaborative Black History Month dinner with Chef Martin Draluck of Black Pot Supper Club — who appeared on Netflix’s acclaimed show High on the Hog — on Friday, February 16 and Saturday, February 17. For more information and tickets, go here for “The Story of Mardi Gras” Dinner and here for the “Black Pot Supper Club” Series.