Today we’d like to introduce you to Jon Buchanan.
Jon, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Tyler, Texas where I got my first taste of the foodservice industry working for Little Caesars Pizza in high school. At the time, I had no idea that I would make a career in the foodservice industry. What I did know is that I always enjoyed family cookouts and seemed to always find myself in the kitchen or around the grill where all the action and food were. After high school, I enlisted in the United States Air Force and served four years, stationed at McGuire AFB in New Jersey. I worked as a carpenter in the 438th Civil Engineering squadron. There I learned teamwork, leadership, communication and accountability. I believe these things have helped me get to where I am today. After leaving the Air Force, I moved to Houston with plans of going back to school and getting into healthcare. However, my brother was managing a French bistro and offered me a job as a prep cook. I took the job and learned how to make quiche on my first day, and instantly I was hooked. After a couple of years working as a cook I realized this was my calling and what I wanted to pursue as a career and decided to enroll at the Art Institute of Houston Culinary Arts Program.
After culinary school, I landed a job at Café Annie where I had the opportunity to work under James Beard Award-winning Chef Robert Del Grande with the finest ingredients available and also learn the basics of Southwestern and authentic Mexican cuisine. Next, I had the opportunity to work with Chef George Masraff as executive sous chef for the opening of the original Masraffs on Post Oak Lane. There I learned French technique and how to manage employees, food and labor. I wasn’t a cook anymore. After Masraffs, I landed my first executive chef job at Daily Review Café where I had the opportunity to make my own menus and build my own team. In 2003, my son Jacob was born and I left the kitchen for two years to be a dad and took a job with US Foods as a salesman. One of the accounts I called on was Trevisio, located in the Texas Medical Center and operated by well-known restaurateurs John Watt and Tracy Vaught, and where a friend of mine was the chef. After trying to sell him groceries for months, he offered me a position to lure me back into the kitchen. I took the position, and shortly after he moved on and I took over as executive chef.
Since then, Trevisio was closed in order to rebrand and remodel the space, and it reopened as Third Coast focusing on “Houston Cuisine,” Gulf seafood and locally sourced products. Third Coast is special to me in that we get to serve patients and their families, doctors, researchers and many other health-science related companies from around the world in addition to the general Houston public. That said, we try to have flavors on our menu that represent Houston as well as our international clientele.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has been a pretty smooth road. However, working in a fast-paced industry isn’t for everyone and managing people is not as easy as it sounds. Building relationships with your staff and trying to get the best out of everyone and yourself on a daily basis can be extremely challenging but is rewarding for everyone when the team works as one. I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful and talented people, and that has made the struggles worth it.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Third Coast Restaurant story. Tell us more about the business.
Houston’s location on the Texas Gulf Coast brings an abundance of ingredients and extended growing seasons, and is also the most diverse city in America. This diversity is reflected in the menu at Third Coast, a fine dining restaurant located in the heart of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center. Third Coast is owned by the Texas Medical Center and operated by John Watt and Tracy Vaught of H Town Restaurant Group, which includes Backstreet Cafe, Caracol, Hugo’s, Prego an Xochi.
Third Coast is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturdays. We are also a conference center and caterer. What sets us apart from others is that Third Coast is the only restaurant of its type in the Medical Center and is a hub for business meeting and medical institution gatherings. It is a beautiful space, and we host many events such as weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, retirement parties and everything in between. We love being a part of the special occasions in people’s lives.
What I’m most proud of as a company is that we get to serve the Texas Medical Center. I recently had the opportunity to work with pediatric cancer patients at MD Anderson focusing on tasty healthy food options. The kids loved the opportunity to be a chef for the day and to have a break from their treatment.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think food halls are going to continue to be a trend, to be the next big thing. I believe these halls are a win-win for both diners and restaurant owners. They allow operators and chefs the opportunity to serve the public without the overhead of a stand-alone independent restaurant. Also, savings in labor expenses. As for the customer, the food hall allows them to try a variety of different cuisines under the same roof.
- Breakfast ranges from $8-$16, with a $10 power breakfast special
- Lunch ranges from $6 to $26
- Dinner ranges from $12 to $38
- Website: www.thirdcoasthouston.com
- Phone: 713-749-0400
- Instagram: thirdcoasthouston
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThirdCoastHouston/
- Twitter: @thirdcoasthou