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Meet Thomas Bille of Belly of the Beast in Spring

Today we’d like to introduce you to Thomas Bille.

Thomas, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started cooking professionally relatively late in life (27) but I have always gravitated towards the kitchen. Growing up my father used to be the chef of a French Bistro and he would take me there sometimes. (I guess back in the 80’s a lot of parents would take their kids to work when they didn’t have a sitter.)

I remember him running service and he would give me a taste of Lobster thermidor, pomme puree, moules frites, etc. so my palette grew a global discernment. My mom is a great cook. She would make things on the fly and feed a family of 5 after working 10 to 12 hour shifts.

I grew up in Mid City Los Angeles. My neighborhood was a melting pot of cultures. I had Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Filipino, and Central American neighbors. I was always intrigued by other people’s culture and food.

I put myself through culinary school (Kitchen Academy) and graduated with highest honors. I was sold, this was it, this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. By this time, I was a single father to a six years old girl. Juggling with joint custody and a 70 hour a week job made for some interesting times, but I’ve been fortunate to have a very supportive family. Having her in my life kept me focused to provide for her and to keep my eyes on the prize.

I worked at small local restaurants and then I got a job at an airline catering company as a sous chef in charge of some big accounts for their first and business class. It was here where I learned production and how to multi-task. Flash forward a few years and I got into The Ritz-Carlton where I worked as a banquet sous chef and later on as the opening chef for Ford’s Filling Station by Chef Ben Ford.

In 2015, I parted ways with the hotel and worked with the opening team for Timothy Hollingsworth’s Otium in downtown Los Angeles. I worked for Chef Tim for a little over three years of those three years I was the Executive Sous Chef for two years… It was here where I was able to create dishes I had been holding on to. Collectively as a team, we brainstormed a lot and always had the team taste and give feedback. Some dishes got the green light and some I had to remake almost ten different times.

In late 2018, I decided to relocate to Houston for a better life for my family, My wife and three kids. Cost of living, the ills of the city, and long hours wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. When I first touched down in Houston I worked for Hugo Ortega at Xochi as his Sous chef for a brief stint. That is when I decided to go into business for myself. Having my own restaurant has always been part of the plan and now living here it was feasible (not easy) to do just that.

So now, here we are, getting close to open my dream. With the support of my family and my business partner/brother we are making it into reality.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
“Calm waters never made a great sailor”. I try not to bring up bad decisions I’ve made as a teenager or as a young adult. No one forced me to make those mistakes, they were all choices I made and I live with those consequences. There have been many times I’ve wanted to quit and I have quit some jobs, not because I couldn’t handle it but because I don’t need to be an environment were the worst of me manifests. Most of the struggles have been time away from my wife and kids. Missing events, not nourishing relationships, but I always made sure to be there for the milestones.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Belly of the Beast – what should we know?
Belly of the Beast will be a chef-driven concept, heavily leaning towards my version of Mexican food. I don’t want to have just a “Mexican” restaurant and box myself in. I am a product of my environment. I cook from my experiences, my travels, and most importantly from the heart. What is Mexican food? Mexico has a lot of immigrants and their food has interwoven into the fabric of the food culture. You can expect some pastas on our menu, some Japanese influence, Chinese influence, and definitely some Middle Eastern influence on our menu.

As a company, we are very grassroots and we are playing it by ear. We have a vision of what we want to become as we grow, but we are thrilled to just be on the ride. I want to make sure we utilize all ingredients wholly. We are going to compost a lot of our waste and grow herbs, chiles, and vegetables. We like to garden in our family and it’s important for us to be able to reap what we sow.

As we grow, we want our concept to evolve. Whether it is a fine dining 20 seat restaurant in the house section of our property and/or opening our backyard and doing whole animal roast cookouts with live entertainment. We are fortunate enough to have a space to be able to keep our concept moving.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Hard work. I may not be the most talented chef but I can outwork mostly anybody. When I fully immerse myself in work, there is no stopping me.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Thomas Bille

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Lee

    October 29, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Great looking food. I’m impressed how your life experiences have shaped who you are and where you want to go. Mistakes should be a learning process and you have indeed learned and made the best out of it. I am a colleague and friend of Ernie. Like him, I will do what I can to support you from California. Hopefully, I can get to Houston and dine at your restaurant.
    PS, I love the Hot Sauces I purchased online. Nice flavor and not too much heat. Best of luck.

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