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Phat Eatery Chef-Owner Launches Ghost Concept: Phat Kitchen



After building a fierce following for Phat Eatery, Alex Au-Yeung’s Katy-based restaurant known for scratch-made Malaysian street food, the chef and restaurateur has officially expanded inside the Loop with this week’s launch of new ghost concept Phat Kitchen. As the pandemic alters the way Houstonians eat, Au-Yeung is seizing the moment to double down on the growing preference for to-go service while introducing his cuisine to a broader audience. The Phat Eatery offshoot will operate as one of the many concepts renting commercial kitchen space at Cloud Kitchens’ Blodgett Food Hall, located at 2616 Blodgett Street between Houston’s Third Ward and the Museum District and designed specifically for producing food for off-premise dining. Alongside popular Phat Eatery menu items, Au-Yeung is also taking advantage of the ghost kitchen format to introduce additional Southeast Asian concepts under the Phat Kitchen umbrella.

“After the pandemic, a lot of things changed,” says Au-Yeung, who watched to-go business at Phat Eatery evolve from 10 percent of sales to half of all orders and decided to adjust his plans for a second location. “I really liked the idea of Cloud Kitchen and decided to give it a shot, rather than spending more time and money to build out a brick-and-mortar. In the cloud kitchen space, we can also put multiple concepts in one kitchen.” 

Phat Kitchen will serve a selection of Phat Eatery’s most popular menu items, particularly those proven to travel well, including flaky house roti canai, beef rendang, chicken curry, curry laksa and the restaurant’s newest feature: dim sum. In addition to the Malaysian offerings, the 400-sq.ft. kitchen is also introducing menu items for Yelo, the up-and-coming artisan banh mi shop that Au-Yeung is opening next to Phat Eatery in Katy Asian Town, with Cuc Lam as executive chef. In light of construction delays, operating a pop-up version of Yelo inside the ghost kitchen allows the duo to tease palates with a mix of traditional and inspired Vietnamese sandwiches, spring rolls and rice bowls while training staff prior to opening the brick-and-mortar later this fall.

From the inspired side of the menu, Lam is excited to debut creative interpretations of classics, such as the Pho-rench Dip, a banh mi twist on a French Dip. Inspired by the Vietnamese soup, it is stuffed with star anise-scented brisket, hoisin and sriracha and served alongside a cup of aromatic pho broth for dipping. She’s also drawn inspiration from the Phat Eatery menu, stuffing baguettes with chicken curry and beef rendang and creating a shrimp spring roll based on Au-Yeung’s refreshing mango-papaya salad.

Lam has spent the past few months working with Au-Yeung at Phat Eatery while developing the Yelo menu. “I’ve really enjoyed this experience and using this time to learn Alex’s operations and getting to know his staff,” says Lam. “It’s a fine-tuned machine. He knows what he’s doing, which I’m benefiting from and appreciate a lot.”

After the initial launch, Au-Yeung plans to roll out more offerings under the name Pig + Duck, a new concept in focused on Chinese barbecue. The cuisine has been a passion project for the chef since he first learned the craft while training in Cantonese kitchens in Hong Kong. Anticipate a simple, well-executed menu of barbecue roasted pork, char siu and crispy roast duck, all presented with a bit of modern flare.

Vietnamese coffee and pints of Au-Yeung’s creative ice creams are also available on the menu.

Through Sunday, Nov. 8, Phat Kitchen is open daily for lunch and dinner for delivery and takeout. Starting Monday, Nov. 9, Phat Kitchen will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with hours as follows: Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. To enable digital customers to place orders from any of the concepts in one order, all offerings are listed on one comprehensive Phat Kitchen menu. Orders may be placed at

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The Rise of Robot Chefs: California’s Innovative Culinary Future




In the heart of California, a groundbreaking transformation is underway in the culinary world. A local restaurant has taken a bold step into the future by integrating AI-powered robot chefs into its kitchen operations, signaling a new era of dining experiences. This innovative approach promises not only to revolutionize the way food is prepared but also to redefine the roles of human chefs in the process.

The Advent of AI in the Kitchen

The introduction of AI robot chefs in California is not just a technological advancement; it’s a glimpse into the future of culinary arts. According to CBS News, these robots are designed to handle various kitchen tasks with precision and efficiency, from chopping vegetables to cooking complex dishes. This technology aims to streamline kitchen operations, reduce food waste, and enhance the consistency and quality of meals served.

The use of AI in the kitchen is a response to several pressing challenges faced by the restaurant industry. One of the most significant issues is the ongoing labor shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants have struggled to find and retain skilled kitchen staff, leading to increased operational costs and reduced service quality. By incorporating AI robots, restaurants can mitigate these challenges, ensuring that they can continue to operate smoothly and efficiently.

How AI Robots Work

The AI robots used in California kitchens are equipped with advanced sensors, machine learning algorithms, and robotic arms that mimic the movements of human chefs. These robots can be programmed to perform a wide range of tasks, from simple chopping and slicing to complex cooking techniques. They are designed to work alongside human chefs, complementing their skills and allowing them to focus on more creative and high-value aspects of food preparation.

For instance, the robot can handle repetitive and physically demanding tasks such as kneading dough, stirring sauces, or grilling meat. This not only speeds up the cooking process but also reduces the risk of human error and injury. Additionally, the robots can be programmed to follow specific recipes to the letter, ensuring that each dish is prepared with the same level of precision and consistency every time.

Enhancing Efficiency and Sustainability

One of the key benefits of AI robot chefs is their ability to enhance kitchen efficiency and sustainability. According to a report by the National Restaurant Association, food waste is a significant issue in the industry, with restaurants generating millions of pounds of waste each year. AI robots can help address this problem by optimizing ingredient usage and reducing waste through precise measurements and portion control.

Moreover, these robots can operate around the clock, ensuring that kitchens can meet the demands of busy service periods without compromising on quality. This is particularly beneficial for restaurants that operate in high-traffic areas or have extended operating hours. By maintaining a consistent level of productivity, AI robots can help restaurants increase their output and profitability.

Impact on the Culinary Workforce

While the integration of AI robots in kitchens offers numerous benefits, it also raises important questions about the future of the culinary workforce. Critics argue that the widespread adoption of robot chefs could lead to job displacement for human chefs and kitchen staff. However, proponents of the technology believe that it will create new opportunities for skilled workers to focus on more creative and strategic roles within the kitchen.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that while some traditional kitchen roles may decline, there will be an increased demand for workers with expertise in managing and maintaining these advanced technologies. This shift will require a new set of skills, including proficiency in robotics, programming, and AI, which can be developed through specialized training programs and certifications.

Real-World Applications and Case Studies

Several restaurants in California have already begun to experiment with AI robot chefs, and the results have been promising. For example, a popular sushi restaurant in San Francisco has incorporated a sushi-making robot that can prepare rolls with remarkable speed and precision. This has allowed the restaurant to serve more customers during peak hours while maintaining the high quality of their dishes.

Another notable example is a fast-casual restaurant in Los Angeles that uses a burger-flipping robot to handle the grill station. The robot can cook multiple burgers simultaneously, ensuring that each one is cooked to perfection. This has not only improved the restaurant’s efficiency but also enhanced the overall dining experience for customers.

These real-world applications demonstrate the potential of AI robots to transform the restaurant industry. By embracing these technologies, restaurants can improve their operations, reduce costs, and provide a better experience for their customers.

The Future of Dining

The rise of AI robot chefs is just the beginning of a broader trend towards automation and technology in the culinary world. As these technologies continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more sophisticated applications in the kitchen, from automated inventory management systems to AI-powered menu planning tools.

For example, AI can analyze customer preferences and dining trends to help chefs create personalized menus that cater to individual tastes and dietary requirements. This level of customization can enhance the dining experience, making it more enjoyable and memorable for customers.

Furthermore, AI robots can assist in ensuring food safety and hygiene by monitoring kitchen conditions and detecting potential hazards. This can help prevent foodborne illnesses and maintain high standards of cleanliness and sanitation in the kitchen.


The integration of AI robot chefs in California’s kitchens marks a significant milestone in the evolution of the restaurant industry. While there are challenges to overcome, the potential benefits of this technology are undeniable. By embracing AI, restaurants can enhance their efficiency, sustainability, and customer experience, setting the stage for a new era of dining.

As we look to the future, it is clear that AI and automation will play an increasingly important role in the culinary world. By staying ahead of the curve and investing in these technologies, restaurants can ensure their continued success and growth in a rapidly changing industry. The future of dining is here, and it is being shaped by the innovative minds who dare to think outside the traditional kitchen.

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Franklin Barbecue Ignites Empowerment with “You Grill Girl!” Event Celebrating Women in Culinary Arts




On April 25th, Franklin Barbecue is set to host one of Austin’s most vibrant and impactful culinary gatherings, the “You Grill Girl!” event. Organized by the Austin Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier, this annual fundraiser is now in its fourth year and continues to support the advancement of women and non-binary individuals in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries.

The event is not just a showcase of culinary expertise but a celebration of community and empowerment. It highlights a diverse array of talents, including women and non-binary chefs and grillmasters, who will serve an array of smoked and grilled delicacies. The lineup this year is particularly stellar, featuring local luminaries such as Sarah McIntosh, the chef-owner of Epicerie, who will be serving a delectable smoked fish dip. Janie Ramirez, the executive chef at Dai Due, will delight attendees with aoudad hot dogs complemented by berbere mayo and pickled onions.

Further adding to the gastronomic allure, Sarah Petmecky, Amie Brown, and Theo Nesland from Franklin Barbecue itself will whip up their special Y’allapeño Poppers. The creative genius of Laura Sawicki, the culinary director and pastry chef at Oseyo, will be on full display as she presents a chocolate silken tofu pudding adorned with coffee coconut soil and whipped coconut cream. Amanda Turner, chef de cuisine at Olamaie, will offer a twist on a classic with her grilled “Oysters Rockafella.”

The event’s significance extends beyond its culinary offerings. “You Grill Girl has grown in just a few short years to be one of Austin’s most anticipated culinary events,” stated event chair Stacy Franklin. She emphasized the power of gathering such talented and creative women, highlighting their collective capability to support each other while championing a great cause.

Attendees will not only indulge in these fine creations but also enjoy a vibrant atmosphere filled with music from DJ Cassandra and a Disco Cowgirl Dance Party. The evening will also feature a tiki bar and an exclusive selection of silent auction packages, adding an extra layer of excitement to the festivities.

Tickets for the event were available for general admission at $90, covering food and cocktails, with free entry for children aged 12 and under, although VIP tickets have already sold out due to high demand.

“You Grill Girl!” serves as a powerful reminder of the significant contributions made by women and non-binary individuals to the culinary arts. Events like these not only foster a sense of community and support among professionals in the hospitality industry but also inspire the next generation of chefs and culinary experts. The funds raised during this special evening will go towards scholarships and educational grants, helping to ensure that the recipients have the resources they need to succeed and lead in their respective fields.

As this event continues to grow, it underscores the essential role that such initiatives play in recognizing and supporting the diverse talents within the culinary community. It stands as a beacon of empowerment and culinary excellence in Austin, a city already renowned for its vibrant food scene.

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Navigating the Currents of Change: Insights from America’s Top Chefs on the Evolving Restaurant Industry




In an industry as dynamic and demanding as the restaurant business, the voices of chefs carry the weight of experience, passion, and insight. Recently, The New York Times embarked on a mission to capture the essence of what it means to run a restaurant in today’s America by interviewing 30 distinguished chefs from across the nation. These culinary artists, celebrated for their resilience, adaptability, and culinary excellence, shared their candid views on a range of topics, from tipping and culinary education to the impacts of the pandemic and the changing landscape of customer interaction. This comprehensive exploration reveals the complex challenges and opportunities that lie within the heart of the culinary world.

The Tipping Point and Economic Realities

One unanimous sentiment among the chefs is the contentious nature of tipping. Despite its deep-rooted place in American dining culture, tipping remains a divisive issue, with many chefs questioning its fairness and efficiency in compensating their teams. The economic model of restaurants is under scrutiny, with culinary schools often criticized for their high costs and questionable return on investment. The introduction of Gen Z cooks into the workforce has brought new dynamics to kitchens, with these younger workers demanding better pay and working conditions, albeit with a noted decrease in job loyalty. This generational shift is indicative of broader economic challenges, including the struggle to maintain profitability in the face of rising costs and changing consumer expectations.

Cultural Shifts and Customer Dynamics

The cultural impact of movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, alongside the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has reshaped the restaurant industry in profound ways. Chefs like Cheetie Kumar of Ajja in Raleigh, N.C., and Eric Huang of Pecking House in New York City, reflect on the newfound awareness of the fragility of their businesses and the evolving perceptions of what it means to be an essential worker. The discourse around customer behavior, especially as mediated through platforms like Yelp, highlights the tension between the traditional adage of the customer always being right and the modern realities of running a restaurant.

Innovation in Cuisine and Service

Despite these challenges, chefs are innovating not just in their culinary offerings but in their approach to service and staff wellbeing. Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Ga., and Geoff Davis of Burdell in Oakland, Calif., discuss the creative and financial strategies they employ to balance customer expectations with the realities of running a high-quality kitchen. This includes menu engineering to ensure profitability while maintaining culinary integrity and exploring new models of staff compensation to foster a more equitable work environment.

The Path Forward

As the restaurant industry navigates these turbulent waters, the insights from these chefs illuminate the path forward. There’s a clear desire for a more sustainable, equitable, and respectful industry that values the contributions of all its members, from the dishwasher to the head chef. The evolution of the industry is a reflection of broader societal changes, demanding adaptability, resilience, and, most importantly, a willingness to embrace change.

Through their stories, these chefs paint a picture of an industry at a crossroads, grappling with its identity in the face of unprecedented challenges but also finding opportunities for growth, innovation, and transformation. The future of dining, as envisioned by these culinary leaders, promises a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable model that respects both the art of cuisine and the people who bring it to life.

In their words, and through their dishes, these chefs are redefining what it means to dine in America, one plate at a time.

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