Chris Shepherd

Owner / Executive Chef

Chef Chris Shepherd isn’t originally from Texas, but he got here as soon as he could. Even as a child in Oklahoma, he was inspired by fresh ingredients, often scouring farms in search of straight-from-the-vine tomatoes, fresh corn, and peas.

Two decades ago, he applied to several culinary schools in the South and ultimately decided on Houston—somewhere he'd never been before. As he attended the Art Institute, Chris became intrigued by the city's cultural diversity. Chris began his career as a line cook at Brennan's, working his way up to Executive Sous-Chef and Sommelier. He spent nine years at Brennan's, nurturing his passion and talent in the culinary arts and developing his own style. Chris left Brennan's to become Executive Chef of Catalan, where he maintained partial control of the menu for five years.

Underbelly is Chris' first concept—one that pays tribute to the city's abundant culinary resources, cultural diversity, and rich food history. Chris works with farmers and ranchers to raise herds and grow produce, and he commits to purchasing whole crops. Chris is also using by-catch, lesser-known gulf species caught during commercial fishing. This relationship between fishermen and chefs is unique to Houston and promotes sustainability and more responsible use of the gulf's resources. In addition, Underbelly's extensive butchering and charcuterie program further demonstrates Chris' devotion to the responsibilities of a well-run kitchen and his passion for using the whole animal.

The menu, rather than being split into sections, is a list of rotating dishes inspired by Chris' tenure in Houston. Through food, Chris tells the story of Houston—touching on its port-city beginnings, through its Creole roots, and highlighting its Southern charm. Rather than following international food trends or staging around the country, Chris is inspired entirely by many of Houston’s off-the-beaten-path restaurants. The various communities in Houston offer many flavors, techniques, and styles that inspire Chris and define his style of cooking.

Chris is the iconic Houston chef. In his free time, he leads the Houston Culinary Tours: Where the Chefs Eat, taking Houstonians and visitors to his favorite spots. Known for his lovable and outgoing personality, Chris enjoys interacting with people, and has requested lowered counters at the kitchen line and a community table so that he can socialize with guests.