“The off-cuts. The shoulder, flank and hanger.”
“You want to use the off-cuts? Challenging, but it just might work…”
Executive chef Antoine Ware was pitching his Harold’s in the Heights culinary team his most innovative dish idea yet after noticing an uptick in customer demand for beef variety. He wanted to use the uncommon cuts of the carcass, reduce waste and create an interesting meal that featured parts rarely found in other restaurants. And, of course, infusing it with his signature Creole flair.
Ware moved forward with the idea, and after a little experimentation with cooking methods, spices and cuts, he offered taste tests to his team. With resounding approval, clean forks and licked lips, the staff agreed: 44 Farms Black Angus beef shoulder would soon become a hit. Two years later, Harold’s still prepares unique off-cut dishes, and they have become some of the restaurant’s best-selling specialty items.
Such a collaborative team effort is not an uncommon scene in Ware’s kitchen. Focusing on menu development and daily kitchen operations through discussions, tastings and demonstrations and feedback from the team, Ware craves to reach the “ah-ha” moment when a dish is perfected.
“I count on my team to take an idea and run with it so we can recreate Creole and Cajun, or even Spanish, dishes that diners won’t find anywhere else,” said Ware. “I still believe Southern cuisine is a melting pot of different types of foods with regional tastes, and we try to reflect that in our classic dishes with a Creole influence.”
Raised in New Orleans, Ware developed an interest in Southern cooking as a young boy while helping his mom in the kitchen. Observing her technique for grits, gumbo and fried chicken, the aspiring chef absorbed every lesson he could on how to create a meal that truly stands out, a mantra by which he lives today.
After graduating from Delgado Culinary School, Ware perfected his skills as a cook at Royal Sonesta and Bacco Bistro and a sous chef at Mr. B’s Bistro and other prestigious restaurants. He later teamed up with Chris Shepherd to launch the first menu at The Hay Merchant. In 2013, he joined Harold’s in the Heights as executive chef and began to transform Houston’s take on Southern classics.
Dedicated to providing an outstanding Creole comfort food customer experience by sourcing local ingredients, Ware depends on consistent product quality and authentic relationships to create the edgiest yet familiar Southern cuisine possible. Each item on the menu centers around ingredients that are local, natural and fresh. His top-selling beef dish, a cast iron-seared ribeye, hails from the pastures of 44 Farms.
“You can only create awesome dishes from awesome products, and the people who produce them are just as important,” said Ware. “The relationship I share with 44 Farms assures me that I will be getting the best of the best to work with, every time. Their product and team are unlike any other. When I visited the ranch, they prayed over the meal. They’re authentic and real, just like their beef.”
*Brought to you by the partnership of My Table magazine and 44 Farms