New Kids on the Broch(stein): Little Kitchen HTX
Au revoir macarons, howdy macaroni and cheese topped with Cheeto dust.
Little Kitchen HTX, a local family-owned restaurant and catering business, has ushered in a new dining dynasty at Brochstein Pavilion. The restaurant opened on July 27, replacing swank French cafe Flo Paris with a cozy eatery serving up creative takes on classic comfort food.
Owned and operated by Chef Jason Kerr and Becca Kerr, Little Kitchen HTX is a family affair with no shortage of sentimental personal touches. The restaurant’s bright yellow cassette tape logo greets Brochstein visitors, an homage to the Kerrs’ love for ’80s and ’90s culture and emblematic of the nostalgic atmosphere they hope to bring to the pavilion.
“Everything that Becca and I do seems to stem from stuff that we've done together, places we’ve been, stuff that we did with our kids or family recipes,” says Jason Kerr. “We want you to feel like you're in our home or in our brains when you come in there.”
The couple started Little Kitchen HTX in 2017 as a specialty catering business, but in just a few short years, the restaurant has flourished across the city with full seasonal menus and multiple locations, including regular appearances at the Urban Harvest and Heights Mercantile Farmers’ Markets.
This is the couple’s first culinary venture they’ve taken on as a team, allowing them to blend and build off each other’s expertise. Since 2015, Becca has been at the helm of Eat My Pralines, a small bakery that gained local fame thanks to her mother’s recipe for homemade pecan pralines. Jason has been in the restaurant business for 30 years, with the last couple decades spent here in Houston heading up several restaurant kitchens and what he calls “roguish” underground catering services. After inviting his wife to help him cater a Montrose wedding, Jason realized Becca was a natural restaurateur with a knack for business organization skills that he says chefs like him often lack.
“It’s very yin-yang,” Jason Kerr says of being business partners with his spouse. “I’m kind of right brain and she’s left brain, and we just work really well together.”
At Brochstein and on the restaurant’s online ordering site, you’ll find a seasonal menu with all the variety and flair of a real mixtape. There’s a stacked selection of hefty sandwiches, pasta plates, Asian inspired dishes like dumplings and pad thai, soups, salads and dessert options all $10 or cheaper. In addition to their regular menu, the kitchen also offers a catering menu with affordable boxed breakfasts and lunches. With plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options, Little Kitchen HTX ensures that there’s something for everyone.
“We make food that we would want to eat and that we get excited about,” Jason Kerr says. “I know the term ‘comfort food’ gets thrown around a lot, but that’s really what we want — we want people to be comfortable and enjoy.”
In addition to offering their tried and true smorgasbord of comfort-style food, the Brochstein kitchen is also taking their first leap into the world of coffee. Jason admitted that while he and Becca are ardent coffee lovers, they’re certainly not baristas, so they enlisted the help of their mutual friend Matt Toomey, founder of local specialty roaster Boomtown Coffee, who Jason dubs a “coffee guru.” You can taste Little Dreamer Coffee, Toomey’s newest brand of coffee blends, when you order from Little Kitchen, which the Kerrs say is created by some of the best baristas in the business.
“If people are looking for an education on coffee or just want an excellent cup of coffee, we're really proud of the fact that we have three really strong baristas who are so passionate about coffee,” Becca Kerr says. “I encourage people to take advantage of the fact that these are people who see [being a] barista really as a profession.”
Thanks to its catering roots, the kitchen was well prepared for the frequent use of single use to-go containers that have become the norm for eateries across the country during the pandemic. They offer several grab-and-go options that are prepackaged and refrigerated so you can heat and eat your meal in the comfort and safety of your home.
Despite the unique challenges posed by the pandemic for those in the restaurant industry particularly, the Little Kitchen HTX team has taken it all in stride thanks to pre-existing rigorous cleaning habits.
“Ourselves and most restaurants are already very sanitation conscious,” Jason Kerr says. “We have always used a lot of bleach, we disinfect and wipe down everything, we’ve always worn gloves — the only really new thing to us is working with a mask on and doing temperature checks before work.”
In accordance with campuswide social distancing protocol, seating inside Brochstein Pavilion is confined to one chair per table spaced 6 feet apart. Even though it’s not the ideal setup, the Kerrs reassure that the pavilion space is so large and open that socially distanced lunches and meetings are still comfortable.
“Unfortunately, the whole communal effect of breaking bread is kind of interrupted by social distancing but at the same time, there's our own personal responsibility of providing what the community needs, and maybe sometimes that’s just a good cup of coffee and a snack,” Jason Kerr says.
Before they set up shop in Brochstein, both Jason and Becca have already been part of the Rice community as vendors and supporters of the Rice Farmer’s Market. Several years ago, Jason operated out of a food truck while Becca served up her famous pralines; their reputations for using locally sourced ingredients put them on the university’s radar for fresh faces to bring to the pavilion following Flo Paris’s exit.
Locally sourced ingredients have always been an important part of their work, Jason Kerr says. Through their involvement in farmers markets across Houston, they’ve cultivated relationships with many local businesses such as Houston Dairymaids, Plant It Forward Farms, Honeychild’s Sweet Creams and many more whose homegrown products are Little Kitchen HTX mainstays. Aside from getting the freshest ingredients possible, the Kerrs say supporting Houston’s tight-knit community of local growers is a reward in and of itself.
“I always talk about doing things with the punk rock ethic of doing it yourself, and not supporting big corporations but supporting your local economy,” Jason Kerr says. “Having the best ingredients in season with the least environmental impact is really gratifying. Getting to have relationships with the people who are taking something they’re passionate about, bringing it to you with the same amount of passion, and then you turning around and supporting them — I think there’s just something really romantic about that.”
While the Kerrs certainly aren’t strangers to campus, they say they’re excited to find their new niche within Rice’s campus culture as a hub for homegrown comfort.
“It's really a dream job, you know? It's not work because the minute you get on campus, you’re just so happy to be there,” Jason Kerr says. “Everybody that I've been involved with there from the farmers market to the chefs that work in dining to the students really, I've always had a really deep appreciation and love for that campus. We're excited about bringing something new to Rice that I feel like the community wants and can benefit from.”
Little Kitchen HTX is located in Brochstein Pavilion and is open for dine-in Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Order carryout online at orderlittlekitchenhtx.com.
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