Trying to fathom the location chosen for Chez Roux causes instant hematoma with a side of hives. Conroe, Texas is a city with an average of 96 eager ticket toting police officers within a five mile radius. Complete psychosis of the badge has overthrown Montgomery County. Assuming the chosen few indeed succeed in making it through the city limits, rainbows & sunshine await at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa, home to… Chez Roux.
Resort & spa details could potentially cause sudden snoozer status to prevail. To lessen the snore, a simple summary will suffice. A ginormous hotel, appearing ghost town empty, sits on Lake Conroe. The spa offers a one hour rock massage that will force your tingling toes to curl. Rug rats rejoice, for there is a waterslide & kiddie pool available for your pint size pleasure.
From the moment valet arrived, instantly, inch high goose bumps owned my arms & legs. It would take my server punching me in the face while the manager mugs me to ruin this night. Knowing that behind closed doors lurks one iconic Michelin rated chef with technique comparable to an artificial heart surgeon, um, the trek from Houston feels more like pleasure than pain.
Enter Chez Roux and instantly experience elegance at its very best. While sashaying through the dining room, the manager spoke the most painfully exciting words known to mankind: “Would you prefer the chef’s table in the kitchen?” Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Cough, choke, hyperventilate, and CPR resuscitate! Are you kidding me?
Standing in the kitchen as though I had just suffered a concussion, this human possessing the only Michelin gift in the state of Texas, gulp, is but inches away. Executive chef Matthew Gray brought tears to my eyes. There is a fine line between being a foodie and tear duct flooding at the mere sight of a chef. Guilty.
Chef Gray’s Scottish accent possesses a power capable of sending all within earshot into a solid mesmerizing trance. Born in Elderslie, Scotland, he graduated from the Napier Polytechnic of Edinburgh. Chef Gray exists in our humble abode because of the legend himself… Master Chef Albert Roux. The two met while chef Gray was the executive chef of Inverlochy Castle in Torlundy. Chef Roux later offered him the position at Chez Roux, feeling it necessary to have only the best running the show.
Chef Gray arrived with a twinkle in his Scottish eyes, knowing this move is clearly a challenge. While fishing on Lake Conroe, he noticed the array of lavish homes in the area, and thought to himself, “Hey, give me thirteen or fourteen covers every night, five nights a week and I can do this easily.” Unfortunately, with the frightening economy, the stigma attached to the real estate didn’t materialize as he predicted.
Chez Roux may be closed on Sunday & Monday, but they do get their fair share of office business during the week, as well as oil & gas. The aftermath of holiday or special event weekends always seem to be a bit of a struggle, with business being slow, which is common. Chef Gray continued to explain, they experience the highs and lows within several different aspects of the industry. He views America as a lot cheaper in comparison to Europe. The tasting menu Chez Roux runs during the week is $70 per person. In Europe, he could do a three or four course menu, charging $110 per person and not have any qualms about this decision.
His impression is that many people feel it is not a “good value” at Chez Roux, but this chef sincerely disagrees. The main problem, however, is a need to generate a higher volume of clientele. Maybe this place is jinxed, or maybe, just maybe… it’s the real estate. You think? Given the feedback chef Gray received after first opening, he feels there is a slight chance Chez Roux had a bad reputation in the beginning. For a place the size of Lake Conroe, which is slightly challenged geographically, cough, there is a need to embrace the entire community… “Embrace what is nearest and dearest to you.”
In the most humble of all humble opinions, this goes both ways. Some major embracing of Chez Roux, within the community of Lake Conroe, needs to happen… and fast. If not, ruralness beware, losing what is near & dear will be this patiently waiting embraceable chef.
Chez Roux offers a glimpse into their conception…
“The crown jewel of La Torretta’s cuisine experience, this fine dining gem was created by Chef Albert Roux, a revered name in the international restaurant world. Chez Roux is his first-ever American establishment and offers a contemporary French menu with heavy emphasis on local and fresh products. Chef Roux and Executive Chef Gray bring their exceptional cuisine to La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa.”
As the tasting began with amuse bouche, which is white onion & mustard soup, fascination unlike any other began as well. Is any human really worthy of spending what feels like countless hours in the kitchen watching a true top chef create? Speechless & honored are the least of my feelings. Curtsy.
Originally, the roasted scallop with horse radish crust & apple puree is accompanied by a super secret sauce created with ingredients containing… meat. The chef was kind enough to bring the original, as well as the AVH version, free from all carcassness.
Warm oyster beignets are served with white & green asparagus, chopped herbs & tomatoes. At this point, the level of oyster joy reached an entirely different level. The kind of fried that feels a step above heaven… a tiny plate overflowing with pleasure.
Red grouper arrived nestled atop creamy mashed potatoes with spinach, wild mushrooms & a truly decadent lobster sauce. The white foodie flag, which represents ultimate defeat, is usually reserved for wouchville waving. At this point, the experience was riddled with excitement… Heart palpitations were only a moment away.
Foie Gras Mousse with celery root remoulade & toasted walnut bread would consist of… duck. Recently, my all time favorite chef in Houston showed a video of ducks frolicking on a farm. He explained, in storybook detail, the pampered lives they lead up until their demise arrives. I’m just going to go ahead and speak for the ducks in our community and say, um, I’d rather live in a cold pond during the peak week of duck season. This may tickle your average duck’s fancy a bit more than glamour farm life… being fed all day with the sole purpose of acquiring a… fat neck. Oops, where were we? Oh, foie gras… This delicacy brings forth a jubilant feeling of fireworks for certain citizens.
Moving right along…
Salmon is lightly pan fried with an herb dressing & celery root remoulade… which is celery root with green mustard & mayonaise. Chef Gray discussed the simplicity of making items “on the fly” when substitutions are necessary. With foie gras being the original item offered on the tasting menu, inventive measures appeared naturally with his gift of creating.
An explosion of chocolate lay in wait. The warm chocolate brownie made all knees immediately weak. Every space invaded, from ice cream to cream enriched classic truffleness, all prove worthy of first class dessert status.
While soaking in the strawberry sorbet with long pepper syrup, all would appear dandy. False. For the love of God, once again this foodie found the corridor leading directly into rookie status. Morphing began as my spoon spastically smacked my dessert plate, flying onto the table at a speed of 2 mph… just as chef Gray sat down to begin our full blown interview. Hold your applause. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Waiting throughout the evening, in adrenalin filled anticipation, the privilege of watching this chef work fulfilled every expectation. It is indeed fact, executive chef Matthew Gray is well deserving of the endless accolades he continues to receive. With his contract at Chez Roux nearing the end, his plans for the future aren’t clear. Watching chef Gray as he stands in deep thought, ever so slanted with both hands on his hips, causes all witnessing to agree, this chef has massive stimulating appeal.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch