The title of chef has been romanticized to the extent where people often forget that an exceptional executive chef also has to be a savvy businessman. Taylor Domet, a seasoned veteran in the food industry, represents this important intersection where creativity meets enterprise. As brand chef of the acclaimed North Italia chain, Domet will be overseeing the establishment’s debut in Houston next month in the new Blvd Place development that also houses sister restaurant True Food Kitchen and a brand-new Whole Foods Market.
Originally from Tuscon, Domet moved to Phoenix roughly 15 years ago to attend culinary school, subsequently working as a professional chef there ever since. What he brings to both the proverbial and physical table is a vision for Italian cuisine that caters towards H-Town’s love of all things food-related, honed by his previous experience of four years with North Italia’s parent company Fox Restaurant Concepts.
“Houston is just such an affluent area. There’s just so much business, so many restaurants,” said Domet. “I’d heard from one report that people in Houston go out to eat more often per meal period than any other city, or something crazy like that.”
On that point, Domet is correct: according to a Zagat survey from December 2013, Houstonians average a number of 5.5 meals eaten out per week. The closest cities to that mark were Dallas, NYC, and Miami which all tied for an average of 4.9 meals out per week.
With that said, the chef sees Houston’s adoration of food as an asset and attitude that fits perfectly with North Italia’s usual clientele. The high-end, family-oriented restaurant is, in Domet’s words, a “97 to 98 percent” scratch kitchen, meaning aside from the purchase of San Marzano tomatoes, everything from the pizza crust to the braised meatballs will be made right there in the kitchen. Stressing that North Italia’s pastas are also completely produced in-house, Domet believes this emphasis on fresh food is one of the aspects that will make the eatery a unique dining destination for Houstonians.
“We’ve done a lot of research and development out here, in terms of eating at restaurants that could be considered like North Italia, and I just don’t think that Houston really has anything like us yet,” said Domet, in a confident tone. “When I say ‘like us’ I’m saying the 98 percent from scratch, the hospitality piece, the totally visible kitchen," as with True Food Kitchen, which already opened to rave reviews last year, "where you can watch the chefs making your food.”
Situated in the Galleria area, a section of the city that seems to be growing faster than ever, North Italia’s location presents ample room for growth in the coming months, says Domet. The chef has a busy year in store for himself, too, as his job will see him heading brand openings in Houston as well as Manhattan Beach, CA in July and Irvine, CA in September.
In between openings, Domet will be in Arizona working on menu development and potential changes to new and existing dishes. To say he’s both excited and optimistic about 2015, would still not do his attitude justice.
“Opening date is March 3 so, as soon that comes around, doors are open and hopefully everybody comes through,” said Domet. “We’re already looking forward to trying to get into some local events and doing some foodie stuff, so we’re definitely going to put our name out there this year. Don’t be surprised to see us is as many food-driven culinary events as possible to get to know our community.”