For the past two-and-a-half years, Houston’s Revival Market has expanded and evolved into a Heights neighborhood staple. When the much-buzzed-about market first opened, it featured a small selection of local produce and meats, but nowadays, Revival has expanded into a bustling grocer shop, complete with a daily breakfast and lunch menu, cases of charcuterie and meats, and a collection of local farmer, rancher, and artisan goods. Alongside co-owners Morgan Webber and Ryan Pera, chef de cuisine Adam Dorris has crafted the shop’s daily menu and seasonal dinners.
The young chef recently spoke with Texas Monthly about the evolution of Revival Market, the difficulties of sourcing seasonally in Texas, and plans for his own restaurant one day.
Layne Lynch: Revival Market has been hosting a series of dinners this summer. Tell me about how you craft the ingredients for each event.
Adam Dorris: We focus on what’s at its seasonal peak and what we get from our local farmers, purveyors, fishmongers, and ranchers we work with. Sometimes we focus on a theme that backs up each dinner. This most recent dinner was in honor of the Neptunalia celebration. In ancient Rome they would hold these big feasts to celebrate the God Neptune on July 23 in hopes for rain because it was usually in the middle of a big drought. A lot of the dishes we prepared for that dinner either came from the sea or were poached or steamed. The dishes ranged from an agua fresca to a tartare dish made with a Gulf fish called ribbon fish.
LL: How do you come up with the themes for each dinner? Is it a collaborative, or is something that you as a chef decide on your own?
AD: I usually have an idea of what I want to use already. I’ll make a chart of what I know is coming in from the farms, what we have from our own farm, things we have available right here in the market, and things we see at the local markets. The Revial crew and I will riff off of ideas and formulate themes around that. I want their opinions and to hear what’s inspiring them. It’s a very collaborative process.
LL: What drew you to work at Revival Market a year ago, and how have you seen it evolve in that time?
AD: We’ve been growing our cafe business over the past year. We’ve streamlined what we do with our charcuterie, which has given us a very consistent product. I think that’s one of the draws of Revival and always has been. I personally wanted to make sure it was very consistent and that the store was full of our products and that we limited the amount of things we bring in from outside sources that we can do well in-house. We’ve worked to improve the appearance of the store, the amount of things we have on the shelf at all times, the reach of our local produce, as well as the meat and cafe items.
LL: I’ve noticed the cafe menu is pretty consistent. Is that something you plan on keeping the same, or will it change season to season?
AD: There are several staples we feel that if we removed from the menu we’d do more harm than good. There are a few staples that will always stay on the menu in some capacity. We do change four to five items seasonally and make sure to run specials all the time. Implementing the daily breakfast menu was instrumental for us. I personally want it to be a place where you know it’s consistent every day. In fact, most deli shops remain that way. You want it to be familiar and know you can rely on ordering your favorite sandwich. That being said, I do want to play with the seasons and the produce and fruits that are coming from our farmers. In the next few weeks, you’ll see some different items since we’ll be going into fall.
LL: Are there any ingredients you’re particularly excited about utilizing in the fall?
AD: I’m always looking forward to the late fall and winter for citrus, especially with grapefruits, Meyer lemons, and different varietal oranges that we get from these local folks. I’m also a big fan of mustard greens from right here in town. With the nature of the Texas seasons, you get a very short window of time to work with these products. We’re seeing that this summer with tomatoes going away really quickly and the lack of eggplant and okra. The heat has made us have to adjust, but that’s part of the process of being a Texas chef.
LL: Houston chefs got a lot of buzz this year. What do you think is inspiring this newfound excitement?
AD: You know, It’s amazing to me. When I moved here in 2007, there were a handful of restaurants and chefs that were utilizing local products and championing these farmers and ranchers. That’s something that has become very important in this city and across the world. Chefs like Chris Shepherd, Randy Evans, Ryan Pera, Bryan Caswell, and Monica Pope inspired us to refuse to settle for food that comes from a bag or a prepackaged box. They inspired us to seek out the best products and find them as locally as possible and work to improve the lives of our diners and our farmers. Houston restaurants are changing every day and you notice these next generation of chefs stepping in like Justin Yu at Oxheart and Seth Siegel-Gardener and Terrence Gallivan at The Pass & Provisions. They’re all working to create the next wave of dining in Houston. I’m thrilled to be a part of that and see what happens next. It’s limitless as long as we keep pushing forward and supporting each other.
LL: Do you see yourself opening your own restaurant one day?
AD: Of course. It’s something that you think about as a chef. Right now, I feel very fortunate in the situation I’m in at Revival. My skills have always been strong in cured meats, butchery, and charcuterie. And every other week, I get to create a multi-course dinner and showcase these amazing ingredients and whatever expression of food I want to do. I get to do everything I love about this industry right here at Revival, so I want to be here. I don’t seem myself leaving that anytime soon.
For more information on Revival Market, visit their website.