I've never met a person who has worked in more Houston restaurants than Goro & Gun sous chef Matt Wommack. Uchi, Down House, Revival Market, Rainbow Lodge, Felix 55, Cinq, the list goes on and on. He's an accomplished veteran with a lot of experience that is getting put to good use at his new post. Being a member of a restaurant's opening crew is always challenging. Setting up equipment, building a menu, developing the flow of the kitchen, choosing purveyors, there is always a ton of work to be done in a short amount of time. Though it is his first time as part of the management team, Goro and Gun marks Matt's fourth spot on an opening crew having been involved with the debut of Uchi, Revival Market, and Felix 55.
You have worked everywhere it seems like, are there any standout spots, favorites?
Obviously Revival Market was awesome, I was the morning guy. We did everything in the morning, from soup of the day to butchery to tacos. I'd have to say Cullen's is where I first started to have a lot of fun. We were doing a lot of covers and we put some good stuff out of that kitchen. Unfortunately the market kind of fell off over there. I also liked a lot of the stuff we were doing at Rainbow Lodge.
Matt came on to the Rainbow Lodge right at the end of my stint there, it was my first kitchen job and chef Mark Schmidt was coming in to fill the void left by Randy Rucker's departure. It just goes to show how small the food industry community can be in this city, almost five years later and we're in the same kitchen.
Do you feel like working at Uchi helped prepare you for opening Goro and Gun?
To some degree yes, I'm glad I was there. I worked with some really cool people, formed some good relationships and as a result one of my cooks came from there. It was a positive experience for sure.
Was it intimidating at all, opening this place and never having served ramen before?
A little bit yeah, but I've always been a sink or swim kind of guy. I mean, I know how to cook, I can figure it out. If something doesn't work I'll fix it. Dave (Exec chef David Coffman) and I get along fine. We think the same way. Sometimes, its weird, we'll both have the same idea at the same time.
Has the opening been pretty stressful?
At first you know, it was pretty stressful. That first trial weekend we did, I literally stood in one spot and cooked noodles for eight hours straight. I mean, there were, like, seventy five people pushing the door down when we opened, so from the beginning we were about an hour behind. Plus there's the hours, I come in at ten and leave around midnight on weekdays, closer to three on the weekends.
There were some pretty mixed reviews coming off that first weekend, do you think they were fair?
I'm sure some of it was fair, I mean the problems mostly had to do with the equipment set up we had. There just wasn't enough fire power to deal with the volume we had. We had no idea what the volume was going to be like either; that's why we did that trial run, so we could access ourselves and make any adjustments that we needed to.
How are things running now?
Well, last Friday we got pretty close to the level of covers we did that first weekend. But now we've got the crew trained up, they're more familiar with everything, we've got the new equipment (a wok station with two burners, each putting out a massive 16,000 BTUs), better systems in place, so it's smooth you know? We're still tweaking, we're still perfecting things, it's a constant process. We're rolling out the new wing dish (Pok Pok Wings); we're working on a couple of new ramen dishes, so I'm excited, there's a lot more to come.