Chef Jose Hernandez was already a successful and well-respected chef before he decided to leave the confines of the Inner Loop to open his first restaurant in Katy. That's where he has poured his heart, talent and savings into a small, unassuming space that will house his forthcoming French-based concept La Balance, which will open on August 15.
"I know it's going to be a little far for some people to visit us, but it's what we could afford because we don't have any investors," Hernandez tells Eater. "It's my restaurant and my own investment." Hernandez says that he chose this location because it was more affordable to set up there, especially because the space was already outfitted with a full kitchen. Plus, anyone who is even remotely familiar with the local food scene should already know that Hernandez's food justifies the drive.
After an apprenticeship with chef Philippe Schmit at Orsay in New York City, Hernandez came to Houston to work as the pastry chef at now-defunct Bistro Moderne. Hernandez has also worked with chef Scott Tycer as executive pastry chef for Gravitas and Aries. Most recently, he designed and launched the pastry program at Philippe Restaurant and Lounge (where he reconnected with Schmit) before a 2-year stint at Triniti and a turn at Étoile.
As for La Balance, Hernandez says he wants his restaurant to serve good, fresh food that's well-executed but never fussy or fancy. "I don't want to call it fine dining because we want to offer a casual atmosphere," Hernandez says. "I also don't want to call it a seasonal restaurant, although we will look at what's in season, that's why we have halibut on the menu now."
Towards the end of his chat with Eater, Hernandez resorts to Spanish, his native tongue, to say that he has the luxury of charging reasonable prices for the food because he doesn't have to pay high-profile chefs or please outside investors.