JoJo Part Trios: The Restaurant Takes Shape And Andrew Bell of NOSH Named as Chef
For the past month and a half we've been tracking a Frenchman's endeavor into restaurant ownership, as he transforms what started as an empty shell into JoJo, an upscale pan-Mediterranean restaurant and bar on Howell Street in Uptown.
Laurent Poupart started his career as a chef in Strasbourg, France, then worked in New York City at Metropole and Les Celebrites. For the past few years he's been a private chef in Dallas and Louisiana, but now he's ready to get back into the restaurant business.
The first thing Poupart did was hire a seasoned team to help him through the trying process. Royce Ring with Plan B, a restaurant design firm, has worked locally for seven years and in addition to the details mapped on blue prints, he knows the finer points of getting through city code and inspections (one of those finer points being patience). Then Poupart tapped Gregory Swain as general manager, who cut his teeth at Craft and Townhouse Kitchen at the Galleria.
Getting all the paperwork, plans and permits in order is like a long slow pull of the band of a slingshot. Then once all of that is settled, restaurants are hurled into the world at a feverish pace because, like with most things, time is money. Once your hands are liberated from the red tape, if you're not working towards opening, then you're burning cash in a business in which margins are already tight.
In early August, we chronicled the start of construction at JoJo; Plan B was orchestrating the renovations, and Green Tag Construction Group was making a huge mess and a lot of noise. Just a few weeks later, JoJo is already taking shape.
One important detail for Poupart was snagging Andrew Bell from NOSH as the executive chef. Together they've completed the menu and are seeking out local purveyors to supply fresh vegetables, meats and everything else, including local wine and cheese.
They also hired Laurel Wimberg as the new pastry chef, who spent some time at Craft.
I asked Poupart about the most difficult part of opening the restaurant so far.
"Money goes fast," said Poupart. "So everything has to be on schedule. Our shou sugi ban [wood for interior] got lost for three days between the restaurant and the manufacturer in West Texas. Those types of last-minute problems are hard. Also there was an issue with the door system and we had to make last-minute changes to that as well. We want the doors to be open, but we don't want bugs to get inside. So, we looked into these fans, but you don't want anything too noisy. Then, for everything we do we have to get bids, then we have to wait for all the bids to come in to make sure we're getting the best deal."