Drama for Dinner: A Q/A with Kitchen LTO Creator Casie Caldwell

Categories: Chewing the Fat

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Even in reality TV-obsessed Texas, where there are more shows filmed about drunks, housewives, pint-sized beauty queens, gays, bling, dance moms and cowboys than you can count, odds are you won't score a cameo in one. Still, the more I hear about new Trinity Groves concept Kitchen LTO, the more it sounds like a reality TV show, part Top Chef, part Design Star and part American Idol. But this show will be one you can visit the set of live, over and over, for a front row seat to watch the shit go down.

Well, I sat down with concept creator Casie Caldwell (of Greenz Salads), and she told me the whole story about Kitchen LTO's birth at Trinity Groves, the new restaurant, retail, arts and entertainment start-up incubator at the foot of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. It's a good one.

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Kitchen LTO
Left to right: Phil Romano, Casie Caldwell, Stuart Fitts and Larry "Butch" McGregor of Trinity Groves at the signing

Tell me about the new concept.
Kitchen LTO has been in the works now for about a year. A good family friend of mine was friends with [Trinity Groves co-founder] Phil Romano and I knew what he was doing down at Trinity Groves. So I said I'd love to talk to him about what's going on down there. I knew in the first five minutes that we weren't going to talk about Greenz. He told me about Trinity Groves and why he wanted brand new concepts that aren't chains, very grassroots. He was really complimentary toward me as an operator but wanted to know what else I was working on.

I bet you were like, "Oh crap," right?
Right. I thought, when he left that day, that it was cool to meet the legendary Phil Romano, that he was really nice, but I'd never see him again. Then my friend called me and said that Phil really liked me and he wanted to see me work on something for down there.

So how'd you come up with the idea for Kitchen LTO?
Phil Romano calls the development at Trinity Groves an "incubator." I'd never really thought about it like that. I'd once thought about using Greenz as a pop-up type thing where restaurants close in their slow times and do a pop-up dinner and whatnot but the idea never went anywhere. But I kept thinking about it, and I thought what if you did that permanently? What if you had a place like that for upcoming chefs? That's how the idea came about. So I dropped everything and worked on the business plan. Then I called my friend back and said I had an idea, and the next thing I know I'm down there pitching the concept to Phil and Dallas Investment Partners.

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