Midwest-raised, James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd has helped change the landscape of the Houston culinary scene since opening Underbelly in 2012. He built the restaurant to support the Houston food community and its suppliers by buying local and drawing inspiration from the people and cultures that live in the city. Thanks to Chris’ vision and passion, Underbelly was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetitand Esquireand was named one of 38 essential restaurants in America by Eater. Chris was named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Winein 2013 and was then awarded the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest.
In 2017, Chris opened One Fifth, a five-year restaurant project that changes concepts every year. He closed Underbelly in March 2018 to convert the building into Georgia James, his take on a steakhouse. He also opened UB Preserv as his culinary interpretation of Houston’s evolution. He continues to tell the story of Houston food, but without limitations of locality and whole animal butchery. He formed Underbelly Hospitality in 2018 to preserve the ethos of Underbelly—learning about diverse cultures through food. In 2019, all three restaurants—UB Preserv, One Fifth Mediterranean and Georgia James—nabbed the No. 1 spot on Texas Monthly‘s list of the Best New Restaurants in Texas, and Georgia James was included on GQ‘s list of the best new restaurants in America. He was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2019 and was named Robb Report‘s Chef of the Year the same year. Chris’ first cookbook, Cook Like a Local: Flavors that Will Change the Way You Cook—and See the World, was published by Clarkson Potter in September 2019 and was nominated for a 2020 James Beard Foundation Book Award.
Chris began his fine dining career at Brennan’s of Houston, where he spent seven years in the kitchen and then ran the wine program for two. He left Brennan’s in 2006 to open Catalan Food & Wine, which was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America that same year.
Chris’ foundation Southern Smoke has donated more than $3.3 million to those in the food and beverage industry in crisis and to the National MS Society, in honor of his friend who lives with multiple sclerosis.
Lindsey Brown launched Lindsey Brown Public Relations in 2016 to utilize her knowledge and experience to promote businesses that share her business philosophy of hard work and innovation. Prior to starting her firm, she was the public relations and events director for Clumsy Butcher, a restaurant and bar collective in Houston. Prior to joining Clumsy Butcher, Brown was director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau for 10 years. She launched the Where the Chefs Eat Houston Culinary Tours program—winner of the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award in 2011—and worked with local, regional and national media to further Houston’s reputation as a tourist destination.
Brown graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in public relations. She began her career at Vollmer Public Relations in both the company’s Dallas and Houston offices. She also served as the special projects coordinator for the Houston Ballet Academy; a trained ballerina through age 18, Brown later would go on to co-found the Houston Ballet’s young professionals group, Ballet Barre, which has more than 200 members in its sixth year. She continues to support the organization as a member of the Board of Trustees and serves on the advisory board of Hermann Park Conservancy.
Martha Paterson is an attorney who worked at Baker Hughes, Inc. for seven years in the Contracts group and was regional contract counsel for Reservoir Development Services Group. In this role, she drafted and negotiated various types of contracts, including oilfield service contracts, confidentiality agreements and consulting agreements and provided risk assessment and advice on complex legal contractual issues. Prior to Baker Hughes, she spent two years as staff attorney at the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, where she provided preparation, legal guidance and assistance on contract matters for agency staff. Additionally, she advised the agency management on personnel issues, trained personnel on employment laws and ethics policies and conducted internal investigations on employment issues.
She received her B.B.A in Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin and her Juris Doctorate from University of Houston Law Center. She is now a stay at home mom of two boys and is active in her children’s school and West University Little League Auxiliary.
Dr. Kevin Gee is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1998. He earned his Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Houston College of Optometry in 2002.
As a student, he was involved in various organizations serving the student body as an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association. He was chosen by his peers to give the student address at their convocation and inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.
After graduating from optometry school Dr. Gee was appointed Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and Senior Staff Physician at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas where he focused on the care of patients affected with diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases like lupus and Sjogren’s disease. His responsibilities involved the training of medical students and ophthalmology residents at the Scott & White Eye Institute. While in Temple, he served the optometric community of Waco, Temple and Killeen as the president of the Heart of Texas Optometric Society. In 2004 he was included in the “Guide to America’s Top Optometrists” by the Consumers’ Research Council of America.
Dr. Gee returned to Houston in 2004 to private practice where he expanded his interests into refractive surgery and cataract care. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry and is involved with sports vision care of athletic teams in the city of Houston. In 2006, Dr. Gee completed his certification in Oklahoma for Anterior Segment Laser Treatment. The Cambridge Who’s Who’s Registry of Executives recognized Dr. Gee in 2007. In 2009, Dr. Gee was named the Young Optometrist of the Year by the Texas Optometric Association and nominated by the American Optometric Association for the same award on the national level. In 2010, he was honored by the American Optometric Association with the appointment to the Meetings Center Executive Committee. Dr. Gee served as President of the Texas Optometric Association in 2013 and is currently the Chair of Student Support and Meetings Committees. Dr. Gee is also the Co-Chair for the Texas Optometric Association Association Support Committee and served on the Legal and Legislative Committee. In 2011 Dr. Gee completed and successfully passed the American Board of Optometry Board Certification examination and now distinguished as a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and was a former board member of the local optometric society. Dr. Gee was awarded the Optometrist of the Year in 2018.
As a member of the community, Dr. Gee supports all the local elementary, middle and high schools. A proud sponsor of Scanlan Oaks, Sienna Crossing, Jan Schiff and Donald Leonetti Elementary Schools as well as Billy Baines and Ronald Thornton Middle Schools. He was one of the first supporters of Ridge Point High School and was honored into the Purple Jacket Club in 2017, Dr. Gee has served on the Campus Based Leadership Teams of Scanlan Oaks and Ridge Point. He enjoys sponsoring and mentoring all activities from sports, dance and charitable organizations. One of which is the Southern Smoke Foundation that contributes to the MS Society and helps aid restaurant works in times of need. Away from the office, Dr. Gee is a huge fan of the Houston Astros and University of Houston Athletics. He is a writing instrument collector and glasses collector as well. In his spare time, he plays the saxophone and is fascinated by gadgets of all types!
Petter Aa. Pettersen, a native Norwegian turned Texan, graduated from the University of Oslo with a Master of Law. During his 12-year career with AIG, he relocated from Oslo, Norway to Houston in 2011. He quickly fell in love with Houston’s vast and diverse culinary community, having worked and managed events in the hospitality industry for several years in Norway while in law school. Petter now considers Houston his home with his wife and two rescue dogs and currently holds a Global Product Executive and local leadership role with AIG, focused on catastrophic insurance within the energy industry.
He is an avid outdoorsman and also holds board positions with two private companies in addition to serving as a planning committee member for the Houston Marine & Energy Insurance Conference.
Kathryn Lott has worked in nonprofit administration and event production for nearly 20 years. In 2016, she co-founded Lott Entertainment, a creative project management and special events firm. She and business partner Allison Lott have produced some of Houston’s largest events, including the University of Houston’s Counter Current Festival and East End Street Fest. During her tenure as director of operations for the Society of Performing Arts, she brought such luminaries as Al Pacino, Lily Tomlin and Anthony Bourdain to the Houston stage. As marketing director for Houston Grand Opera, she founded ON, Houston Grand Opera’s young professional program, the largest of its kind in the world. She’s passionate about elevating the arts scene in Houston and founded Culture Collision to bring young patrons of Houston arts groups together. Kathryn is a past board president of the Catastrophic Theatre and a previous board member of the Fresh Arts Coalition. She joined Southern Smoke as executive director in 2017.