Food stylist turned restaurant designer makes an impact in Houston with a top chef on board – Amanda Medsger creates Whole Vibes
WWhen the curtain rises on Chef Chris Shepherd’s Regent Square restaurant before the end of the year (fingers crossed), it will only mark the latest highlight of the thriving restaurant / interior design business in which Amanda Medsger inadvertently fell. The live fire-focused Houston restaurant is one of four the talented designer is undertaking for Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality.
Medsger is currently working on a redesign of UB Preserve to better reflect the personality of Executive Chef Nick Wong and is working on the Texas-themed design of Wild Oats and its neighbor Underbelly Burger, both of which will be located at the Houston Farmers Market.
The native Texan has come a long way from his early career in retail facilities, display design, and visual merchandising. Medsger’s first linchpin was food styling thanks to an invitation from photographer Ralph Smith. Soon she meets commercial photographer Julie Soefer. Quickly, Medsger developed an expertise in food styling.
To date, she has four cookbooks in her portfolio: a multi-award winning Cajun cookbook. Mosquito Supper Club, Alba Huerta Julep, by Justin Devillier New Orleans cuisine and shepherd Cook like a local.
“Her understanding of food translates into restaurants,” says Lindsey Brown, restaurant publicist, married to Shepherd. “She has a strong instinct and years of experience on how aesthetics and food complement each other.”
Proof of this innate talent is Restaurant Vestal in Lafayette, Louisiana, whose design is winning rave reviews on Yelp. One of the many examples of praise for the restaurant’s design: “We were blown away by the renovation of the old Antler building. The ambiance and decor is unlike anything else in Lafayette with a clean, modern aesthetic. It is obvious that every detail has been taken into account and the result is a magnificent restaurant.
Photographer Denny Culbert, with whom Medsger had worked on cookbooks, introduced him to chef Ryan Trahan and a quick partnership was formed.
“I wanted to create a space that did not exist in Lafayette. It’s a gastronomic city, but with few options for fine dining, ”says Medsger. “I wanted to create a space where when you walk in, you’re not in Lafayette, but you’re in New York or Los Angeles. “
Vestal is packed every night and Medsger has a star in its design portfolio.
Chris Shepherd signs
A few years ago, Medsger designed a backyard party for a local magazine involving Shepherd. The table scene she created was so alluring that Shepherd and Brown asked her to do the interior of their new home.
“I did it and it worked out,” Medsger recalls, adding that after seeing her work with Vestal, Shepherd approached her with, “You made a restaurant, here are five more.”
With this task assigned in May, the talented Medsger has hired two designers and a CEO in two months and is moving ahead at full speed.
While residential design remains on its plate, Medsger makes restaurants simply more fun.
His work at UB Preserve centers around the personality of Chef Wong. “Nick is so playful and fun and he takes cooking seriously,” says Medsger. “But her cooking is a fun atmosphere and we want to reflect that in the dining room. Chris wants him to really feel like this is his restaurant.
The overhaul mantra as explained by Wong is kaizen, which means change for the better or continuous improvement. The transformation will take place gradually on Sundays and Mondays when the restaurant is closed. Customers can look for improved lighting with the addition of chandeliers, pendants and sconces; the addition of murals by local artists; and paint the floor. The patio is also undergoing a transformation with more greenery, opening it up to be lighter and creating a warmer environment.
While there remains a cover on Shepherd’s exact plan for Regent Square, Medsger has a few points in mind.
“Chris’s food is so amazing and there are such amazing people in the kitchen working with and for him that I want the design to reflect what’s going on in the kitchen,” she says. “And I want people to be excited about it. And that they are at the forefront of design in Houston because that’s what they deserve and that’s what they should be doing.
“Underbelly should set the bar for upcoming restaurants. . . I have the impression that he has the crowd of gourmets. It has its loyal and loyal people. I think we’re just going to bring in a whole new demographic with the work we’ve done and a whole new level of respect within the design community and the restaurant community.