Alumni Stories

Chris Shepherd

Culinary Arts

Chef and Owner, Underbelly and One Fifth Restaurants
The Art Institute of Houston


My education gave me the building blocks to read things as a road map; it was up to me to expand upon those things. Chris Shepherd , Chef and Owner, Underbelly and One Fifth Restaurants Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, 1996 , The Art Institute of Houston

James Beard Award-Winning Chef Focuses on Culinary Greatness, Community Involvement

Chris Shepherd is chef and owner of Underbelly and One Fifth restaurants in Houston. He’s a 2014 James Beard Foundation Award Winner in the category of Best Chef: Southwest, and is a lauded chef in the Houston area, committed to both mouthwatering culinary experiences and giving back to the community.

Chris holds an annual Southern Smoke fundraiser—which had raised half a million dollars to benefit individuals living with multiple sclerosis in only three years. After Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Houston in 2017, he chose to dedicate fundraising efforts to Hurricane Harvey relief. He told the Houston Press, “Houstonians are fighters, and we are going to fight for our city. It’s going to take a lot to make Houston whole again. I want to bring the country together—whether you can attend this event or not—for my city, my hometown. We’re Houston strong!”

In 2014, Chris created the “Underbelly Scholarship Award,” a scholarship to assist a hard-working and dedicated culinary student at The Art Institute of Houston. Chris began his culinary journey more than two decades ago. His first job after graduation was line cook, and he worked his way up become executive chef. His Underbelly restaurant, opened in 2012, focused on the theme of New American Creole food. He also interacts with his customers during the food preparation process, using lowered counters at the kitchen line and a community table.

In 2016, Chris opened One Fifth restaurant, a restaurant that completely changes themes on a yearly basis. Over five years, the restaurant will reinvent itself five times with a new menu, new décor, and new staff uniforms. The restaurant closes for a month each year to make the updates—the first year featured steak and subsequent years will focus on French/Spanish/Italian, fish, and two yet-undefined cuisines.

Chris earned an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute of Houston in 1996. He says that international flavor of his culinary education helped him to define his expertise. “My education gave me the building blocks to read things as a road map; it was up to me to expand upon those things.”

In addition to his community service, Shepherd’s accolades include:
• Being named one of the Top 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine in 2013
• Underbelly Restaurant was named to the National Eater 38 (one of 38 essential restaurants in America) in 2015
• Underbelly Restaurant named as one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit and Esquire in 2014

Learn more about Shepherd by visiting his Underbelly website.

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