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Lou Lambert, chef-proprietor of the sizzling Lamberts Downtown Barbecue in the heart of Austin, knows food from farm to market — or, rather, from ranch to culinary academy to refined but unpretentious restaurant.
Lambert grew up in West Texas and spent summers on the family cattle ranch, where he remembers hanging out with the ranch cook who prepared three meals a day for the ranch hands over an open fire. He was also a frequent visitor to his paternal grandmother’s home in Port Arthur, where his Cajun relations were shrimpers and rice farmers, and of course, serious eaters.
A chance meeting with another Texas chef with ranching roots, Grady Spears, led to Lambert being hired as opening chef at Reata in Fort Worth, a branch of Spears’ original Reata in Alpine. Meanwhile, Lambert’s sister Liz, who had been working as an attorney in New York City, moved to Austin and bought a rundown motel on the city’s then up-and-coming (and now trendy) South Congress Avenue, and turned it into Austin’s hippest boutique hotel, the San Jose. Lambert liked what he saw and decided to move back to Austin himself.
In 2006, Lambert was presented with an opportunity in Fort Worth and opened Dutch’s Hamburgers across from the TCU campus. Dutch’s, named for famed TCU football coach Dutch Meyer, quickly became a university landmark and was voted in the top of Texas Monthly’s best hamburgers in the state of Texas. Shortly after opening Dutch’s, Lambert opened his West Texas inspired big city steak house in Fort Worth. Lambert’s Steaks and Seafood was greeted with great reviews and was voted into the Top Ten New Restaurants in Dallas/Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News. Lambert was also voted best chef in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Weekly.
Big Ranch, Big City: Recipes from Lambert’s Texas Kitchens published in Fall 2011.