Award-winning Houston chef says winning bids in Hobby food fight are... cooked; Councilmember calls for investigation

After claims of his involvement with winning proposal, Chris Shephard tells KPRC 2 Investigates, “I am not the culinary consultant for areas”

HOUSTON – Council members continue to respond to questions surrounding the current ‘food fight’ at Hobby Airport and one is even calling for an investigation into the matter.

It comes after renowned award-winning Houston Chef Chris Shepherd said the following to KPRC 2 Investigates in a statement, “I am not the culinary consultant for Areas, nor am I involved with them in any other capacity.”

Now, why is this a big deal?

Because the company that won a lucrative bid for Hobby concessions, Areas JV, claimed in its pitch to the city that it had Shepherd on board.

On Page 5 of the Executive Summary, it states, “Extensive work in the local community. Provided alternative dining options. ‘Culinary Consultant’ is Chris Shepherd, a noted Houston chef.”

Shepherd’s reaction?

“I did have preliminary conversations with them, but I never entered into an agreement with them,” Shepherd said.

He is now trying to figure out why Areas leveraged his name in the bidding process and says his legal team is now involved.

“My legal counsel is in communication with Areas and their counsel to assess steps moving forward. I’m not able to share any of that communication.”

A spokesman with Areas admits there was no contract.

“There is nothing in writing as his role would be formalized following Areas selection and approval of the contract,” said the spokesperson.

SEE ALSO: Council members delay vote to keep Pappas restaurants at Hobby Airport or go with Miami-based company

KPRC 2 contacted Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office regarding Shepherd’s comments.

Specifically asking the Mayor if he has concerns over the Areas proposal which appears to have misled members of the council.

“While there appears to have been conversations between the parties, the city of Houston was not privy to the discussions. This was a competitive bid process that was fair and clean,” said Mary Benton, Mayor Turner’s Communications Director.

The mayor himself has yet to provide comment on the matter.

What are council members saying?

KPRC 2 Investigates reached out to all sixteen members on Friday but only eleven responded with comments as of Monday March 6.

Their comments are as follows:

“It is concerning Mr. Shepherd is seeking legal counsel regarding this item. I am scheduled to meet with Areas on Monday -- I plan on directly asking about this new development.” -Tiffany D Thomas, Councilmember District F

“I am very concerned that the procurement of this contract could have been made with information that was incorrect. If this information was used as part of the procurement, it should be redone.” - Amy Peck, Councilmember District A

“It is concerning when you learn this isn’t true. I don’t think we should take a vote on it.” – Mary Nan Huffman, Councilmember District G

“We shouldn’t vote on it if scoring was skewed by this.” Robert Gallegos, Councilmember District I

“I’m not happy with appearance of deception by the Areas Group, so we’ll see what happens next week.” – Mike Knox, Councilmember At-Large Position 1

“I think we need to disallow Areas based on the lies by saying, this award-winning chef was on their team,” Michael Kubosh, Councilmember At-Large Position 3

“I take this matter very seriously. It is concerning that the company that won a lucrative bid at Hobby Airport allegedly misled members of the council and misrepresented the involvement of renowned chef Chris Shepherd. The process needs to be handled in an open and transparent manner thus the item needs to go back to administration for full investigation before a council vote. The citizens of Houston deserve to have confidence that the process for awarding concessions is conducted in an ethical and fair manner which is the objective and that all participants provided honest feedback.” - Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Councilmember District D

“Council Member Kamin is continuing to review the item ahead of this week’s Council meeting.” - Office of Abbie Kamin, Councilmember District D

“Thank you for reaching out to us. We’ll look into it.” - Tarsha Jackson, Councilmember District B

“I am examining all of the documentation and materials in advance of this week’s council meeting, including Chris Shepard’s statement,” – Sallie Alcorn, Councilmember At-Large Position 5

“I was in Washington D.C last week, so I am reviewing all the information that my office received.” - Letitia Plummer, Councilmember At-Large Position 5

Again, all City of Houston council members were contacted. We will update this article once they provide us with a response to this 11th-hour surprise development in one of the Houston Airports System’s most lucrative concessions packages.

Full Statement from Chris Shepherd below:

“I am not the culinary consultant for Areas, nor am I involved with them in any other capacity. I did have preliminary conversations with them, but I never entered into an agreement with them. The conversations largely centered around support of the Southern Smoke Foundation, but nothing concrete ever materialized nor was there any agreement, written or otherwise, on what that would be or look like. I look forward to engaging with whoever the ultimate winner is in assisting people in the restaurant industry in crisis. I don’t want to make any further statements as to not be involved in the process nor distract from the important decision the city will make and will continue to ascertain exactly how my name was involved in this process.”

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