Corbin Blackford, Manager, & Norman Faust, General Council, of Taste of Texas join us to talk about their restaurant.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Jay Curry: And, we’re back. Hello Texas. Welcome back to Texas Business Radio.
Boy, do we have a program going, and it is a dandy. We’re talking hospitality, we’re talking wine, we’re talking eating food, first class, and we’re going to wrap this program up today with one of the finest restaurants in the state of Texas.
I am so glad to have our guest here. But, I’m Jay Curry, your host for this segment, along with George Walden, who is Matt’s partner with Corporate Finance Associates, and a regular host. George, thank you for joining us.
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All right. We’re wrapping this program up with a restaurant here in Houston called the Taste of Texas, and folks, it’s one of the finest restaurants in the state, without question.
I have in the studio here with me, Norm Faust …
Norm Faust: Yes.
Jay Curry: … Who’s the manager of the restaurant. And also, Corbin Blackford.
Corbin Blackford: Yup.
Jay Curry: Did I get that right?
Corbin Blackford: You did.
Jay Curry: … Who’s kind of in charge of the …
Corbin Blackford: eCommerce business.
Jay Curry: eCommerce online stuff, which, is booming, and we’ll get to that also.
But Norm, let’s start with … tell us about the Taste of Texas. What’s that all about?
Norm Faust: Well, Taste of Texas is just an incredible restaurant. Been in business since 1977. We are blessed with incredible business. We are number one independently owned restaurant in Texas, and it’s a really incredible restaurant from our certified Angus beef that we specialize in, to our wine list, to our beer list. It’s an incredible restaurant.
I have been blessed. I’ve been working there for 27 years. It’s good.
Jay Curry: So, you’ve been there 27 years. The restaurant’s been there 40 years, right?
Norm Faust: Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: … And has a reputation that can’t be matched. The specialty though is beef, right?
Norm Faust: Certified Angus beef.
Jay Curry: When you say certified, that’s more than just, hey this is premium or grass fed.
Norm Faust: Oh exactly. It’s top 8% of beef. It is fantastic. We have filets, we have New York strip, which is my personal favorite, Porterhouse. One of our most popular steaks now is the Tomahawk steak, which we introduced a couple years ago, Father’s Day, and it was a huge hit.
So, you can not go wrong ordering a steak at Taste of Texas, by far.
Jay Curry: Right. So, if you love beef, this is the place to go.
You’re located in Houston around …
Norm Faust: Beltway 8 and I10. Beltway 8 and I10.
Jay Curry: The west side of town, I10 and the Beltway.
Norm Faust: Yes.
Jay Curry: It’s a beautiful place, folks. You gotta go enjoy this.
So now, Corbin, you’re in charge of the online. That’s kind of a new deal. Tell us a little bit about what that’s all about.
Corbin Blackford: It is-
Jay Curry: Because, this is really catching on.
Corbin Blackford: Yeah, it’s been a wonderful thing. Everything at the Taste of Texas is about family, and the eCommerce business is as well.
It was started by my wife’s brother, Edd Kay, who needed to create a business when he was at Harvard Business School. So he looked at his family business and said, “I think it could do online sales as well.”
And so, he began it and started it with Ed and Nina. And then, my wife’s sister, Lisa, ran it for a number of years. And now, Kristen and I are doing it.
Essentially, we ship flash frozen certified Angus beef Taste of Texas steaks aged over 40 days, all over the continental United States. It’s a way of bringing Texas hospitality to other cities in Texas, and all over the US.
It’s been a wonderful part of the business, and this year to celebrate the 40 years of the Taste of Texas, we’re also selling our cookbook, Perfectly Aged: 40 Years of Recipes and Stories from the Taste of Texas, also through our eCommerce business as well as in house.
George Walden: Taste of Texas has always had just a reputation for excellence, but you also have a culture of excellence, and you have a great relationship with your people. You take care of your people. You actually have scholarships for your people.
Would you go into that a little bit?
Corbin Blackford: Sure. Edd and Nina have always believed that while the primary reason that the Taste is in business is of course to be a profitable business. The secondary mission is to develop and promote your staff.
And so, very early on, they began to focus on employee scholarships. They give great bonuses for A’s and B’s, and things like that. But in addition to that, they do all these sorts of special events, whether it be wine dinners, or beer dinners, or Christmas tours, or adult history tours. They raise money for our employee scholarship fund.
We’re able to give thousands of dollars a year to our employees to help them improve their education, whether that’s through traditional college, or through a realtor course, or something like that.
They also do a lot for the community when it comes to education. Nina is a Texas history buff and so, she has accumulated a world class Texas history museum within the Taste of Texas.
And so in Texas, in the fourth grade, you study Texas history. So she brings through school children nearly every day of the school week. She’s doing it right now as we speak.
We believe that 400,000 fourth graders have come through the Taste of Texas on these school history tours, and everything is complimentary and free. We feed them. It’s just a service that Taste believes in.
Jay Curry: 400,000 …
Corbin Blackford: Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: … Kids have gone through to learn about the history of Texas.
Corbin Blackford: Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: That’s really an amazing story.
Corbin Blackford: Yes.
Jay Curry: Good for Nina for that.
Now Norm, we’re also talking a little bit of wine here. You gotta have a good wine with a good steak, right? That’s kind of your expertise.
But you’re particularly … You’ve been recognized by the Wine Spectator?
Norm Faust: Yes, sir. For 22 years. We’ve won the Wine Spectator award for 22 years.
Our wine list, I’m constantly updating, working on it, listening to guests, what they inquire about, or certain things. Texas wines are now getting more and more popular. I brought in more Texas wine.
William Chris is one of the wineries that we brought in. Incredible winery.
I want to diversify the wine list because we are blessed with people from everywhere in the world. So I want to make sure that we help people out with the wine list and make sure they get something that they want.
And Texas wines are getting, like I said, more and more popular this year. Over 13 billion dollars has been impacted by Texas wine. It’s really neat and it’s fun.
Jay Curry: And so, for 23 years you’ve been recognized by the Wine Spectator.
Norm Faust: Yes.
Jay Curry: Boy, does that speak a lot about the Taste of Texas that you’ve got that type of commitment. You’re also committed to Texas wines, you’re committed to the Texas kids. This, folks, is a wonderful business that happens to provide amazing steaks. Others, but steak particularly is really strong.
Norm Faust: Oh yes, most definitely.
Jay Curry: Anything else you can tell us about the online, particularly? Because this is new, right? But it’s growing very rapidly. So, 30% increase? What’s that about?
Corbin Blackford: Yeah. This year we’re actually up 30% on the eCommerce site, which has been wonderful. It is a relatively young business. I think it was started in 2005 or 2006.
But this year we’ve grown. Now that we’ve got these cookbooks in house, we’ll begin packaging them with steaks so that you can get the cookbook at a slight discount when you buy them with the steaks.
But, our big product in addition to the steaks this year is this cookbook.
Jay Curry: Yeah. This cookbook, folks, is amazing. It’s like everything else about Texas, and the Taste of Texas. It’s first class and it fits right in to your fine steaks, fine wine and packaged all up together.
Corbin Blackford: It is.
George Walden: And don’t forget Harvey. Don’t forget Harvey.
Corbin Blackford: Yeah, I shouldn’t. Half of all net proceeds from the sales of the cookbook will go to Harvey relief.
It’s a great representation of the restaurant in that it tells the story, of course, of the restaurant, but it also tells the story of Texas through the artifacts that are housed within the restaurants world class history museum. And then, it has 100 plus of our favorite recipes.
The photography was done by Debra Smail, who’s one of Houston’s top food photographers. It was produced by Ronnie Atnip, who did Johnny Carrabba’s cookbook in addition to others. It’s really world class.
Jay Curry: Where do you go to get the book?
Corbin Blackford: You go to tasteoftexas.com and you can get the book right there.
Jay Curry: Tasteoftexas.com. We’ll put a link on texasbusinessradio.com right into that. Folks, you outta check this out.
But you’ve gotta go to the Taste of Texas. This is just an amazingly fabulous business and first class restaurant. Number one in the state. Top 50 in the country, right?
All right. We’ve been talking to Norm Faust and Corbin Blackford, representing the Taste of Texas.
Folks, that’s about all we can cover. We’ve given you everything we know about wine, food, and hospitality. So we’ve now gotta go away and figure out something else that we can bring you next week. We’ve got Matt out as we speak setting that up and getting ready. We’re going to get smart and bring you something else.
So, this is Jay Curry along with George Walden saying thank you for joining us for today, and we will talk to you next week.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.