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Lyle Bento joins Michael Sambrooks’ new restaurant group

Chron logo Chron 11/5/2018 Greg Morago
a person posing for the camera: Lyle Bento, Underbelly Hospitality chef de cuisine © Julie Soefer Lyle Bento, Underbelly Hospitality chef de cuisine

Well-known Houston chef Lyle Bento has landed a new gig overseeing culinary operations for the startup hospitality group Sambrooks Management Company.

a group of people standing in a room: Lyle Bento, executive chef, center, is flanked by JD Woodward, left, and Patrick Feges in the dining room at Southern Goods. © Brett Coomer, Staff Lyle Bento, executive chef, center, is flanked by JD Woodward, left, and Patrick Feges in the dining room at Southern Goods. a man cooking food on a table: Chef JD Woodward of Southern Goods © David Postma Chef JD Woodward of Southern Goods

That puts Bento, whose restaurant Southern Goods was damaged in a fire a year ago this month, in charge of the food at the former Cherry Pie Hospitality restaurants acquired in September by Michael Sambooks of the Pit Room: Star Fish, Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts, Pi Pizza and Sambrooks' baby, the highly regarded barbecue joint the Pit Room.

a sign on the side of a building: Far left, co-owner Charles Bishop and chef/owner Lyle Bento. Left, Southern Goods joins a block of cool kids in the Heights. © Dave Rossman, Freelance Far left, co-owner Charles Bishop and chef/owner Lyle Bento. Left, Southern Goods joins a block of cool kids in the Heights. a person standing in front of a window posing for the camera: Michael Sambrooks of Sambrooks Management Company, left, has brought on Steve Breaker, right, as director of operations for the restaurant group that has acquired Star Fish, Pi Pizza and Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts from Cherry Pie Hospitality. © Sambrooks Management Company Michael Sambrooks of Sambrooks Management Company, left, has brought on Steve Breaker, right, as director of operations for the restaurant group that has acquired Star Fish, Pi Pizza and Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts from Cherry Pie Hospitality.

SMOKED MEAT MAGIC: How the Pit Room became one of Texas' best barbecue joints

a plate of food with a slice of pizza: Star Fish serves a sublime Ora King salmon with ravigote butter and fried capers. © Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle Star Fish serves a sublime Ora King salmon with ravigote butter and fried capers. a plate of food on a table: Sauteed blue crab claws are shown at Star Fish, 191 Heights Blvd., Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Houston. © Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle Sauteed blue crab claws are shown at Star Fish, 191 Heights Blvd., Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Houston.

Sambrooks had even more news on Monday: chef J.D. Woodward has been hired as executive chef of Star Fish, the near Heights restaurant at 191 Heights. In July Woodward left La Vista 101 as executive chef only two months after the restaurant re-launched. At that time the restaurant also parted ways with general manager and sommelier Jeb Stuart.

a pizza sitting on top of a pan on a table: The Supreme at Pi Pizza. © Brett Coomer, Staff The Supreme at Pi Pizza. a pizza sitting on top of a table: An assortment of Pi Pizza pies. The new Pi Pizza shop is set to open soon at 181 Heights. © Julie Soefer An assortment of Pi Pizza pies. The new Pi Pizza shop is set to open soon at 181 Heights.

The moves within Sambrooks Management reunite Bento and Woodward, formerly of Goro & Gun, who served as chef de cuisine under Bento at Southern Goods, which announced in July it would not reopen after being shuttered by the fire. At that time Bento also announced he was returning to Underbelly Hospitality as chef de cuisine.

a plate of food and a cup of coffee: Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts in the Heights has created the Double Donut Fried Chicken Sandwich: chicken tenders between two glazed donuts with choice of sauce. © Julie Soefer Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts in the Heights has created the Double Donut Fried Chicken Sandwich: chicken tenders between two glazed donuts with choice of sauce. a sandwich sitting on top of a table: Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts, 601 Heights Blvd., is adding six new fried chicken sandwiches to its menu, including Lee's Blue Bird (blue cheese spread and sweet sriracha syrup); Lee's Ranch Bird (poblano ranch dressing, pepper jack cheese and jalapeno bacon marmalade); Lee's Southern Bird (bread and butter pickles, pimento cheese and jalapeno bacon marmalade); Lee's BBQ Bird (barbecue sauce, onions, and bread and butter pickles); Lee's Spicy Bird (hot chicken tenders with jalapenos, onions, pepper jack cheese, and bread and butter pickles); and Lee's Chicken Salad (grapes, tarragon, lettuce and tomato). © Julies Soefer, Julie Soefer Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts, 601 Heights Blvd., is adding six new fried chicken sandwiches to its menu, including Lee's Blue Bird (blue cheese spread and sweet sriracha syrup); Lee's Ranch Bird (poblano ranch dressing, pepper jack cheese and jalapeno bacon marmalade); Lee's Southern Bird (bread and butter pickles, pimento cheese and jalapeno bacon marmalade); Lee's BBQ Bird (barbecue sauce, onions, and bread and butter pickles); Lee's Spicy Bird (hot chicken tenders with jalapenos, onions, pepper jack cheese, and bread and butter pickles); and Lee's Chicken Salad (grapes, tarragon, lettuce and tomato).

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a plate of food with a slice of cake on a table: Brisket and sausage with macaroni and cheese, beans and elote at The Pit Room where social media posts of barbecue are many. © J.C. Reid / J.C. Reid Brisket and sausage with macaroni and cheese, beans and elote at The Pit Room where social media posts of barbecue are many. a plate of food on a table: Frito pie at The Pit Room with an extra side of chicharrones © J.C. Reid Frito pie at The Pit Room with an extra side of chicharrones

Sambrooks surprised many in the Houston restaurant community when he purchased the assets of Star Fish, Pi Pizza and Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts following an unraveling of the former Cherry Pie Hospitality group. His new company also brought in in Houston native Steve Breaker to serve as director of operations.

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