Preston Hollow’s own Richard and Tiffanee Ellman — owners of Oak, Pakpao, and Belly and Trumpet — have received critical acclaim throughout the years for the three restaurants. Richard said traveling around the world with his wife was part of their inspiration.
Q: When did your love for food start?
A: I think that I have been fortunate enough to travel — both for work and pleasure — throughout my life, and travel, for me, has been synonymous with eating all different cuisines and styles of food and being exposed to great food all over the world. I think that was certainly part of it. My mom was a great cook, so I was fortunate to grow up in a house where I ate good food. I think I’ve grown up with an appreciation for great food my whole life.
Q: Is there a country or place you’ve visited where the food stood out?
A: I have traveled a lot in my life, and when I got married, my wife and I started traveling together. She also has a passion for food in the same way I do, and is, I think, someone who would consider herself to be somewhat particular about food and is always adventurous when it comes to trying new things and exploring new cuisines. So I think, together, when we decided to open Oak, it was really an effort to bring together some of our different thoughts and ideas that we had traveling together and that I had had throughout my life. Our two restaurants, Oak and Belly and Trumpet, are fairly global in their approach, and there are cuisines that are representative of different countries around the world. And, of course, Pakpao is Thai, and my wife is half-Thai, and I have spent a fair amount of time in Thailand, and I think we were also exposed to the different aspects of Thai cuisine when we traveled together — and not just Asian, but in Australia and New Zealand. We wanted to do a fresh approach to Thai cuisine, that we hadn’t really seen, in Pakpao.
Q: Are any of the ingredients local?
A: Oh, a lot. Absolutely. Our chefs always strive to source locally first, so a lot.
Q: Where do you see the restaurants in five years?
A: We’re opening another Pakpao in Plano. That will be sometime over the next year. So we’ll see how things go with Pakpao, but certainly we feel like there’s been a lot of demand in the small restaurants, so we’re hoping we’ll have a good opportunity with success in opening another one. We’ll see. We have some things up our sleeves that we plan on doing this year, but nothing is set in stone yet. In five years, we anticipate there will probably be more Pakpaos. We don’t know how many, and I’m not sure. We’ve opened three restaurants in a span of a couple of years, so obviously we’re fairly aggressive, so I anticipate more of something. I just don’t know what.
Paige Skinner is a Special Contributor to Preston Hollow People. This story ran in our May 2014 issue, out now. Email her at [email protected].