Chef blends passion for food, drink
Clay Alling, who owns the newly opened Haus Pour on Border Street in Old Town Spring, detested what his mom used to cook for him and his six siblings when he was a kid in Amarillo. While he knew she was trying her best, it wasn’t until he was 16 and had moved to San Antonio to live with his dad and stepmom that he discovered a cultural and culinary scene that left an indelible impression.
“I started playing with barbecue, and my friends and I dreamed of having a barbecue joint-bar,” Alling said. “We cooked every weekend for 25 plus people.”
While Alling was in the Army until 1997, he viewed his experiences through a culinary lens.
“I was lucky enough to travel and take in cuisine from countless different countries,” he said. “My last station in Fort Hood, Texas, was voted the best kitchen in the army. I loved the food.”
After the Army, Alling began bartending on Sixth Street in Austin. He said he learned the art of combining flavors to make custom drinks for customers “before mixology was a thing.”
“This is where my palate started its refining process,” he said.
He had gigs in multiples restaurants that served fare such as a seafood, Tex-Mex, Mexican, American, where he was able to hone his craft of pairing drinks and menu items by conferring with chefs.
Alling left the restaurant business for a while and worked in software from 2001-12, creating a couple of apps. But he could not escape the pull of the restaurant business.
Alling satisfied his food desires by helping out as a consultant to different bars and restaurants throughout Texas and began to exhibit a drive to merge drink creation with food. He won individual awards for a bartender shootout and then with his recipe for “best burger in Cypress” in two different restaurants. Ultimately, he left software to pursue the dream to own his own restaurant.
“That passion for culinary treats was my carrot,” he said. “I kept at it always pushing for the two to converge.”
Alling moved to the Houston area in 2001. Four years ago, he opened The Provisioner’s Tale on Border Street in Old Town Spring, which he has since closed to open Haus Pour with a theme of “industrial chic.” The anticipated opening date is this May.
“I have taken reclaimed posts and metal and gutted out an old warehouse type area,” Alling said. “Throughout the space you will see our influence of Texas-themed drinks and food, military honor wall, and my love for bourbon.”
Alling said The Provisioner’s Tale was a 32-seat establishment that was open for a year, but Haus Pour has seating for more than 200 and includes a parking lot.
“OTS has shown me that these quaint little areas are in need for something like what we are providing - world class cuisine with exceptional service, an amazing atmosphere, and open seven days a week,” he said.
Alling said he enjoys preparing the types of foods you don’t typically see on restaurant menus but that people still want.
“I excel at food pairing and comfort food, you know those old fashioned standards that people don’t make anymore—liver ’n’ onions, meatloaf, etc.,” he said.
He said his dream menu features items such as Foie Gras sandwiches, duck risotto, lamb, venison street tacos, grilled asparagus and bourbon cake as a dessert.
His favorite techniques are flambé, tableside (think: carved meat at your table) and grilling, and he is always trying to learn new techniques and create new dishes through flipping through old cookbooks and reading magazines. He also takes classes to learn more.
One of the keys to his success is that Alling tries to create not just delicious foods but also an “experience.”
“You can come into my restaurant every day and eat something new and exciting with perfect pairings,” he said.
As for missing his first love of mixing drinks, Alling said he gets to eat his cake, too.
“I still get to make killer cocktails,” he said.