Business of the Month
by Anne Lemmon
CP Hospitality is a multi-concept restaurant group that specializes in creating unique, house-made products and using them throughout different culinary platforms. Over the span of two years, CP Hospitality has grown from one restaurant, City Pork Deli and Charcuterie, to include City Pork Brasserie & Bar, and City Pork Kitchen & Pie.
City Pork Deli & Charcuterie
City Pork Deli and Charcuterie opened its doors and smokehouse in December 2013 at 2363 Hollydale Ave under the Perkins Overpass. It was a good beginning; the Baton Rouge magazine 225 awarded them “Best New Restaurant” in 2014. In that same year, they were also featured in several other cultural, travel and tourism-based publications throughout the region. As a gourmet sandwich shop, City Pork mainly focused its attention on producing house-made meats and unique condiments for their sandwiches. They also now feature salads and a few appetizers on the menu, and all of their sides are made from scratch. Another area of focus for City Pork has been their Charcuterie boards, which feature their specialty meats, artisanal cheeses and City Pork’s homemade pickles, which quickly became a customer favorite. The restaurant also features a deli case with everything from local favorites such as boudin, tasso, and andouille, to European specialties like confits, pâtés and dry-cured meats, all of which are showcased on their Charcuterie boards. Recently, City Pork Deli and Charcuterie has launched its “Take-home Tuesday” program, which offers a complete, home-cooked to-go meal for a family of 4. This has proven to be a great addition to the City Pork offerings, especially for the neighboring Southdowns and Garden District neighborhoods that the Deli serves.
City Pork Brasserie & Bar
Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm
Continuing to grow and expand their business, City Pork Brasserie and Bar opened at 7327 Jefferson Highway in 2014, in the building formerly occupied by Dempsey’s restaurant. Continuing with its scratch-made tradition, City Pork Brasserie and Bar features an expanded menu including appetizers, entrées, a full-service bar, and, of course, City Pork’s famous Charcuterie boards. Whereas the Deli is a fast-casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant, the Brasserie is more of a full-service dining concept featuring everything from the classic “Big Pig” sandwich that made the Deli famous to creative dishes like “Rabbit and Dumplings” and “Shrimp and Boudin,” City Pork’s spin on the Louisiana classic Shrimp and Grits. City Pork Brasserie and Bar also features an interactive, open kitchen and a “Charcuterie and Cheese Bar” where customers can dine and interact with the staff, asking questions and educating themselves about some of the unique products on the boards.
City Pork Kitchen & Pie
In 2015, CP Hospitality opened its 3rd concept, City Pork Kitchen and Pie, at 6721 Exchequer Drive in Industriplex Subdivision, off of Seigen Lane and Airline Highway. This concept is a southern-style kitchen featuring a full breakfast menu and blue-plate style lunch specials. This location also specializes in homemade pies, with an extensive list of sweet treats that change weekly and can be bought by the slice or whole. Similar to the Deli, the Kitchen also features a deli case, and serves as a retail outlet for the specialty cured meats that City Pork offers at their other locations. Though it has only been open for a few months, City Pork Kitchen and Pie proved instantly to be a “hit” with all of the employees working in Industriplex subdivision, while still bringing in customers from all over Baton Rouge!
Currently, CP Hospitality has been focused on building up City Pork Catering, a full-service catering company that offers anything from quick office lunches to wedding receptions to whole hog roasts, onsite barbeques and tailgates. Through their catering operations, CP Hospitality is also offering unique “Chef’s Table” dining experiences, and can accommodate any size group from 1 to 100.
City Pork’s reputation has grown by leaps and bounds since their beginning. After the Deli won 225’s “Best New Restaurant” in 2014, they were crowned “Best Bar-B-Q”, after being 1st runner up to TJ Ribs in 2014, and also “Best Sandwiches.” Following the lead from the Deli in 2014, the Brasserie was also crowned “Best New Restaurant” in 2015 and the Kitchen is on the ballot for the same title in 2016. In fact, the City Pork family of restaurants have a total of 11 nominations for 225 Magazine’s “Best Of” competition! Among several other awards and regional acknowledgements, the Brasserie also caught the attention of The Food Network and appeared on the Season premiere of Burgers, Brew and ‘Cue’ in January, 2016.
City Pork began with the combination of two like minds – Trey Williams and Chase Lyons. The two both had a strong passion for food, and a notion that the Baton Rouge food scene just needed more unique offerings. They saw the rise of the “foodie” movement in other parts of the country, and saw that the public was really starting to pay more attention to their food… Just like they were! They recognized that people wanted to see more restaurants that were actually “cooking” rather than just reheating pre-packaged, frozen food. With this idea, the seed was planted for City Pork.
Trey Williams grew up in Monroe, Louisiana. After graduating from Louisiana Tech in Business Administration, he moved to Baton Rouge to get his MBA at LSU. From there, he went on to work in the Commercial Real Estate business in Baton Rouge, where he currently holds a sales license with NAI/Latter & Blum Commercial Real Estate.
“I’ve always had a passion for food and travel,” says Williams. “When I was younger, I had the ability to travel around a bit, exposing me to different types of cuisine. I’ve always been enamored with the food of other cultures. Every time I would experience something new, I would always have the thought of ‘man, I wish I could bring this back to Baton Rouge!’ So I always sort-of dreamed of having a restaurant, but with no formal experience in the restaurant business, I always looked at this as more pipe dream than a real possibility.”
Williams’ other passion is being in the outdoors. As an avid hunter, Williams grew tired of sending his deer off to a “processor” only to get sub-par meat and mediocre sausage back in return. He decided that he wanted to explore the idea of butchering his own deer. A simple Amazon search for books on “venison butchery” led him to buy several books on meat processing, sausage making, and… This new, intriguing word he had never seen or heard of before: Charcuterie! For reasons unknown to him, this particular culinary discipline became especially captivating for Williams as he began to experiment with it in his own home. Soon, he had a dedicated refrigerator in his house specifically for curing meats! He became so enthralled with this hobby that in 2010, he traveled to the Gascony region of Southern France to work with a local family who raises all of their pigs on a small farm, butchers them on-site, and creates 20+ different products that are all sold at local farmers markets. This 3 week workshop was a crash-course in butchery and charcuterie production, and gave him the base knowledge that he needed to at least begin exploring his dream of turning his newly-discovered hobby into a business.
Meanwhile, Chase Lyons grew up on the other side of the state in Houma, Louisiana. Like Williams, he moved to Baton Rouge for college, receiving a degree from Louisiana State University in psychology. He also shared the same passion as Williams for good food. His passion stemmed from watching his grandmother create traditional Louisiana cuisine for him and his family. Lyons’ dream was to open up a scratch-made sandwich shop in Baton Rouge, similar to those he had seen in other cities across the country. He went to the Internet and searched for listings of “best sandwich shops” and located a place called The Noble Pig (now “Noble Sandwich Co.”) in Austin, Texas, which specialized in made-from-scratch sandwiches. Lyons contacted them and was invited to visit and see the deli firsthand. He met with the two chefs and owners, Brandon Martinez and John Bates, bringing with him homemade andouille and gumbo. He was hired on the spot to wash dishes, and began working for them to learn the business by watching Bates and Martinez.
When Lyons returned home from Austin and Williams returned home from France, the two came together and began planning for the opening of their new restaurant. With no name, no property and no defined concept, they had some work to do! The concept came first, and they knew they wanted something that could satisfy both of their passions: sandwiches for Lyons and charcuterie for Williams. After countless conversations, lots of input from friends & family, after several road trips to New Orleans for inspiration, and with the help of a local marketing firm, the concept of “City Pork Deli and Charcuterie” slowly began taking shape.
With Williams’ background in commercial real estate, the site selection process should have been easy but it was anything but that… Williams identified a property in the Perkins Road Overpass area that nobody (including him at times!) thought could be turned into a restaurant. It was a building that had experienced almost every commercial use in its 45 year life EXCEPT a restaurant! Most recently it had been a hair salon but before that, it had housed a variety of office and retail users. The main limitation that this site had was parking… It had almost none, and it was located in an area where parking is already rather scarce. After much research, Williams identified a small patch of land across the street that was owned by DOTD, and was not currently being utilized for parking. After a 10 month process, which involved input and approval from local, state and federal highway authorities, an agreement was reached with DOTD and City Pork was allowed to lease the land and improve it for parking. This added the parking spaces needed for City Pork to meet the city code’s parking requirements, allowing the site to be re-zoned for a restaurant use.
After an extensive renovation on the building and after Murphy’s Law took its inevitable toll, City Pork Deli and Charcuterie opened under the Perkins overpass in December, 2013, with a line out the door and into the street! Since then, it has been a favorite lunch spot for locals and travelers alike. Lyons was named General Manager of the Deli location, where he currently maintains that role.
In February, 2014, Stephen Hightower came on board as a consultant to help work out some kinks and put some systems in place. His extensive experience and vast knowledge of the restaurant industry brought the level of expertise that was needed on the City Pork team. Shortly thereafter, Hightower became a partner and now serves as the company’s Director of Operations. A Baton Rouge native, Hightower spent several years opening and managing Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse franchises across the country for local restauranteur TJ Moran. Over the last 10 years, he has also been instrumental in opening several other restaurant and bar hotspots in Baton Rouge, some of which are still operating. These experiences, coupled with his wide knowledge of the operations side of the business, has allowed City Pork the ability to grow at its current rate and to continue to expand its offerings without compromising quality or integrity.
Shortly after coming on board as a partner, Hightower discovered that the Dempsey’s restaurant on Jefferson Highway had gone out of business and was now vacant. Knowing that this is a prime location, he and the City Pork team began putting together their second concept – City Pork Brasserie and Bar. Chef Ryan Andre, formerly of La Creole Restaurant, was tapped to lead the Brasserie as its executive chef. Chef Ryan is a graduate of Louisiana Culinary Institute and has worked in several fine dining establishments in both Baton Rouge and New Orleans. His experience quickly proved itself valuable to the company as the Brasserie, with only 1 year under its belt, has received numerous awards and has twice been featured on national television, both on the Food Network show “Burgers Brew and Que,” and also during the Miss USA pageant, as it hosted dinner for the contestants before the competition. Since the opening of the Brasserie, Chef Ryan has been appointed “Corporate Chef” for CP Hospitality.
In the middle of 2014, with the 3rd concept looming on the horizon, the City Pork family decided that if they wanted to grow the right way, they needed to consolidate things into one parent company. With that thought in mind, CP Hospitality, LLC, was formed to bring everything under one “roof.” Shortly thereafter, plans were underway for their 3rd concept, City Pork Kitchen and Pie.
This location’s concept of breakfast and plate lunches was heavily influenced by the previous tenant’s business model. For 30 years, patrons have been coming to this space for country-style plate lunches like chicken & dumplings or fried pork chops, and CP Hospitality decided that it would be best to keep that theme. Led by Chef Eusebio Gongora (who has also been named the company’s “Director of Culinary Operations”), City Pork Kitchen and Pie quickly established itself as a fixture in both the Industriplex subdivision and the Baton Rouge culinary scene.
Williams, though, says that this location was more than just a 3rd restaurant for them. He says that because of the size of this building and the ample kitchen space, it was a strategic move to put CP Hospitality in a better position for growth. He says that they actually added a second kitchen space to this building where they can do more prep word for their other locations, and also increase their catering abilities. Prior to its opening, Williams was quoted as saying the following:
“We felt that this space suited our needs well, as both of our kitchens at the other locations, Hollydale and Jefferson, are small relative to what we are putting out. This will give us the opportunity to work more efficiently as a multi-concept restaurant group and will also allow us to expand our catering operations which have been growing exponentially over the last few months,” says Williams. “The restaurant will be based on the same concept that The Exchequer is currently working under: breakfast, plate lunches, sandwiches and salads. We will be updating the menu and giving it our own twist but we will be keeping many of the existing favorites that have brought customers to this location for the last 30 years.”
“We are also planning on making and selling an extensive list of homemade pies, which will be available whole and by the slice,” Williams says. “We feel that a good pie shop is badly needed in Baton Rouge. You can find amazing pie shops all across Louisiana, but where in Baton Rouge can you go to get a good homemade pie?”
While Williams says that CP Hospitality has some other potential concepts in the works, he says that right now they are focusing on their catering business and building up its infrastructure. “With each passing week, we are able to do more and more from a catering standpoint. Our team has really been putting in the effort to make these catering jobs extra special and we can clearly see that from the feedback and the repeat business that we’ve been getting. Our goal is to exceed the expectations of our clients on every job that we do, and so far, I think we’ve been doing it!” To help with catering, CP Hospitality has hired Renee Dugas as its Marketing and Catering Director. Dugas is the former Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, where she oversaw the implementation of such events as the “Fete Rouge,” which is one of the capital region’s biggest culinary events of the year.
“This has really been a lot of fun,” says Williams, remarking about City Pork’s short, but robust, 3-year life. “It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but at the end of the day, our team is building something special; we are creating something that will last. We make nearly everything we serve in-house, and we go to great lengths to train and empower our staff. Investment in our people is key… We probably invest more into our people than we can afford at the moment! But it’s the PEOPLE that make this business great, and we will continue to make that investment.”
With 3 restaurants in 3 years, the City Pork team has really accomplished a lot in a very short timeframe and it’s exciting to see what they will do next! While there’s nothing concrete in the works for the future growth of City Pork, it’s certainly been alluded to that growth is on the horizon. When asked about what the “mission” is of City Pork, and where he sees it going in the future, Williams shared this from the CP Hospitality website:
“With each new restaurant concept that we develop, we hope that we are continuing to “raise the bar” for culinary demand in Baton Rouge. We firmly believe that it’s possible to be fresh, unique and inventive with our food, while still maintaining the consistency and quality that we know our customers expect. Come experience the great food and fine hospitality that we are serving up every day at one of our three restaurants; and be on the lookout for the next innovative culinary concept presented to you by City Pork Hospitality!”