Dining for every ‘o-Cajun’
Brooks Bassler has come a long way since sleeping in the back booth of his first restaurant in Houston, working 20-hour days trying to get a foot in the door of one of the most competitive food cities in the world.
Now, the 1997 Rockdale High School graduate— and 7-foot high jumper while a member of the Tiger track team— has just opened his seventh BB’s restaurant.
Along the way, together with wife, Maricela, he’s coined a new food genre, a combination of the bayou and the taco.
They call it Tex-Orleans. It’s obviously caught on with the public and with celebrities.
“Beyonce’ and Jay Z dined here a few months ago and they loved it,” Bassler said. “Her mom has been coming to BB’s for a few years and her best friend is a regular.”
Bassler, the son of Miller and Kathie Bassler of Rockdale, attended the University of Houston on a track and field scholarship.
While there he enrolled in the Bauer College of Business Wolf Center for Entrepreneurship Program—hmm, entrepreneur, a Cajun word, n’est-ce-pas?—and the program required him to pick a business interest.
“This is when I started working in the restaurant business and I fell in love with it,” he said.
He began working in restaurants, turned down a few managerial jobs in other fields of work. “I decided it was in my best interests to keep learning the business,” he recalled.
That led to an opportunity in catering. “I went out and beat the streets and knocked on doors and had a lot of success in growing the catering side of the business. It was fun and exciting and it made me realize I could do this on my own.”
UNIQUE—But first he took another job as a catering director for a large Mexican food firm in Houston.
“After more time of growing someone else’s business, and learning the ins and outs, I decided it was time,” Bassler said.
So, at age 27, he made the decision to go out on his own.
Well, almost on his own. Within the next year he met and married Maricela, a corporate sales person with a background in communications. “She made an immediate impact on our marketing and branding side of the business,” Bassler said.
“I knew we had to be unique,” Bassler said. “I decided that initially we would focus on an under served side of the business, the late-night dining sector.”
And, yes, he really did sleep in the back booth, table no. 9, in some of those hectic first days. “I’d work until 5 a.m. and get up at 9,” he recalled.
TEX-ORLEANS—Then he had to come up with a menu that would be equally unique.
“I’ve always had a passion for great Tex-Mex, but that would be like suicide in the Houston market,” Bassler said.
The Bassler family, which hosts locally famous crawfish boils, has deep roots in Louisiana Cajun country.
“I remember going to Morgan City as a kid and I loved the culture,” he said. “It was all about eating and entertaining.”
So they came up with Tex-Orleans, which is Cajun with a Texas twist.
“We started with a small 13-item menu with New Orleans style poor boys, gumbo and a few appetizers and now we have a 56-item menu with poor boys, seafood entrees, oysters on half shell, hot oysters, boiled crawfish, he said.
After four years at the original location, BB’s started expanding. It’s now seven restaurants strong and a recognizable Houston brand.
MOM AND DAD— Bassler gives thanks to his family for his success.
“I’m lucky,” he said. “I have parents that always pushed and challenged me to take risks. Not to mention helping me out in the early days financially.”
“They were so supportive in my decision. Without them I would not be where I am. Both my parents have that entrepreneurial spirit so I grew up seeing the highs and lows of what that means,” he added.
“So, enduring the inevitable ups and downs of owning your own business was easy for me. I would just revert back to hearing my mom and dad’s conversations about running their own business and it was easy to put it in perspective,” he added.
“Without them as my role models BB’s would not exist,” Bassler said.
BB’s locations are at 1275 Eldridge Parkway, 6154 Westheimer, 2710 Montrose (the original), 3139 Richmond, 2710 White Oak, 404 West Grand Parkway South # 400 (Katy) and 9719 West Broadway (Pearland). Fait les bon temps roulez.