Sitting Down With
The chef who revitalized Lubbock while building on his family's legacy
Chef Cameron West knows a thing or two about legacy. The busy chef and restauranteur is the grandson of the city's former mayor, Dirk West, who is also famous for drawing the cartoon mascots for Texas Tech, Nebraska, and Kansas City.
Cameron, himself a Texas Tech grad, furthered his training at the Culinary Institute of America, in Napa Valley, at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, with Jon Bonnell in Fort Worth, and under chef Dean Fearing in Dallas. But he always felt a pull toward his hometown of Lubbock, and had a hunch that the West Texas city was just waiting for a restaurant renaissance.
Today, Cameron and his wife Rachel head up four critically acclaimed eateries in Lubbock, and are largely credited with rejuvenating the city's culinary scene.
CultureMap caught up with Cameron to talk fried chicken, national awards, and how neighbors take care of each other.
CultureMap: First off, can you give us the vibe of each of your restaurants and what dishes each is known for?
Cameron West: Sure, we have:
- The West Table: Our first restaurant in Lubbock, opened nine years ago. It serves upscale American that's seasonal and local whenever possible, and was downtown's first "destination" restaurant. We're known for the bone marrow, oysters, and fried chicken during brunch, and foods that were less common in Lubbock when we opened.
- Dirk's Chicken: Our motto is "Birds. Beers. Bubbles." and that pretty much covers it. Dirk's is named for my grandfather, and you'll see a lot of his original artwork displayed around the restaurant. The vibe is more Southern, with (obviously) fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, and we have oysters here too.
- The Brewery LBK: This is an eclectic-casual brewpub across the hallway from The West Table. We have 12 rotating beers on tap, and three years ago USA Today crowned it the best brewpub in the country.
- Neighborhood F+B: The newest of our restaurants, this is a neighborhood bar and grill with casual, comforting food and a wonderful bar program to boot.
CM: You traveled all over the country and worked with some very famous chefs. Why did you want to return to Lubbock?
CW: I had seen other chefs come home and sort of "renovate" their downtown, and Lubbock's downtown was a little behind in the culinary scene a decade ago. The West Table was successful from the start and really jumpstarted a lot of the downtown revitalization. It showed that the people of Lubbock were really ready for this kind of love to be poured back into their community.
CM: Speaking of community, you're known for being very involved in yours.
CW: Definitely! My mother and father have lived here their whole lives, and now we're raising our family here too. So it's very important to me to constantly be doing charity events like Home for Heroes and March of Dimes. Everyone here takes turns taking care of each other.
CM: In addition to being local favorites, your restaurants are drawing a lot of out-of-towners too.
CW: Lubbock is a great stop for people who are driving to New Mexico to go skiing, and it's a destination in its own right for Texas Tech football games.
CM: In a way, you're carrying on your grandfather's Lubbock legacy.
CW: Indeed. I had all his artwork just sitting around, and I opened Dirk's partly to have a place to display it. It's been a pleasure to reintroduce him to the next generation, and it's really fun to see people realize he's the talent behind so many of these famous mascots.
CM: How would you describe the Lubbock dining scene now?
CW: Others saw what we did and followed our lead, and it feels so good to have that confirmation that we made the right decision to come back home. We're able to take care of everybody, from casual to upscale, and provide everything people are looking for. That's an incredibly good feeling.
Experience the people and places of Lubbock yourself by planning your next vacation here.