Then Hurricane Harvey rolled into town.“During Harvey, I had just moved here. My wife left with the baby to stay with my parents in Eunice. ... Next thing you know, I’m cooking out in my front yard for guys from the restaurant, for other chefs, whoever could make it,” Leonards said.
For a newcomer with only a handful of local connections, this “baptism by hurricane” earned invaluable goodwill.“I saw firsthand the power of the food community here ... and the power that a hot meal can have for people who have really suffered,” Leonards said.
When it came time to open Eunice, named after his hometown, in 2018, Leonards said the people he has met and worked with over the years made it possible.
“It takes a lot of people to make this work, and I treasure the people who have helped, and we just want to see them all do well,” he said.
Cooking was always a people-oriented family ritual for Leonards, but it became his vocation. He took a dishwashing job at 15, enrolled in culinary courses in college, worked in respected New York restaurants, and traveled to Europe to learn and experience more food.
“I’ll never forget being in Florence. ... There was a little bar, an old restaurant. We had braised rabbit and peas on paper plates. It wasn’t fancy. There’s an old grandmother cooking, and there may have been a drunken card game going on in the back,” he said.
It hearkened back to his upbringing in Louisiana.
“I thought hey, there’s something to this. ... It pulled all of my experience together, and that’s the spirit we try to put back into Eunice,” he said. “It was always about a warm plate of food and a cold drink.”
3737 Buffalo Speedway, Ste. 100, Houston
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 3-10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.