Grant Cooper exudes excitement for cuisine — planning, preparing, plating, patrons — and holds the coveted key to successful restaurant ventures alongside business partner Charles Clark through Clark Cooper Concepts. Growing up amid Europe’s food meca in Belgium, Cooper enjoyed extensive travels throughout his homeland, France, Spain and Italy and gained an international perspective for the attributes that make successful restaurateurs tick: dedication to creating sensational fare, a passion for personal service, a heart for memorable dining experiences, and an appreciation of the tiniest details.
Cooper found himself in another restaurant hot spot after hopping the pond in the 1980s and landing in Dallas, Texas. There, he got his feet wet in the food and beverage industry by running neighborhood watering hole, then broadened his knowledge by learning the management aspects of the business at popular eateries in Austin, also known for its great bars and restaurants.
Enter collaborator Charles Clark in 1995, with whom Cooper has since launched five acclaimed concepts over the past decade… and with more under development. Rewinding a bit, Cooper and Clark recognized their shared entrepreneurial vision for a unique yet untapped dining concept: great food, great vibe and great wine, regardless of the occasion (and non-occasion).
Restaurateur Charles Clark is widely admired for his international culinary experience, impressive knowledge, colossal energy, stint on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and head-spinning list of accolades. Alongside business partner Grant Cooper, the duo has launched four top-of-the-chart restaurant ventures through Clark Cooper Concepts and has consistently garnered local and national praise.
Clark’s rise to the top tier of Houston’s culinary talent dates back to humble beginnings and modest, small-town Louisiana roots. There, his parents instilled a hard work ethic and adherence to strong morals, which Clark has embraced throughout his career. Beginning with an apprenticeship at an iconic Texas restaurant, he also racked up first-hand experiences with exemplary culinary techniques in France, Italy and Spain.
Upon his return to the United States, Clark achieved top honors as a credentialed chef and today ranks as a highly respected restaurateur. With a uniquely unpretentious high style, Clark’s culinary experiences and tenure in the kitchen are melded with Cooper’s business savvy to create trends that mirror the open kitchens that both Clark and Cooper enjoyed during childhood and front-of-the-house early-career positions. Ibiza Food & Wine Bar, like its namesake island off the coast of Spain, bustles in Midtown with a confluence of sophisticated Houston style setters.
Flanking the other side of Houston’s bustling downtown business district on edgy Washington Avenue, the newest venture, Coppa Ristorante Italiano, offers a diverse slate of Italian cuisine in a buoyant atmosphere that captures the Italian spirit. Between the two in upscale River Oaks and named for its affluent zip code, Brasserie 19 reincarnates classic French brasserie fare enhanced by Gulf Coast flavors and modern American influences. With their creativity working overtime, Clark Cooper Concepts have additional trend-setting concepts on the drawing board, and loyal patrons are awaiting the next marvel to be unveiled.
Brandi grew up in the small farming community of Hart, TX and spent her summers as a child canning and preserving the produce grown in the family garden. This coupled with a family appreciation of local game, like pheasant and venison, gave her the understanding of the value of local, seasonal ingredients that is so strongly represented today in her cooking style.
Brandi joins Coppa Ristorante Italiano from a 12 year stint with Pappas, working in roles as diverse as bus boy and kitchen manager. During her time at Pappas, she became the Pappadeaux Concept Chef for all 8 of the Dallas-area stores. She later moved to Houston to join the R&D Department and work with a group of chefs on the numerous Pappas concepts. There she created, documented, implemented and taught countless dishes for the Pappas menus. After making her way up through the Pappas ranks, Brandi took a leave of absence to attend Tante Marie Cooking School in San Francisco, then participated in an externship with Cindy Pawlcyn working in Napa Valley at her three restaurants at the time: Mustard’s, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, and formerly Go Fish.
Brandi brings an ingredient-centric, straightforward cooking style to the Coppa menu by skillfully reinventing Italian classics with local ingredients and a determination to make as much as possible from scratch daily.
She says it best: "I like things that take time. I like making things from scratch, with my hands. I like to keep things simple, get really amazing products and let it be. All of me believes that making food, from scratch, with attention to detail and technique but with more emphasis on loving what you do, will always produce the best tasting food."