Generational legacies and wealth are two things I predict will be hot topics in 2019 among individuals, families, businesses and especially entrepreneurs as each continues to be affected by the destructive impact of gentrification and other societal woes. In the December article by Eater, “Ben’s Chili Bowl Inspires D.C.’s Black Business Owners to Invest in Themselves,” co-founder Virginia Ali noted that the business would have folded a long ago if she and her late husband, Ben Ali, didn’t have the foresight to buy the building that is home to the iconic 60-year-old eatery located at U Street NW. This investment in the property was also an investment in generations to come.
Similarly in Houston, Texas, third-generation chef and caterer Reginald Martin is also of the same belief that ownership is a blueprint for building a legacy that will be passed down from one generation to the next. In 2003, he revived the family’s catering business, Lemond Catering, originally started by his grandmother, Emelda Lemond, in 1959 and today owns the property used to cater some of the city’s high-profile clients and events. “What I have learned and I have tried to share this with my fellow peers, when you study your competition and you study the other families that aren’t African-American and you start to wonder, ‘How are they so successful,’ you have to go back a couple of generations. Granddad bought a piece of land somewhere and that was their first restaurant,” says Martin. “African-Americans must, particularly in the food business, own their real estate if they can, if it makes sense. Because in order to have some type of legacy, even if you wanted to sell your business, it is very difficult to sell our business because the business sometimes is the talent.”
Martin was just 10-years-old when he began working the family business as his grandmother catered in her town of Opelousas, Louisiana. He said his grandmother was a florist by trade who got into food, catering for church weddings and other events. Watching her along with his parents left an undeniable desire to have food be a more significant part of his life. However, like many growing up during the Civil Rights Era when the push for education and careers in fields such as medicine and law were deemed more acceptable, Martin followed suit attending Texas A & M and later working six years in the field of agriculture, the closest he could get to food.
Returning to Family Roots and Traditions
His return to the kitchen was also a return to his roots and a legacy his family worked hard to build. “I loved food from the start. Looking at how you set a table and present food. It was always a passion,” says Martin. Operating alongside his wife Merinda, Martin changed the name to Lemond Kitchen and has created a legacy of his own as one of Houston’s premier caterers.
The father of two describes his cuisine as gourmet southern with a heavy influence from the family’s French Creole background. “I am going to be true to how I learned to cook from my dad and from grandparents, but taking those classic French culinary techniques and applying it in the kitchen so that it meets a wider audience depending on what the need is,” shares Martin. A taste of his holiday menu included a bourbon-glazed ham, ancho-crusted beef tenderloin, gumbo, crawfish étouffée and desserts from scratch including pralines. However, he says his Louisiana bread pudding with bourbon sauce is by far the most requested and sold locally along with four other signature products the company creates at Bering’s.
As 2019 starts to take shape, Martin says, “We are at a point where we are really trying to decide what is the path for our company and reality for the next ten years.” Part of that decision includes the facility purchased to run the family business. “We would like to have a Lemond Market where you can come and get these gourmet southern foods in retail packages but fresh and frozen,” he shares. Not knowing what the final plan will look like, Martin says with all certainly, “I know I have created something for the next generation, for my son or daughter or any other family member who wants to go into this business, to grow whatever the brand will be.”