The Take Away: Lucy Cooper's Texas Icehouse Owner Braunda Smith’s Approach Is ‘Weird But It Works’

Courtesy of Braunda Smith
Name: Braunda Smith
Job/Title: Executive chef and owner of Lucy Cooper’s Texas Icehouse
Birthplace: Alabama
Years in Bar Industry: “A lady never tells.”
Impact: Brought funky, laid-back charm to the Northside
Money quote: “When people think of Chef Lucy, I want them to think funky Southern and goooood.”

Tell us about your background, and how you got where you are today.
I guess I have quite the story to tell. I started my path in cosmetology, then went on to the medical field, eventually taking a break to be a military wife and travel the world, raising my babies. Cooking was always a passion, and then I learned that I could make money selling cheesecakes and catering small events for military spouses — and that was all it took for me to follow the food to the money. About 15 years ago, I got back in the service industry, working, learning and absorbing every single aspect if how this business runs. I like to call that time “Bar University.” From a smidge and pinch of all of my experience, Lucy Cooper was born.

How are you coping with the effects of the shutdown on your business? Tequila?
Honestly, I have been taking this time to reconnect with my kids and getting my home in order. My husband and I are complete workaholics, typically working seven days a week, 12-plus hours a day for years. I have been cooking with my girls and teaching them so many of my secret recipes. We finally finished unpacking our home after four years, and I think Jesse and I are on quarantine project No. 15, doing little things around the house. I made the mistake of bringing the label maker home, so my whole house is labeled and organized. I think we have kept too busy at home to really fall into what could be a very dark place of worrying about the things we have zero control over, like the possibility of our business being shut down and no real clear idea of reopening.

What do you wish more people understood about your approach to food and drink?
My approach to food is pretty unique. I have this saying, “It’s weird, but it works!” I think my time in so many different places, learning the culture and foods of different regions, gives me a unique perspective on combinations that one might not think of ever putting together. Also, if you have ever had a conversation with me you know how Southern I am. There’s no getting away from that. When people think of Chef Lucy, I want them to think funky Southern and goooood.

What’s your favorite thing about being in the hospitality business?
I love feeding people! I love the warm fuzzies that I get when I have poured my heart and soul into a dish and I can see a guest and know that I have made their tummy smile. I love going out [to the dining room] and talking to the guests. Everyone has a story, and when they share their story with you over your food, nothing compares to that feeling.

What made you decide to limit accessibility to Lucy Cooper’s to guests who are 21 and up?
Jesse and I have six kids, so we know how precious those moments of adult time can be. There are so many places out there that have blurred the line between bar and restaurant. Our goal was to make Lucy’s the place to go feed your soul with some great food, and you could feel free to just be an adult without the kiddos around.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people thinking about going into business with their significant other?
Jesse and I have literally been connected at the hip from the moment we met. We have tried to go into other fields of work, away from each other, but somehow those separate projects always managed to bring us back together. We are the exception to the rule — together 24 hours a day and happy as clams. We are definitely better together.

What’s next for you?
I think we will spend the foreseeable future just trying to navigate these uncharted waters as we deal with our new normal. My wish is that we all just find a way to be kind to each other as we do that. None of us are going to know the 100% right things to do, and if anything is true about the restaurant business, it’s that no matter what we do, it will be wrong in someone’s eye. I think what’s next for me is to continue to move forward with the growth of Lucy’s and just being me.

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