When Houston chef Nick Fine isn’t developing a menu or meeting with his team of chefs as Underbelly Hospitality’s culinary director, he’s probably cheering on the Astros. Actually, it’s not uncommon to find the Texas native keeping up with a game while he’s working—he hasn’t missed one in five years. He estimates he’s attended around a hundred Astros games in person, and last week, he flew to Boston for twenty-four hours just to see the team play.
Fine’s undying love for the Astros began in middle school. “When I was growing up, they were always the underdog,” he says. “As they grew, I stuck with them through everything.”
He once spent an extra three hours in an airport to watch the end of a marathon playoff game against the Braves in 2005, when Chris Burke hit a homerun that sent the Astros to the National League Championship Series, and when the Astros won the World Series in 2017, Fine woke up his oldest daughter, Lottie, who was six months old at the time, to celebrate. They ran around the block three times, yelling and cheering. “She had no idea what was happening, but I wanted Lottie to be involved so I could tell her she got to celebrate the victory with me,” he says. “My kiddos are big supporters of my Astros craziness, and so is my wife.”
Fine’s career took him all over the country before he moved back to Houston in 2015. “I’ve lived in New York, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Colorado, and with that I’ve always brought my love for the Astros,” he says. “I’m just really proud to be an Astros fan and to be from Houston. Houston’s been through some struggles in the last couple of years, with [Hurricane] Harvey, flooding, and the pandemic. All these stacked up against the city, just like some stuff is stacked up against the Astros. But they just keep fighting.”
As for his game-day snacking, Fine has just the dish: Gulf shrimp corn dogs, which he serves with a tangy dipping sauce in, what else, a mini Astros helmet. “I think it sums up Houston so well,” he says. “The corn dog was invented in Texas at the Texas State Fair. And what’s more Houston than the Gulf Coast? We have the best shrimp in the world.”