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6 Superstar Cooks Who Bought Their Begin at Brennan’s of Houston

  • CELEBRITY

even earlier than you set foot contained in the elegant Vieux Carré–type interiors of Brennan’s of Houston, you get a way that you’ve got arrived at a particular place. Based in 1967 as a sister restaurant to the legendary Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Brennan’s of Houston is, within the Houston culinary world, as legendary as its famed predecessor.

Throughout the partitions of the good-looking eating room—utterly rebuilt within the aftermath of a catastrophic fireplace in 2008—Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine filmed a well-known oyster scene within the Academy Award–profitable movie Phrases of Endearment. Numerous Houston households have grown up on a practice that included turtle soup and tableside bananas Foster: Sunday brunch within the courtyard. Brennan’s legacy as one among Houston’s longest-enduring, most treasured eating places can’t be disputed.

Past what’s clear to the buyer, nevertheless, Brennan’s has performed a vital function that hitherto has been underacknowledged: for years now, partly due to its relationship with the Culinary Institute of America, Brennan’s has served because the de facto coaching floor for rising culinary expertise in Houston and past.

Certainly, the listing of cooks who as soon as held positions at Brennan’s reads like a nationwide culinary who’s who. Daniela Soto-Innesnamed World’s Finest Feminine Chef by the World’s 50 Finest Restaurant Awards in 2019, held a pastry place at Brennan’s in 2010. Sarah Grueneberga sous chef at Brennan’s in 2003, would go on to nab the James Beard Award for Finest Chef: Nice Lakes in 2017. Kevin Rathbunwhose eponymous Rathbun’s in Atlanta was named among the many finest eating places in America by Esquirelikewise served as a Brennan’s sous chef. And so forth.

In Houston, Brennan’s paved the way in which for names like Chris Shepherd, Mark Holley, Danny Hint, Joe Cervantez, Bobby Matos, Patrick Feges, Martin Weaver, Matt Marcus, Nick Positive, Sean Hochstein, Lance Fegan, Mark Cox, Randy Evans, Jamie Zelko, and others—all of whom have gone on to personal or helm their very own eating places and culinary ideas.

“In case you’re a very good ballplayer, you need to come to the staff with nice ballplayers,” explains Alex Brennan-Martin, president of Brennan’s. “We created a easy reality: we create nice reminiscences for our company. We’re open on large days and holidays; Sunday mornings for Sunday brunch. We do vital numbers. So among the many younger cooks, we bought the fame that if you can also make it right here, you can also make it all over the place.”

mark holley

Davis Road at Hermann Park | Museum District

Mark Holley wouldn’t be Mark Holley had it not been for Brennan’s. In complete, he has spent 12 of probably the most adolescence of his profession with the Brennan’s household, first as a line cook dinner, then as garde manger at sister restaurant Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, then returning to the place of govt sous chef earlier than putting out on his personal to helm Pesce, his eponymous Holley’s, and now Davis Road at Hermann Park. “Brennan’s gave me a street map to excel and carry out,” Holley says. It additionally formed his pan-Asian-Creole type of cooking, which you will discover in dishes like his well-known entire fried Thai snapper, served with kimchi collards, hoppin’ John, and Thai barbecue sauce.

joe cervantez

Pier 6 | Saint Leon

Joe Cervantez’s kitchen at Pier 6 in San Leon serves upwards of 1,000 company on weekends. That is no small feat for any restaurant, not to mention one with about 200 seats. However Cervantez was greater than ready for the duty, having spent a number of years at Brennan’s, first as a banquet chef, then as their govt chef. You will see the Brennan’s affect right here and there with dishes like crawfish empanadas and redfish on the half shell, however Pier 6’s menu, which Cervantez developed from scratch in collaboration with proprietor Raz Halili, has its personal identification. The following step in his profession for him? “We’re constructing a big get together room by the marina for weddings and banquets,” he says. As a former Brennan’s banquet chef, he is bought that within the bag.

Danny Hint

Highly effective | Downtown

Italian on his grandmother’s aspect and Southern from his grandfather’s (from Thibodaux, Louisiana), Danny Hint spent the majority of his culinary profession with the Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s household. In 2017, he left Brennan’s to open Potente, Jim Crane’s Italian fine-dining restaurant in Downtown, however his time with the Brennan’s household nonetheless informs a lot of his work. “Be constant,” he says. “Do not reduce corners. It takes time to make lobster inventory.” To at the present time, Hint refuses to compromise on high quality, selecting to work with farmers for the perfect meat and produce he can discover. He is additionally letting a little bit of Creole slip in right here and there: Boudin and cracklins at Potente? Why not?

patrick feges

BBQ Feges | Spring-Department

When Patrick Feges labored at Brennan’s, he was however a younger line cook dinner. His large takeaway from him from his two years there: “As quickly as they stroll into the door, your complete expertise is concerning the visitor,” he says. “It isn’t about me. It is concerning the visitor.” Feges’s profession would take him to Underbelly, Killens Barbecue, and Southern Items earlier than he and his spouse, Erin Feges, opened Feges BBQ. They now have two places, however the Spring Department location is the place he flexes his chef muscle groups. “We’re the one place in Houston the place you will get an entire hog platter,” he says proudly. It comes with hog fats cornbread and charred coleslaw and is served pulled and chopped, with cracklin on prime—a hybrid of Texas and Carolina barbecue kinds.

Bobby Matos

State of Grace, The Combat, Superica | River Oaks, The Heights

At present, he is the culinary director over three Ford Fry ideas: State of Grace, La Lucha, and Superica. However when he moved to Houston from San Diego in 2010, Bobby Matos was an unknown. Citing its historic significance, his spouse, Jessica, turned him on to a sous chef place at Brennan’s, the place he labored below chef Danny Hint to reopen Brennan’s within the aftermath of their large fireplace. He says the expertise left an indelible mark, exhibiting him not solely the magic and method behind Cajun and Creole delicacies (which he nonetheless makes use of) but in addition how you can execute nice eating on a mass stage, with out dropping integrity.

Chris Shepherd

Southern Smoke

Considered one of Houston’s most well-known cooks, Chris Shepherd—the James Beard Finest Chef: Southwest 2014 winner—waxes poetic about his time at Brennan’s, the place he labored in his early years after graduating from culinary college. Beginning on the sizzling apps station, he recollects, “It was mind-blowing: a lot work. It was loopy.” However in the identical breath, he fondly remembers, “You needed to be tight; you needed to have it excellent. It was lots of enjoyable.” Shepherd just lately parted methods with Underbelly Hospitality (Georgia James, Georgia James Tavern, Wild Oats, Underbelly Burger) to concentrate on his work with Southern Smoke, the charitable group he based after Hurricane Harvey. “We have had $10 million in funded grants since 2015,” Shepherd says. His subsequent objective from him? Increasing charitable companies to incorporate free psychological well being look after the restaurant trade.

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