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Local writers and cooks will join forces for a food-centric fundraising event
Gracie Nguyen worked as a pastry chef at Mark's American Cuisine prior to the accident.
For many of the victims of the tragic March 13 car accident that occurred when a drunk driver hit a crowd at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival, there’s still a long road to recovery ahead. To offer support to pastry chef Gracie Nguyen of Mark’s American Cuisine, one of the accident victims, the Houston food community is rallying by throwing a fundraising event to help with medical expenses and time away from work.
CultureMap Houston reports the event will take place at Houston’s Big Star Bar, and will be put on by local chef Adam Dorris, who will revive his defunct pop-up Ghetto Dinner for the night. The event will feature a silent auction featuring a variety of food-related prizes —including a chance to join Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook for a working dinner — and an opportunity to dunk Houston Press food critic Kaitlin Steinberg.
According to the Save Gracie Nguyen Facebook page, Gracie was released from intensive care on March 19th, and was transferred back to Houston in late March. In total, the crash killed four and injured at least 20.
Adam D’Arpino is the Restaurants Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDArpino.
Share All sharing options for: The Hospital on a Mission to Bring Home-Cooked Meals to Its Patients
A more stereotypically drab hospital meal Robert Sietsema
Hospital food has long been the worst of captive audience cuisines. Outpacing even airplane food in its terribleness, a tray full of JELL-O cups and reconstituted chicken broth plopped in front of a patient is an insult added to literal injury.
It didn’t use to be this way. Preparing nourishing food for the sick was once a domestic art and an essential part of caring for the ill. Whole cookbooks were dedicated to this corner of cookery, and even the word “restaurant” refers to the restorative broths prepared for sick patients in 18th-century France.
We’ve fallen a long way — but one hospital is on a mission to provide appetizing food to its patients as they battle and recover from grave illness. Patients and their families at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital aren’t subjected to the same sad boilerplate menus most hospital patients are instead, good food is part of the treatment plan at St. Jude. And as all their patients are children, they’re not afraid of the whims of kids’ picky appetites.
So Michael Vetro, St. Jude’s executive chef, is bringing home to the hospital by recreating family recipes on-demand. From dal and naan paratha to enchiladas and Korean-style Silkie chicken stew cooked in a clay pot, Vetro never says no when a kid’s got a craving. He’s even invited moms and dads into the hospital’s kitchen to show him how to cook their children’s favorites, he said. It’s an approach with dual benefits: allowing kids to feel comforted at their sickest and parents to feel empowered when their child’s care is largely out of their hands.
There’s an à la carte menu available to them at all times, but Vetro recognizes that when you’re sick, sometimes only the comforts of home will do — and those comforts taste different dependent on where you’re from.
On this episode of Eater’s Digest, he tells hosts Amanda Kludt and Daniel Geneen about his approach to caring through cooking.
Below, a lightly edited transcript of Amanda and Daniel’s interview with Chef Michael Vetro and Gena Kim, St. Jude’s supervisor of patient services.
Amanda: So tell us, why is St. Jude making an effort to make good food part of the treatment process?
Chef Vetro: Well, one, the connotation of hospital food has never been something that is very positive. But two, as restaurants have gotten better, expectations have increased for dining. And so now as the guest comes in, we want to provide them with a more of a restaurant experience versus what you would originally think of as a hospital experience.
Amanda: I notice you call them guests rather than patients.
Chef Vetro: Oh, without a doubt. I think that the hospitality industry is still the hospitality industry, so to call someone a patient is labeling them. But at St. Jude, we serve the entire population. So not only do we have patients and families, but we also have all of the support operations staff. So your plumbers, your mechanics, everybody it takes to make the place run. And then of course all the researchers, doctors, nurses, administration, that all comes along with it. So we truly do have guests. It’s, not just about room service, it’s about every individual that comes through our doors.
Amanda: What from your background working in restaurants, have you brought to this role, working at the hospital?
Chef Vetro: I’ve worked extensively in catering as well as some smaller operations. So I think what I take is from the catering aspect is the level of service, the way you would build a buffet, the expectation of garnishing a plate. I spent a few years in the country club scene and from that you have that top level of customer service. The [mentality of] it’s never say no, it’s how can I help you? How can I make this work? The bottom line is that the hospitality industry is customer service. Secondary is high-quality food served correctly, consistently that looks appetizing and tastes excellent. So customer service, customer service, customer service.
Amanda: When you think about your customer, oftentimes it’s a kid who’s very sick and in treatment and doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t feel like eating. How do you convince them to eat? What are some of the your methods there?
Gena Kim: That’s mostly what I do on a day-to-day basis is taking care of our patients that are in the rooms. I would compare it to a hotel room service where they’re able to place an order based on their menu and their diets and we deliver it to them at their bedside. It’s not like a traditional hospital where everyone’s getting turkey for lunch, and I think that’s been something that’s really unique at St. Jude to help our patients that are very ill. At least they can pick out what they want to eat and it’s not abnormal for them to not find what they want, especially if they’re from different parts of the country, different parts of the world.But if they want something outside of the menu, that’s where I come in and I can go and meet with the families and the patients, and get a recipe from them. And then I take it back to Chef Vetro, and he’s able to either himself or have cooks to prepare this item. And it goes as far as we might have to get special ingredients, we might have to go grocery shopping for this patient. And that’s really how we get our patients to eat.
Amanda: Chef Vetro, can you give us an example of when you’ve taken the recipe from a family and turn it into a meal for a patient?
Chef Vetro: I think one that sticks out to me the most is I had a family, an Indian family. And so she came down and she basically chatted with us and said, “We trust the doctors entirely. But I am the mother and I believe that nutrition is my responsibility to my child. And may I come in and work with you?” And she came together, gave us a list of ingredients we made naan parathas and some dal, and we put together some butter chicken. And she came into the kitchen and actually showed us how to make those items. And so then we could reproduce them on demand. And as Gina mentioned it, they can call down and they can order what they wish.
But another thing that’s important is that we don’t restrict them to just three meals a day. If they have a craving or they feel that they want to eat, they pick up the phone and call us and we have it ready for them. These are children and they say, “My tummy hurts. I don’t feel like this. I want that.” Where one person’s remedy for a cold is not another, somebody may say it’s scrambled eggs and toast. Someone else might say that it is Lipton cup of noodles. Someone else may say that it’s something spicy that’s going to get them over their ailment. So we are basically prepared for anything.
Amanda: How does nutrition play a role when it comes up against like the deliciousness or the desires of the patient? How do you work in their health needs?
Chef Vetro: We want parents to be parents. So throughout their day they’re being told what to do, what they can do and what they can’t. But one of the few things that the parent has control of is what they allow their child to eat. So if it falls within what clinical has said that they can have to eat, they’re basically allowed to have that. Because sometimes if you need that cheeseburger with the extra onions, well then that’s what you need because sometimes they just need calories. That is a big thing. You have to remember chemotherapy and some of the other treatments that they go through affect them. It affects their taste buds. There was a study done by clinical not too long ago, and they used I think a series of five emojis. And over the course of the span of chemotherapy, they tested salt and sour and by the end they needed much more intense flavors than they did in the beginning. And so you have to find that happy medium where sometimes caloric intake is, trumps the need for exact vitamin counts.
Daniel: Have you had that magic moment where you get a kid in and the parents are like, whatever you do, they’re not going to eat and you work a little magic and you just feel fantastic?
Kim: There was a time where a patient wanted enchiladas. That’s all she was talking about. And the mom gave us a recipe and chef was able to, we actually invited the patient down into our kitchen and assembled it together. So room service put up a nice tray together with some desserts, her favorite beverage, we took it to her room. And the best thing is when you go up to pick up a tray and the plates empty. She ate everything.
Amanda: That’s amazing.
Daniel: That’s so cool.
Amanda: And how many patients, how many guests, patients, and staffers do you guys serve?
Chef Vetro: So we’re actually, we just crept over 4,000 a day. And then I think from the room service perspective, I think we’re at .
Kim: About 70 patients a day.
Chef Vetro: Food services has roughly 100 employees and it takes every single one of them to get it moving. If it wasn’t for our dish room attendance and our room service techs who deliver the food, to the three different levels of cooks that all prepare hundreds of portions every single day with the 4,000 guests that come through that it is not just Gina and I that do it all. It is a small village that takes care of this campus, and every single one of them puts their heart and soul into every dish that they make.
Amanda: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and thank you for everything that you do. This is super fascinating.
Chef Vetro: Well thanks again for the opportunity because we love what we do and it’s a lot of fun to share it because I don’t think anybody realizes what’s going on in Memphis, Tennessee. Taking care of all these children and information that’s shared around the world to help others.
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Editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt’s favorite food news and stories from Eater and beyond each week
After winning big on 'The Chew,' Ninfa's chef Alex Padilla shares his recipes
5 of 5 Chef Alex Padilla of the Original Ninfa's on Navigation won the title "The Best Chef on the Block" on ABC's "The Chew." Padilla is shown with hosts Michael Symon, Carla Hall and Clinton Kelly. ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC Show More Show Less
Chef Alex Padilla is on fire - hotter than one of his blistered chile toreados.
The executive chef at the Original Ninfa's on Navigation has been enjoying a flurry of media attention that has shone a spotlight both on Padilla's kitchen skills and one of Houston's most iconic restaurants.
Padilla's recent winning streak began when he appeared for two days in February on ABC's "The Chew" in a segment called "the Best Chef on the Block." He competed against chefs from Seattle, Los Angeles Chicago Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, advancing from the first round with a fajita burger and winning with a grilled rib-eye bruschetta. He won $1,000 (which he plans to donate to a charity in support of children with cancer) and another appearance on the show to make a signature recipe with hosts Michael Symon, Carla Hall and Clinton Kelly.
Next came filming for an episode of Travel Channel's "Food Paradise" and taping for a planned segment for BuzzFeed. Padilla also has been invited to cook at a SXSW showcase tent Sunday in Austin.
Executive chef at Ninfa's since 2006, Padilla, a native of Honduras, learned to cook from his mother, Maria, a line cook at Ninfa's in the 1980s. Before Ninfa's, Padilla spent 18 years working with James Beard Award-winning chef Nancy Oakes at her esteemed Boulevard in San Francisco.
Padilla shared two recipes with us, including his winning fajita burger that he made live on "The Chew."
Courtesy of Alex Padilla, the Original Ninfa's on Navigation
Makes 10 half-pound burgers (recipe can be halved)
5 pounds ground fajita skirt steak
10 slices Oaxacan cheese (or your favorite cheese)
5 whole poblano peppers, grilled and sliced into strips
20 slices red onion, grilled
10 tablespoons chipotle mayonnaise
Instructions: Combine ground beef with flour, eggs and bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper. Form into 10 patties.
Cook on a flat grill set to 375 degrees until medium-rare or medium, about 8 minutes each side. Place a slice of cheese on each patty to melt.
In a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, melt the garlic butter and add the peppers and onions that have been grilled. Sauté until they are tender.
Toast buns on grill, then spread 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise on the bottom half of the bun. Place the grilled patty on the bun and top it with sautéed onions and peppers. Repeat for each burger.
Garnish plate with pickled carrots, sliced avocado and serve with baked potato wedges.
Red Snapper al Chile Ajo Borracho
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 whole dried chile de arbol pods, cut in half lengthwise
Pinch ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Clean fish and remove scales. Place the fish in a large container with 2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Let soak for 20 minutes. Score lines into each side of fish, rinse under running water and pat dry using paper towels.
In a large roasting pan, drizzle fish with olive oil on both sides. Place pan in oven and bake for 10 minutes on each side.
While fish is baking, make sauce. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add mushrooms, garlic, chile de arbol and salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes until it becomes fragrant and then add the tequila and citrus juices. Mix well. Allow the sauce to reduce and cook off alcohol, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in butter.
Remove fish from the oven and place on a large serving dish. Pour the sauce with all the ingredients over fish. Serve immediately.
The Community, Culture, and Science of Barbecue program at SXSW
Critically acclaimed author and cook Jess Pryles will lead a wide-ranging panel discussion entitled, “The Community, Culture, and Science of Barbecue” at SXSW on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Texas’ rich barbecue culture and the techniques, seasonings and cuts that drive the culinary art will be discussed by Pryles along with meat scientists and pitmasters behind the Texas Barbecue program at Texas A&M University: Jeff Savell, Davey Griffin, and Ray Riley.
The hour-long program will begin at 11 AM and will be held at the Rio Grande Ballroom, Courtyard Mariott in Austin, Texas. After the program, the speakers will move to the Brazos Ballroom where they will have the opportunity to interact with participants and sample some products from Southside Market and Barbeque, Elgin and Bastrop, Texas.
Jess Pryles is a cook, author, TV host and a professional Hardcore Carnivore. She creates dynamic original recipes with a Southern and Tex-Mex twist, and is also a respected authority on low’n’slow smoked meats, particularly Texas style barbecue. Her new book, “Hardcore Carnivore,” is now available.
The Texas Barbecue program at Texas A&M University includes the freshmen course, ANSC 117, Texas Barbecue Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket, co-hosted with Foodways Texas Texas Barbecue Town Hall meeting and the Barbecue Genius Counters in the Houston BBQ Festival and The Woodlands BBQ Festival.
Make graceful entrance through Grazia Italian's secret doors
PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- A high school pizza recipe turned into a passion for a Pearland owner who lives by his restaurant's name.
Behind the pizza bar is where Grazia Italian owner Adrian Hembree prefers to be. He got his love for cooking in high school with a pizza recipe.
Thirty years later, he's creating his own recipes. Hembree opened Grazia Italian in Pearland five years ago. It's now home to three locations, including one restaurant in Katy. It took a while to get there.
He started as a dishwasher, moved to food distribution, and finally opened his own place.
"It has an incredible community feel to me," Hembree explained. "You could drive through Pearland and you could still see small town all over the place."
Hembree wanted to offer a unique experience. Take the wine room, for example.
"Don't be surprised when our chef pops out of the secret door that goes directly to the kitchen," Hembree said.
Or walk beyond the bathroom and step into the phone booth.
"Once you give the right password you open up and it brings you into our speakeasy," Hembree said.
What Hembree is most proud of is the name Grazia, which means "grace" in Italian.
"We like to say, 'We serve up a plate of grace,'" Hembree said.
It's grace he offers to the community through different events, whether it was food during Hurricane Harvey or to employees when they need it the most.
Giavanna Gardella worked at Grazia Italian as a hostess when cancer cut her life short.
"The week that she got diagnosed, they visited her in the hospital," Craig Gardella, Giavanna's father, recalled. "They brought Grazia food up to her because hospital food, she said, was crap."
In May, the restaurant fed more than 200 people during her remembrance ceremony.
"Somebody like Adrian coming through and helping you in a bad period of time means the world," Craig said.
Bringing a smile to someone's face is what Hembree loves most about his job. It's an emotion all started after bringing home a pizza recipe.
"If you're following your heart and do something that you truly love, and you're passionate about it, great things will happen if you put in the time and make it happen," Hembree said.
Want to see more from the heart of your community? Check out your town's stories through ABC13's HTX+ Facebook page.
Stay current with all things SXSW on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and SXSW News.
Sign up for SXSW Event Updates and community newsletters for the latest event information and announcements throughout the season.
Marketing at SXSW
Get your brand in front of the world’s top decision-makers, influencers, and professionals in the creative industries. With Sponsorships, Exhibitions, Advertising, and Custom Opportunities, SXSW offers the perfect marketing solution to help your business achieve its goals. Contact a SXSW representative to develop a marketing plan.
Tips for Cooking Shrimp
- Shrimp is good for three or four days if kept below 40 degrees—cook it your first or second night at the campsite to avoid spoiling.
- Wrap the bag of frozen shrimp in newspaper and put the bundle in another zipped plastic bag to eliminate smells. Keep frozen until you pack the ice chest for camping. When it thaws by the second day, the newspaper will have absorbed the moisture and odors.
- Fresh shrimp is sold per pound. Large shrimp gives you fewer pieces per pound and cost more but are easier to handle when making kebabs or frying in batter. Smaller sizes cook quickly and they don't have to be cut up before using in paella and casseroles.
- Canned shrimp are tender and come apart when handled, which makes them good for chowder and shrimp spreads.
- Use a fork to mash drained, canned shrimp with butter. Shrimp butter is a tasty spread for crackers and it turns grilled steak into a surf-and-turf feast.
- Flavor shrimp with wood: Cook it on a cedar plank or thread kebabs on rosemary skewers. Try various wood chips in the fire.
- Make a more substantial meal by adding fresh or frozen shrimp to canned shrimp bisque or clam chowder.
- Drain canned shrimp and mash it with bread crumbs and egg to make patties. Fry in hot butter or vegetable oil over the fire.
- Make surf-and-turf kebabs with large shrimp and small squares of filet steak. Sprinkle with lemon pepper and grill. By the time the large shrimp is firm, the filet should be medium rare.
Houston catering startup taps new tech to pivot to meal prepping during the coronavirus shutdown
With an abundance of Houston restaurant and business closures spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, small company leaders are forced to develop resourceful solutions to keep afloat and compensate for slowed revenue.
Founder and chef of Houston-based Wolfe & Wine Co., Daniel Wolfe, has rejigged his social-focused business model to cater single-meal orders instead of large group orders.
Wolfe & Wine Co. is a full-service, chef-driven catering company, specializing in pop-up dinners paired with specially curated wines. Launched only a few short months ago in September 2019, Wolfe was looking forward to expanding his business across the Houston metroplex in 2020, one specially-catered social gathering at a time. His plans changed in March, when COVID-19 began to ingratiate itself in pockets of Houston.
"My business model thrives on events with more than 10 people, so we pivoted our focus to meal prep," Wolfe says.
Within 72 hours in March, Wolfe lost around $70,000 worth of revenue with the cancelation of all of his upcoming catering events, then feeling the first wave of economic and logistical impacts of COVID-19. However, Wolfe faced these hurdles with innovative and community-focused solutions that have already sustained his business and benefitted thousands of Houstonians whose lives have been affected by the coronavirus.
With the help of food service supplier Ben E. Keith Co. and cloud-based delivery management software company Dispatch Science, Wolfe & Wine Co. received the financial and technological sponsorship needed to provide single meals to his customers, and to donate meals to medical staff, including the entire Houston Methodist Emergency Room and ICU departments, and Houstonians in need.
"The dispatch software that we use is similar to what UPS, FedEx and Amazon use. When you order with us, you can track where your meal is in real time…That transparency separates us from [other meal prep companies]," Wolfe says.
Since producing single-order meal prep packages for his customers, Wolfe has noted that the two biggest challenges he has faced have been altering his recipes to accommodate single servings, and striving to maintain the same high-quality, personalized customer experience that he provides at his catering events.
In various industries, not only in Houston but across the globe, there will be elements of business that are forced to restructure, to accommodate the new economic and logistical boundaries brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This virus is forcing people to innovate, forcing people stuck in their ways to change and adapt, or they'll fail," Wolfe says.
For the hospitality industry specifically, Wolfe foresees that restaurants' refined food takeout processes, along with the delivery of liquor, beer and wine, will play a huge role in their fiscal well-being after this health crisis subsides.
"Businesses that said 'we're not doing takeout' are now doing takeout because they don't have a choice," Wolfe says. "In the next few months, you're going to see a lot more offerings for takeout and delivery. You're going to see a lot more refined and better customer experiences for takeout, especially with millennials."
Sharpened takeout programs and alcohol delivery are projected to revolutionize the food and beverage industry, Wolfe says. In addition to enhanced technological components and takeout processes, community stewardship has been a main theme within the industry, Wolfe noted.
"The hospitality industry, nurses, grocery stores and others, those are the people carrying the country through this pandemic," Wolfe says. "You're not just some kid flipping a burger or stocking a box on a shelf."
Meet the Mexican Abuelita captivating YouTube with her authentic recipes
Doña Angela uses traditional Mexican cookware throughout her videos such as clay pots, a comal (griddle), and a molcajete, a stone mortar and pestle used to grind various foods. All this while donning the most adorable aprons.
Doña Angela is a Mexican grandmother from Michoacán that has captured the hearts of people across the globe garnering almost 3 million YouTube subscribers with her simplicity and down to earth recipes, reminiscent of those your grandmother made, in her cooking show titled &ldquoDe mi Rancho a Tu Cocina&rdquo &mdash (From My Ranch to Your Kitchen).
She was recently honored as one of Forbes magazine's &ldquo100 most powerful women in Mexico" in 2020 alongside other Latina powerhouses such as Salma Hayek, and 2019 Oscar-nominated actress Yalitza Aparicio.
En Forbes México reconocemos a las mujeres poderosas y que brillan desde su trinchera, por compartir la gastronomía mexicana a través de su canal de Youtube: &ldquoDe mi rancho a tu cocina&rdquo, Doña Ángela es parte de las #MujeresPoderosas del 2020.https://t.co/Q8X5qYJDeu&mdash Forbes México (@Forbes_Mexico) June 16, 2020
Without any fancy production company filming her or a gourmet kitchen to cook in, Doña Angela has become an internet sensation as our favorite go-to chef for those tried and true Latino recipes many of us grew up with. She also introduces us to recipes familiar to her Michoacán region, such as Tamales de Harina y Atole de Tamarindo ( Flour tamales with tamarind atole).
Just looking at the video, you can envision your plate and the aroma of the two traditional dishes blending together to create a mouthwatering experience you want to enjoy again and again. You know what they say, you can&rsquot just have one tamale!
With her daughter filming her on a handheld camera,, Doña Angela welcomes us into her home with the same heartwarming greeting, &ldquoHola, mi gente, bienvenidos a mi rancho&rdquo- ( Hello everyone, welcome to my ranch) as she proceeds to describe that day&rsquos recipe or takes you on a tour of her amazing garden to pick the ingredients she will be using for recipes such as nopales (cactus) for her Bistec Steak (Beefsteak) with Nopales.
Sitting at her kitchen table, alongside one of her daughters, she proudly shares in one of her videos how she earned a Silver Play Button for reaching 100,000 subscribers along with garnering a Gold Creator Award, given to those YouTubers earning more than 1 million followers.
&ldquoThanks to you I&rsquove gotten to where I am,&rdquo she says in the video. &ldquoBecause you have supported me, you&rsquove helped me, and thank you to my daughters, who have also helped me a lot. I hope you continue to support me.&rdquo
Although her videos are relatively short, she gives step-by-step details of each recipe from her humble outdoor kitchen.
Using items I remember from my own abuelita and mother&rsquos kitchen, Doña Angela uses traditional Mexican cookware such as clay pots, a comal (griddle), and my favorite, a molcajete, a stone mortar and pestle used to grind various foods. All this while donning the most adorable aprons, just like my mother used to, and making a delicious pot of café de olla, traditional Mexican coffee, to start off.
The response to this adorable grandmother&rsquos newfound success is filled with overwhelmingly positive feedback such as the comment Tisha T. left on Doña Angela&rsquos YouTube channel:
&ldquoMe toca el corazón cuando la veo y escucho llena de respeto su historia, sus vivencias. Me invade la ternura. Qué canal más limpio, más honesto y con buena vibra! Muchas gracias Doña Angelita!&rdquo
&ldquoIt touches my heart when I see her and listen to how she honors her history, her experiences. I'm overwhelmed by tenderness. What a clean, most honest and good vibe channel! Thank you Doña Angelita!&rdquo
&ldquoThis glorious abuelita talks to her audience as if we all were her nietecitos chulos. She also loves her land and her cooking with a passion that is impossible to make up,&rdquo said wearemitu.com.
NPR reported that despite her fame, &ldquoshe shuns publicity.&rdquo The news organization tried for weeks to reach her to no avail. We did our best to reach out via email and her Facebook page but as of the writing of this article, there has been no response.
Whether she realizes it or not, Doña Angela is paving a road few have traveled, opening the doors to a world of tradition and love passed down meticulously through each recipe, and she is doing it her way. With her viejo - as she affectionately refers to her husband - by her side, and her daughters helping her, this endearing abuelita is leaving a lasting mark to be passed down for generations to come as they keep their ancestors' traditions alive.
“This is not a profession that you choose. It chooses you.” - Norman van Aken, Chef/Owner of highly decorated Norman’s
Executive Chef Ronnie Killen began cooking at the age of eight and never looked back. He owned his first restaurant Killen’s Kountry BBQ by 23 and opened Killen’s Sports Café five years later. While working part time in a fine dining establishment in Houston, a desire to pursue the culinary arts emerged and a childhood dream became a reality.
In 1997 Ronnie enrolled in the renowned Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in London. This culinary institute has trained such noted people as Julia Child, Ming Tsai and Martha Stewart. None of these celebrities however had perfect scores on all of their disciplines as Ronnie did at the time of his enrollment. He graduated from the prestigious culinary academy first in his class and with the Honor of Distinction.
Since graduating Ronnie has added numerous accolades to his resume while working as such fine hotels and resorts as: The Omni Mandalay in Irving, Texas, Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri and The Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, California. You can’t keep a native Texan away for long and in 2003 Ronnie returned home, accepting the post of Executive Chef at Brenner’s Steakhouse. During his tenure at Brenner’s, the steakhouse was awarded the title of “Best Steakhouse” by the Houston Press and the Business Journal. In February of 2005 Ronnie was awarded the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance at the position of Executive Chef at the White House. He was a finalist but was not ultimately chosen. He was, however, asked by the new Executive Chef to interview for the title of Assistant Executive Chef. Chef Killen still considers this honor to be one of the highlights of his illustrious culinary career.
2005 was a banner year for Chef Killen as he was named a Certified Executive Chef by the American Culinary Federation, after only five months of examinations and practicals. This process usually takes a year or more and is an honor only held by approximately 1200 chefs across the United States.
Ronnie’s love of fine dining brought him home once more as he opened the acclaimed Killen’s Steakhouse in his hometown of Pearland, Texas. Since it’s inception in 2006, Killen’s has gained numerous awards and achieved resounding praise even being called the “Ultimate Steakhouse” by the Houston Chronicle and was named one of Texas best steakhouses by Texas Monthly. Ronnie also had his signature dessert, Crème Brulee Bread Pudding, named one of the Top Ten Dishes in the United States by Food and Wine magazine in 2008.
Ronnie’s passion for food and amazing attention to detail is evident in every aspect of his restaurant as he continues to break the mold of stuffy fine dining and constantly brings innovation to the Houston dining scene. “I want your dining experience at Killen’s Steakhouse to be unmatched enjoying great cuisine at a great value.”
“My hope is to educate the average diner on the fine art of eating well.” - Chef Ronnie Killen
“Every morning one must start from scratch, with nothing on the stoves. That is cuisine.”
- Fernand Point (1897-1955), Master of la grand cuisine and owner of La Pyrimide