Houston’s Great Chef Shakeup — Major Changes at Three Top Restaurants Spur Musical Chairs

Where is Your Favorite Kitchen Star Now?

BY // 05.15.17

The name Danny Trace has been synonymous with Brennan’s of Houston for nearly 10 years. So when news broke that he would suddenly depart from the storied New Orleans-centric institution, many were left scratching their heads in confusion.

What would happen to Brennan’s kitchen without Trace, and what was next for the beloved chef who’s called the Midtown restaurant home since 2009?

Trace heads downtown to helm Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane‘s duo of new restaurants — Potente, which specializes in fine Italian dining, and Osso & Kristalla, a casual cafe  — stationed inside developer Marvy Finger’s recently opened mid-rise project 500 Crawford.

“Growing up with an Italian grandmother and Cajun grandfather was truly a culinary experience, everyone looked forward to Sunday dinners,” Trace tells PaperCity. “From an early age until now, my whole world has been surrounded by the love of food. I am excited to bring her authentic Italian inspiration to Potente and Osso & Kristalla.”

Trace becomes the third chef to be put in charge of Crane’s new restaurants. The Astros owner originally tapped celebrity chef Bryan Caswell to manage the two kitchens before a mutual parting. Chef Michael Parker, head of culinary operations at Crane’s Floridian National Golf Club, stepped in shortly after.

“We are fortunate to have found someone with Chef Trace’s culinary training and breadth of experience,” Crane says. “He impressed us with his energy and talent and we look forward to seeing how the menus at Potente and Osso & Kristalla will continue to evolve and expand.”

Will the third chef be the charm for the mid-rise restaurants? Only time will tell, but we’re hoping that chef Trace’s culinary expertise and loyal following will breathe new life into both outposts.

“What I immediately admire about him is how hard he works. If it’s making all the barbecue himself at NRG stadium or touching all the restaurants every single day … he’s been there.”

As for the Brennan’s kitchen, former Killen’s Steakhouse executive chef Joe Cervantez will fill the executive chef job, a fitting match considering Cervantez trained under Trace at Brennan’s before his two-year Killen’s stint.

Of course, Cervantez’ departure also leaves a vacancy in the Killen’s kitchen. Chef-owner Ronnie Killen replaces Cervantez with steakhouse veteran Steve Huang, whose resume includes 18 years with Del Frisco’s.

“Besides working at one of the best steakhouses in Texas, [Huang] has a corporate restaurant background, so consistency is also a strong asset that he will bring with him. And I’ve always loved his calamari  — we’ll have great calamari on our menu!” says Killen, who also addded, “I have nothing but the utmost respect for Joe and am looking forward to continuing to watch him grow within the Brennan’s family.”

But the barbecue maestro didn’t stop there with new team additions. Killen revealed today that former Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory culinary director Graham Laborde will also come on as operating chef for Killen’s Restaurants.

“I’m excited about working with Ronnie,” Labrode says. “What I immediately admire about him is how hard he works. If it’s making all the barbecue himself at NRG stadium or touching all the restaurants every single day… he’s been there.”

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