Society / The Seen

Inside the Presidential Suite at NRG Stadium — VIP Guests, James Beard Award Winning Chefs and Killer Barbecue On Demand

No Wonder Why Jerry Jones is Jealous

BY // 11.27.18

The foodie clutch in the Presidential Suite at NRG Stadium Monday night was unprecedented with two James Beard Award winning chefs and one James Beard Award semifinalist schmoozing and posing for photos in between Houston Texans touchdowns on the field far below.

James Beard 2018 Semifinalist Ronnie Killen, accompanied by his fiancée, Kelley Louis, was one of the early arrivals along with Jonathan Horowitz, CEO of Legacy Restaurants (Mama Ninfa’s, Antone’s). By the end of the first quarter, James Beard winner Chris Shepherd and Lindsey Brown had arrived with James Beard Award winner Sarah Grueneberg of Chicago’s sublime Monteverde.

Way back, when Shepherd was heading the kitchen at Brennan’s, he hired Grueneberg who worked at the Houston restaurant mainstay for four years before departing to make a name of her own.

Surprisingly, it was Houston Texans president Jamey Rootes, suite host, who pointed out the high-powered foodie force. Rootes is keen on offering his suite and club level ticket holders an elevated culinary experience. Last spring, he and Horowitz head-huddled at a charity event and by the first game of the season, Ninfa’s tacos al carbon and Antone’s famous po-boys were on the NRG menu.

In fact, Rootes shared a story about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones being blown away by the fab food in the NRG suites.

Perhaps most impressive for suite owners and those taking advantage of the Houston Texans Luxe experience is the Ronnie Killen array of dishes on the buffet, items that otherwise in order to sample would require hours of standing in line at his hotter-than-hot Pearland barbecue spot.

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In addition to the expected Aramark hot dogs, crab cakes and boiled shrimp, de rigueur in most suites, Rootes’ guests could have their fill of Killen’s brisket, sausage and pork ribs. Suite regulars knew to save room for the third quarter delivery of beef ribs, massive cow bones wrapped in a beautifully tender cloak of meat. To die for.

“I really think the barbecue here is better than at the restaurant,” Killen says. He was on site at NRG at 4 am to make sure that the fires were just right for the 6,000 pounds of beef that his team cooks up every game day. He allowed that within a game or two, he would be offering his famed Waygu steaks for those viewing the Texans from the comforts of a suite.

Just when we thought we were far beyond finished, there was Killen’s ridiculously good bread pudding, the best damned bread pudding we’ve ever tasted. It’s all in the bread, Killen explained. He uses fresh buttery croissants rather than the traditional day old bread.

The chatty Killen allowed that he was off Mexico the following day, the Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, where he has visited several times in preparation for his Mexican restaurant in Pearland.

“I don’t want people saying ‘What does this white guy know about Mexican food?'” he says. Killen has taken a number of cooking classes in Mexico and intends to do Mexico cuisine, not Tex-Mex.

Beyond the foodie factor, Rootes’ guests on this evening, and one would imagine every game, included an impressive coterie of movers and shakers: University of Houston chancellor and president Renu Khator and husband professor Suresh Khator, former Super Bowl chairs Ric Campo and Sallie Sargent (joining forces with Chevron CEO Michael Wirth to chair the 2020 World Petroleum Congress), developer Ed Wulfe, Austin lobbyist Bill Miller, insurance power player Will Galtney and wife Elizabeth, and former NFL offensive lineman Chester Pitts.

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