The chef shuffle game has been in active play lately. This week saw the announcement that Killen’s Steakhouse executive chef Joe Cervantez would return to Brennan’s of Houston (where he was once sous chef) as the iconic restaurant’s executive chef. Killen’s then announced that chef Steve Haug would join the popular steakhouse’s team to lead kitchen operations as executive chef, replacing Cervantez. Haug left work at the rebranded Peska Seafood & Prime Steaks (it will soon be renamed again as PesKarne) and before that with Grazia Italian Kitchen and a much longer affiliation with Del Frisco’s steakhouse group.

And now comes the biggest shuffle of the week: Danny Trace, former executive chef at Brennan’s of Houston, will oversee kitchen operations at downtown newcomer Potente and its sister restaurant Osso & Kristalla.

The news answers a long-standing concerned by many local foodies about Trace after Brennan’s announced on March 31that it was parting ways with its longtime executive chef. Trace was tapped from within the Commander’s Palace family of restaurants in October 2009 to lead the reopening of Brennan’s of Houston after it was destroyed by fire during Hurricane Ike.

Trace has been mum since leaving Brennan’s, leaving many to wonder what was to become of one of the city’s most popular and visible chefs.

Today Trace announced he is taking over at Astro’s owner Jim Crane’s luxe Italian restaurant, Potente, and its sister outpost, the casual trattoria Osso & Kristalla, at 1515 Texas. Both restaurants opened in February. Trace takes over for opening chef Michael Parker, Crane’s personal chef who also serves as executive chef at the Floridian National Golf Club which Crane owns. The news of Trace’s hire was confirmed by Bill Floyd, general manager for both restaurants.

“It feels right. I’m very excited,” Trace said Thursday. “I’m looking forward to working with Jim Crane and Bill Floyd.”

And, he said, for putting his own stamp on Potente’s upscale Italian menu. Trace said he that within weeks there will be a new Potente menu that will embrace Italian cuisine but with a nod to Houston – he plans to use local seafood and local produce as much as possible.

It’s a cuisine, he said, that’s familiar and comfortable for him. “I’ve always been influenced by Italian,” he said. “It’s part of Creole and what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years.”

When Trace left Brennan’s, the restaurant’s owner, Alex Brennan-Martin, said it was on good terms. Brennan-Martin went on to praise Trace as a valued member of the Commander’s Palace family and wished him luck. On Thursday Trace said he feels the same affection for the restaurant family he left: “God bless the Brennan’s family. I’ve learned so much from them. They teach you how to be a restaurateur, which is so much more than just cooking.”

Trace said that two original members of the Potente/Osso & Kristalla team remain in place: Micah Rideout as chef de cuisine, and David Berg as executive pastry chef.

Trace’s work at Potente and Osso & Kristalla begins immediately.