Big Changes Defined Houston’s Food Scene Last Month

Big Changes Defined Houston’s Food Scene Last Month

Big Changes Defined Houston’s Food Scene Last Month

Relocations, name changes and chef shifts mean more new ways to eat.

By Jakeisha Wilmore  6/15/2017 at 8:00am

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Kitchen Overhauls

After eight years heading the kitchen of Brennan’s of Houston, chef Danny Trace takes on a new role as executive chef for Jim Crane’s downtown dual Italian restaurants —casual trattoria Osso & Kristalla and high-end Potente at 500 Crawford Street.

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

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


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

Where is Your Favorite Kitchen Star Now?

BY // 05.15.17

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The name Danny Trace has been synonymous with Brennan’s of Houstonfor 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.


As for the Brennan’s kitchen, former Killen’s Steakhouse executive chef Joe Cervantezwill 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.”

Longtime Brennan’s executive chef makes move to Astros owner’s new restaurants

Longtime Brennan’s executive chef makes move to Astros owner’s new restaurants

Longtime Brennan’s executive chef makes move to Astros owner’s new restaurants – CultureMap Houston

Chef Danny Trace from Brennan's

Danny Trace is the new executive chef at Potente and Osso & Kristalla. Courtesy photo

In the latest edition of “Where is the Houston chef now?” former longtime Brennan’s executive chef Danny Trace has been named the new executive chef at Astros owner Jim Crane’s two new downtown restaurants.

Trace will head the culinary operations at Potente and Osso & Kristalla, both located at 1515 Texas Avenue, near Minute Maid Park, where the American League West-leading Houston Astros play.

Trace replaces executive chef Michael Parker, who will continue to oversee Crane’s culinary operations in Florida. Parker was instrumental in hiring Trace, according to a press release about the change.

Trace left Brennan’s in late March after working for the Brennan family for 20 years, first at Commander’s Palace and then in Houston when the iconic restaurant reopened in 2010 after being damaged during Hurricane Ike.

Trace said he learned about cooking from his Italian grandmother and Cajun grandfather while growing up in Louisiana. “From étouffée to grand bowls of pasta, the marriage of these traditional dishes and family experiences is the very reason I am a chef. I look forward to returning to my Italian roots at Potente and Osso & Kristalla,” Trace said in the release.

His hiring caps a flurry of restaurant changes in Houston. Earlier this week​ former Killen’s Steakhouse executive chef Joe Cervantez was named the new executive chef at Brennan’s to fill the role vacated by Trace. Prior to joining Killen’s, Cervantez worked at Brennan’s under Trace.

Killen’s Steakhouse chef-owner Ronnie Killen hired Steve Haug, recently of Jade Hospitality (Grazia Italian Kitchen, Peska) to replace Cervantez in the lead role at his popular Pearland restaurant.

Houston Astros owner’s downtown Italian eateries land former Brennan’s chef

Houston Astros owner’s downtown Italian eateries land former Brennan’s chef

Houston Astros owner’s downtown Italian eateries land former Brennan’s chef – Houston Business Journal

 A new chef is leading the kitchens at Potente and Osso & Kristalla in downtown Houston.

Danny Trace, former executive chef at Brennan’s of Houston, has taken over as executive chef at the Italian restaurants, according to a press release. Earlier this year, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane opened the restaurants at 1515 Texas Ave., on the ground floor of The Finger Cos.’ new 500 Crawford apartment complex across from Minute Maid Park.

At the time, Crane’s personal chef, Michael Parker, was named executive chef for the restaurants’ culinary team. Micah Rideout was named chef de cuisine, and David Berg was named executive pastry chef. Rideout and Berg remain in place, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Parker played an integral role in hiring Trace and continues to oversee Crane’s culinary operations in Florida.

“I am excited to have Chef Trace in Houston to oversee the culinary operations at Potente and Osso & Kristalla,” Parker said in the release. “A remarkably talented chef, I know that he will embrace and elevate what we have created at both concepts.”

Bryan Caswell was originally attached to the concepts, but he mutually split with Crane and the eateries in November to pursue new projects with his company, Bryan Caswell Concepts. Bill Floyd remains general manager for both restaurants.

Trace left his position as executive chef of Brennan’s on March 31. He had worked in Brennan-family restaurants for two decades and was hired to his latest position in 2009.

Earlier this week, Brennan’s announced it hired Joe Cervantez, the former executive chef of Killen’s Steakhouse, as its top chef. On the same day, Killen’s also announced it hired Steve Haug, most recently of Peska Prime Steaks & Seafood and Grazia Italian Kitchen, to replace Cervantez.

Growing up in Louisiana, Trace learned about cooking from his Italian grandmother and Cajun grandfather.

“The most memorable meals for me are of my grandparents in the kitchen. My grandmother’s family was from Milan and Naples and my grandfather was from Thibodaux, Louisiana,” Trace said in the release. “From étouffée to grand bowls of pasta, the marriage of these traditional dishes and family experiences is the very reason I am a chef. I look forward to returning to my Italian roots at Potente and Osso & Kristalla.”

Olivia Pulsinelli is the senior web editor for the Houston Business Journal’s award-winning website. Follow her on Twitter for more.

Danny Trace joins team at Potente and Osso & Kristalla

Danny Trace joins team at Potente and Osso & Kristalla

Danny Trace joins team at Potente and Osso & Kristalla – Houston Chronicle

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.

Chef’s Corner: Michael Parker

Chef’s Corner: Michael Parker

Chef’s Corner: Michael Parker

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Michael Parker

CHEF PARKER U.S. presidents, Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries have savored his signature dishes. Now, chef Michael Parker is cooking for Houstonians at Jim Crane’s two downtown restaurants.

Find out about your favorite chefs, and where they like to eat, in our Chef’s Corner column. This month, restaurant writer Dai Huynh interviews chef Michael Parker.

Prior to the Super Bowl’s kickoff last month, 40-plus restaurants opened eagerly to fans converging on Houston. Among the most anticipated openings was Potente(link is external), Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s restaurant. Neighboring Minute Maid Park, Potente (1515 Texas) is an upscale, modern Italian showpiece with chef Michael Parker at the helm, working alongside chef de cuisine Micah Rideout and pastry veteran David Berg. A few weeks after Potente started serving veal osso buco and bistecca alla florentina, Crane opened trattoria-inspired Osso & Kristalla(link is external). The two handsome restaurants anchor the ground floor of the block-wide 500 Crawford apartment building.

Parker and his team oversee the breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch menus for Osso & Kristalla and the dinner-only Potente. Just add this to Parker’s extensive duty roster. Along with being Crane’s personal chef, he is the executive chef at the millionaire’s exclusive Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., which has hosted dignitaries that include President Obama. “It’s not your average country club,” Parker said. Members fly in on their private jets.

Parker now splits time between Texas and Florida. The 47-year-old Englishman earned his stripes in the kitchen, working with the famed Roux brothers at the Waterside Inn, a three-star Michelin restaurant near London. After graduating from high school at age 15, he received his culinary degree from Bournemouth and Poole College in Dorset in 1987. He has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II, along with Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama. Here, he talks about cooking for the Houston Astros and turning President Obama’s team onto hidden culinary gems along the North Atlantic Ocean.

When hiring new cooks, chefs like yourself come up with all sorts of tests to gauge skills. How do you determine whether someone is qualified to work in your kitchen?

You’re only as good as your worst cook, so you got to know your basics. The first test is can you dice or slice an onion? It is amazing how many guys come through who can’t do it correctly. Then I’ll ask, “How do you make hollandaise?” You’ll be amazed by what some people say. I’ve heard guys tell me that you make it with hard-boiled eggs and then you put mayonnaise in them.

Michel and Albert Roux are culinary luminaries. What did you learn working for them? 

You learn perfection. You learn how to taste and season. We tasted everything. We had an 80-cover restaurant and 22 cooks. You worked 16-17 hours a day.

The Roux brothers put out an expressive alumni roster – you and others.

Yes, Gordon Ramsay worked for the Roux, along with Marco Pierre White and Gary Jones.

What do you recommend ordering on a first visit to Potente?

The whole brazino, grilled and stuffed with crab and cauliflower. We also have a terrific traditional veal osso buco with olive tapenade. The beef carpaccio – that’s a good dish – and the tuna crudo, which I think is the best dish on the menu, with shaved foie gras, caper berries and a lemon curd aioli.

What is Jim Crane’s favorite dish?

Jim Crane likes a lot of fish. He likes scallops. We have a good diver-scallop dish.

Have any Houston Astros players been spotted at Potente or Osso & Kristalla?

I’ll be doing a dinner for the Astros soon, and naturally, when baseball season starts, the players will be hanging out there after the games, I’m sure.

Potente is high-end, with an impressive wine list, fine scotches, and whiskeys. How would you describe its more relaxed, younger sibling, Osso & Kristalla?

We have a strong coffee program for breakfast with homemade pastries. We fire up the wood-burning pizza oven for lunch and dinner. We’ll have pastas and paninis. Lunch is fast-paced. Dinner is more relaxed, with wines by the glass.

Can you recommend a favorite place to eat?

There is a place called Little Moir’s Food Shack (Jupiter Square, 103 US-1 D3) in Jupiter, Fla. It’s just a bunch of surfer guys who love surfing and fishing. They cook fresh fish. It’s not a white-tablecloth place; they don’t take reservations. I took some guys who worked for Obama here, and they loved it. They went back there a few times. It’s a no-frills place, but it’s fresh and good.

Editor’s note: Buzz dining columnist Dai Huynh is a James Beard food-journalism award winner and longtime Houston-based restaurant writer.