Executive Chef Joe Cervantez started working in restaurants at 15, in his hometown of Pearland, TX. One such restaurant’s layout required him to leave every night by passing through the bustling kitchen, which piqued his culinary interests. The lead chef noticed Cervantez’ frequent observations, and told him that if he could flip an egg without breaking its yolk, he would let him work brunch; half a case of eggs later, Cervantez succeeded, thus beginning his culinary journey.

He describes his return to Brennan’s of Houston as a homecoming, bringing him back to a kitchen both familiar and influential. Having trained under the restaurant’s former executive chef, Cervantez reveres the classic Gulf Coast–Haute Creole menu and looks forward to maintaining its time-tested appeal while introducing new takes.

How’d you learn to cook?

I was 16, at Mom and Pop Café.

What’s the first recipe you ever mastered?

The first dish I made for someone was chicken parmesan for Valentine’s Day, when I was still in high school. I guess I mastered it on that first try because she’s now my wife.

What ingredient can you not live without in the kitchen and why?
Salt – practically everything needs salt.

What utensil can you not live without?

My Kunz spoon.
Favorite affordable wine? Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir.

Favorite place for dessert?

Since I live out in Pearland, when looking to get my sweet tooth fix, I’ll swing by Froberg’s and pick out one of their assort- ed pies – buttermilk pecan is my favorite. Samantha Mendoza is also a great pastry chef, so any of her desserts.

Is there a food you won’t eat?

Rocky Mountain oysters.

What is your comfort food?

BBQ-style shrimp and grits.

What would be your last meal?

My mom’s pozole as well as her enchiladas with rice and beans. For dessert, Tres Leches.

What do you see as the next food trend?

Being authentic. Keeping true to the cuisine and utilizing resources/ingredients to that specific region.

At home, what do you keep on hand to serve drop-in guests? I always have good steak on hand.

What would people be surprised to find in your home refrigerator?
A lot of leftovers in to-go boxes – we eat out a lot.

Who are your favorite chef, restaurant, and dish?

Bobby Matos’ Mexican “Street Corn Style” Ravioli at State of Grace.

Is there a particular food that is underappreciated? And what would you do to help its reputation?

Sorghum and sugar cane. I’ve played with the idea of using sugar cane to smoke certain types of meats.