J O S E P H “ J O E Y “ C H A V E Z
Though he’s worked in acclaimed kitchens across the country and under some of the world’s most celebrated chefs, Joey Chavez began cooking as a latchkey kid in Southern California, realizing at a very young age that he wanted to be a chef. Growing up with two working parents, Chavez and his brothers were often tasked with getting dinner started. The boys would pull out the grill, mom would take care of the sides, and then the entire family would sit down for dinner. Despite busy schedules, the family grilled together every weekend.
“Food is what brought our family together … it was all about being happy and having a great time,” says Chavez, who often served as his dad’s “sous chef,” grilling whole chickens, tri tip steaks and beef ribs in their backyard. By the time Chavez reached middle school, he was grilling for others at homes of friends and family.
It was a football scholarship that eventually led the California native to Texas, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and a culinary degree from Lamar University in Beaumont while working his way through school. A nearby Pappadeaux’s was his first foray into a restaurant kitchen. From there, he signed on as sushi chef and kitchen manager at Koi Sushi Bar in Beaumont, and later at Lake Charles’ La Truffe Sauvage, a small French restaurant where Chavez received his first true kitchen experience. There, everything was made from scratch, from the sauces to breads and pastries. “They really invested in teaching me how to do things the right way,” says Chavez.
It was his La Truffle Sauvage mentors, veterans of Ritz-Carlton restaurants, who encouraged Chavez to submit his application to the international hotel chain. The encouragement paid off and in 2012 he headed to Beaver Creak, CO, to Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at the Ritz-Carlton. An eager, diligent worker, he advanced from x position to sushi line to sous chef, deepening his respect for whole fish and animal butchery along the way.
Having discovered a love for cooking in fine-dining kitchens, Chavez headed to NYC to stage at many of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants: Le Bernardin, Per Se, 11 Madison Park, Nomad, Dovetail, Masa and under Michelin-star chef Jon Fraser (JF Restaurants). Noting the chefs he admired had all worked under Thomas Keller, he then began emailing his resume dozens of times a day to the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group until they finally invited him to Napa in 2015. Chavez considers his yearlong training at The French Laundry, Keller’s flagship restaurant, and Bouchon to be the highlight of his career: “That’s where I learned that there’s no job too small for a chef, that you have to be willing to get down on your hands and knees to clean the walk-in, and that you better be the best cook in the kitchen.”
In 2016, Chavez was named chef de cuisine at casual Vietnamese bistro OTD (a Slanted Door Group restaurant) in San Franciso under James Beard award-winning Chef Charles Phan. Later he returned to Colorado for a year to serve as chef de cuisine at Caribou Club, Aspen’s legendary private club and luxury catering company, where he developed and executed menus for high-end large-scale events and intimate parties.
Most recently, Chavez served as executive chef of The Bygone, a swanky rooftop concept at the Four Seasons Baltimore. In this role, the young chef led a kitchen of forty while creating seasonal menus and tasting experiences, approaching French nouvelle cuisine with a modern lens and local ingredients. In 2019, Chavez was voted “Best New Chef” in The Baltimore Sun Reader’s Choice Awards and took home the Judge’s Choice Award for “Best Dish” at Farm to Chef Maryland, an annual event in which Baltimore chefs partner with local farms in a friendly culinary competition for charity. In May 2020, Chavez made his national television debut on Food Network’s Chopped; his episode is titled “High on the Hog.”
In addition to a love for the grill, Chavez’s father instilled in him a strong work ethic, encouraging his son to “Do something, be somebody” and always asking, “What are you doing today to be better than yesterday?” Chavez credits that mentality to his commitment to learning and growing in his craft. As Brennan’s of Houston’s newly appointed executive chef, in addition to diving into Creole and Cajun cooking and Texas’ abundant locally grown and raised ingredients, Chavez plans to lead with this same ambition, evaluating each system, every dish—even the classics—to ensure they’re the best they can be. “The little things are what separate a good restaurant from a great one,” he says.
Chavez lives in Houston with his wife and three children. When he’s off duty, the chef can often be found continuing his family’s tradition—throwing anything and everything onto the backyard grill.