Chef Chat, Part 2: Grant Gordon of Tony's
Yesterday, we chatted with Grant Gordon about his road to becoming a Executive Chef at Tony's. See our chat here. Today, we talk about his role at Tony's and some of of his favorite things about Houston.
Mai Pham Executive Chef Grant Gordon of Tony's
EOW: So what do you do here at Tony's?
GG: I'm executive chef.
EOW: I know that. Where does Tony fit in?
GG: He fits in everywhere. It's his name on the building. He's still here every day, tasting all the food...
EOW: You were doing more French -- it sounds like your experiences were more around French -- but this an Italian restaurant
GG: This is an Italian restaurant. I had done more French in the past, so Mr. Vallone has taught me a lot about pasta. He's a mentor, and he could be a chef, but he's a front-of-the-house guy.
EOW: Going back to Cyrus -- what was your position there?
GG: I was a chef de partie, I was a line cook. But I moved up real quick and I was the lead line cook when I left.
EOW: But when you came here, you started lower than that?
GG: Well, when I moved back to Houston, I figured that with my experience and my resume that I could get chef jobs, so I was mainly looking at sous chef jobs. This situation ended up being the best because when they actually hired me here as an entry level, he could see that I had experience, and I think that was when they were planning on opening up a third restaurant and they thought that I could maybe be the guy there, so they bring me in, train me here and then just send me over that way, but they ended up just wanting to keep me here.
EOW: So the menu now, is it your menu or a collaboration?
GG: It's always going to be a collaboration. Scott, the general manager, is Mr. Vallone's right hand man. And generally we sit at this table, Mr. Vallone in this seat, Scott will be sitting right there, and I'll bring out a dish, and either it'll be good to go, don't change it, or we'll all discuss what needs to be changed. So one of those two things usually happens, we'll all discuss it, make it better. Or sometimes we come up with the dishes right here, just talking. Mr. Vallone will say "this is a good old dish that we used to do," then Scott will chime in, and I'll chime in and I'll put something together. We also have to come up with menus from time to time. Just the other day, we have one guest who really likes really exotic food, we always order special stuff for him, and we were in the private wine room the other day, and we were chatting and we came up with something just talking. It's fun to do it like that, it's more interesting, the food's better. More heads is always a good thing, and especially someone who's been doing it successfully for 45 years, it's a pretty good situation for me to have Mr. Vallone's two cents, to have him guiding me.
EOW: All right, so I'm really interested in your extracurriculars. I know you did the Les Sauvages dinner with Justin Basye and Peter Jahnke. I talked to Justin and he said he wanted to work with you, so how did that come about?
GG: That was a really cool deal for me because I'm usually so wrapped up in what we're doing here. I know all chefs say we're busy and we all have a lot going on, but we literally have a lot going on all the time. That wall that you see over there -- there's a private party of 60 going on in there, and that room over there, there's currently party of 30. So that's almost 100 people that we're serving and that's before the actual dining room gets full, and then there's the bar. So we're always busy, and being a chef at Tony's, we have the catering company. There's always something for me...
EOW: Wait, there's a catering company?
GG: Tony's Catering Company
EOW: ...Is here in this kitchen?
GG: We do everything in this kitchen. We have so many employees. This is the absolute optimal place for me to be right now, and for me to grow in my career because I'm learning so much, I'm learning about every facet of this industry and I have the best mentor that I could ask for. And he gives me all this creative freedom to boot. So I don't know what else I could ask for.
EOW: So, the Les Sauvages, you said that was really cool?
GG: Yes, sorry, I went off track, that was cool because I'm always just focused on here, and they were able to schedule that on my day off, and I put in the work and it was really fun.
EOW: I heard great things.
GG: It was fun working with other chefs because I don't know many other chefs around town. I'd like to, I'd like to meet them and get to know them, but I don't get the opportunity to meet others.
EOW: Do you have any time off?
GG: Oh yeah, I have plenty of time off. I'm given a very fair amount of time off. That's not the problem. A big part of it is that all my friends are here. When I was in California and New York, my friends were my co-workers, now I have my actual friends. I'd still like to go out for a drink with other chefs and talk shop, but that was awesome, I was really appreciative that they included me cause I don't get asked to do that kind of stuff.
EOW: Well, but you're doing the My Table gala dinner.
GG: That's awesome too. Yeah, I'm really excited about that. Actually Matt Marcus is a good friend of mine because we worked at Cyrus together --he's the Eatsie Boys guy. So I'm going to work with him, and we're doing the entree.
EOW: You're doing the entree? That's huge.
GG: Yeah, that's exciting. You know I like doing extra stuff like that but I also get anxiety because we have so much going on here. I was super nervous about the Les Sauvages thing.
EOW: Were you?
GG: Yeah, oh yeah.
EOW: But it went well.
GG: Yes, it went well.
EOW: So, being from Houston, what are restaurants that you like here in town?
GG: Thai Gourmet is my favorite. I love it. I love it so much. I ate there every week for like six months.
EOW: What do you order?
GG: Panang, Thai Hot. I get really aggravated when I see lists of Thai restaurants and I don't see them on it, I get aggravated because they deserve to be number one on all the lists. They are the best.
EOW: I always get the basil beef myself.
GG: You gotta get the Panang Beef, trust me. The wife is the chef and the husband runs the Thai kickboxing place next door. It's great.
EOW: Have you had time lately to try other restaurants, then?
GG: Yeah, I've gone to Haven a few times. I've eaten Jeramie's food at Cinq. I've been to Philippe, RDG, Ava. I get around.
EOW: So you've been around, but you prefer the low-key food, right?
GG: Yeah, definitely.