Where the Chefs Eat: Hildebrand, Pellegrino and Edwards

Categories: Chef Chat

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Photos by Mai Pham
An order of toro nigiri from Kata Robata, where Chef Ryan Hildebrand may be seen eating on Monday nights.
I am always asking people where they like to eat. I'll go anywhere. A $1 fried chicken place in a gas station, a hole-in-the-wall strip mall affair on the west side, a hot dog stand on the sidewalk underneath a freeway -- if it's good, I'm totally game. And generally speaking, if a chef recommends a place, it's bound to be good.

Which is why I'm compiling a treasure trove of tips from our city's finest chefs to share with you, the lucky reader. Inspired by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau's "Where the Chefs Eat" tours of the city, I'm asking chefs to to share their favorite eats in Houston.

Today, we talk to chefs Ryan Hildebrand, Michael Pellegrino and Kaz Edwards.

Ryan Hildebrand

Executive Chef and Owner, Triniti

Chef Ryan Hildebrand of Triniti
Standard go-to: "It would have to be Kata Robata, toro nigiri and anything else they feel like sending. I'm usually there for an early dinner into late night depending on the wine flow. The salmon nigiri, white tuna nigiri and lobster roll are other staples I tend to order as well. I could eat there every day."

Cheap eats: "It would have to be that taco truck at the West Alabama Ice House, Tacos Tierra Caliente. We don't do a lunch service on Saturdays, so every Saturday before service, we order about 20 tacos for the entire kitchen, usually barbacoa and beef fajita tacos."



Michael Pellegrino


Executive Chef of Max's Wine Dive

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Chef Michael Pellegrino of Max's Wine Dive
Standard go-to: "Le Mistral. This restaurant is a few blocks from my house. I love eating there. The food is on point and always finely tuned. The terrine de foie gras and amuse-bouche platter paired with a nice white Burgundy is, by far, my favorite five o' clock snack on a rare day off."

Cheap eats: "Hong Kong Dim Sum. They serve scrumptious dim sum all day. They offer great food at a fair price and you don't have to wake up early. That can't be beat. I get the steamed chicken feet, steamed pork spare ribs, Chinese broccoli -- truth is, I am a sucker for all types of broccoli, it has been that way forever -- and the pan-fried turnip cake."

Crawfish: "La Fisherman (1935 Highway 6 South). I have come to learn that crawfish is a religion in Houston. Everyone has their own temple that they are proud to proclaim, "This is where I eat bugs!" I love food. Crawfish is no exception. However, after battling a pound of crawfish with my chubby claws, I feel like I am being teased. I am usually still hungry. It is a crustacean tease! That's when I order the King crab legs boiled in that lovely crawfish nage. I become one happy, crawfish-eating pilgrim."


Kaz Edwards


Chef de Cuisine of Uchi Houston

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Chef Kaz Edwards of Uchi Houston
Standard go-to: "I haven't really had time to eat out that much, but I've eaten at Underbelly, which I thought was amazing. Coppa has probably been one of my favorite places to eat. The chef there, she pretty much does everything, and everything I've eaten there has been good."

Cheap eats: "There's this place around the corner from Uchi called Aladdin. It's one of those places where all the food is laid out in front of you to choose, and we have probably eaten through the whole menu. Their cashew rice is great, the roasted cauliflower you can't miss, their hummus and bread cooked to order is always on point, and they have this fried potato ball topped with a meat sauce that is really good. And we always go for lunch."



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Location Info

Triniti

2815 S. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Max's Wine Dive

4720 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Le Mistral

1400 Eldridge Parkway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Hong Kong Dim Sum

9889 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Coppa Ristorante Italiano

5555 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine

912 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
DempseyC
DempseyC

My brother is a chef, and a very good one. He can impress the hell out of his guests, and us, when we visit his restaurant.

When he cooks at home and takes us out, there's nothing special happening, trust me. We usually go to a wings place. Stop with the chef hagiography.

Guest
Guest

A while back, I was distressed to learn that one of the best (Japanese) sushi chefs I've ever come across likes to eat at Taco Bell.  It's like Thom Yorke saying he listens to Nickelback.

John C
John C

Very nice piece.  Thank you.  Check out the "Chefs Feed" app for iPhone.  It does the same for many cities.  I used it in Seattle and it was great.  Austin is on the app.  Houston is supposed to be "next up".

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I can't speak for your brother, but many chefs I know actually enjoy going out to eat. They may not eat "fancy," but they eat well, and when they recommend a place, it's usually a good one.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Actually, you'll find that a lot of chefs plead guilty to eating fast food. I haven't had someone tell me it was their favorite go-to or their cheap eat, but many will readily admit to McDonald's runs and late night Whataburgers.  

John C
John C

You know, there is something about that basic crunchy taco...  That's all I get there.  Every couple months, gotta roll through and get 3-4 regular crunchy tacos with packets of the "hot" sauce.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks, glad you enjoyed! Funny that Austin is on that app, and not Houston. We have so many chefs and so many wonderful places to eat!  I am talking to other chefs, so look out for upcoming pieces featuring other chefs. :)

DempseyC
DempseyC

Who says my brother doesn't enjoy going out to eat? He just enjoys spending time with his family more than obsessing about the food. Ask any chef, they really don't give a damn, unless they're trying to impress someone and make a point. Or unless they're doing research... and then they're just working.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Savenierre, a while back I penned a "Top 5 places to see and be seen," and HP commenters generally poo-poo'd those places. Do you really think they want to know/go where the local celebs and CEO's hang out? 

Savenierres
Savenierres

Oh Mai, oh my...

Why such narrow imagination? Yelpers? Twitterers?How about local celebs who dine out a lot? How about the political bete noir, like the Press featureed back in the 90's? How about Hairdressers? Or CEO's? Or a Studs Terkel take?

DempseyC
DempseyC

Oh, please, please, not Yelpers, or TweetFreaks! OK, you win. Keep interviewing chefs and following them to wherever that might lead.

(But I still maintain that your graven images all wear toques).

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Is this some sort of reverse snobbery? Because your brother is chef and he's not a demi-God, and because he doesn't choose places that are "good," or doesn't give a damn about food when he goes out, that no other chef can have good suggestions? Just yesterday, one of the chefs I was interviewing for this piece insisted that he doesn't go anywhere to eat and that his go-to place for a cheap eat is his refrigerator. Is that what you'd rather hear?

"There are a few revelations, maybe, but probably fewer than among people who are into food generally."

By this, would you rather I interviewed people who on Twitter or Yelpers perhaps? Who would you define as these "people who are into food generally?"

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I only swoon when the food is good, and it doesn't necessarily need to be a "chef" that makes it, so while I understand where you might get that from my pieces, it's not true. I'm all about the food. That's the whole purpose of this in the first place. To find those cheap, hole-in-the-wall places that I wouldn't find on my own. I've never tried Aladdin. I plan to. I've never tried La Fisherman. I plan to.

DempseyC
DempseyC

Yes, yes, yes, chefs eat out for all sorts of reasons, and not all chefs are as carefree as my brother, but you make it sound like you are revealing some secret pearls of wisdom, like "hey, this chef eats here, so it's gotta be good" and the implication is let's learn from his amazing insight, and follow him to nirvana.

My point is that where they eat doesn't necessarily mean anything at all. Like you said they could be visiting a colleague they'd like to bugger. And many chefs eat at places that aren't good, period, let alone magical. There are a few revelations, maybe, but probably fewer than among people who are into food generally.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Sar127, you got my point exactly. And no, it's not hagiography. Instead of choosing a restaurant I want to cover or talk about (as a food blogger), it's a way of giving chefs a voice to say what's good to eat out there.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

DempseyC I have to strongly and respectfully disagree. Especially with your comment "Ask any chef, they really don't give a damn." It's fine if that's the way your brother approaches things-- is this brother in Houston by the way? And if so, why not put a name to the chef and ask him to respond? -- but, assuming that all of the chefs out there think like your brother is just that -- an assumption.

I am always interested in where the chefs eat. It's part of the reason why the Where the Chefs Eat tours have been so successful. The chefs I talk to go out to eat for a variety of reasons. Sure, they'll pick up wings or fast food, but they'll go out 1) to support a colleague 2) because they really enjoy a particular type of cuisine 3) because they really love a place, and 4) because at the end of the day, they don't have time to cook for themselves. Yes, there are those who will go home and eat cereal. There are those who would rather cook for themselves than go out to eat, but there are plenty of chefs who eat out and do it well.

Dimaxion
Dimaxion

I feel confident suggesting that Dempsey's hagiography accusation applies to Mai Pham's entire oeuvre, rather than just her wonderful opus above.

Personally, I agree with both: this topic is interesting and titillating, and that the author is smitten with chefs and inevitably swoons all too easily in their presence.

Sar127
Sar127

That got personal quick. I don't feel this article's topic imparts hagiography exactly. For one, instead of idolizing the chefs themselves we're trying to find out who ELSE these master craftsmen regard highly in their industry. And two, it makes them more relatable if anything by giving us a broader view of their culinary interests and influences. 

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