Virginia B. Wood thought her previous column about local chef changes was pretty comprehensive until the last few days of January, when all kinds of newsworthy information began pouring in via phone, fax, and e-mail.
Bombshells Over Austin
I thought last week's column about local chef changes was pretty comprehensive until the last few days of January, when all kinds of newsworthy information began pouring in via phone, fax, and e-mail. The owners of Brio Vista (9400-B Arboretum Blvd., 342-2642) have decided on a format change for the popular Northwest restaurant with the spectacular Hill Country view. According to co-owner Larry Foles, they'll now be concentrating on "lowering entrée prices, offering more dishes that are indigenous to the Texas Gulf Coast area, and working to create a new perception of value for the money spent" at Brio. Foles also reports that his restaurant group has hired former Gumbo's exec chef Steve Warner to oversee the transition in the Brio kitchen and then move downtown as exec chef at their hot new seafood restaurant, Eddie V's Edgewater Grille (301 E. Fifth, 472-1860). This change from the upscale fine dining concept created by former executive chef and general manager Stewart Scruggs means that Scruggs, his sous chefs Mike Hall and Eric Polzer, pastry chef Mark Paul, and wine steward Gary Thompson are no longer with Brio. With every fine dining restaurant in town competing for quality employees (and customers), these talented gentlemen shouldn't be on the open market for long. It's also quite possible that the changes at Brio are signaling a citywide reconsideration of the upscale fine dining market and an adjustment in high-end entrée prices... Just when the calls about the changes at Brio slowed down, e-mail came through about some big changes at one of Austin's most high-profile restaurants. Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop, 459-4121) owner Tom Gilliland announced Feb. 1 that Fonda exec chef Roberto Santibanez has chosen to return to his native Mexico in May and will be training recently returned sous chef James Brockman to take over the kitchen upon his departure. (Brockman will also receive intensive training from the legendary Mexican food expert and cookbook author Diana Kennedy this spring.) Departing chef Santibanez deserves high praise for taking Fonda's cuisine to new heights with his subtle, sophisticated "nueva cocina" stylings during his four-year tenure here. He will be greatly missed by both Fonda customers as well as his legion of admirers in the local food community... In other stunning news, Gilliland announced that former Fonda executive chef and co-founder Miguel Ravago has returned to the restaurant as general manager and will be instrumental in overall planning and the development of new projects at the 25-year-old Austin landmark. Gilliland describes the impending changes as both a return to Fonda's roots as well as a continuing evolution. Ravago returned to Austin in November after some years away working in Santa Fe and New York. Longtime friends and fans of Fonda San Miguel are so pleased to see the popular chef at the restaurant once again. It should be very interesting to see what's in store for the next 25 years at Fonda San Miguel.
Gumbo's Louisiana-Style Cafe (710 Colorado, 480-8053; 901 Round Rock Ave., 671-7925) has announced the promotion of Rex Turner to the position of executive chef for both restaurant outlets. Turner worked at the Coyote Cafe in Las Vegas before helping open the downtown Gumbo's location last year and has been instrumental in developing new menu items for the very popular downtown New Orleans-style French/Creole restaurant.