Chef's story is inspirational, too

Night on the town: Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly enjoy Samba and the symphony

Night on the town: Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly enjoy Samba and the symphony

More evidence that Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is continuing on the road to recovery: She and hubby Mark Kelly enjoyed a night out in downtown Houston over the weekend.

The couple were spotted dining at Samba Grille at Bayou Place with his two daughters Friday night. When Samba chef David Guerrero came out to say hello, he and Giffords discovered they have much in common. Guerrero underwent surgery to have a brain tumor removed last year and rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann, just as Giffords has. His recovery has been remarkable— he has regained the ability to dance the salsa, play the piano and speak Portuguese.

Soon after Guerrero had been promoted to head the kitchen at Samba Grille in October, Houston Eater offered these details on his illness:

In 2010, Guerrero was diagnosed with a brain tumor on his right frontal lobe and underwent surgery, which left him partially paralyzed on his left facial extremity, and suffering from seizures. He had to undergo extensive therapy to regain sensation to his taste buds, which he still struggles with today.
“As a result of the paralysis, I basically had to learn “tastes” all over again, which for a chef is very difficult as you can imagine,” said Guerrero. “This process has really enhanced my understanding of flavors and how they work together, which I think makes me a better chef.”

After feasting on Guerrero's exotic Latin fare, which has received rave reviews, Giffords and Kelly headed to Jones Hall to take in the Houston Symphony performance of Handel's Messiah in Candlelight. During intermission, they visited with Houston Symphony cellist Jim Denton, who left the stage and joined them at their seats.

In 2009, Denton had suffered a massive brain injury in a motorcycle accident and underwent rehabiliation at TIRR-Hermann. He has since fully recovered. After Giffords' was shot earlier this year, Denton told his story to CultureMap and said Giffords was in good hands.

An ABC special that ran last month focused on how music has greatly aided Giffords' continuing recovery from the gunshot wound to her head in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson.

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Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords in file photo from the ABC 20/20 special last month. Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC
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Chef David Guerrero of Samba Grille Photo by Laura Clark