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Chef Changes Downtown

Downtown gastrocantina makes a change at the top — are fajitas on the way?

Ben Rabbani chef head shot October 2013
Ben Rabbani has left El Big Bad.  Photo by Kimberly Park
6 El Big Bad interior pickled goods
Whoever takes over for Rabbani, the restaurant will always be known for its infused tequilas.  Photo by Eric Sandler
10 El Big Bad interior murals and kitchen
Will the change finally bring fajitas to the menu? Photo by Eric Sandler
Ben Rabbani chef head shot October 2013
6 El Big Bad interior pickled goods
10 El Big Bad interior murals and kitchen

El Big Bad has parted ways with executive chef Ben Rabbani, CultureMap has learned. The downtown gastro-cantina brought Rabbani in to execute the menu created by consulting chef Randy Rucker. It seemed like a good fit at the time, as Rabbani and Rucker had worked together at Bootsie's Heritage Cafe in Tomball and share a fondness for Gulf Coast seafood and seasonal ingredients.

The restaurant emerged as the successor to successful Heights bar El Gran Malo; hiring Rabbani as a full-time chef marked one of the big changes for the new venture. Rabbani took Rucker's original menu and evolved it in his mold, with an emphasis on raw seafood dishes and locally-raised proteins. One thing that didn't change from El Gran Malo to El Big Bad are the signature infused tequilas and creative cocktails, which have always been a major draw.

Spokesperson Lea McKinney provided CultureMap with the following statement about Rabbani.

After helping us with the menu and through our grand opening, our friend Ben Rabbani and El Big Bad will part ways.

He’s a great chef. We hit a fork in the road about the vision of what this place could be and at the end of the day we decided to part as friends.

We look forward to supporting him in his next project."

No word on what's next for either Rabbani or El Big Bad, but hopefully the change finally brings fajitas to the menu, as McKinney and I discussed when a second location was still in the planning stages. After all, Pappasito's is coming.

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