Downtown Houston's soon-to-open JW Marriott hotel is looking more and more like a hotbed of culinary talent. Celebrated pastry chef Plinio Sandalio is returning to Houston from Austin to join previously announced executive chef Erin Smith at the luxury hotel's recently-named Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge.
The hotel, which will be located in the Samuel F. Carter building in an $81 million renovation that includes 328 guests rooms and such amenities as a full-service bar, spa, health club and executive lounge, is scheduled to open in late summer.
The Austin American Statesman first broke the news about Sandalio's move.
Personally, I'll always remember his fried chicken ice cream with chicken skin crackling at the Houston Chowhound fried chicken throwdown.
According to a statement from the Carillon, the Austin hotel where Sandalio formerly worked, the pastry chef is returning to the Bayou City to be closer to his family. Although Sandalio hasn't been a Houstonian for four years, he's maintained ties here; for example, he served the cheese course at Sunday night's Lucky Dog fundraiser organized by pastry chef Rebecca Masson.
Before he left Houston in 2010 to join the staff at Austin restaurants Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen, Sandalio earned wide acclaim for his work at work at Houston restaurants including Noe, Soma (joining chef Robert Gadsby on Iron Chef America for Battle Mango) and Gravitas. His dessert tastings at avant-garde restaurant Textile were a can't-miss experience thanks to his playful mixture of familiar flavors in unexpected forms. (This blog post from Chronicle critic Alison Cook provides an overview of a 10-course tasting that included riffs on corn dogs, egg in a basket and more.)
Personally, I'll always remember his fluffernutters with foie gras buttercream, his dessert inspired by the way people dip Wendy's fries into a frosty and his fried chicken ice cream with chicken skin crackling at the Houston Chowhounds fried chicken throwdown.
Sandalio also worked for a while at Anvil, and his incorporation of bitter, cocktail-inspired ingredients into desserts is another hallmark of his technique.
“Plinio is a diversely talented chef who pushes boundaries between savory and sweet to create one-of-a-kind desserts,” said Smith in a statement. “Together, we hope to develop an exceptional culinary program for Main Kitchen and 806 Bar & Lounge that will become a staple of Houston’s thriving restaurant scene.”