Graham Laborde joins Killen

Ronnie Killen taps rising star chef to bring flair to restaurant empire

Ronnie Killen taps rising star chef to bring flair to growing empire

Graham Laborde headshot Bernadine's Killen's
Graham Laborde will join Killen's Restaurants next month. Courtesy photo

As Ronnie Killen prepares to expand his growing slate of restaurants beyond the Houston area, he has added another major talent to his culinary team.

Killen announced Monday that he's enlisted Graham Laborde, currently the culinary director for Treadsack restaurants Hunky Dory and Bernadine's, to serve as operations chef for Killen's Restaurants. Laborde will work with newly hired Killen's Steakhouse executive chef Steve Haug and Killen's STQ chef Teddy Lopez to oversee management at both restaurants and help develop new dishes that utilize Gulf Coast seafood.

"With the possibility of opening a Killen's Barbecue in Austin, it is important for me to have someone on board who can touch a little bit of all the restaurants daily and support the chefs and teams in Pearland and Houston," said Killen in a statement. As he noted on a recent episode of CultureMap's What's Eric Eating podcast, Killen is also looking to expand in Houston. "Graham will make sure the high quality is maintained. He's very hands on, we have very similar leadership styles and his fine dining style of plating is impressive and something that will be welcomed."

Laborde tells CultureMap that he'll remain with Treadsack for approximately the next two weeks before assuming his new role. Making plans to leave Bernadine's brings to a conclusion a process that began in 2014, when Treadsack co-owner Chris Cusack identified Laborde as the perfect fit for Bernadine's, the company's Gulf Coast restaurant that would pair with Hunky Dory in the company's dual restaurant building at the corner of 18th Street and Shepherd. Laborde earned wide acclaim for his work, including a top 10 ranking from Chronicle critic Alison Cook and a CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2016. He took over as culinary director for Hunky Dory when original executive chef Richard Knight left in February.

Despite the acclaim, Mothership, LLC, the company that operates both restaurants, declared bankruptcy in March. CultureMap has contacted both Cusack and Treadsack director of restaurant operations Benjy Mason for more information about who will replace Laborde and will update this article when we receive a response. 

While the prospect of leaving Bernadine's, the restaurant named for his grandmother must be bittersweet, Laborde sounded optimistic about his new role. "I'm excited about working with Ronnie. What I immediately admire about him is how hard he works. If it's making all the barbecue himself at NRG stadium or touching all the restaurants every single day ... he's been there," said Laborde. "Ronnie's a guy I get to learn from and his team is a group I get to fit into, and not the other way around."