Food Network Star runner-up Susie Jimenez is trading the Rocky Mountain air for the Houston humidity as construction continues on Trenza — her forthcoming West Ave restaurant that will bring together Indian and Latin American cuisine.
"I'm excited about becoming a part-time Houston resident," the 32-year-old Aspen chef tells CultureMap over the phone during a quick lunch break at soon-to-be-neighbor Pondicheri. "I've been coming here on business for about a year now and I've absolutely fallen for the city."
"Aspen doesn't get it in a lot of ways. Houston, though, has this great economy and all of these friendly foodies ready for new ideas."
Though based in Colorado for the last decade, Jimenez says the strong Space City food scene was a major draw for her to launch her first restaurant.
"Aspen doesn't get it in a lot of ways," she laughs. "Houston, though, has this great economy and all of these friendly foodies ready for new ideas. I decided to just take a chance."
Trenza is set to open in September with an all-star launch party which Jimenez hopes will include Food Network celebs like Guy Fieri. She notes that Fieri is a friend and invited, but he isn't 100-percent certain his schedule will allow him to attend yet.
"My family is from Mexico, so I grew up cooking very traditional Mexican food with my grandmother and mother," she says. "But when I finished culinary school, I started incorporating flavors and techniques from around the world into these dishes. There's actually more in common than you'd realize.
"In India, there's curry. In Mexico, there's mole. It's really the same concept just with different flavors."
"I came from picking cherries and worked my butt off for other people my entire life. Now I'm working for myself and feel like the sky's the limit. Why stop now, right?"