Unexpected Chef Change

Hot Houston restaurant suddenly fires "triple threat" chef as it plans expansion

Hot Houston restaurant suddenly fires "triple threat" chef

Austin Photo Set: News_Adam_meet the tastemakers_pastry chefs_april 2012_plinio sandalio_the carillon
Pax Americana has dismissed chef Plinio Sandalio.  Photo by Jessica Pages
Pax Americana Houston restaurant June 2014 logo
With Sandalio gone, Pax is looking for a new sous chef to assist Adam Dorris.  Courtesy photo
Austin Photo Set: News_Adam_meet the tastemakers_pastry chefs_april 2012_plinio sandalio_the carillon
Pax Americana Houston restaurant June 2014 logo

"Puzzle piece didn't fit..."

That's how restaurateur Shepard Ross describes Plinio Sandalio: the well-regarded pastry chef who was fired (not "parted ways," as the Chronicle first reported) this week from his role as co-chef at Pax Americana. The recently opened Montrose restaurant has emerged as one of 2014's hottest openings and much of that heat came from Sandalio's union with rising star chef Adam Dorris. 

When Pax first announced it was opening, Ross called Sandalio a "triple threat" thanks to his abilities with savory, pastry and cocktails. For his part, Sandalio told CultureMap he was looking forward to preparing savory dishes. "When I come home, I cook a lot of savory stuff, a lot of comfort food, a lot of braising. I wanted to switch back to savory and do that again and do that in a restaurant environment, not just at home," Sandalio said at the time.

Even before Sandalio broke his arm this week in a car accident, they decided to move on without him.

He did not respond to a request for comment about his current situation.

Ross tells CultureMap that once the restaurant opened, Sandalio devoted his attention almost exclusively to pastry, which received raves from diners. With patio weather looming, Pax expects to expand its seating. Both Ross and Dorris realized the chef would need more help on the line to deal with the additional diners. Even before Sandalio broke his arm this week in a car accident and underwent surgery to repair it, they decided to move on without him.

As long as Dorris is in the kitchen, Pax will continue to be one of the city's most interesting new restaurants. A search has already begun to find a "bad-ass sous chef," per Ross, who can assist Dorris on the line. 

Sandalio's future is less clear. He remains supremely talented. Whether he finds a kitchen in Houston that fits his talents remains to be seen.