Foodie News

New downtown Mexican restaurant brings in hot chef with sneak peek this weekend

New Mexican restaurant hires hot chef with sneak peek this weekend

Ben Rabbani chef head shot October 2013
Ben Rabbani will be El Big Bad's full-time chef when it opens in November.  Photo by Kimberly Park
News_Randy Rucker_chef_Bootsie's Heritage Cafe
Rabbani will be taking over for Randy Rucker, who's been developing the menu. They worked together at Bootsie's Heritage Cafe and Rainbow Lodge.  Randy Rucker/Greens and Beans/Twitter
El Gran Malo downtown signs on door El Big Bad August 2013
Get a sneak peek at downtown's new gastro-cantina this Saturday from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Photo by Eric Sandler
Ben Rabbani chef head shot October 2013
News_Randy Rucker_chef_Bootsie's Heritage Cafe
El Gran Malo downtown signs on door El Big Bad August 2013

In August, members-only club The Marque announced it had hired Randy Rucker protege Ben Rabbani to transform its staid dining room into a destination for local, seasonal cuisine. Apparently, that experiment is over.

Today, El Big Bad, the big brother to Mexican-inspired gastro-cantina El Gran Malo set to open soon in the former Cabo space in downtown Houston, reveals that it has hired Rabbani as its full-time executive chef. He'll take over for Rucker, who's been working as a consulting chef and will stick around for the first month or so that the restaurant is open.  

 Although it won't open until November, diners can get a sneak peek of El Big Bad as part of Saturday's A Night at Market Square.  

Co-owner Lea McKinney acknowledges that Rabbani hasn't cooked Mexican cuisine professionally, but she says that he "grew up with a lot of it. He's very familiar with the cuisine." 

As for what appealed to him about the job, McKinney says that Rabbani will have "a lot of freedom to do fun stuff here . . . He fits with us very well."

El Gran Malo hired chef Greg Lowry, who's now Ryan Hildebrand's right hand man at Triniti, to develop its menu but has never employed a full-time executive chef. McKinney explains that she and partners Steve and Shaun Sharma decided to bring Rabbani in because El Big Bad is a bigger space that "doesn't have the limitations" of EGM's smaller kitchen. As a result of having the extra space, McKinney says that EBB will be "a lot more dynamic and more interesting" in terms of its food offerings.

Although it won't open until November, diners can get a sneak peek of El Big Bad as part of Saturday's A Night at Market Square. The upstairs will be open from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. with an offering of three basic dishes and a handful of cocktails. 

"It will definitely be a challenge," McKinney predicts, but one that Houston diners are hoping El Big Bad is able to meet. 

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