The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation has recruited Jason Gould to serve as the executive for its eagerly anticipated Galleria-area location.
Gould brings over 25 years in the restaurant industry to his role. Houstonians may recognize his name as the executive chef of acclaimed Montrose restaurant Gravitas. More recently, he spent seven years as the corporate executive chef for Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen.
Gould tells CultureMap that the sale of Cyclone Anaya’s to the Heritage Restaurant Group prompted him to look for a new opportunity. He contacted Legacy Restaurants president Jonathan Horowitz, knowing the former head of the Houston Restaurant Association might have some advice. To his surprise, he discovered Horowitz had a more immediate need — someone who could help lead the expansion of one of the city’s most iconic restaurant brands.
Currently on track for a May opening, The Original Ninfa’s Uptown Houston will be the first Ninfa’s expansion for owner Legacy Restaurants (other Ninfa’s locations are franchised). Diners will have high expectations, and it’s up to Gould and his team to maintain the standards set by the original location and chef Alex Padilla.
“It is a big challenge,” Gould. “It’s something we’ve been discussing quite regularly. Not only does Ninfa’s have a history, everyone has memories. Trying to recreate that will be a challenge in itself.
“If you have a meal at Navigation, you need to have the same meal at BLVD Place.”
With permits in hand, construction has begun to transform the former Peska Seafood into the new Ninfa’s. As the renderings above illustrate, changes to the dining room will be extensive. They’ll be less so in the kitchen, Gould says, but he’s focusing on configuring a flow to ensure that every plate arrives at its intended destination promptly.
For now, he’s working with Padilla to practice recipes and develop the training materials that will ensure a smooth opening.
“He’s great. It’s funny because Alex has similar experience to me,” Gould says. “We both come from fine dining backgrounds. We both enjoy cooking a variety of cuisines. It’s good to work with him and see what’s doing with the menu.”