If any chef has a home field advantage in the Last Chef Standing restaurant challenge, it's Adam West. With the April 9 tasting event taking place at Hotel ZaZa, West, as executive chef at the hotel's Monarch, is responsible for showing what ZaZa is all about and where it stands in the Houston food scene.
Monarch is currently locked in a tight Final Four semifinal battle with Liberty Kitchen in CultureMap's restaurant bracket (Tuesday is your last chance to vote). But no matter what happens in the voting, West and Monarch have big plans for what they'll cook in the tasting event.
"What it does it is allows me the freedom and the necessity to have very diverse menu. You can't just do what Houston people want, because 90 percent of guests aren't Houston people."
West originally hails from the Dallas area, and worked at ZaZa Dallas's Dragonfly restaurant (which operates under the direction of Stephan Pyles) for four years before being promoted to executive chef of Monarch.
"Coming from Dallas, even though it's only 300 miles away, the scope and client base is totally different," West says.
Of course, representing Houston can be a challenge when so many of the patrons hail from outside the city — one that West solves with creativity and global inspiration.
"If I said that I was fully versed in Houston cuisine, that would be false," West says. "The downside is that because we're a destination hotel and restaurant, we get a lot of people who aren't local, who are from around the world.
"What it does it is allows me the freedom and the necessity to have very diverse menu. You can't just do what Houston people want, because 90 percent of guests aren't Houston people. So we cater to all tastes with international food but it's done with Texas flair, for sure.
"You're going to get your steak and mashed potatoes, but there's room to play with different flavors."
West points to an antelope dish served with a carrot cardamom puree pudding and pistachio as an example of an entree that mixes Texas heart ("Texas is known for its game meats") with global flavors, and lists his scallop dish served with hummus and a quinoa-based tabouli as a way to give more international flavors a playful spin.
Join CultureMap for its Last Chef Standing Restaurant Challenge Tasting Event on Monday, April 9 at Hotel Zaza. For $45, guests can sample food from a list of top Houston restaurants ranging from The Tasting Room to The Grove and Mockingbird Bistro to Samba Grille with drink pairings.
Click here for details and tickets.