Chef Grady Spears is practically synonymous with Texas cuisine in his hometown of Fort Worth — as an original co-owner and executive chef of landmark downtown restaurant Reata and now at his eponymous Grady's, as well as for his numerous cookbooks (one a collaboration with Houston's own Robb Walsh) and his RFD show The Cowboy's Kitchen.
Now Spears is spending his Sundays in Houston, where he's taking on his biggest job yet — literally — creating a gourmet, chef-driven menu for the suites level at Reliant Stadium, to be expanded soon to the club level as well. It will be served at Texans games as well as other Reliant events, including the NCAA Final Four and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Thursday's preseason game against Tampa Bay marked the menu's debut. With everything from coffee- and brown sugar-rubbed brisket to cheddar biscuits and bacon-wrapped shrimp, Spears is already putting his signature stamp on the things. CultureMap chatted with Spears about his new gig, his culinary philosophy and what football team he really supports.
CultureMap: How did this collaboration come together?
Grady Spears: Basically, Joe Glenn, who is the regional director for Aramark (Reliant's food service provider), called me and said he had an idea he wanted to pitch. It just kinda came out of the clear blue. It's a great fit for me, and a really good marriage, and I'm excited about how they operate.
There's a whole lot of work to do, but it's exciting to see people care about stadium food. So far it's been a really great partnership.
CM: What were your goals with the new menu?
GS: Reliant and Aramark had goals up front — they wanted a true Texas experience in the facility. The first goal is to create ideas that are executable at that level. I also want to keep it local, so we added things like frito pie, locally-sourced quail, grits, some really cool Texas staple kinda things.
CM: How is this different than cooking at your restaurant? What kind of considerations do you have to make?
GS: I'm still in the learning process, but you definitely have to make a lot of adjustments. You have to make things that will hold well. At my restaurant I make it when you order it, but that's just not possible in a stadium. Sustainable, that's always the trick. We learned a lot last night. But it's fun because the people are so nice. It's the coolest thing, we aren't trying to reinvent the wheel with food we are just trying to create a great experience.
CM: You talk about about Texas cooking and cowboy cooking. What is Texas cooking to you?
GS: I've always claimed my food is Texas comfort food. I think what makes it Texas are the products that we're using are indigenous to Texas, with equipment that's from Texas and being cooked by Texans. People are kinda intrigued by Texas, I think, because we like to do our own thing.
CM: I know you live in Fort Worth, but does this mean you're rooting for the Texans over the Cowboys?
GS: Are you kidding me? I'm about to get my Texans tattoo on my right arm. Seriously. I'll have it by the game next week.