One of this year’s most promising new restaurants and a Houston dining institution have both recently seen their executive chefs depart after relatively short stints. Both Degust and Brennan’s of Houston have plans to move forward without chefs Brandon Silva and Matt Staph, respectively.
Silva’s departure from Degust comes as the bigger surprise. The chef, a veteran of Uchi, Holley’s, and multiple stages in Europe, joined the Kirby Group in 2016 to oversee culinary operations at bars such as Heights Bier Garten and Holman Draft Hall. Earlier this year, he partnered with the group to open Degust, the intimate, tasting menu concept in Spring Branch.
“It has been my goal to reach this place since I started cooking,” Silva said at a media preview event in January. “It has been in the works for the past four-and-a-half years.”
Silva tells CultureMap that things simply didn’t work out as expected.
“Like certain things, we didn’t see eye to eye, we had creative differences,” he says. “That’s where I’m at now. That’s why I left.”
Kirby Group operating partner Steven Salazar says Degust will move forward with sous chefs Javier Beccera and Rico Mackins serving as co-chefs. Salazar expects them to introduce a new menu in October, and the restaurant will tweak its design slightly to reflect their interests. Sommelier Dale Ellington remains in charge of beverages.
“With chefs Javier and Rico, that place will be in good hands. I put together a really solid team. They’ve very creative guys,” Silva says.
As for Brennan’s, Matt Staph’s departure is the restaurant’s third executive chef to leave since 2020, following the departure of Joe Cervantez to open Pier 6 Seafood and Joey Chavez who became a private chef. Staph joined the restaurant in April after working as chef de cuisine at Chris Shepherd’s One Fifth.
“After working together for awhile, Matt let us know he was going to look for something else. We wish him well,” Brennan’s proprietor Alex Brennan-Martin says. “It was a little bit of a surprise to us, but we wish him well.”
Staph, for his part, was succinct about the situation. “At the end of the day it just wasn’t the right fit for me,” he writes in a message. “Good luck to them, but I have bigger and brighter things in my future.”
For now, general manager Carl Walker and Creole chef Jose Arevalo are leading the kitchen. Brennan-Martin says he’s interested in interviewing candidates but not willing to rush the process at a time when so many restaurants are still struggling to find staff.
“We’re not on any big time frame either. We’ll just see this thing through,” he says. “As I have come to say to a lot of people who ask me about the business, I’ve got a two word answer for you, ‘we’ll see.’ I’m out of the prediction business.”