New Steakhouse finds its chef

Downtown's newest steakhouse sizzles with announcement of seasoned head chef

Downtown's newest steakhouse sizzles with announcement of head chef

Rafael Villalpando Toro Toro Four Seasons Houston
Chef Rafael Villalpando. Courtesy of Toro Toro

Downtown's newest steakhouse has taken an important step towards its open. Toro Toro has named Rafael Villalpando as its chef de cuisine.

Slated to open this fall, Toro Toro, a pan-Latin steakhouse from star chef Richard Sandoval, will replace Quattro at the Four Seasons. Named for a word that refers to both “tuna” in Japanese and “bull” in Spanish, the restaurant offers a lighter, fresher take on steakhouse fare.

Instead of creamed spinach and shrimp cocktail served at traditional, American-style steakhouses, diners will find dishes inspired by Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian), Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian), Mexican, and Brazilian cuisine.

A meal may start with shareables such as tuna Nikkei ceviche, lomo saltado empanadas, or grilled octopus. Entree options include individual steak and seafood dishes or large format platters that includes lamb, ribeye, and picanha — all paired with wines and cocktails sourced from Latin and South America.

Villalpando brings an impressive resume to his role. A native of Los Angeles who grew up in Mexico, the chefs comes to Houston after working in both Monterrey, Mexico and New York City. He's also worked at the Rosewood Hotel in San Miguel de Allende and the J.W. Marriott in San Antonio. Most recently, he's been chef de cuisine at Toro Toro's Fort Worth location. 

"Chef Rafael brings his creativity, leadership, and extensive experience working in top hotels and resorts and with modern and contemporary Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine from his home of Mexico to New York City to Texas,” Sandoval said in a statement. “For this opening, he will reunite with our global culinary team who worked with him at Rosewood Hotels and at Toro Toro in Fort Worth. His passion is evident in his execution of flavors, aromas, and presentation, and I think he will very quickly make a great impression on Houston."

To prepare for his new role, Villalpando has already begun training with Four Seasons executive chef Paul Peddle and is learning more about the city, according to a release. A fan of both NASCAR and Formula 1, Villalpando spends his free time with his family and exploring food trucks.

“As a Latin born in Los Angeles, California and raised half my life in Mexico, I have always enjoyed cooking and experimenting with Latin flavors,” Villalpando said. “I am quickly discovering Houston to be a major culinary city that brings diversity and pride to its melting pot of cultures. So far, my time here has been incredible and I cannot wait to share my cuisine with the city.”