25th May 2024

Talented Chef Leaves After 18 Years At Iconic Houston Tex-Mex Restaurant

Talented Chef Leaves After 18 Years At Iconic Houston Tex-Mex Restaurant

By Eric Sandler, Culturemap HOUSTON

The chef, who grew up in Houston and knew Ninfa’s founder Ninfa Laurenzo, came to the restaurant in 2006. Under his tenure, Ninfa’s re-established its reputation as one of Houston’s finest Tex-Mex restaurants, earning wide acclaim in the media and James Beard Award semifinalist nominations for Outstanding Restaurant in 2019 and 2020.

Still, the restaurant’s classic menu only provides so much room for innovation. Leaving will provide Padilla with the opportunity to pursue new goals, according to a release.

“As I’m getting older, I’m looking to slow down and refocus on the things that made me want to be a chef in the first place — like travel and cultural inspiration,” Padilla said in a statement. “I have a couple of opportunities I’m working on that I’ll share when I’m ready. Ninfa’s will always be part of me and it will always be family and home to me.”

Niel Morgan, managing partner for Ninfa’s owner Legacy Restaurants, hailed Padilla for his contributions to cementing the 50-plus year old restaurant’s legacy for a new generation of diners.

“Alex has been with us since the beginning of our effort to build something great on the base of this amazing little place on Navigation Boulevard that Mama Ninfa left behind,” he said. “He’s done an outstanding job, and I will always be grateful.”

Padilla will continue to consult for the restaurant until July 1. After his departure, the restaurant will remain in good hands. Last year, Morgan beefed up the restaurant’s culinary talent by hiring David Luna (Line & Lariat, Goode Co.) as director of culinary operations, Patti Delgado (Vibrant, Benjy’s) as executive chef for Ninfa’s Uptown location, and director of operations Justin Solomon (Eunice).

“I understand this next phase of life Alex wants to pursue,” Morgan said. “We’ve got it from here — he’s leaving us in good shape and I’m 100 percent confident that our team can handle it.”

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