I credit growing up in the geographical heart of Texas in Brownwood for my passion in Texas cooking. When I was a young boy my favorite part of the day was when my mom cooked dinner and I sat on the kitchen cabinet and watched. If I was lucky I would get to help my mom peel the potatoes or pound out the round steak if she was making my favorite meal and the granddaddy of all Texas cooking, chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. By the time I was 10 years old I already knew how to make several full home cooked meals. One night my mom was feeling under the weather so I asked her if I could cook dinner and she agreed. I will never forget how excited I was and how hard I tried to make it just like moms. As soon as my mom, dad, and brother started telling me how delicious it was I was ruined forever as this was the day that my love for Texas cooking really began.
Although my mom is really who inspired me by our nightly hour together in the kitchen, Texas cooking was breed in to me by my dad’s side of the family. My grandfather Snookie who now has a small chain of restaurants named after him, was the real culinary talent in the family. Oh my god did that man like to cook. He would wake up before the sun came up and throw a few briskets on the pit. Then he would head to the kitchen and start on the breakfast biscuits and prepare a breakfast that makes the grand slam look wimpy. So by the time breakfast was over he already knew what was for lunch and dinner and which neighbor he was going to feed that day. As much as Snookie loved cooking and eating he loved sharing. I remember driving around Brownwood and handing out big pans of food to some of the not so fortunate citizens of Brownwood. Snookie had a full time job but still managed to maintain an amazing garden about an acre or so. My brother Michael and I started working our tails off in that garden as soon as we could walk. I remember our least favorite chore was picking the green beans, but the rewards of fresh veggies and Snookie’s Texas cooking was well worth it. Snookie also raised his own meats and I used to spend my weekends helping him slop the hogs. In today’s world we are all so accustomed to Whole Foods that very few people realize how much hard work is involved in raising hogs and farming your own produce. It was probably for these reasons that Snookie was the king of Texas Cooking.
At age twelve we moved to Ft Worth where I would turn my love of Texas cooking into a career. Times were different back then and I am not even sure they enforced labor laws. I started working on the weekends as a line cook at my Uncle’s Texas cooking restaurant that eventually would be a house hold name in most of the south. My uncle is Gene Street and is the founder of the Black Eyed Pea restaurants. At age twelve Gene became my employer for over 20 years and remains my mentor today. Cooking at the Black Eyed Pea is probably to this day the defining period of my career. I loved being in that restaurant more than any place on earth and I had found my calling. I was so little that I would step on my apron and was so short I would have to pull the tickets down with a pair of tongs. I was in hog heaven. When I was fourteen I was working close to forty hours a week cranking out Chicken Fried Steaks at an alarming rate.
When I was fifteen I decided to go out on my own and started working at French restaurants. I am real glad I did because even though Texas cooking was what I really loved, I learned a life time of techniques and styles of cooking by working for two master chefs both named Jean Claude. Today at the Y.O Ranch Steakhouse you will find evidence of this in several dishes.
At age eighteen I went back to my roots going back to my Uncle Gene Street. He sent me to Acapulco to open a huge restaurant that he ended up selling to the Hard Rock which remains there today. A few years later he sent me to London to open another concept that is still operating today by the name of Texas Embassy Cantina. Gene sold the Black Eyed Pea’s and waited until the non-compete clause expired and opened a new chain of Texas cooking restaurants called Good Eats. I was the kitchen corporate trainer for 5 years before I discovered the Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse and was hired as head chef. I fell in love with the Texas Hill country cooking and today I am the managing partner and Chef of the Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse. If anyone has any Texas Cooking stories they want to share please send them under the contact us page. Come to the Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse and let me cook you some venison chops or buffalo chicken fried steak. I hope to see you soon.