Chef Chat, Part I: Cesar Rodriguez of Samba Grille

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Making it in the restaurant business is tough. Now, try pulling it off in downtown Houston's theater district. It's a difficult task, but one Executive Chef Cesar Rodriguez and the team at Samba Grille are up for. We caught up with him recently to find out how things are going.

EOW: How long have you been a chef?

CR: I've been in the industry for 26 years.

EOW: Where was your previous stop before heading up the kitchen here at Samba Grille?

CR: Churrasco's, with the Cordua family.

EOW: What has been the biggest difference from that experience to this one?

CR: At Churrasco's, it's somebody else's menu. Yes, you have some specials of the day, you get to have some creativity. But over here, it's all me.

EOW: With this being a theater district restaurant, and having somewhat odd hours, how has it affected life in the kitchen?

CR: We just extend a couple more hours than the regular restaurants...With functions ending at 10 o'clock, we get more customers. We do more appetizers and after-dinner drinks.

EOW: How has your lunch crowd been going?

CR: We're still working on it. I think a lot of people don't know we are here. We are working on our menu, trying to adapt to what people are demanding for lunch.

EOW: Has it proved challenging to switch from a fast downtown lunch crowd, to a slower rodizio service dining experience?

CR: No. It's all about setting up. Luckily, we have a nice kitchen. We have a lot of space. So that helps a lot.

EOW: What do you love most about running a kitchen?

CR: It's when everything you plan comes together the way you planned it. Every chef loves that. Everything you train people to do, they accomplish it.

Check back tomorrow as Chef Rodriguez talks about some of the items he's serving up at Samba Grille.

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