Surprising Chef Swap: Jordan Asher Is out and Albert Vasquez Is in at Ritual Restaurant in Houston

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A reader tip led us to confirm that chef Jordan Asher is no longer the executive chef at Ritual, the restaurant from Delicious Concepts that replaced El Cantina Superior at 602 Studewood. Surprisingly, Asher, who also consulted on the menu of Witchcraft (now Republic Diner + Sojubang), says his role at Ritual was always intended to be a temporary arrangement — although it doesn't appear that was communicated to the press or the general public.

The original press release announcing Ritual read as follows regarding Asher’s involvement:

"[Ken] Bridge [CEO of Delicious Concepts] has also announced that Jordan Asher has signed on at Ritual as Executive Chef. Asher was recently named one of Houston's young and up-and-coming chefs by the Houston Press and is coming off of his successful Rustic inspired Pop-Up at former Witchcraft Tavern (now Republic Diner). Prior to his Pop-Up, Asher met critical acclaim as the Executive Chef at former Dosi Restaurant. Asher states, “Ken and I met several years ago, and when we had the opportunity to launch the Pop-Up, we quickly realized that we worked really well together and decided that it would probably be a good idea to continue building our relationship." Bridge and Asher plan to build a complete team to assist them with what Asher describes as a "Super hearty, rustic menu that will hit on comfortable and familiar notes."

Asher said, “It was a short-term thing from the beginning. I was working with Ken on the Witchcraft project. It was an organic relationship that we had. I wasn’t intending on being involved with Ritual from the very beginning, but with the many conversations we had on the concept I, became a lot more interested,” said Asher. He says now that all systems are in place and Ritual is “rocking and rolling,” it’s time for him to “transition out.”

Co-owner Felix Florez, who also runs Black Hill Meats, is still involved. In fact, Asher said Ritual’s menu really reflects Florez’s meat-driven food sensibilities, not his. “It’s a butcher’s paradise — meat and potato, in-your-face, hearty, gluttonous — and that’s not necessarily my style. I’m more into vegetables and lighter flavor profiles.” Bridge says while that statement is eloquent and both he and Florez had input, the dishes on the menu were definitely Asher's creations. 

Bridge says that Albert Vasquez, most recently of The Del, is replacing Asher and agrees that not only is this an amicable parting of ways but that he hopes to work with Asher again in the future. "I feel really fortunate to have worked with Jordan in any capacity," said Bridge. "We had a slew of people we interviewed for this position, but I always fought for Jordan. It's an inside joke that I really had to kind of fight for Jordan to come over. He was the perfect fit to get us up and running and in all honesty, he probably stayed a few months longer than we originally talked about. We opened in June, but he and I worked on the menu every day for three or four months."

Regarding Vasquez, Bridge said the incoming chef and Florez have known each other for many years. "He worked with Felix way back in the day at [Scott Tycer's restaurants] Aries and Gravitas."

Updated, 8/1/2016, 1:49 p.m.: Florez later wrote in to add, "My years of experience with Albert over the years and knowledge of his exceptional talent got him my vote for executive chef at our restaurant!"

Ritual, which opened in June, has so far shaped up to be a very good restaurant. It got both a positive First Look from us and a nod for its small but well-chosen Sunday brunch menu

Asher has some other plans in the works, including a possible pop-up and perhaps even his own restaurant if he can find a suitable spot. “I live out in Oak Forest and am definitely exploring the neighborhood and really putting out some feelers for what the community is looking for,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on out here with Liberty Kitchen and Union Kitchen coming in. The neighborhood is growing really rapidly.”

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