Chef Chat

Where the Chefs Eat: Grant Gordon, Matt Marcus, Kevin Naderi

This week, our Where the Chefs Eat series gets a pulse on where to go from three of Houston's up-and-coming young guns: Grant Gordon (age 26), Kevin Naderi (age 26) and Matt Marcus (age 28).

As you can see from their smiles, they are not only chefs, but friends. Naderi has known Gordon since kindergarten. Marcus, who refers to Gordon as "G-Man," worked with Gordon at Cyrus in Sonoma, California, which is also where he met Naderi.

They got together earlier last week specifically so we could get a picture of them, but it's obvious that these three -- let's call them "The Boys of Summer" -- keep in touch and break bread together regularly. It isn't just coincidence that all three chefs named Mala Sichuan even though I asked them for their answers independent of each other. Gordon and Marcus even mentioned the same dishes.

Grant Gordon James Beard Nominee, Best Chef Southwest 2012 Executive Chef at Tony's

Standard go-to: My standard go-to restaurant is Mala Sichuan Bistro. I know it has been pretty well documented that this place is good, but I love it. We like to mix up our order, but we almost always get the water boiled fish and the Mala bamboo shoots. Be sure to give their red oil the respect it deserves, and avoid wearing any light-colored shirts. Once, the oil splashed up and ruined my favorite "OU sucks" shirt.

Cheap eats: La Guadalupana Bakery. Their chilaquiles verdes are an absolute treat, and I generally add a small steak to my order. The service is outstanding -- I've been there every other Sunday for the last two years, and I've never seen the bottom of my coffee mug. The place has a lot of class for cheap eats.

Barbecue: In my opinion, Gatlin's deserves a shout-out. They have the best brisket, ribs and sides of any barbecue joint that I have experienced in Houston. The woman who works the register is a genuine sweetheart, as well. If you order the fatty brisket, and you should, she will be quick to convey to you that she approves of your order.
Matt Marcus Chef/Owner of Eatsie Boys Food Truck and 8th Wonder Brewery

Standard go-to: My most frequented restaurants are in China Town.  My favorites are  Confucius Seafood, where I order the Jade Tofu and the lobster special, and  Mala Sichuan, where I get the surf clams in green chili oil and water boiled fish.  I draw most of my inspiration from Asian cuisine, and we have such an amazing China Town, we are so lucky.

Cheap eats:  Brother's Taco.  This place is right down the street from our new brewery, 8th Wonder.  There is always a line no matter what time you go, and it is worth the wait.  Make sure you find out what the daily special is, because they are not to be missed.  Of course, all the tacos are top-notch.  Everything is served to go, and the ladies working the line are saucy señoritas.

Jewish deli:  I am a regular at Kenny & Ziggy's.  I am Jewish, and this is my soul food.  Ziggy makes pretty much everything from scratch, and it's just like Bubbe used to make.  L'chaim!
Kevin Naderi Chef/Owner of Roost

Standard go-to: I think for a good casual meal, I like to frequent Dolce Vita. I love getting the parsley salad. It's a plate of picked parsley leaves, aged pecorino cheese, lemon segments, thin red onion and black pepper. They bring it to your table with a boiling-hot little pot of pancetta in its own fat, and they spoon it over the salad. The pancetta is hot, the cheese is warm but not really melting, the aromas are great.

Cheap eats: Cheap eats, I'm the king. Best cheap eats are Bismillah Pakistani on Hillcroft for their chaat. Darband for awesome, Persian kebabs. Mala Sichuan for the crispy pepper chicken pieces and La Gran Sorpresa on Richmond and Tanglewood for their "hunters platter" and empanadas.

Comfort food and late night: Regular places I'd go have to do with the comfort of how you feel there, and staff and ambience. I frequent Nabi Asian because Ji [Kang, the chef/owner] is always trying there and the food is good. I go to Kasra for Persian with my family even though it's been awhile, because it's just the place to feel like home with familiar food. Late nights are tough because if you're drunk, anything goes (ha-ha!). Matt Marcus can tell you, the chicken wings at Cafe 101 at 1 a.m. really got us.
If you missed our previous posts, click below to see more of Where the Chefs Eat:

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham