HOUSTON - Our Houston Chef of the Month for May 2019 is Alexa Padilla, according to Good Taste.
Alex Padilla is Executive Chef of Legacy Restaurants, overseeing the kitchen at Houston’s iconic The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation since 2006.
A native of Honduras, Padilla moved to Houston as a teenager in 1985. He was a student at Westfield High School when his mother, Maria, was hired by Mama Ninfa Laurenzo as a line cook at Ninfa’s – Padilla’s first exposure to a commercial kitchen.
Padilla moved to San Francisco at age 19 and found work at L’Avenue restaurant under Nancy Oakes, one of America’s most celebrated chefs. Oakes, winner of three James Beard Foundation Awards, would become Padilla’s mentor as he worked by her side for the next 18 years.
Beginning as a dishwasher, Padilla quickly became an apprentice to Oakes and was trained by her to be a chef. By 1993, he became Executive Sous Chef at Boulevard, Oakes’ American fine dining restaurant in San Francisco that was named Outstanding Restaurant in the United States by the Beard Foundation in 2012. During his 20s, Padilla accompanied Oakes to culinary events around the world, working alongside American culinary royalty including the likes of Thomas Keller (The French Laundry, Napa Valley), Traci Des Jardins (Jardinière, San Francisco), Oakes’ husband Bruce Aidells (the “King of Sausages”, San Francisco), Susan Spicer (Bayona, New Orleans) and Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s, New Orleans).
In 2006, Padilla returned home to become Executive Chef at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. He has applied his fine-dining training and techniques to the restaurant’s classic Tex-Mex menu, introducing innovative new dishes and improving historic recipes with improved ingredients, including fresh Gulf seafood and locally sourced produce from Houston and surrounding areas.
Padilla has been featured on numerous national television programs at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, including NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt”, Food Network’s “Comfort Food Tour” and Travel Channel’s “Zimmern List” with Andrew Zimmern and “Food Paradise” in 2018; Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” in 2017; and Food Network’s “Top 5 Restaurants: Best Mexican Food”, “Top 5: Tex Mex Faves” and “Old School: The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. He won the national “Best Chef on the Block” competition on ABC’s “The Chew” in 2018. Under Padilla’s watch, The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation was named “Best Restaurant in Texas” in a Southern Living reader poll in 2017.
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