Featured Chef: Bryan Caswell
Reef, Houston, Texasuser rating
If Chef Bryan Caswell isn’t in the kitchen of one of his restaurants—Reef, Stella Sola (Italian for “Lone Star,” which features Texan-Tuscan cuisine), Little Bigs (a casual burger joint and wine bar) or El Réal (vintage Mexican cuisine, opening this month), he can likely be found fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Caswell is fanatic about fishing—his blog bears the moniker “Whole Fish”—and passionate about the fish native to the Gulf. He has spent his life near coastal waters, raised in Houston since he was two, which, Caswell says, many people do not realize is a just 20-minute drive from the coast.
Caswell’s career has taken him to places that have all been in close proximity to the water. While attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Caswell landed a six-month externship at the Michelin-starred Via Veneto in Barcelona. Following graduation, Caswell apprenticed in such acclaimed New York City restaurants as Aureole, Gotham Bar and Grill and Union Pacific. He then worked under the auspices of Jean-Georges Vongerichten for seven years, first at the flagship, Jean Georges. He then moved onto Jean-Georges restaurants in Hong Kong, Bangkok and in the Bahamas, where he served as executive sous chef and chef tournant on the 2001 launch team of the Ocean Club One & Only Resort on Paradise Island. “I don’t think I could live in a landlocked state,” he laughs.
Caswell’s travels brought him back to Houston in 2004, where he helped open another Jean-Georges restaurant, Bank. He left Bank in 2007 and formed PF&B Management Company, a hospitality group with his business partner Bill Floyd. Together they opened Reef that year. Reef is primarily a seafood restaurant, offering globally inspired seafood, with influences from Southeast Asia, Japan, Central and South America and the Mediterranean, but with a keen focus on fin fish from the Gulf. Reef serves more than 38 kinds of Gulf fish during the year. The only non-Gulf fish on the menu is salmon, which is slow-baked and served with lemon risotto.—Vanessa Facenda