Talented chef from Chris Shepherd’s crew joins iconic Midtown restaurant

One of Houston’s iconic restaurants has a new chef. Brennan’s of Houston announced that it has hired Matt Staph as executive chef.

Staph comes to Brennan’s from Underbelly Hospitality’s restaurant One Fifth; he opened the restaurant under the direction of chef Nick Fine and served as chef de cuisine for four of its five iterations. He replaces Joey Chavez, who came to Brennan’s in the summer of 2020.

Brennan’s of Houston has served elevated Creole fare in Midtown since 1967. Proprietor Alex Brennan-Martin and his family also own legendary New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace.

“One Fifth has been my home for the past five years and it’s what really made me feel welcome here in Houston,” Staph said in a statement. “I am truly thankful to Chris and to my experience at One Fifth for opening my eyes to what an extraordinary city Houston is,” says Staph. “We’ve done some really amazing things at One Fifth and now it’s my time, in a way, to follow Chris’ lead at Brennan’s and make it better than it’s ever been.”

As Staph notes, leaving Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality for Brennan’s deepens the ties between the two restaurant groups. Shepherd spent nine years as both a cook/sous chef and sommelier at the legendary Creole restaurant — setting him on the path that ultimately led to a James Beard Award win for his work at Underbelly.

“Matt Staph has been driving the boat at One Fifth all along and steering it beautifully,” Shepherd said. “It’s not time for him to stop learning, though. His biggest challenge is right in front of him now. I cannot express how happy I am for this move. Brennan’s is a place that has a very special place in my heart, and I look forward to see what he does there.”

Staph is Brennan’s third executive chef in the last 12 months. Joe Cervantez left last summer after three years to open Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House in San Leon. In an Instagram post, Chavez said he’s taken a job as a private chef that will allow him to spend more time with his family.

As for One Fifth, it will close in August after a five year run. Chef Nick Fine will return to the kitchen where he will serve dishes from all of One Fifth’s prior iterations as well as preview items from two of Underbelly Hospitality’s upcoming concepts: Wild Oats, the restaurant Fine is opening this summer at the Houston Farmers Market, and Georgia James Tavern, Underbelly Hospitality’s casual restaurant that’s opening in downtown’s luxurious Market Square Tower.

“One Fifth isn’t going quietly into the night,” Fine said. “We want to go out having as much fun and learning as much as possible with the remaining time we have left.”

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