HOW THE EXECUTIVE CHEF FOUND A CULINARY HOME IN HOUSTON
As a child in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Chef Pedro Sanchez would sit in his family’s kitchen and become mesmerized by the fluid movements and energy with which his grandfather prepared heaping meals to nourish a houseful of hungry relatives.
“He was an amazing cook and did it with such passion,” Sanchez recalls. Years later, that awe manifested into something more while Sanchez attended electrical engineering school.
“About the third year in, I started working in a casual restaurant to help my dad pay for my college,” he says. The more time the teen spent at the restaurant, the more he wanted to get in the kitchen. “Then one day, I finished a circuit board as part of an assignment—it was very difficult to make—and I didn’t feel the excitement I felt when finishing a busy service or creating a nice dish. That day, I decided I wanted to be a chef.”
While a major catalyst for his own life’s trajectory, Chef Sanchez’ accidental discovery of a passion for cooking isn’t unique in his field. In fact, many chefs I’ve chatted with over the years share similar stories about how temporary food-service gigs transformed into careers dedicated to feeding others.
The rigorous labor, break-neck pace and long hours aren’t for the faint of heart, so those who choose this career tend to be compelled by a burning force from within, which propels them again and again back to the stove. When you get the culinary itch, you just have to scratch it.
After a move relocated his family from Venezuela to Florida when Sanchez was 18, the aspiring chef graduated from Le Cordon Bleu – Miami in 2007 and promptly set to the arduous—and thrilling—task of proving himself in professional kitchens.
It wasn’t long before an opportunity led him to Houston, where Chef Pedro received his first experiences in country club and hotel kitchens.
“The restaurant business is fun and fast paced, but I felt like I was cooking for people that might never step into the restaurant again,” says Sanchez. The chef values the opportunity to build lasting relationships with clientele, including in his current role as Executive Chef of BraeBurn Country Club in southwest Houston. The chef loves getting to know the members by name and learning their allergies, their likes and dislikes.
“Most importantly,” he adds, “they keep me on my toes because I get immediate feedback, positive or negative.”
As the Houston chef notes, every job has its advantages. Working for restaurants taught the young chef speed and organizational skills required on the cooking line; working for hotels provided training in accounting and large-scale cooking for banquets and events. Now, he draws on this past experience to seamlessly create personalized experiences for BraeBurn Country Club’s members.
As part of the Cookery team, Sanchez looks forward to providing similar dining experiences for clients in a truly intimate setting—their own homes.
“It’s a great idea because you won’t believe how many times I get asked If I would cook for a private event in somebody’s house,” says Sanchez. The chef has executed menus for private parties in Houston countless times.
“However, it’s always difficult to coordinate because of my work schedule or the guest’s schedule. With Cookery you can see my available dates, menus and so on, so if I’m the right match for the client, then they can simply choose me.”
Despite his South American background, the chef is most drawn to refined French cuisine, which is evident in the menus he’s created for Cookery patrons. Often, he adapts classical preparations to appeal to modern tastes and incorporate local Houston ingredients. Thanks to all the ways it can enhance a dish, butter is one of his favorite culinary weapons.
After years of experience, Chef Sanchez still loves that he gets to dedicate his life to serving people great meals: “Food makes people share. It makes you happy. I think it is the glue for all gatherings.”