Image via Houston Press.
Today, the Houston restaurant community mourns the loss of one of its most promising and beloved stars, Grant Gordon, who died on Monday night.
A Houston native, Gordon, age twenty-eight, rose to prominence as the chef at Tony’s, one of the city’s leading fine-dining destinations, where the kitchen earned a top rating from the Houston Chronicle in 2011.
In 2012, he was a James Beard Rising Star Chef semi-finalist and one of Forbes 30 Under 30.
In 2014 he was selected by the U.S. State Department as a culinary ambassador and earlier this month, he and his business partners had announced plans for an ambitious new restaurant to be opened in 2015.
Click here for the Houston Chronicle notice of his passing and here for Culture Map’s profile. As both mastheads reported, the cause of death has not been determined.
As the media director for the Vallone Restaurant Group, which includes Tony’s, I had known and worked closely with Grant for nearly four years. And while he worked with my client Tony Vallone, we regularly ate his food. Since the time I moved to Texas in late 2008 to be with Tracie, his excellent cooking had frequently punctuated family birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations.
We even had shared a drink on occasion, including the time he and I attended the Forbes 30 Under 30 SXSW party in Austin in 2013.
In the wake of news of his death, my workday was surreal yesterday.
As Tony’s media media director, I began fielding calls from writers around 11 a.m. It was a local food writer who informed me of what had happened.
It happened that I had booked a photo shoot at Tony’s with the same photographer who had taken many memorable images of Grant over the years. We met at the restaurant just as a flood of messages and calls began to arrive.
The restaurant’s current chef, who had worked as a sous chef with Grant during his tenure there, was clearly shaken by the news. But she, the photographer, and I decided to move forward with the shoot.
We spent the next two hours in the same room where we had shot portraits and food photos with Grant. At one point, the photographer’s assistant remembered that he had a video from the last shoot with Grant on his phone.
We watched a minute of it together and it was simply too much to bear.
Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Grant’s family and friends. The social media outpouring of disbelief and grief over his senseless passing is a reflection of the vital role he played in the restaurant community here. He was one of its undisputed stars and the news of his death is as hard to fathom as it is heartbreaking.