Native Texan and lifelong Houstonian Neal Cox found his way into his first restaurant kitchens while studying Criminal Justice in college. Little did he know, what he saw and learned as a server and bartender would lead him to the culinary helm of some of his own hometown’s finest restaurants and earn him a growing reputation as one of the city’s most talented and innovative chefs.
"I was always in the kitchens watching the cooks and asking questions,” he said. "Then I would go home and try to recreate those dishes and share them with family and friends. I just couldn’t get enough!”
Recognizing that his interest had become a true passion, Chef Cox enrolled at the Art Institute of Houston in 1998, where he found inspiration. Before long, he was working for some of Houston’s premier restaurants including Churrasco’s and Americas, as well as Trevisio (where he worked under renowned Chef Alan Ashkinaze). Before long, Chef Cox himself was handed over the reins of a prominent Houston kitchen when he was named Chef at Zula. He later moved on to become the Chef of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, where he was instrumental in earning the restaurant the coveted title of "No. 1 Steakhouse in Texas” by Texas Monthly Magazine.
Given this success and growing profile, it was little surprise that this rising hometown star found his way to one of the crown jewels of the Houston culinary scene at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. Chef Cox joined the team there as Executive Sous Chef under the property’s longtime Executive Chef, Jeff Everts. When Everts was promoted to the position of Food and Beverage Director in April of 2011, the executive team at The Houstonian had no need to look outside its own kitchen to help ensure the continuation of its long tradition of culinary excellence.
"I could not be happier to be in the position I am,” Chef Cox said. "As a lifelong Houstonian, I feel a great amount of pride about leading what has been not only a culinary leader here in Houston but one of the top culinary destinations in the country.”
One way he does that is by drawing on a wide range of cultural culinary influences and sharing his formidable skills with Houston’s society notables and the major celebrities, business and political leaders who regularly visit.
"The United States is blessed with such a unique blend of cultures, and nowhere is this melting pot more evident, or more delicious, than right here in Texas.”
Chef Cox, in addition to his work at The Houstonian, is very active in the community, volunteering his time and expertise to organizations including Recipe for Success, the acclaimed not-for-profit organization aimed at preventing childhood obesity and encouraging long term health.
Chef Rodriguez began her carreer at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu in Glion, Switzerland, where she studied the Cordon Bleu method of cooking. Upon her return from Switzerland, she worked in catering for Peggy Dark at the The Kitchen for Exploring Foods in Pasadena, California. Her passion for food continued when she enrolled at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. During her student externship and employment at Bradley Ogden's Lark Creek Inn, she developed her skills in plated desserts and pastries. Her career and education continued at Farallon, where she was part of the original pastry staff with Executive Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti. Catherine then went to work with Joy Jessup as Assistant Pastry Chef at Kokkari Restaurant on Jackson Square.
In 2000, Catherine attended a course in chocolate techniques and plated desserts taught by Yann Duytsche at L'Ecole de Grand Chocolat at the Valrhona Chocolate Factory in France. She then moved to Bay Village Bakery in Mill Valley where she worked for Liz Prueitt and Chad Robertson. At Bay Village Bakery she developed her skills in preparing a variety of tarts, cakes, laminated dough and other fine pastries, and later became Pastry Chef at Tartine Bakery. She served in that capacity until she moved to Houston in 2004 and accepted a position as Pastry Chef at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse.
In 2006, Catherine joined The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. In her role as Pastry Chef, she and her staff provide the pastries, confections and breads for Olivette, The Manor House and The Houstonian banquet and spa facilities. Each December, Catherine and her staff design and create the Gingerbread Village that decorates the fireplace in the hotel's lobby. In 2008, My Table magazine presented her with an award as Pastry Chef of the Year. in 2010, she was chosen as one of 12 pastry chefs in the United States to attend the Valrhona Chocolate School in France for one week to study the latest chocolate techniques under Philippe Givre and Derek Poirier.
Catherine continues taking professional courses to improve and expand her mastery of pastries. Recently, she completed an advanced course in chocolate centerpiece designs taught by Stephane Leroux - M.O.F. at the French Pastry School in Chicago. She also completed a professional course on Italian pastry and gelato taught by Leonardo Di Carlo - 2004 World Champion at the French Pastry School in Chicago. Among other activities, Catherine has helped many organizations raise money for special causes including the Houston Food Bank, March of Dimes, AVDA, and the SPCA. In January 2013, Catherine was invited to attend the Coupe du Monde Pastry Competition in Lyon, France, as a guest of the Valrhona Chocolate Company.