HCCC will kick off its new summer exhibition, Justin Favela: All You Can Eat, with a live taping of Justin Favela’s Art People Podcast, as Justin interviews Alex Padilla, Executive Chef of The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. In their discussion, Justin and Chef Alex will explore the history of Tex Mex and their relationships with this beloved cuisine, as well provide a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a chef.
As head chef of one of the most prominent Tex-Mex institutions in Houston, Chef Alex has a special relationship with the cuisine. A native of Honduras, Padilla moved to Houston as a teenager and was exposed to a commercial kitchen for the first time, after his mother, Maria, was hired by Mama Ninfa Laurenzo as a line cook at Ninfa’s. Later, after spending many years working with some of the best chefs in California, Padilla returned home to become executive chef at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. He has applied his fine-dining training and techniques to the restaurant’s classic Tex-Mex menu. The Original Ninfa’s was a James Beard Foundation Semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant in 2019.
About Justin Favela
Known for large-scale installations and sculptures that manifest his interactions with American pop culture and the Latinx experience, Justin Favela has exhibited his work both internationally and across the United States. He holds a BFA in fine arts from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His installations have been commissioned by the Denver Art Museum in Colorado and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. His latest major project, Recuérdame, will be on view in New York City at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling until September 8th, 2019. Favela hosts two culture-oriented podcasts, Latinos Who Lunch and The Art People Podcast. He is a 2019 recipient of the Nevada Humanities Rising Star Award.
About Chef Alex Padilla
Alex Padilla is Executive Chef of Legacy Restaurants, overseeing the kitchen at Houston’s iconic The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation and Antone’s Famous Po’Boys since 2006. Padilla moved to San Francisco at age 19 and found work at L’Avenue restaurant under Nancy Oakes, one of America’s most celebrated chefs. By 1993, he became Executive Sous Chef at Boulevard, Oakes’ James Beard winning American fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco. Padilla has had experience working alongside American culinary royalty, including the likes of Thomas Keller (The French Laundry, Napa Valley), Traci Des Jardins (Jardinière, San Francisco), Oakes’ husband Bruce Aidells (the “King of Sausages”, San Francisco), Susan Spicer (Bayona, New Orleans), and Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s, New Orleans).
He has been featured on numerous national television programs at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, including NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt,” Food Network’s “Comfort Food Tour,” Travel Channel’s “Zimmern List,” Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food,” and Food Network’s “Top 5 Restaurants: Best Mexican Food.” He won the national “Best Chef on the Block” competition on ABC’s “The Chew” in 2018. Under Padilla’s watch, The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation was named “Best Restaurant in Texas” in a Southern Living reader poll in 2017.
This summer, Legacy Restaurants will open a second Original Ninfa’s location in the Uptown/Galleria area, along with a new fast-casual concept, Mama Ninfa’s Tacos y Tortas, in downtown Houston.