What do you do when you’re an underdog in the culinary world of a town full of CIA grads and James Beard award nominees? You throw down the gauntlet, of course. Or, in Chef Edward Villarreal’s case, perhaps a cleaver.
That’s exactly what this self-proclaimed nobody and new executive chef of Alberico Fine Wine has done. All I have to say is get ready, Olmos Park.
“I like that people don’t know who I am yet. It’s good to be the underdog because you’re underestimated,” Villarreal said. “Most of the restaurants in the neighborhood are already staples. A year from now I would like us to be a force here in Olmos.”
While some chefs are notorious for their larger-than-life egos, Villarreal is atypically humble, perhaps because he did not go to school for his profession. He earned his stripes rising through the ranks from dishwasher to executive chef, something he’s proud of because he now understands the role of everyone in his kitchen.
Considering his 20 years in the industry at local staples such as Oak Hills Country Club, The Argyle, Grey Moss Inn, Boiler House, The Draft Sports Bar & Grill, as well as his exceptional palate and skill for smashing seemingly disparate ingredients together into an explosion of flavor, he is refreshingly unostentatious.
“My cuisine has a big South Texas influence,” Villareal said, “but because I was classically taught, I tend to throw a little Southwestern twist into those classics, like my coconut avocado crème brûlée with sweet cilantro, lime, and berries. I enjoy big, bold flavors. I like heat and sweet … I like to smash everything together.
“It’s a happy mess,” he added.
The Texas Benedict on his brunch menu is a perfect example: a house-baked buttermilk biscuit is topped with house-made breakfast sausage, a sunny-side up egg, and delectable salsa quemada hollandaise sauce made with charred tomatoes, jalapeños, and serranos, as well as garlic, celery, lime, onions, butter, and eggs.
Although you can get a taste of this New American world fusion at Alberico, Villarreal will soon be expanding his reach, and that of some of San Antonio’s most talented chefs.
He will be hosting a special cooking segment slated to be a regular part of Edible San Antonio Magazine’s new cooking show to debut on the San Antonio Community Access Network (SA-CAN) Public Access Channel (PATV). The show is currently in pre-production and is scheduled to be released early next year. I will be directing and co-producing the show.
Those who watch cooking shows such as Mind of a Chef will appreciate this San Antonio-centric view into the minds and kitchens of chefs to be highlighted in Chef Villarreal’s segment in the first season. Look for great tips from Michael Sohocki (Restaurant Gwendolyn, Kimura, Il Forno), Pieter Sypesteyn (The Cookhouse, NOLA Brunch & Beignets), Luis Colon (FOLC), and Ruth Jones (home cook).
Edible San Antonio Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Angela Covo is equally excited about the upcoming project, which is just one of many.
“We’re gearing up to produce a lot of content for the city’s access channel, SA-CAN, and our website, including the Edible SA Cooking Show, Edible SA Field Trips, and Edible SA Little Bites, which will be more of a newsy format about the food scene in San Antonio,” Covo said. “We are getting great support from Frank Burns and his staff at SA-CAN and we’re just thrilled to have the opportunity to provide this type of content, for the city at large and our Edible San Antonio followers all over the country.”
Regardless of the type of cuisine Villareal and his fellow chefs will be smashing together, the future looks bright and juicy for San Antonio food enthusiasts, like a ripe red plum just waiting for that first mouthwatering bite.