A major name in the culinary world is making his way back home to Texas. Chef Jorge Hernandez, who has been serving as head chef at José Andrés’ Minibar, voted last year by the Washingtonian magazine as the number one restaurant in Washington D.C. and owner of two Michelin stars, has taken a job as the culinary director for The Mighty Union, the hospitality group that owns and operates the Carpenter Hotel, home to the restaurant Carpenters Hall.
Hernandez will oversee culinary operations for the group that includes the Carpenter Hotel in Zilker, which opened in November 2018, as well as a hotel in Oregon and forthcoming hotel projects in Hawaii and San Antonio, where the San Antonio native will be permanently stationed.
The chef, who previously worked in Austin as chef de cuisine at Qui, says he is excited to join the "stellar team" at Mighty Union and will bring the lessons he learned while working for the famed Andrés back to his home state.
"As much as I truly loved being a part of the Michelin world, at the end of the day I want to cook food for people and a community that I want to live in for the rest of my life," said Hernandez, whose day-to-day position will be at the Mighty Union’s forthcoming Veramendi House hotel in San Antonio, slated to open next year.
While Mighty Union is welcoming Hernandez, it is also preparing to say goodbye to founding executive chef Grae Nonas, who is preparing to embark on a new venture, according to Mighty Union partner Donald Kenney. The Mighty Union finalized a relationship with Hernandez to come on as culinary director before Nonas announced his pending departure, and the group has yet to make any concrete decisions on replacing Nonas when he eventually leaves. The Statesman has reached out to Nonas regarding the 2015 Food & Wine Best New Chef and Olamaie co-executive chef’s future plans.
In addition to the the arrival of Hernandez and the pending departure of Nonas, the Mighty Union’s team will face another change, as Andrew Knowlton, the former Bon Appetit restaurant editor who had a big hand in shaping the imaging of the Carpenter Hotel’s food and beverage program, has stepped away from an official role with the Mighty Union, though he will continue to work with the group on special events and programming. Hernandez credits Knowlton with being an integral early piece in helping him decide to join the Mighty Union team.
"Really happy we were able to get Jorge down here," Knowlton said, adding that he has a few things happening in the near future that he can’t comment on at this time. "Going to be fun for Austin," he teased.
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Chef Spotlight: Minibar's Jorge Hernandez