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Food & Drink

Future Star Chefs Show-off at Texas Cooks' Co-Op

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

These behind-the-scenes dudes deliver forward-thinking cuisine with the Texas Cooks’ Co-Op

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

High-end plating and adventurous cuisine at TCCO’s dinners

“As employees, we see a lot of menus that don’t change, specials that never see the board,” Fuentes, a 10-year veteran of the industry said. “In San Antonio, you can easily say its (tickets like) salmon, salmon, Caesar salad, salmon, salmon, Caesar salad.”

“Or dirty martinis,” Naylor, the Sustenio bartender, chimed in.

The End Goal

Martinez, who is working on opening his own restaurant in Southtown (look for that later this year or early 2014), is learning firsthand the amount of financing it takes to open an independent eatery. It’s a major barrier to the Co-Op cooks breaking free of line cook or sous chef status, where they typically make anywhere from $29,000 to $57,000 annually according to a 2010 survey.

“That’s the main goal … Hopefully [to] find that one person willing to say ‘that guy has enough determination, passion and heart, let me back him up financially.’ That’s the biggest obstacle for us.”

While most chef hopefuls are often encouraged to attend culinary school, no one mentions the $25,000 or more in student loans. Sous chef positions aren’t guaranteed to fresh grads, either. For the most part, cooks coming out of school are making no more than $9 an hour.

Financial burden aside, the group is not just a venue for cooks to push the envelope. Yes, it provides a creative outlet for aspiring chefs who would otherwise be stuck preparing the same mis en place day in and day out, but it also gives the group insight into what it takes to host these dinners. Each monthly soiree turns into a Top Chef-level challenge where these cooks try their hand at leadership, organization, pricing (remember, these budgets come out of the group’s collective pocket) and portioning.

They run into no-shows from members, cancellations and other hassles while trying to create gastronomical experiences.

“We’re trying daring, bold things. We’re like the neighborhood softball team. We work in kitchens, then go hang out and talk about food, food trends, restaurants,” Fuentes said. “It’s a recreational opportunity to collaborate and work withlikeminded individuals.”

Still, the ultimate goal is expanding the San Antonio palate.

“We don’t want people to be afraid of a fucking tasting menu,” Colon emphasized. “We need people to come in with an open mind.”

Back to School Dinner

Sept 22, 5pm
The Richter Co.
616 Broadway
email texascookscoop (at) for payment details
Follow the group on Facebook

This article has been updated to reflect that the dinner's venue has changed from the Art Institute of San Antonio to The Richter Co

Texas Cooks Co-Op's 2nd Dinner from naylor & co on Vimeo.

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