Rounding Up Reata's Best of Then and Now

10-year anniversary since Fort Worth tornado calls for reunion of chefs

This month marks 10 years since a tornado slammed into downtown Fort Worth. It brought an end to Reata Restaurant's prime spot on the 35th floor of the former Bank One Tower. 

Reata reopened in another downtown spot, the former Caravan of Dreams. It has since churned out some of North Texas' best chefs: Grady Spears at Grady's restaurant, Lou Lambert and Clay Wilson of Lambert's Steak and Seafood, Tim Love and his Lonesome Dove Western Bistro,all in Fort Worth, as well as Todd Phillips at JR'S Steakhouse in Colleyville and Juan Jaramillo at Scampi's Cove at Eagle Mountain Lake.

They were among the 10 current and former Reata staff members who reunited at the request of 360 West Magazine for an article in its April issue.

"We thought, 'Wow, you came through Reata. You came through Reata. We kind of joked about it as we'd see these guys at cooking events and contests, and the anniversary of the tornado gave us reason to do this," said Meda Kessler, 360 West's editorial director.

Six of the 10 worked at Reata when the March 28, 2000, tornado hit. Three were at the restaurant that day, including Jaramillo, who famously kept cooking an order of carne asada as word started to spread that a tornado was approaching.

"I sent them out a few minutes later," Jaramillo said. "Tim Love's like, 'Let's get out of here.'"

"All the sudden, I remember seeing someone's yard umbrella fly through the window of the tower," Love said.

"You can start hearing 'boom, boom, boom' and seeing things flying," Jaramillo said.

"The tornado came through; (it) seemed like 10 minutes, but it was seven or eight seconds," Love said.

The reunited chefs served up equal shares of memories and respect.

"I'm proud of all of them. I know them all well, and it's interesting, 10 years later, to see where they've gone and how talented everybody is," Spears said.

He said Martha Stewart first described him as a cowboy chef. 

There's a special bond between people who work together in the kitchen," Love said.

The bond and the tradition of legendary Texas cuisine continues with Reata's newest executive chef, Juan Rodriguez, who was promoted in June 2009. At 28, he's the restaurant's youngest executive chef, proud of what he earned and respectful of what he inherited.

"I was amazed at how all these great chefs came through here, how they were trained and so on and went onto bigger and better things," he said.

But one chef remains from the days when Reata first opened in Fort Worth in 1996. Sous chef Fred Hamilton is the only one to have worked with all the other chefs, a past that ensures the future.

On March 28, Reata is recognizing the 10-year anniversary of the tornado with 10 items at $10. Items include a lunch portion of the carne asada, the last meal to come out of the kitchen the day the twister struck.

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