Rising Star Chef Rene Ortiz of La Condesa - Biography

Austin, TX

February 2012

It turns out you can go home again—if you’re a chef, anyway. Born in Houston and raised in San Antonio, native Texan and 2012 Rising Star Chef Rene Ortiz spent two decades traveling the world, expanding his horizons and cultivating his international culinary skills. But like any good Texan, Ortiz eventually returned home.

Ortiz began his culinary career in Vancouver, as chef de cuisine for Robert Clark at Star Anise, named “Canada's Best Restaurant of the Year” in 1996 by Gourmet Magazine. Ortiz went on to work his way through the brasseries and bistros of Western Europe, absorbing and exploring various culinary styles and pantries. By 1998, Ortiz found himself once again stateside, though still far from home, working under luminaries like Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, and Jean-Louis Pallidan in New York City.

After a stint as chef de cuisine at Douglas Rodriguez’s Latin-American Patria, Ortiz began consulting with some high-profile restaurant investors and chefs. Mark Miller of Santa Fe's Coyote Cafe asked Ortiz to revamp the menus for Wildfire and Ocean Room, Miller's restaurants in Sydney, Australia. While in Sydney, Ortiz helped launch the Emerald Room at Industrie, an upscale French bistro. In 2007, Ortiz stopped back in New York, opening La Esquina (one of Time Out New York’s “Best New Restaurants”) as executive chef.

After two decades, Ortiz finally returned to the Lone Star state with a world’s worth of wisdom, a résumé of high-profile employers, and an authoritative palate—all of which coalesce in the kitchen of La Condesa. A culinary homage to Mexico City's popular Condesa neighborhood, the restaurant offers contemporary Mexican cuisine inspired by the diverse cultures and varied regions of Mexico—ideal for a chef whose ambitions have taken him all over, and whose palate never settles for anything less than bold variety. In late 2012 he also opened up Sway, a Thai-inspired restaurant.