It doesn’t take much to get Danny Trace, executive chef of Brennan’s of Houston, to talk about his love of Creole cuisine. “What makes Creole so unique is that it is constantly evolving and taking on influences from new cultures and nationalities,” Trace explains. “Keeping up with that is exciting.” Whether attending a boucherie, a communal Cajun-style pig butchering, or going on a hunting excursion with his two sons on a day off, Trace draws culinary inspiration from his daily life and is always seeking out different techniques and new approaches to his food though working with Texas’s food artisans and vendors. “The chance to find and work with new farmers and new purveyors all the time is so exciting,” he says. “I feel like I’ve just started to scratch the surface of Texas products to learn about.”
Trace has been part of Brennan’s of Houston since 2009 and the Brennan’s family of restaurants for the entirety of his career, close to 20 years. After graduating from Johnson & Wales in Norfolk, VA, he completed his externship at the bustling Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, at which he worked every station and learned the ropes of fine dining in the restaurant’s storied and traditional setting. He next assumed the role of executive sous chef, with the opportunity to fine-tune his culinary identity and immerse himself in the world of Creole and Cajun cuisine.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped the city of New Orleans apart, leaving a wake of devastation in its path, including the destruction of Trace’s home in its entirety and severely damaging his place of work. After briefly retreating to Texas with his family, Trace returned to the Big Easy as executive chef of Café Adelaide, another Brennan family establishment widely noted for its joie de vivre and cocktail-culture spirit. He helped the restaurant celebrate its post-hurricane reopening on Thanksgiving Day 2005. A new opportunity within this family restaurant group presented itself in 2008, when Trace moved to the new Commander’s Palace and the On the Rocks Bar in Destin, FL. His signature haute Creole cuisine, influenced by Louisiana roots and touches of “Floribbean” flair, quickly established the restaurant as a culinary paradise in Southern vacation hot spot.
After three successful years at Commander’s in Florida, Trace moved back to Texas once again, this time to assume the head chef position at Brennan’s of Houston. It is through this journey of his career that Trace feels as though he has completed a “full tour” of the Gulf Coast, enriching his life both professionally and personally. Today, his cooking philosophy remains the same as it has always been: to create dining memories through classic yet innovative Texas Creole cuisine.
Outside of the kitchen, Trace spends his free time outdoors and can often be found fishing, crabbing, and hunting with his two sons, Gage, 10, and Gavin, 8. In March 2015, he married his wife in the British Virgin Islands.