Chef brings unique style to Vintage Park
By VALERIE SWEETEN
The grand opening of the Trio Steakhouse & Bar in Vintage Park will be one more feather in the cap of restaurateur, Youssef Nafaa.
The restaurant, which opened in May, is located at Texas 249 and Louetta.
The grand opening is scheduled for Thursday, June 24.
Nafaa, a 1994 graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality School of Chicago, brings years of expertise to Trio Steakhouse & Bar.
His current restaurants, which are located throughout the Houston area, include Saffron, Mia Bella, Coco's and Andalucia Spanish Tapas.
Some of his former Houston restaurants are Mi Luna, Collins Chop House & Whiskey Bar, Cielo's Mexican Bistro and Cava Bistro.
Nafaa's inspiration for recipes has stemmed from cooking with his family.
As a native of Morocco, Nafaa was exposed to good food.
I was always in the kitchen with my mom," said Nafaa, a Memorial area resident. The food had to be perfect. I was licking the pots. My grandmother was also a fabulous cook.
They made the most wonderful dishes out of the simplest things in life. They were always thinking of what to make for lunch and dinner. They did this with love. There was a passion for cooking."
He is hands-on when developing new menus.
Every time I make a dish, I want it to be something people crave. I try to give each dish a lot of thought. As a chef, I do my best to cater to the people and not to myself. I always have them in mind. It's challenging, but fun," Nafaa said.
Longtime customer Korinthia Miller makes the drive from Missouri City as often as possible to frequent his restaurants.
She is most impressed by Nafaa's approach to dining.
He's a great chef, but so humble. He has the kind of skills that create dishes in a new way. They're outstanding. The portions are great and so rich in taste.
You'd be hard-pressed to find anything so good. If you get the opportunity to meet him, he's a great person," Miller said.
Ron Hixon has worked with Nafaa during the past two years in various managerial positions.
He recently became the first franchise owner of Mia Bella at 320 Main St.
Hixon is most inspired by Nafaa's dedication to customers and high quality food.
He is so creative and so patient. Most of the time, he has a smile on his face. His food is always perfect and fits into each concept. He's willing to take chances and is always hands-on.
I couldn't have picked a better business partner to work with," Hixon said.
Nafaa, the fifth of seven children to Fatima and Mansour Nafaa, came to United States at the age of 21 after working throughout Europe in the food industry.
He settled in Chicago and started as a restaurant bus boy. He advanced quickly to manager and chef while attending the Cooking and Hospitality School of Chicago.
After graduation, Nafaa worked in the luxury hotel industry in management, but left soon after to open his own upscale family restaurant.
He sold the restaurant and became the executive chef of Courtwright's restaurant, where he created dishes for leading food artists and winemakers, including Robert Mondavi.
Nafaa came to Houston as a consultant in the late nineties and ended up opening Mi Luna, the first tapas restaurant in the city. Mia Bella shortly followed in 1999.
The business has grown so rapidly that Nafaa has renamed his enterprises, The Bella Restaurant Group.
For Nafaa, it has all been a labor of love to share with his wife, Mary Kay Nafaa, and their three sons, Adam, Omar and Zach.
He wants to pass on how food impacts relationships, memories and lives to his family, friends and customers.
Eating food has to be fun," he said. It helps with great conversations. When people leave their plates clean, that's wonderful.
There's always a big question in my mind if I'm doing everything right. I always hope they are happy."