San Antonio chef Leo Davila’s first attempt at cooking a meal for himself didn’t turn out as well as he had hoped. Davila was 18 years old when he got his own apartment and brought groceries home, so he could make dinner.

“I made this feast and took a couple of bites, and the next thing I knew, I was bolting to the bathroom because I gave myself food poisoning,” Davila, 37, told MySA during a recent interview. “At that moment, I didn’t think cooking was for me.”

Luckily, Davila didn’t give up after one culinary mishap. In fact, he got a lot better at it.

Today, he is the chef and owner of Stixs & Stone near Leon Valley (5718 Wurzbach), a restaurant that combines the flavors of the two cultures Davila grew up with. His father is Mexican, and his mother is Chinese. Davila is also one of the contestants on the new Food Network competition, Big Restaurant Bet, which debuted last week. Up for grabs is $ 250,000 from globally renowned chef and restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian.

“In Big Restaurant Bet, viewers will follow the journey and dreams of eight talented chefs that are passionate about launching their own restaurant, ”Zakarian said in a statement. “The stakes are high, and my own reputation is on the line as we find America’s next great restaurateur.”

After a failed attempt at opening a restaurant in his late 20s with his father, Davila, who is a 2002 graduate of Taft High School, said that if he wanted to succeed in the culinary industry, he knew he would have to go to culinary school . So, he enrolled at the Art Institute of San Antonio in 2014.

“After being in culinary school for a year, I still didn’t think I was meant for it,” Davila said. “But then, something just clicked.”

Davila got the chance to work at Mixtli under chefs Diego Galicia and Rico Torres, along with other mentors throughout the years. Those opportunities, he said, gave him the confidence to pursue his dream of owning his own restaurant.

At Stixs & Stone, Davila serves unique dishes like Chicken & Hong Kong waffles (sweet potato waffles with honey soy chile-glazed chicken tenders and bourbon pecan maple syrup) and a taco plate called the Big Red & Barbacoa Taco Flight made with homemade Big Red corn tortillas, barbacoa, strawberry and Big Red jam, house pesto, chile de arbol salsa and queso fresco.

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