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Following last week’s news that Killen’s Steakhouse tapped veteran Steve Haug as its new executive chef, Owner/Chef Ronnie Killen welcomes more fresh talent to his leadership team, with Graham Laborde stepping in as operations chef for Killen’s Restaurants. In this newly created role, Laborde will employ his proven management skills, fine dining experience and finesse with Gulf Coast cooking to assist Killen in overseeing his ever-expanding restaurant group.
“With the possibility of opening a Killen’s Barbecue in Austin, it is important for me to have someone on board who can touch a little bit of all the restaurants daily and support the chefs and teams in Pearland and Houston,” says Killen, who is also eyeing restaurant space inside Houston’s loop for a second barbecue joint and steakhouse. “Graham will make sure the high quality is maintained. He’s very hands on, we have very similar leadership styles and his fine dining style of plating is impressive and something that will be welcomed.”
Laborde was also hand-selected for his seafood savvy and has been tasked with developing the group’s seafood offerings, particularly at Killen’s Steakhouse and Killen’s STQ. “His vast knowledge of seafood brings a lot to the table,” says Killen. “Having Steve and Graham at the Steakhouse will be the best of both worlds with steak and seafood. At STQ, Chef Teddy Lopez is great at the Japanese-Asian influence, while Graham will bring in more Gulf Coast style seafood.”
Laborde, who graduated from Johnson and Wales school in Rhode Island, started his culinary career in New Orleans where he worked at restaurants such as Commander’s Palace, Stella and Boucherie. Prior to joining Killen’s Restaurants, he worked as Operations Manager for Blackhill Ranch and Texas Ranchers Network and more recently as Culinary Director for Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory.
“I’m excited about working with Ronnie. What I immediately admire about him is how hard he works. If it’s making all the barbecue himself at NRG stadium or touching all the restaurants every single day … he’s been there,” says Laborde. “He’s a guy whose motor doesn’t have an off switch. That’s something I see in myself and I totally respect.” Laborde says he’s also looking forward to being an upper level manager with a restaurant group that is playing at a high level. “Ronnie’s a guy I get to learn from and his team is a group I get to fit into, and not the other way around.”
Laborde, who has been managing multiple restaurants for the past five months, says that role has allowed him to grow as a chef. You really appreciate the unique characteristics of the individual restaurants,” says Laborde. “For Ronnie, he essentially wants a chef with standards that match his own to free his time to expand on his restaurants and brand. I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of hats to wear, but I’m ready to rise to the challenge.”
Laborde will first focus on overseeing and elevating the seafood programs at Killen’s Steakhouse and Killen’s STQ.
“Having both Graham and Steve on our team is going to benefit all of us,” says Killen.