From Pint to Plate with Chef Kent Rathbun

In Houston we are lucky enough to have a place like Central Market. It is the go-to place when searching for hard-to-find or exotic ingredients, or maybe just a little variety.  We weren’t always so lucky.  Although the first Central Market opened in Austin in 1994, we didn’t get one in Houston location until 2001.

They also offer fantastic tastings and cooking classes. As part of Discover Brewtopia, we attended an event that combined both. Chef Kent Rathbun of Abacus, Jasper’s & Rathbun’s Blue Plate cooked up four distinct and delicious dishes paired with four different beers.

Chef Kent Rathbun

Kent Rathbun at Houston's Central Market by Amy Corron PowerRathbun’s is the kind of success story every cook dreams of.  At age 14, he entered the restaurant world. Lying about his age and claiming to be 15, Rathbun got a job as dishwasher at Sambo’s, a chain diner started in 1957 by Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett that Rathbun says was “like Denny’s, except with a Tiger.” He introduced himself to the night chef, saying he really wanted to learn. Three weeks later he was cooking.

By 17, Rathbun got an apprenticeship at La Bonne Auberge, a 5-star restaurant where his mother was Maitre D’. He became an executive chef at 21, and, Rathbun says, he’s “never done anything else since.” After running a catering service for the Dallas Museum of Art and serving as sous chef in Dallas’ Mansion on Turtle Creek, Rathbun decided open his own restaurant.  Abacus, which will celebrate its 11th anniversary this month, has consistently maintained a 5-star rating from The Dallas Morning News since 2002. That is until L.A. transplant and restaurant critic Leslie Brenner’s tornado-infused review last week. We dined there with the Urban Wineauxs last year. We have no complaints about the food, the wine or the service during our visit.

In addition to Abacus, Rathbun has Shinsei and Rathbun’s Blue Plate in Dallas, Zea WoodFire Grill in Plano, and Jaspers in Dallas, Austin and The Woodlands. He also just added a collection of sauces and rubs that are exclusive to Central Market this month, Kent Rathbun Elements. Each is priced at $6.99

From Pint To Plate Food and Beer Pairings

For this Central Market cooking class, the chef had selected the following recipes:

1. Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Ugly Pug Beer Braised Vidalia Onions and Ancho Barbecue Sauce, paired with Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug Black Lager (Fort Worth, Texas)
2. Grilled Chicken & Shishito Pepper Skewers with Jasmine Rice and Yellow Curry Sauce, paired with Kirin Ichiban Special Premium Reserve (Tokyo, Japan)
3. Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Texas Peach Barbecue Sauce and Blonde Beer Braised Cream Corn, paired with Rahr & Sons Blonde Lager
4. Cinnamon-Chocolate Molten Cake with Cherry Beer Ice Cream, paired with Lindeman’s Kriek Lambic (Brussels, Belgium)

Chef Rathbun says when he’s in front of cooking classes he prefers to teach tips and techniques to help cook. “Anyone can read a recipe,” he says, but he rarely uses them. “I just cook,” he says. Nevertheless, each class participant was provided with a recipe booklet, along with information about each of the paired beers. We thought we’d include a couple of the recipes and show you pictures of the finished dishes.

The First Course

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Beer Braised Vidalia Onions and Ancho Barbecue Sauce
(See Recipe*)

For the Vidalia Onions you’ll need the following ingredients:

2 ounces whole butter
2 cups Vidalia onions, peeled & Julienne thin
2 Tablespoons garlic, peeled & brunoise
1 cup Ugly Pug Beer
1 Tablespoon Kent Rathbun Elements Steak & Chop Garlic Salt

In a heated cast iron skillet, melt butter in existing lamb fat and start to saute onion. Continue sauteing onions until they begin to caramelize. Season with Kent Rathbun Elements Steak & Chop Garlic Salt. Add a cup of the beer to the onions and continue cooking them until the beer starts to thicken and is nearly evaporated. Place the onions on a large platter, top with the meatballs*(recipe below) and finish with Kent Rathbun Elements Ancho Barbecue Sauce. Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug Black Lager also pairs with this dish.

The Second Course

Grilled Chicken and Shishito Pepper Skewers with Jasmine Rice and Yellow Curry Sauce

The Third Course

Pan Roasted Striped Bass with Texas Peach BBQ Sauce and Blonde Beer Braised Cream Corn

And Finally, Dessert

Cinnamon – Chocolate Molten Cake with Cherry-Beer Ice Cream


Iron Chef America and Beating Bobby Flay

After the class ended, Chef Rathbun sat down with us to answer some questions. We wanted to know how it felt to beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America. Along with his brother Kevin, also a chef and owner of Rathbun’s in Athlanta, Georgia, Kent created 5 dishes with the “secret ingredient” in Battle Elk.

If you watch the episode, the differences in Flay’s and “Brothers Rathbun” presentation are pretty striking. While Flay’s dishes are rustic and heavy (Elk burgers, Osso Buco), the Brothers Rathbun dishes looked like fine dining – beautifully plated, small dishes like Elk Carpaccio on painted pesto topped with a slice of dried peach.

Rathbun says that after the competition ended Chef Flay told them, “The minute I saw your plates, I knew we had lost.”

When the winner is announced, you can almost see “No Way!” on Chef Kent Rathbun’s face.

“Our goal was just not to look foolish,” he says.

For more information on Chef Kent Rathbun, his restaurants and new product line, visit his website at For information about Central Market Cooking Schools visit their site at


Spicy Lamp Meatballs with Ugly Pug Beer Recipe

2 ounces olive oil
1/2 cup white onion, peeled and brunoise
2 tablespoons garlic, peeled and brunoise
2 tablespoons shallot, peeled and brunoise
2 pounds ground lamb
2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped
4 tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped
2 Kent Rathbun Elements Steak & Chop Garlic Salt
Kent Rathbun Elements Ancho Barbecue Sauce

In a hot saute pan, add olive oil and saute onions, garlic, and shallots until they start to caramelize. Remove from heat and cool. In a large mixing bowl, add ground lamb with sauteed onions, garlic and shallots until incorporated. Add chopped basil and 1/2 of the parsley and season with the Steak & Chop Garlic Salt. using a 1 ounce ice cream scoop, make meatballs and place on a cookie sheet. In a cast iron skillet on medium heat, place meatballs in skillet and brown all sides. Transfer meatballs onto a clean sheet pan and store in a warm oven.

After onions have been prepared and placed on a platter, transfer meatballs into the skillet on medium heat and add Kent Rathbun Elements Ancho Barbecue Sauce. Bring meatballs to a simmer. Once the sauce is hot, arrange the meatballs on top of the onions and finish with the remaining sauce. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.

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