Contessa me in
One of the River Walk's most elevated hotels is reaching for even higher heights, announcing Michael Collins as the new executive chef. Collins will be responsible for all culinary experiences at the boutique Hotel Contessa, from in-room dining to the sophisticated chic Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails.
“We’re thrilled to have Chef join the team and bring an elevated approach to our Texas-inspired offerings,” says Denise Mojica, director of marketing for Hotel Contessa, in a release. “Since coming on board in August, he’s already made a huge improvement to our food program at Ambler; our new and loyal guests alike have been noticing and fully embracing the thoughtful and intentional changes.”
The chef brings 30 years of experience to the role, with extensive experience in the Texas Hill Country. He previously served as food & beverage director and executive chef at JL Bar Ranch Resort & Spa in Sonora, Texas, which he helped open. In San Antonio, he directed culinary operations and vision development as food & beverage director and executive chef at the Hilton San Antonio and held executive chef roles at the Elian Resort & Spa and Tapatio Springs Resort & Spa in nearby Boerne. He also boasts additional resort experience in prestigious locations across the country, and most recently served as an independent consultant for properties such as Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa in Moab, Utah; Lucky Arrow in Dripping Springs; the Kessler Collection in Orlando; and many more. He plans to put his own unique mark on the menus at Hotel Contessa.
“I’ve lived in Texas for the past 10 years, and have developed a huge love and appreciation for the preparation of food and ingredients of the region,” says Collins in the release. “We are lucky to have so many great purveyors, ranchers, and farmers right in our backyard. The plan is to utilize their produce and protein whenever possible in the dishes we prepare at Ambler.”
While the Ambler menu will always feature permanent signature items, seasonal dishes play an important role and rotate throughout the year.
“My goal is to offer good, simple comfort food at an elevated level. Think mom's cooking, but refined and using the best product available," Collins continues. “We are using seafood from the Gulf, and protein sourced from Central Texas. One of my favorites on the menu is our Texas Akaushi which we get from Beeman Ranch in Harwood, Texas.”
Other menu highlights will include shared plates such as cast iron goat cheese brulée; codigo poached and chilled shrimp; grilled Bandera quail; char-grilled oysters; and fried green tomatoes. New house specialties like blackened Gulf red snapper and seafood pappardelle will compete with the Texas Akaushi (which comes in flat iron form, New York Strip, tenderloin, ribeye, and Tomahawk) for diners' attention – no doubt necessitating repeat visits to mollify the anxiety of indecision.