By this time next week, a new chef will run the tiny kitchen inside The Old Main Association. But San Antonio food lovers should be pretty familiar with Quealy Watson by now. The new Watson-led menu launches July 5.
Watson's been working in area kitchens since 16, but began his career with Empty Stomach as chef at The Monterey before leaving the group and Texas in favor of traveling and working in kitchens across the U.S. He later returned with Hot Joy pop-up on Sundays and Mondays at now-shuttered The Monterey, and was named a Rising Star chef in February 2012 by starchefs.com. Hot Joy went on to earn the No. 7 spot in Bon Appetit
's yearly list of best new restaurants in 2014, just months after opening.
Watson announced his departure from Empty Stomach earlier this month, and stayed relatively quiet until earlier this week when he began posting job openings for a new kitchen.
He joins The Old Main Association, as previous chef Lorenzo Morales (formerly with Arcade Midtown Kitchen) concentrates on opening Jazz, TX.
Though the menu will almost-immediately draw comparison to The Monterey, Watson's going in a slightly different direction. Expect simpler foods that are well done rather than elaborate pairings that may or may not jive for all palates. The new menu will include evolving plates of pub food. Think items like Caesar-stuffed black olives; artichoke dip with pepitas, queso Oaxaca and chips; local tomatoes with fior di latte, pepperoni vinaigrette, pasta croutons and basil; baked Camembert with Bolognese jam and garlic bread; crispy hot wings with black chili molasses, goat cheese crema and cilantro and a few larger items such as wild mushroom stroganoff with fontina, a double cheeseburger and a King Ranch casserole.
"It's gonna feature mom's cooking, well, not my mom," Watson said. "I became obsessed with collecting cookbooks from the 1970s that were filled with casseroles."
The kitchen at Old Main Assoc. also resembles that of his old stomping grounds in that it is terribly small, which means some items might not make it into the menu based on what the kitchen can accommodate
Bottom line, Watson missed being in the kitchen.
"I miss cooking," he said.
And I'm sure plenty of people have missed his food.