Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Cox

Neal Cox

Executive Chef, The Houstonian Hotel

Native Texan and lifelong Houstonian Neal Cox found his way into his first restaurant kitchens while studying Criminal Justice in college. Little did he know, what he saw and learned as a server and bartender would lead him to the culinary helm of some of his own hometown's finest restaurants and earn him a growing reputation as one of the city's most talented and innovative chefs. “I was always in the kitchens watching the cooks and asking questions,” he said. “Then I would go home and try to recreate those dishes and share them with family and friends. I just couldn't get enough!” Recognizing that his interest had become a true passion, Chef Cox enrolled at the Art Institute of Houston in 1998, where he found inspiration. Before long, he was working for some of Houston's premier restaurants including Churrasco's and Americas, as well as Trevisio (where he worked under renowned Chef Alan Ashkinaze). Before long, Chef Cox himself was handed over the reins of a prominent Houston kitchen when he was named Chef at Zula. He later moved on to become the Chef of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, where he was instrumental in earning the restaurant the coveted title of “No. 1 Steakhouse in Texas” by Texas Monthly Magazine. Given this success and growing profile, it was little surprise that this rising hometown star found his way to one of the crown jewels of the Houston culinary scene at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. Chef Cox joined the team there as Executive Sous Chef under the property's longtime Executive Chef, Jeff Everts. When Everts was promoted to the position of Food and Beverage Director in April of 2011, the executive team at The Houstonian had no need to look outside its own kitchen to help ensure the continuation of its long tradition of culinary excellence. “I could not be happier to be in the position I am,” Chef Cox said. “As a lifelong Houstonian, I feel a great amount of pride about leading what has been not only a culinary leader here in Houston but one of the top culinary destinations in the country.” One way he does that is by drawing on a wide range of cultural culinary influences and sharing his formidable skills with Houston's society notables and the major celebrities, business and political leaders who regularly visit. “The United States is blessed with such a unique blend of cultures, and nowhere is this melting pot more evident, or more delicious, than right here in Texas.” Chef Cox, in addition to his work at The Houstonian, is very active in the community, volunteering his time and expertise to organizations including Recipe for Success, the acclaimed not-for-profit organization aimed at preventing childhood obesity and encouraging long term health.

Mr. Cox can be contacted at 713-680-2626 or ncox@houstonian.com

Coming up in September 2019...

Hotel Group Meetings: Uncommon Destinations

The last few years have been good to the Hotel Group Meetings industry and that trend is expected to continue into 2019. Planners are brimming with confidence due to an expanding economy and increased job creation, which typically results in a boost in corporate meetings. Given this promising outlook, planners are trying to outdo themselves to satisfy the high expectations of their clients. One notable trend is to integrate unusual settings into the meeting experience, hosting groups at local zoos, aquariums, museums, event centers, or other outdoor facilities. The goal is to embrace uncommon destinations, rather than a typical hotel conference room, so that meetings can be memorable, unique and stimulating. This is also part of another trend which is to support all things local - from hosting events at landmark city venues; to catering through local restaurants, food trucks and microbreweries; to hosting off-site excursions like agri-tours, athletic events or scenic 5k routes. However, though the setting might be spectacular, there are still some bedrock components that must be provided to ensure a successful meeting. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi is still one of the most requested services. Planners have to make sure that a comprehensive communication infrastructure is in place so clients can easily connect - and stay connected - to the network throughout the entire meeting experience. Also, technology tools can be used to streamline the booking, registration, and check-in process, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) materials can be utilized to ensure seamless access to conference events. There are also numerous software tools that encourage audience participation, as well as integrating polls, Q&A, surveys and games into speakers' presentations. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group meetings and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.