Five Minutes With Ronnie Killen, Award-Winning Chef & Restaurateur

by Gabi De la Rosa on March 11, 2019 in Food+Drink, Living Texas, Houston,
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Brisket, boots and pizza?

It seems like the unlikeliest of combinations, but there is one man that could make it work and that is Ronnie Killen. Famous for his BBQ, Killen has been cooking since he was a child and eventually went off to the renowned Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in London. He has cooked in notable restaurants all over the country and was even considered for the position of White House Executive Chef.

Luckily for Houstonians, Killen came back to Texas and has opened five restaurants in Pearland and Houston: Killen’s Steakhouse, Killen’s BarbequeKillen’s BurgersKillen’s STQ and, his latest venture, Killen’s TMX. The award-winning chef has been honored and nominated for just about every culinary award you can think of, but he stays true to his culinary roots of using the best ingredients to highlight the natural flavor of the food.

We sat down with Killen to talk about his new partnership with Papa John’s Pizza – the Barbeque Brisket Pizza which will be available through Houston’s rodeo season (March 31st) and served at NRG stadium.

How did the Barbeque Brisket Pizza come about?

I have been wanting to do something different with pizza for a long time now, and this pizza reminds me of putting together a barbeque sandwich with a slice of bread, pickles, onions and a little sauce—except now you have different textures of cheese and crust.

Famous for his barbecue, Ronnie Killen partnered up with Papa John’s for the ultimate Barbecue Brisket Pizza. Photo Dragana Harris

What made Papa John’s stand out as a good partner for this venture?

I originally met Keith Sullins, president of Papa John’s Houston, through my relationship with the Houston Texans and NRG Stadium. He thought it would be great to partner up to try and come up with something for rodeo season. Papa John’s is all about fresh ingredients—when I went to their test kitchen there were no freezers, it was all fresh food. So, I knew that this would be a good relationship because we have the same beliefs in what we do. I am looking forward to not only the barbeque pizza, but we also have four other pizzas that we are working on.

How do you ensure that the brisket on the pizza will hold up to your standard of what barbeque should be?

I have actually tried to get Killen’s barbeque made in large quantities before, but it is really difficult to make it consistent for mass production and hold up to our standards. Papa John’s is already set up for this sort of mass production and once I got in their test kitchens – I knew it would work. The meat is Texas-local from Welder, Texas, they prepare it like we would and use all the same seasonings.

Aside from pizza, why do you think Killen’s restaurants stand out in the Houston food scene?

I let the food speak for itself – it is not over seasoned, I only use fresh ingredients and it’s cooked the right way.

Where are you spending most of your time right now?

Right now, my focus in on my newest restaurant, TMX. I spent a lot of time in Mexico sourcing ingredients and learning about regional Mexican food. Everything in the restaurant from the cutlery to the plates is from Mexico – we wanted it to be as authentic as possible. We are trying to make regional Mexican food that is approachable. Not too spicy, but letting the natural flavors speak for themselves.

Cover Ronnie Killen. Photo Kimberly Park

Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx