Chef Johnny Hernandez Expands His Edible Empire
By: Kimberly Suta
Chef Johnny Hernandez is easily one of the most successful chefs and restaurateurs in Texas, with multiple restaurants in the Lone Star State and beyond. This preeminent chef, known for his authentic interior Mexican cuisine, is often lauded for his San Antonio restaurant, La Gloria, of which there are four locations, including one in Las Vegas. He has even been courted by international companies to bring La Gloria overseas, but in the end, he decided to help develop another Mexican-inspired restaurant called MEXIco, which has since launched in the U.K.
Now, Chef Hernandez is gearing up to open two brand new concepts in San Antonio: Burgerteca and Villa Rica. These restaurants, which will share a kitchen, will be the very first on the south Mission Reach part of the Riverwalk. “I think what’s exciting about it is definitely the location. There’s a new resurgence of people coming back to Blue Star [contemporary arts complex] to see the Mission Reach, a World Heritage destination, and one of the most incredible public spaces in the country,” he said.
Photo Courtesy of Josie Rees
Burgerteca is a particularly unique concept. Not only will they be serving delicious burgers made with traditional Mexican ingredients, but the best part is the restaurant will also have its own in-house ice cream shop. Also Mexican-inspired, you will be able to satisfy your sweet tooth with a variety of frozen treats, such as raspas, paletas, and nieves (traditional Mexican ice cream). The house special will be the ice cream nachos, Mexican bunuelos topped with ice cream, scratch-made fruit syrups and Oaxacan chocolate fudge. “We wanted to do something evergreen, and burgers are a part of Americana that is timeless,” shared Chef Hernandez. “And ice cream is a wonderful compliment to the burgers.”
Villa Rica, on the other hand, will offer Mexican seafood, ceviche, and for all the cocktail lovers, a mojito bar. No doubt the fresh, coastally-inspired dishes, such as the Gulf Shrimp Aguachile, made with serrano peppers, lime and cilantro broth-marinated shrimp, cucumbers, and red onion, will be a customer favorite before long.
Chef Hernandez is more than just a talented chef and savvy entrepreneur; he also has an altruistic and passionate soul, always looking for opportunities to lend a hand. When Hurricane Harvey hit, he and his team rushed to help feed the victims, and even held a fundraiser for the mayor’s hurricane relief fund. He was also instrumental in helping San Antonio obtain the recent designation as a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). So what is next for this great chef?
“This next year I want to learn more about fermentation and distillation,” he laughed. “I’m going to distillation school in January. For many years, I’ve been travelling to Mexico and learning about Tequila and Mezcal, and now I can begin to call some of the shots on how I want things distilled.” Expect to see the results of this exciting venture very soon.
Photo Courtesy of Ashley Cass, Giant Noise
Photo Courtesy of Josie Rees