Chef Brent Hines is out to shatter the “chicken and rubber lunch” metaphor that has plagued planners of group meetings in hotels and convention centers since Fred Flintstone’s first meeting at Water Buffalo Lodge.
Hines, executive chef at the Fort Worth Convention Center since July 2021, not only aims to enhance a culinary conference experience with euphoric blends of flavors, but also to transform the convention center into a culinary destination in its own right.
“My vision is to make the Fort Worth Convention Center’s kitchen a destination for groups looking for a special food and beverage experience,” he said. “I design new menus using local flavors and locally sourced ingredients. We want people to remember the food and ask for the recipes.”
Hines, a native Texan, grew up in Chico, Wise County on an exotic game farm leased to deer hunters. Farm to Table was part of his upbringing and daily life, where his family harvested livestock, fish and game, as well as a two-acre garden. Her nearest neighbor was three miles away.
However, he was not isolated from the world. His father was an American Airlines pilot, so Hines traveled the world and became a foodie, always picking a random — but unknown to him — most expensive item on a foreign menu.
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, he ended up at Keystone Ranch in Colorado, a Zagot rated top fine dining restaurant, where he created the menu, oversaw preparation and served as executive chef.
“I credit boss David there for 90% of my education,” Hines said. “Products were sourced from all over the world and everything was made from scratch.”
Hines returned to Texas to be closer to his family and at age 27 had his first job as an executive chef at Sky Creek Ranch in Keller, which has won multiple awards for Best New Restaurant and Best Steakhouse. He then moved to global foodservice giants Gaylord and Benchmark before working as Executive Chef at Winewood Grill in Grapevine and Executive Sous Chef at Park House Dallas. Hines joined Trinity Food and Beverage, a division of the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, in June 2021 as Executive Chef of the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Wondering how a chef prepares 1,000 exquisite dishes for a conference or gala?
“Planning, timing. It can take four days to receive, prepare and stage three more chefs and other staff for a 45-minute event,” Hines said. “It’s a super organized assembly line with people assigned to the ovens, people assigned to serving and garnishing, then the hotbox and then the event.
“It’s a different kind of rush and mass production than in a restaurant. You know what your week is going to be like, menus are planned. And we can relax and enjoy after everything is done.”
Chef Hines and two other sous chefs, recruited from a previous employer for the convention center, design new menus for Trinity F&B. Customers can expect presentations with natural colors, such as bright orange from a carrot or a variety of reds and pinks from radishes.
Hines mixes his own seasonings and all dressings and sauces from scratch to create unique flavor combinations with Texas, French, Asian, Italian, Caribbean and Mediterranean influences. Marquee dishes include filet bruschetta with arugula pesto and tomato jam, which he describes as “Italian with a Texas twist.” Other new menu items include grilled Texan watermelon with hydroponic vegetables, local goat cheese and smoked blueberry dressing; Lobster Mac & Cheese with Brandy Cream, Truffle Essence and Chervil; and duck quesadillas with poblano crema and corn pico de gallo.
“I’m an artist with a blank canvas, and your taste buds are the impression intended. If the flavors are well balanced, as it all comes together in your mouth, you should feel euphoric.”
The Fort Worth Convention Center, originally built in 1968 and expanded in 2002, is planning a $450 million incremental expansion over the next five years that will include a new, state-of-the-art catering kitchen capable of larger capacity shows 5,000-10,000 visitors.
With two sons aged 6 and 11, Hines enjoys camping, fishing, BBQs and the outdoors which makes cooking a generational affair. His grandparents Bobby and Wadene Hines had several restaurants in Fort Worth: Anne’s Café, Bobby’s, Fleetway on 28th St. and Wadene’s, which is now the Star Café in the historic Stockyards District. In fact, Wadene was an active business supporter in the restoration of the Stockyards in the 1970s and 1980s, and Chef Hines’ great-grandfather owned the Drive In Cattle Commission company in the 1900s.
“My grandparents both had a passion for Fort Worth and food sharing, and although my grandfather died before I was born, it’s in my blood.”
Andra Bennett works in the City of Fort Worth’s Department of Public Events