My Top 5: Culinary Director and Executive Chef Brandi Key

Culinary Director and Executive Chef Brandi Key shares her top 5 things to do in Houston | Pictured: Sabrina Miskelly; Courtesy of Brandi Key

In our My Top 5 series, we look to the Houstonians who create and shape the character of Houston and ask them to share their own favorite things that make H-Town their home. This week we are thrilled to introduce Brandi Key, Culinary Director of Five 12 Restaurant Concepts (Dish Society and Daily Gather) and Executive Chef of Daily Gather.

My top 5 things to do in Houston

by Brandi Key

1. Heights – I am blessed that collectively my family lives here, works here and plays here. I’m so proud to have one of our restaurants up in the hills – well done to the team at dish company! Get the hot chicken sandwich, you won’t be disappointed! I live around the corner Houston Farmers Market, El Bolillo Bakery and (fingers crossed) reopening soon Tampico which has my favorite ceviche tostada in town. Alice Blue will always have a piece of my heart, but seriously, go get one of Claire Smith’s pastries – the weekend monkey buns are a real treat! Stroll down the street for the best shopping. My favorites are Edge of Vinal, AG Antiques, Manready Mercantileand Dramatika. Finally, don’t miss my favorite martini in town, made by some of my favorite people in town: Terry’s Martini at squable.

2. The Menil Collection – When I first stepped onto the manicured lawns, this place had my heart set and ever since. I’ve been blessed with picnics on the lawn, quiet times in chapels, interesting conversations centered around new exhibits, and lazy afternoons on a blanket with my partner. My life has changed many times at this location, but never as much as the number of talented artists who have been showcased here for all to experience.

3. Texas Art Supply – Truth be told, while living in Houston, I never finished opening a new menu or restaurant without walking the aisles of this store! They have my favorite notebooks, pens and pencils which I used to sketch out all the food ideas for new projects. The colors and textures of pencils and paper inspire me, and this store has it all!

4. little champions – For a date! Jason Vaughan is my favorite chef in town and I love what he does with vegetables, the way he layers flavors and the abundant use of herbs in their dishes. I could eat Braised Butter Beans every day if I could! The thoughtfulness and heart that goes into all the small plates, pizzas and pasta is addictive and the cozy environment is the perfect backdrop to disconnect for a moment and spend time with friends and family.

5. Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern – This ancient underground water reservoir is a site to see and feel! This tour is so simple but the space is breathtaking. You can feel so much in this space. My bucket list event is attending a concert being held in this space – I can’t imagine how the music bounces through the space and how that vibration feels as you experience the music. It gives me chills just thinking about it!

About Brandi Key

Brandi Key grew up in the Texas Panhandle eating from her mother’s rugged edible gardens and cooking Southern comfort foods and seasonal produce alongside her grandparents. Key began working at Pappas Restaurants in Houston, where over the next 12 years she rose through the ranks from chain cook to head of research and development. She then learned the French technique in San Francisco before returning to Houston, where she opened Coppa Ristorante Italiano and launched Coppa Osteria, Punk’s Simple Southern Food, SaltAir Seafood Kitchen and The Dunlavy. In January 2022, she participated in the launch of Five 12’s second brand, daily gathering, a more ambitious partner restaurant of Dish Society, located in CITYCENTRE. As Executive Chef, Key offers a dynamic menu of reimagined American classics that is heavily influenced by local, seasonal ingredients and the many global cuisines represented in Houston.

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