Michael Cordúa – a pioneer of the Latin-American culinary movement in the United States – is Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cordúa Restaurants. His eight award-winning Houston-area restaurants include Américas River Oaks, Américas The Woodlands, Churrascos River Oaks, Churrascos Westchase, Churrascos Sugar Land, Amazón Grill, Artista, Churrascos Memorial City and Churrascos Champions, which opened in Fall 2014.
Acclaim for Cordúa Restaurants
Cordúa’s restaurants have met with national critical acclaim. The original Churrascos was named one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine in 1989. Américas was named “Restaurant of the Year” by Esquire in 1993. Texas Monthly magazine named Artista “Best New Texas Restaurant” in 2004. Esquire named the Churrasco one of the “20 Best Steaks in America” in 2008 and, most recently, Travel + Leisure magazine named Churrascos one of “The Best Steakhouses in the U.S.” in March 2013.
About Chef Michael Cordúa
Born in Managua, Nicaragua, Cordúa moved to the United States in 1976 to study at Texas A&M University. He graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a minor in Finance. While in College Station, he began to hone his cooking skills by preparing meals for his friends that reminded him of food from home. He also worked in the Sbisa Dining Hall at Texas A&M and got his first restaurant experience as a pot washer at Pepe Taco, a fast-food establishment.
Cordúa planned to return home to Nicaragua and work in banking after college but moved to Houston in light of the 1979 Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution. He worked in maritime shipping at the Port of Houston from 1980-85, which took him to London and other parts of Europe and exposed him to fine cuisine the likes of which he had never seen in his native country.
Searching for his next career, Cordúa nearly purchased a furniture store before opening his first restaurant on August 8, 1988, at 9788 Bissonnet St. on the western edge of Houston. He modeled Churrascos after his uncle’s popular restaurant in Managua – Los Ranchos – hoping to bring Latin-American cuisine beyond Mexican food to a mainstream American audience. His menu centered on the Churrasco steak, which has roots in Argentina and Nicaragua, and blended the excitement of American ingredients with the discipline of European techniques of cooking. The food was and is today inspired by Latin American cuisine but not native to any singular country.
Within a year of Churrascos’ opening, Cordúa was approved for a loan to open a second location in 1990 in River Oaks followed soon after by the first Américas restaurant on Post Oak Boulevard in 1993. Today, Cordúa works in tandem with his son, David, who joined the company in 2007 and now serves as Executive Chef. He now oversees the company’s five-member Board of Directors while continuing to serve as the visionary and face of Cordúa Restaurants, with a focus on maintaining the company philosophy as it continues to grow.
A self-taught chef with no formal training, the Nicaragua native is the only Texas chef to be included in the prestigious Food & Wine magazine Hall of Fame, earning induction in 2008. He was named one of America’s “Top Ten Chefs” by Food & Wine in and received the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence in 1994. He has been a James Beard Award semifinalist three times. In 2013, he was one of 25 chefs selected for the Food & Wine: Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook, in which Food & Wine selected one chef per year from its annual crop of 10 “Best New Chefs.” The only Texas chef in the book, Cordúa is featured alongside American culinary royalty such as Thomas Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Colicchio, John Besh and David Chang.
One of the tenets of Cordúa’s restaurants is “Cordúality,” his personal spin on hospitality. Cordúa describes it as “the same hospitality that you would feel if you come and be served at one of our homes.” He and his staff welcome guests with amplitude and open arms, hoping to anticipate their whims and needs while providing an abundance of food that is “yummy, Latin and artistic.”
Cordúa has worked for 24 years with Casa de Esperanza, a haven for children in crisis due to abuse, neglect or the effects of HIV. He serves on the board of directors of Casa de Esperanza, the Houston Zoo, Houston Art Alliance and Houston Food Bank. He is a past member of the board of directors of the University of St. Thomas, Strake Jesuit Preparatory School, Catholic Charities, Save Our ERs, the American Leadership Forum and Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Cordúa received his Master of Business Administration from Rice University in 2008. He lives in Houston with his wife, Lucia. They have four children: David Cordúa, Elisa Cordúa Tavera, Cristina Cordúa and Michelle Cordúa Mirshak; and two grandchildren: Amelia and Annelise Mirshak.