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A Q&A With Rene Ortiz

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A few weeks ago, former La Condesa and Sway chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki announced the formation of a new restaurant group alongside Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon owners Margaret Vera and Tracy Overath. The four culinary minds are working diligently together to unveil a series of new projects in 2014, including Laundrette (an upscale café-grocery), the Angry Bear (classic Chinese takeout), and additional Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon locations. And that’s just the beginning.

Recently, Ortiz gave Texas Monthly a glimpse into what to expect from his newest-and-most-exciting collaboration to date and discussed his reasoning behind leaving Sway and La Condesa.

On Laundrette: It’s not simple or extremely complex cuisine. The food will be family-style, almost like bringing home to you. Think things like leg of lamb, biscuits, hamburgers, pork with gravy – basically classic foods you crave every day.  

On the Angry Bear: It’s a very playful, lighthearted project. The Angry Bear is actually a character of mine. He does lots of things: he loves to eat, he loves to dance, and I think of him in the 1980s surrounded by neon lights and glitter. The art of the food will be classic technique combined with great ingredients. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by what they find on the menu.  

On his pastry chef, Laura Sawicki: Laura is my best friend. She enlightens me and I enlighten her. The best decision I ever made was working with Laura. We’ve taught each other so much and we always push each other forward. She’s a rock star and I can’t wait to see what we create together. She’s currently working on some new ice creams and pastries. This is definitely her best work yet.

On leaving La Condesa and Sway: It was time, and this is a better suited partnership for the next step. I want to be able to able to support and build wealth for my family, and this was something I had thought about for a long time.

On opening projects similar to Sway and La Condesa: I’m not going to try to recreate those two restaurants. Those were my gifts to the city, and I’m so proud of what came out of it.

On opening more projects: Oh man. There are a lot of ideas in motion, and it’s nice to be in control of that. We’re really excited to introduce a number of different projects to the city. Stay tuned!

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