San Antonio residents are lucky to be surrounded by unique small towns that are so rich in history and culture. Brandon and I were fortunate to sit down recently with Ross Burtwell, owner and chef of the Cabernet Grill and Cotton Gin Village in Fredericksburg. His is such a great success story that we had to share it with you.
Ross was born in Detroit, but made it to Texas as fast as he could. He landed in Dallas by the age of 18, searching for a passion that could turn into a career. Ross had always enjoyed cooking as a teenager, but a couple of bad experiences in the restaurant industry had turned him off of the scene. However, while thumbing through a “Texas Highways” magazine one day, he came across an article on Southwest cuisine. The article piqued his interest and opened his eyes to the possibilities of what great food could be created.
He began working in a chef’s apprenticeship program and went to culinary school. Afterward he worked for a chef at Huntington’s Grill in the Westin Galleria Hotel in Dallas. When the chef that he was training under was transferred to a San Antonio Westin Hotel, Ross followed his respected colleague. There, he met his wife, Mariana. Once Ross tired of the hotel culinary scene, he managed Retama Park’s catering for its grand opening and then moved on as the Executive Chef at Flying L Guest Ranch in Bandera. When the opportunity to buy the Cotton Gin Village in Fredericksburg arose in 2002, he jumped at the chance. Nestled among the 19th century rustic cabins at the Cotton Gin, the Cabernet Grill restaurant was part of the package. Ross had found his culinary home.
At the Cabernet Grill, Ross experiments with all of the wonderful Southwest flavors that so inspired him initially. His cuisine is creative, yet familiar to his Hill Country customers as they keep coming back. He is inspired by local artisans and vendors, and uses fresh, seasonal ingredients as often as he can. Ross’ passion for creating new recipes led him to publish his cookbook in 2014, Texas Hill Country Cuisine.
Ross loves the community of Fredericksburg and is very active in the small town. You can often find him serving as guest chef doing cooking demonstrations and tastings at the local wineries. In fact, he became such a supporter of the local wineries that the Cabernet Grill offers the largest all-Texas wine list in the country. At his restaurant, you can order wine by the glass or bottle from great Texas vineyards such as Grape Creek, Messina Hof, Fall Creek, Llano, William Chris and many more. His staff have all been trained on how to pair these Texas wines with his Hill Country cuisine to provide an outstanding Texas dining experience.
Under Ross’ influence and leadership, the Cabernet Grill has become highly acclaimed. Ross’ career came full circle in 2012 when “Texas Highways” magazine – the same magazine that sparked his interest in Southwest cuisine – called him up for an interview and feature article.
Brandon and I couldn’t go out to the Cabernet Grill to interview Ross without dining there. Stay tuned to our next blog post, where Brandon will bring you a full review of the incredible tastings that Ross cooked up for us. We felt like royalty as we sampled the many (many!) courses! I encourage you to take the short drive to Fredericksburg to dine at the Cabernet Grill. It’s definitely worth the trip!
On a side note, this is my last blog post at Off the Menu as I am moving on to pursue other career aspirations. Brandon will keep the blog alive, however, with lots of fascinating food and drink topics, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading!