Chef Randy Rucker credits his mother for his passion for food, and his culinary peers for inspiration. After graduating from Johnson & Wales, Rucker moved to California, working with chefs like Matt Millea and Craig Von Foester and developing a taste for raw ingredients like artichokes, sea urchins, and wild mushrooms. Two years later, Rucker returned to Houston as chef de cuisine for John Sheely at Riviera Grill in the Sam Houston Hotel. He also worked as sous chef at Mark’s American Cuisine. And after a brief stint in Austin as sous chef at Zoot Restaurant, Rucker returned to Houston to work with Tim Keating at Quattro at Four Seasons Hotel Houston.
Not all of Rucker’s culinary experience has been Texas-bound. He staged at both Tru in Chicago and briefly at Clio in Boston before planting his roots, firmly, in Houston. In 2005, Rucker opened Laidback Manor with his mother, Bootsie, and received numerous awards and accolades from national press, including Food Arts and The Wall Street Journal. Just a year after opening Laidback Manor, he began working as a corporate chef at the Cordua Group.
Never one to limit his projects, Rucker also operated an underground supper club, Tenacity, which led to a chef position at The Rainbow Lodge. Rucker, along with his culinary confidant and mentor Chef Jonathan Jones, drew inspiration from an onsite garden and citrus grove. Their efforts were rewarded with four stars from Modern Luxury—not to mention the first four-star review (in almost nine years) from Alison Cook at The Houston Chronicle.
The 2011 Houston Rising Star is currently chef-owner of Bootsie’s in Tomball, Texas, Rucker’s in the process of opening a second restaurant in Tomball, Restaurant Connate. Rucker expresses his philosophy—that food should represent an unrepeatable time and place—in the foraged ingredients that inspire the Bootsie’s daily-changing menu. Wherever he’s cooking, Rucker executes his menu with a deep love of Third Coast produce and cuisine, balancing Southern classics with modern techniques.