The Woodlands has many talented chefs cooking a variety of cuisines. Here are a select few whose dishes have become local favorites.

The Woodlands Chef Guide Justin Santellana[/caption]

Justin Santellana 

Nick’s Fish Dive & Oyster Bar
Head chef for the past six months

How did you learn to cook?

I grew up watching my grandma cook, and I actually used to have my own barbecue business. I grew up in a pretty poor neighborhood, and a lot of the older people were getting Meals on Wheels. I saw what they were getting and I thought, ‘That’s not enough to survive on.’ So I started barbecuing big things like brisket, and I would just take it to their houses so they had food. Then I got so good at it, I bought a big barbecue pit and started building a business that became Sandy’s Barbecue, named after my mother, while still giving back to the community.

Nick’s Fish Dive & Oyster Bar
20 Waterway Ave., Ste. 105, The Woodlands
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Sat. 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

The Woodlands Chef Guide David Brittain[/caption]

David Brittain

Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen
Chef for the past six years

Why did you become a chef?

My grandfather was one of the driving forces of cooking since every time we went over there he made everything from scratch, like his pasta, pizza [and] marinara sauce. So between them and my other German grandma, who loved baking and cooking, everyone in our family participated in cooking. I grew up in Galveston, and I worked in a little restaurant out off Terramar Beach. I was washing dishes, and I asked one of their chefs there when they were going to let me cook. They put me over there where the chef was working, and I actually ended up doing pretty well.

Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen
9595 Six Pines Drive, Ste. 1120, The Woodlands
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat.
11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Woodlands Chef Guide Phil Nicosia[/caption]

Phil Nicosia

Pallotta’s Italian Grill
Owner and chef for past 18 years

If you could recommend an entire meal at Pallotta’s, what would it be?

We would have to start out with our La Cha Cla bread, which is a stuffed Italian flatbread we make here. The creamy tomato soup is a must. From there, my personal favorite is the shrimp brochette. The other two popular dishes [are] the lasagna and a dish called The Benjamin, which is a spicy Cajun pasta dish. Our Dominic’s Muds ice cream dessert is our specialty. We’re known for it. We also offer a full bar with liquor, beer, wine and cappuccinos.

Pallotta’s Italian Grill
27606 I-45, Oak Ridge North
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:57 a.m.-10:03 p.m.,
Sun. 10:57 a.m.-9:03 p.m.

The Woodlands Chef Guide Austin Simmons[/caption]

Austin Simmons

Hubbell & Hudson Bistro
Kitchen and Cureight chef for the past five years

What is your favorite dish to make?

My favorite dish to make is whatever I’m feeling that day. Whatever new dish I create is always going to be my favorite. I get to the point where creating the same food is boring to me, and I like to always create change—that’s what drives me—so I guess, when I get attached to a dish, it’s normally the newest one. Usually, I get inspired by one ingredient or protein, and then my brain just runs with it.

Hubbell & Hudson Bistro
24 Waterway Ave., Ste. 125, The Woodlands
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.