Each week, our My Top 5 series highlights a Houstonian who is shaping the culture of the city and making an outsized impact on its character. In turn, each shares their own favorite things to do in Houston when not hard at work. This week, we’re very pleased to feature Mark Schmidt, Chef at Rainbow Lodge. A 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Schmidt is a four-time guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House and has also enjoyed teaching/cooking at food events around the country and several regional television cooking programs.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Chef Mark Schmidt
- Vinal Edge Records – I collect vintage audio and vinyl records, and Chuck Roast‘s Vinal Edge Records has a great selection and friendly, knowledgeable staff. It’s the kind of place I can happily lose a few hours digging through records.
- Gorditas Aguascalientes – This spot is one of my favorite restaurants in Houston, and I keep going back over and over. The cooking is simple, but so flavorful and it always leaves me full, happy, and content.
- Buffalo Bayou Park – I have two bulldogs, an English and a Frenchie, and Buffalo Bayou Park is a great place to take them for a walk on a sunny day. They get all the exercise and attention they can handle.
- Chinatown – Every few months, I make the trek over to the Chinatown area and hit as many grocery stores as I can, discovering new tastes, new ingredients, always trying to learn and grow as a chef. Among my stops are Jusgo Supermarket, H Mart, and Great Wall Supermarket to stock up the pantry and frig. Side note: when I head home I drive down Westheimer to stop at Phoenicia for a few more items.
- Half Price Books – I also collect cookbooks and Half Price Books is a great, inexpensive place to grow my collection. I’ve found some hidden gems over the years. I do have a favorite store that I have always found something worth buying, but I’m keeping that one secret.
About Chef Mark Schmidt
A 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Mark Schmidt was introduced to cooking as a young boy while growing up in Texas and spending summers with his mother in her native England. He has known since age six that he wanted to be a chef. Schmidt worked his way through the ranks of restaurants, starting with washing dishes at age 15 then moved in front of the stove, learning from personal experience and the chefs with whom he worked. Schmidt’s resume is impressive: executive chef of AquaKnox, where he worked with Chef/Owner Stephan Pyles on menu development and assisting Pyles with his PBS cooking series, New Tastes from Texas; executive chef at Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford, Connecticut; Chef de Cuisine for James Beard Best Chef Southwest Mark Kiffin at Compound Restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was also chef at Rainbow Lodge before moving to Austin where he was chef/owner of two concepts, Cafe 909 in Marble Falls, Texas, and Blackbird & Henry in Austin. To owner Donnette Hansen’s delight, Schmidt returned to Houston and to Rainbow Lodge.