We sat down with Chef Jason Gould of Cyclone Anaya’s to chat about Tex-Mex, brunch, and the restaurant group’s fifty years of success. If you’re not familiar with the Mosaic District staple, Cyclone Anaya’s, we’re here to fill you in.
Cyclone Anaya started his professional wrestling career at age seventeen when he became the Champion of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, he came to the United States and made a dramatic entrance into the pro-wrestling circuit. During this time in Texas, he met his wife of over fifty years, Carolina–a former Miss Houston. After many championship titles and five children, Cyclone and his family entered the restaurant business in Houston.
Today, they have multiple restaurants across the country. Here in the District Virginia area, the Mosaic location is buzzing.
Chef Jason opened the Virginia location and has been working in Houston serving the best Tex-Mex around for six years. He keeps busy by perfecting the brisket tacos and specialty nachos. Check out what he has to say about working for a family-owned business and serving up elevated Tex-Mex dishes.
Tell us about your culinary background.
I’ve been cooking for about twenty-eight years with a background in fine-dining.
I started out cooking in Australia and then moved to London where I worked for Marco Pierre White (he trained Gordon Ramsay) who was the youngest chef to receive three Michelin stars. After London, I went to Austria and Toronto. Then I made my way to New York City, where I was supposed to start working on September 12, 2001. Unfortunately , 9/11 impacted everything and I couldn’t start work so I stayed in New York feeding rescue workers. Eventually I ran out of money, and went to Houston to be with family.
I opened my own restaurant, Gravitas, in Houston and it won Best New Restaurant in Texas Monthly, Up and Coming Chef of the Year and then Chef of the Year in My Table Magazine. I then moved on and went to work at Cyclone Anaya’s where I’ve been for six years.
What’s the story behind Cyclone Anaya’s? What inspired the concept?
Cyclone Anaya’s is named after a professional wrestler from the 1960s. I like to describe him as the Hulk Hogan of his era. He originated in Mexico, and then went to Chicago where he got his name–cyclone, wind… get it? He eventually moved to Houston and continued wrestling until he broke his back in the ring and soon after retired. Being the energetic person that he was, he just couldn’t settle down. So in 1966, he opened an ice house, which is a casual drinking hole, to keep himself busy. He started noticing that around 6 p.m. at night, everyone started leaving. So, he brought his wife in the kitchen and started offering Mexican-style food. Then, everyone stuck around, and Cyclone Anaya’s was born!
What’s amazing is how his family carried on his tradition. His son now owns all seven locations. They really did an amazing job creating a second home where everyone is welcome. We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year—which is truly amazing in the restaurant business.
What’s your favorite thing about cooking in a Mexican restaurant?
My background is fine-dining, and Tex-Mex was not considered fine dining years ago. So, I had a really fun learning about all of the different techniques and styles. Tex-Mex is about the combination of great ingredients, textures, and flavors. I love how lots of different things can be incorporated into the menu. I love being able to get creative.
How would you describe the menu?
Generally, Tex-Mex is considered as very casual, cantina-style food. Our menu is a little more eclectic. We have amazing dishes, such as crab meat nachos or bacon wrapped shrimp, that elevate our menu more than just traditional Tex-Mex. We make everything in-house, even the desserts. Everything is prepared fresh using quality ingredients.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu and why?
Brisket tacos, definitely. Traditionally in Texas, brisket has been smoked and served BBQ style. We slow roast ours and add in chipotle flavors and put it in our tacos. We took something that was very “Texas” and added a Mexican flare, which is essentially the definition of Tex-Mex.
If someone came to Cyclone Anaya’s for the first time, what is one item they must try?
Our ceviche! But, if you don’t like seafood–then try nachos. We broil cheese onto each individual chip so you get the perfect bite every time.
What makes this family run business so special?
The biggest thing is the passion. Sometimes when you’re dealing with corporations, the focus is lost. But, when you’re working for a family, their name is on the door so they’re incredibly invested. The owner, Ricardo Valencia, is very passionate about the guests and the people who are working for him. He’s also very passionate about food in general.
Any upcoming events or weekly specials we should mark on our calendars?
Make your reservations now for New Year’s Day brunch!
Tell us about your happy hour!
The happy hour is a great mixture of drinks and food. We offer the classic margaritas, beer, and wine of course. We also have a menu that pairs perfectly with our funky drinks. I love how we offer great bite sized snacks and not just full meals for happy hour.
We offer great featured drinks as well. We’re constantly upgrading the margaritas and creating our own versions. Every month there’s a new cocktail to try!
Tell us what makes the Mosaic location so special? What is your favorite thing about this location?
I oversaw the construction and opened the Mosaic location. Our Virginia location has a place in my heart–it’s my “baby” in a way. I love the vibe of the area and all the different restaurants and shops. Being based in Houston, we don’t see much snow. So, I love being in Virginia around the holidays and feeling the holiday spirit. It’s so upbeat with holiday shopping.
Bloody Marys or mimosas?
It depends on day, and more so the night before. If I want a relaxing brunch, then I go for mimosas. If I had a big night out the night before, then I go for Bloody Marys.
Brunch in or out?
Always out. It doesn’t seem like brunch in your house– it just seems like a late breakfast.
Favorite dish to cook for brunch? (And eat!)
Our Chilaquiles, they have everything that’s good about breakfast. Fried eggs and cheese? That’s everything you need.
If you could invite five people to brunch, who would they be?
I thought Gordon Ramsay would be fun. Just to see if he’s that hot headed in real life.
Not to get too political–Barack Obama. He would be such an interesting person to speak with. He’s so elegant and well-spoken.
Jimmy Fallon because he’s so entertaining and talented.
Peyton Manning–to pick his brain about sports and to learn more about that world.
My wife- imagine if I had this brunch with these four people and she wasn’t there? I’d be in trouble.
Bitch Biz: Bitches Who Brunch partners with Cyclone Anaya’s. While we do receive compensation from the company, this article was written independently by us.