Michael Cordúa (born 1961) is a Nicaraguan-born American restaurateur, entrepreneur, owner of Cordúa Restaurants, and award winning self-taught chef. Cordúa is the owner and executive chef of six restaurants in the Houston, Texas area. He was the first to introduce Houston to Latin American cuisine that was not Mexican.
Cordúa was born in Managua, Nicaragua and later moved to Houston, Texas. He graduated with a degree in Economics and Finance from Texas A&M University in 1980. Cordúa worked for a Houston shipping firm until it was liquidated in the late 1980s. After arriving in Houston, Cordúa taught himself to cook, he has said "The whole reason I got into cooking was because I missed the foods from home".
Cordúa, with inspiration from his uncle's restaurant in Managua and despite having no previous experience in the restaurant business, opened his first 130-seat restaurant, Churrascos, on August 8, 1988. Churrascos was an upscale South American-style restaurant. Four months in, Cordúa was ready to give up due to the restaurant losing money. Many critics, such as the New York Times, praised the new restaurant and in 1989 Churrascos was listed in Esquire magazine's "Best New Restaurants in America". Fred Smith, a banker from First National Bank, decided to help him expand after eating at his restaurant. Cordúa took the help and opened a second Churrascos near the downtown Houston area. The second 175-seat Churrascos was opened in 1990 and emphasized a Central American churrasco that made up half of its sales. In 1997 Cordúa opened a third Churrascos in Chicago. It received great reviews from critics, however, after 8 months it closed down when Cordúas partner backed out.
Cordúa went on to open 3 other restaurants; Américas in 1993, Amazón Grill in 1999 (2 locations) and Artista in 2002, all of which have received various awards. Cordúa opened another location for his Américas restaurant in 2008 and also owns a catering company, Cordúa catering.
Awards and recognition
Cordúa and his restaurants have received much recognition and many awards throughout the years. He was named by Food & Wine as one of America's "Top Ten Chefs" and is received the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence in 1994. His restaurant, Churrascos, was named Best South American Restaurant by the Houston Press in 2005.
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...Michael J. Cordúa, restaurateur and owner of Cordúa Restaurants... Today, he is the owner and executive chef of six Houston area restaurants.
- "Best South American Restaurant (2005)". Houston Press. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
...Nicaraguan-born chef Michael Cordua was the first to introduce Houston to South American cuisine when, in 1988, he opened his first Churrascos.
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- Poole, Claire (1993). "Pass the Chimichurri - Michael Cordua, owner of Churrascos talks of rising popularity of "Nuevo Latino" cuisine". Latin Trade. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
- "Cordúa Wins Big at 14th Annual Houston Culinary Awards". The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- "Best New Chefs (1994): Michael Cordua". Food and Wine. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
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- "About Codua Restaurants: Awards". Cordua.com. Retrieved 2007-10-21.