Chef Rey The Recipe for Life Is Love

300-chefreyCOVER STORY | By Subrata Barot | Photo by Bill Baptist –

Dutiful Son. Enthusiastic Caterer. Innovative Restaurateur. Compassionate Philanthropist. Exceptional Executive Chef. Reynold “Rey” Darthard’s story is one of faith, courage and dedication, which ultimately led him to where he is today – as the executive chef for the Houston Rockets and one of Fort Bend County’s most notable and celebrated residents.

The Beginning

Chef Rey and his dad, Hillup Darthard.

Chef Rey and his dad,
Hillup Darthard.

Chef Rey’s humble beginnings started in the Gulf Coast town of Freeport. As one of 11 children, he understood the importance of family being paramount. Even today, Chef Rey proudly admits that at the age of 51, his parents are involved in every aspect of his life. “When there is a big decision to be made, they know about it and give me their input,” he said. “All of my decisions are based on God first and then my dad. They hold me to accountability, and my goal is to never let them down.”

The Darthard siblings did not grow up with silver spoons in their mouths, but they found riches in food. From burger nights to scrumptious desserts like pound cake and peach cobbler, Chef Rey and his family centered their home life on love, food and fellowship. He quickly found his niche in the kitchen with his parents and grandmothers.

Throughout grade school, Chef Rey spent his free time in the kitchen observing his family members’ cooking techniques. He recalls time spent with his maternal grandmother using a wood-burning oven to make pound cake – one of his now signature desserts. Her technique was using her sense of sight and smell to make the pound cake – without a modern oven.

Chef Rey and his mom, Mary Lee Darthard. 

Chef Rey and his mom,
Mary Lee Darthard.

“She prepared a light, fluffy, delicate pound cake in that oven,” he said. “I would ask her how she could measure the temperature. She would tell me she knew exactly how many logs it took and what the color of the fire should be to make the perfect pound cake. It was always the perfect pound cake.”

Though his prowess in the kitchen was unparalleled, education was also important to Chef Rey. He began his corporate career at Andon Specialties, Inc. – an oil and gas distributing company – upon completion of his education at Texas A&M University. After 16 years with the company, at age 35, Chef Rey determined he didn’t love his job – his real love was being in the kitchen. He knew that if he was going to do something different with his life, there was no better time than the present. He applied to The Art Institute of Houston culinary program and was accepted but did not matriculate.

“I thought about all of the risks associated with leaving stability,” he said. “I was investing a great deal of money into culinary education, but there was no guarantee.”

Chef Rey eventually began culinary school the following academic year, because after another year of monotony, it was clear that he had to make a change. And since then, he’s never looked back, although his foray into culinary school wasn’t without its hiccups. His family questioned his decision to quit stability and go to culinary school. “My father thought I had lost my mind,” he laughed. “I had to basically tell him, ‘I’ll show you one day, Dad.’” And show him and the rest of the world, he did.

Officially Chef Rey

Chef Rey with his signature cheesecakes. Photo by Al Torres Photography.

Chef Rey with his signature cheesecakes. Photo by Al Torres Photography.

Chef Rey began a catering venture in 2003 called Nevele’s, where he had the privilege of serving various charity organizations through his culinary art in Fort Bend County and the Greater Houston area. In addition, Chef Rey was given the opportunity to cook for the Who’s Who of music and sports.

His first major client was the Queen Bee herself – Beyoncé Knowles. He was also afforded the opportunity to be the personal chef for seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets, who has since retired. For five years, Chef Rey went wherever McGrady was, and this gave him the opportunity to educate himself on sports-based food preparation and nutrition, as well as foods from different regions of the county and the world, which would prove to be beneficial later in his career.

Roshelle Salinas, Dana Hewling, Chef Rey, Anthony Bryant, Carmen Torres, Yolanda, Aliana and Etta Bryant and Jeremy Glen at Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Roshelle Salinas, Dana Hewling, Chef Rey, Anthony Bryant, Carmen Torres, Yolanda, Aliana and Etta Bryant and Jeremy Glen at Ronald McDonald House Charities.

In 2010, Chef Rey opened his first restaurant in Missouri City called Chef Rey’s Restaurant and Catering. The restaurant was successful because of his passion for food and people. Innovative preparations like Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Dill Sauce, Risotto and his signature Crab Cakes and desserts brought people into his restaurant. His personality and love for people was what kept them coming back. “It was humbling when customers told me, ‘We love your food, but we love you more,’” he said.

During his days as a restaurateur, Chef Rey also made weekly meals for some of the Houston Texans football players. Cooking for several of the players interested him in sports-based eating and nutrition, and he familiarized himself with the nutritional needs for professional athletes. Soon after, Chef Rey was given the chance to become the executive chef for the Houston Astros, which ultimately led him to his present job with the Houston Rockets.

On a normal team practice day, Chef Rey begins his day at 4:30 am and gets to the Toyota Center at 6 am. He single-handedly cooks a variety of breakfast and lunch items for all of the players and training staff present. Players have a variety of choices at their fingertips – from waffles and omelets to fruit smoothies and cold press juices.

For lunch, he provides the players some type of poultry, seafood and beef – so they have their choice of protein. There are also options for vegetables, starches and pasta. And he also makes them anything else they require or want.

Chef Rey at a McDonald’s Chef Event.

Chef Rey at a McDonald’s Chef Event.

Chef Rey credits much of his success as an executive chef to two nutrition and diet specialists he works with on a daily basis – Houston Astros Nutritionist Roberta Anding and Rockets Sports Dietician Tara Boening. “I am a chef,” he said. “I have never been one of those chefs who will tell people what to eat and how to eat. I am the executor of the recipe. Roberta and Tara are very knowledgeable, and I go by what they instruct me to do.”

Zeal for Giving Back

Despite the responsibilities placed on him as an executive chef, there is still so much more Chef Rey contributes to society. He credits much of his interest and dedication to philanthropy to Billy and Tammy Brown of Sugar Land, who are highly involved in philanthropic activities. He did significant philanthropic work as a caterer, and even today, he works with the Ronald McDonald House Charities and tries to provide his culinary services several times throughout the year. He also heads up his own non-profit, Standing in the Gap, which recognizes familial caregivers.

There is still much more he wants to accomplish. In the future, Chef Rey would like to work with kids and families to combat childhood obesity and focus on healthy eating. He credits Former First Lady Michelle Obama on bringing the issue to focus nationally.

Chef Jones and Chef Rey with Art Institute students Lisa, Maria, Sarah, Jessica, William, Melvin, Marvin and Helen.

Chef Jones and Chef Rey with Art Institute students Lisa, Maria, Sarah, Jessica, William, Melvin, Marvin and Helen.

He is also very interested in teaching culinary arts to upcoming chefs. Recently, he was honored at his alma mater, The Art Institute of Houston. The Institute brought him back as he is considered one of their “distinguished alumni.” One of his former instructors even called him “the best culinary student who ever attended The Art Institute.” He spent three days instructing graduating seniors and they prepared recipes from his first book It’s All About Color: The Journey of Becoming Chef Rey and was celebrated for his achievements in the culinary arts.

“That experience kind of set me up for what I’ll do in the future. I will probably go back and be an instructor,” he said.

As for now, Chef Rey will continue work with the Rockets and is looking forward to his third book release, Food Meets Athlete. He will also continue his philanthropic pursuits with Ronald McDonald House Charities and will always contribute positively to society in any way he can, because as Chef Rey says, “The recipe for life is love.”

Food Meets Athlete
 Jose Altuve, Chey Rey and Tracy McGrady.

Jose Altuve, Chey Rey and Tracy McGrady.

Release Date: September 2017

Chef Reynold Darthard’s third book Food Meets Athlete is geared around the science of food and the effects of food on athletes. Chef Rey takes his decade-long experiences with athletes and provides performance-based nutritional and lifestyle information.

The book also gives insight to anyone looking to change their lifestyle to get healthier and have greater longevity. Chef Rey shares healthy and nutritional recipes but more importantly, he highlights “food science” – such as why antioxidants in berries are important and why hydration is important.

This book is geared to be an educator on food, explaining why certain foods should be consumed and what nutrients and positive effects those foods provide for the body.

For more information, visit