Longtime frontman at Fort Worth's Reata restaurant to join Tex-Mex venture
One of the most high-profile and recognizable figures in Fort Worth's restaurant world is changing jobs: Russell Kirkpatrick, who was the (handsome) face of iconic Sundance Square restaurant Reata, is leaving to join the team at Mercado Juarez, the Tex-Mex concept recently acquired by Fort Worth chef Marcus Paslay.
Kirkpatrick will serve as operations director for Mercado Juarez, which has locations in Fort Worth and Arlington.
"Marcus and I have known each other for 20 years," Kirkpatrick says. "Prior to working at Reata, I worked for Johnny Carino's Italian in Mansfield. I hired Marcus as a cook, before he went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America. But we always stayed in touch — we'd have coffee every couple of months."
When Paslay proposed the idea to Kirkpatrick of overseeing Mercado Juarez, it piqued his interest.
"The multi-unit model has always been something that intrigued me," Kirkpatrick says. "It was always in the back of my mind - a challenge I’d be interested in tackling. I was never looking to leave Reata and still loved every day I got to work there. But the opportunity to get to do it with Marcus felt right."
He and Paslay have great faith in Mercado Juarez and are not going to "fix what's not broken."
"Our goal is not to come in and change things, but to lend some of our experience to streamline operations and make improvements where needed," he says. "But it is a household name, and if you look at their reviews, they have a passionate fan base of people who love the food."
Kirkpatrick, who also co-founded the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival (with Reata owner Mike Micallef), says he's a mixture of excited by the new opportunity with a little wistfulness about his departure from Reata.
"I spent 18 years at Reata, it was a great run, and I feel proud of the tremendous impact it's had on the community," he says. "There are those certain restaurants in certain cities that always associated become with those cities. Joe T Garcia’s is one you think of when you think of Fort Worth, and Reata has moved into that realm, serving as host to so many out-of-town guests with their proximity to hotels, their continued reliability and consistency. That's something the Reata team can be very proud of. They're true ambassadors for Fort Worth."