Fort Worth chef joins 4-star hotel coming to Stockyards. She’s worked with Paula Deen

Jenna Kinard, formerly of Max’s Wine Dive Fort Worth, will be the executive chef at 97 West. The restaurant will be inside Hotel Drover, a 4-star hotel expected to open in the Fort Worth Stockyards by early 2020.
Jenna Kinard, formerly of Max’s Wine Dive Fort Worth, will be the executive chef at 97 West. The restaurant will be inside Hotel Drover, a 4-star hotel expected to open in the Fort Worth Stockyards by early 2020. Photo: Sterling T Steves

Jenna Kinard is not big on slowing down.

The former Max’s Wine Dive Fort Worth executive chef, who left Max’s in 2017 (the restaurant has since closed) stayed busy: Working with Paula Deen, whom she credits with saving her from an eating disorder; filming a TV pilot with Deen’s daughter-in law; getting involved with “A Night of Artists and Chefs,” another TV pilot that filmed in April in Fort Worth with hopes of going national.

During a lot of that time, she had a secret that she finally divulged last week on her Facebook page: She has been named executive chef at 97 West, the restaurant inside Hotel Drover, a 4-star Marriott Autograph boutique hotel that will be part of a $175 million redevelopment in the Stockyards.

“I’ve been speaking with Craig Cavaleer for almost a year and a half now,” Kinard said during a phone interview, referring to the executive president of Majestic Realty Co./Stockyards Heritage Development Company. “I was still at Max’s. He found me, he’d read a couple of my articles and thought ‘This is a candidate that we might be interested in’.”

But they didn’t start the process of Kinard becoming the executive chef till she left Max’s about six months later. She went to Las Vegas, where Majestic Realty is based (and has worked on several developments), to see what Cavaleer and the company were all about.

“He just wanted to make sure I wanted to get into this thing,” Kinard says. “It’s such a massive, awesome project. It’s funny, his approach was almost like he was trying to talk me out of it,” she adds with a laugh, before bringing me on board just to make sure that this is really, really what I want.”

And maybe to make sure that she had time. Kinard did a couple of projects with Deen, including bringing the celebrity chef to Arlington in September 2017 to co-host a Hurricane Harvey benefit at Legal Draft Beer Co, and appeared in two episodes of Deen’s TV show “Positively Paula”.; she shot the TV pilot with Deen’s daughter-in-law and says she’s working on another project that she can’t divulge yet; and she collaborated on “A Night of Artists and Chefs.”

“I’ve just been constantly going,” Kinard says. “Going, going, going. But this was the coolest thing I think I’’ve ever heard of. I love Fort Worth so much, and I’m so passionate about this city and everything this team is doing is really incredible and deeply rooted in Fort Worth and Texas.”

The hotel and restaurant aren’t expected to open for more than a year, probably in 2020, so it’s a little early to talk menus. But Kinard says she plans to keep the restaurant deeply rooted in Texas as well. All of Texas.

“I’m actually traveling all across Texas and I’m meeting with ranchers and farmers and other chefs, and getting inspiried by all of the food that you can find in Texas,” she says. “And seeing what I want to bring to the table. It’s been fun. What I’m really wanting to do with this menu is take familiar food, things that people grew up on in Texas and love, and elevate them but keep them familiar.”

She’s planning a family-style approach in the restaurant, but wants to be inclusive, so she’s planning to have vegetarian items on the menu and items for people with dietary restrictions.

Besides Hotel Drover, the Stockyards redevelopment will bring several other businesses to the Stockyards. As previously announced, another Fort Worth chef, Marcus Paslay (Clay Pigeon Food & Drink, Piattello Italian Kitchen) will also have a restaurant — still yet to be named — in the devlopment, specializing in grilled and smoked meats as well as barbecue. Jason Boso, who co-founded Twisted Root Burger Co. and Dallas food-truck park/playground the Truck Yard, will have a brewpub/dance hall called Second Rodeo Brewing Co. in the Stockyards.

And those are just a couple of parts of the development, which will also include Fort Worth’s first location of popular New York-based burger chain Shake Shack; Internet advertising/analytics company; general store MB Mercantile & Supply; a new base for Fort Worth-based American Paint Horse Association; and new headquarters for Rural Media Group, which includes RFD-TV, The Cowboy Channel, and Rural Radio.