The MFA Café celebrates the art of eating well, with exciting changes to the menu—from the new weekend brunch to added dishes that emphasize local, fresh ingredients—and to the kitchen. New executive chef Marlies Wasterval is hard at work serving up Italian fare with a Texas flair.
A native Houstonian, Wasterval joins the Museum after crafting impeccable dishes all over the world, most recently at SaltAir Seafood Kitchen in Houston. She works with MFA Café owner Paolo Fronza to create and execute the menu, which boasts additions such as sliders, blackened flatiron steak, and Dijon-crusted salmon. I chatted with her to find out more about what guests can expect—and how it feels to cook just a room or two over from galleries filled with art.
What is your philosophy on cooking, and how are you bringing that to the MFA Café?
My goal in cooking is to make food approachable while still featuring a unique flavor profile—so you think you know what you're getting, but you’ll find something pleasantly unexpected.
I find this practice good in a place like the MFAH, because you have all types of people that come through looking for all different things—some expecting a traditional meal, and others looking for an upscale or unique experience. So we try to find something that will make everyone happy.
What new aspects of the menu are you most excited about?
I think the most appealing change is having running specials. The regular menu is great, but it’s also a lot of fun for me—and the customers too, I think—to try something new every week. Also, I love the brunch. I personally am not a brunch eater, but I love to serve it!
What’s your favorite part about working at an art museum?
When I was growing up, my dad lived just down the street from where I work now—so when we came to his house, we spent a lot of time in museums, including the MFAH. I find a lot of comfort in this little corner of town. It’s always so beautiful, and just being in the streets feels so different from the rest of town. It always feels really special to come in to work every day.
Experience the MFA Café for yourself! See the menus, hours, and more information.