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Popular Houston Chef Temporarily Closes Her Brand New Restaurant After Hospitalization

Friends of chef Vanessa Lomeli are raising funds to help in the midst of a medical emergency

a chef in a black kitchen jacket, with long black hair and red lipstick, leans against the bar at her newly-opened Tex Mex restaurant
Vanessa Lomeli at The 915
Becca Wright

Vanessa Lomeli, the chef behind brand new Heights restaurant the 915, has temporarily closed her restaurant while she undergoes treatment for a medical emergency.

It’s the latest setback for the chef, who previously ran the kitchen at beloved but embattled Hobby-area restaurant Habanera and the Guero. Eight years ago, Lomeli received a kidney transplant from her father, and her body recently began rejecting the donated kidney. As a result, Lomeli’s been hospitalized. After she was hospitalized, friends of Lomeli launched a fundraiser to help the chef and her young daughter stay afloat.

Lomeli first gained a following for her red chile enchiladas and creative margaritas at Habanera and the Guero, the Hobby-area restaurant owned by her then-partner Ben Downing. The restaurant, originally called Habenera and the Gringo, was sued by Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen in 2017 in a case that was settled out of court. Three years later, the couple appeared on Food Network reality show “Restaurant Impossible,” where they hashed out everything from interpersonal relationship issues to Downing’s total financial control of the restaurant.

The medical emergency came just weeks after the chef’s triumphant return to the Houston dining scene with the 915, her ode to El Pasoan cuisine. The restaurant, named for the area code of Lomeli’s hometown of El Paso, featured some of the recipes she was best known for at Habenera. Fortunately, the restaurant’s closure is just temporary for now, and Lomeli plans to reopen the 915 as soon as she’s well enough to work again.

In the meantime, fans of the chef can donate to help Lomeli during her recovery via a Facebook fundraiser established by Houston Food Finder publisher Phaedra Cook.