Presentation of the nominees for the CultureMap Tastemaker Award Michelin-starred chef of the year. As selected by our panel of restaurant industry experts, these are the culinary minds to watch for in the future.
Collectively, these 11 nominees represent a wide range of culinary influences, experiences and perspectives, but they are united by a relentless spirit of creativity that drives the Houston food scene forward. As befits a city as diverse as Houston, their work spans genres from barbecue and burgers to high tasting menus.
Look for them in their restaurants; most importantly, try their food. The results of their work speak for themselves.
Who will win? Find out on July 22 at the Tastemaker Awards party. We’ll be eating bites from this year’s nominated restaurants before emcee Bun B reveals the winners. Buy tickets now.
AJ Ede – Brazil
Brazil has been a staple in Montrose for almost 30 years, but it was never quite known as a foodie destination – until Chef Ede took over the kitchen. A veteran of some famous New York City cuisines (he doesn’t like to name them), Ede knows that even casual food benefits from the right ingredients and precise technique, like in his Cheeseburger in Paradise which lifts a double cheeseburger with beef. 44 Farms and a homemade jalapeno sauce or weekly specials that use seasonal produce. Beyond the dishes he creates, Ede also serves as a mentor to cooks in Brazil, teaching them the skills they will need to continue their careers.
Benchawan Painter – From the street to the kitchen
After working at Salt Air Seafood Kitchen and Theodore Rex, Chef Benchawan Painter has transformed what she has grown with pop-up dinners and a weekly presence at Urban Harvest Farmers Market into a well-regarded new restaurant in the East End. . Known to friends and diners as ‘Chef G’, his ‘Shameless Thai’ dishes blend family recipes with carefully selected local ingredients, like Krapow Thai Basil from local urban farm Plant It Forward. The recent launch of the Street to Kitchen catering service should allow Painter to showcase his talents even further.
Chase Voelz – Bludorn
One of the reasons Bludorn has been so successful since day one is its solid consistency, which is a testament to the skill and discipline of Chef-Owner Aaron Bludorn and Chef Chase Voelz. After working for Chef Bludorn at New York’s famous Café Boulud, Voelz spent time at Roister in Chicago where he learned the techniques needed to prepare the prime rib which has become one of Bludorn’s staple dishes. As Chef Bludon begins to travel to attend culinary events, count on Voelz to help keep the kitchen running smoothly.
Christine Ha & Tony Nguyen – Xin chao
After establishing their reputations separately – Nguyen at the Viet-Cajun Saigon House restaurant and Ha as a Masterchef winner and James Beard Award nominee for The Blind Goat – the two chefs have teamed up to create one of the most successful new restaurants. most exciting of 2020. Xin Chao blends traditional Vietnamese flavors with Texan touches in dishes such as bo luc lac with American wagyu beef, smoked duck salad and flat rice noodles with smoked prime rib . Recent additions like Soft Shell Crab with Tamarind Gastric demonstrate that this dynamic duo is just beginning.
Cuc Lam – Yelo
“The only person I would consider is Cuc Lam,” his business partner Alex Au-Yeung said when they announced Yelo last year. “If she didn’t, I wouldn’t.”
Obviously, Au-Yeung knows how to choose a collaborator – just ask everyone who flock to Katy for a taste of Lam’s creative banh mi. The chef masters both the classic varieties and brings his own touch to the shape with new tastes like the “Pho-Rench Dip” with pho vegetables and a dip and an innovative approach to Vietnamese meatballs (xiu mai) which carry the flavors of Chinese barbecue.
Jordan Economy – Dak & Bop
From fine dining to food trucks, this chef has worked in just about every class of restaurant, but Economy seems to have found its place in this Korean restaurant. Together with owner Jason Cho, Economy’s kitchen produces creative blends that blend southern, Italian, Korean and other flavors to create dishes such as French bulgogi dip, smoked kimchi fried rice, and a sammy. with hot Nashville tofu. The economy will take another step forward later this year when Cho and her business partners open Karne, a modern take on a Korean steakhouse.
Michelle Wallace – Gatlin’s BBQ
If Wallace had done nothing but create the smoked seafood okra that sometimes appears on the Gatlin menu, that would have been enough to earn this nomination. Add in the restaurant’s creative sandwiches, first weekend catfish specialties and other innovative dishes, and it’s easy to see why his culinary partnership with Gatlin pitmaster owner Greg Gatlin is generating so much buzz. . As the Gatlin brad grows beyond the barbecue, Wallace will have an even more essential role to play.
Niki Vongthong – Hidden Omakase
The talented chef has started to turn heads during her stints at Uchi and Aqui, but she has really come out on top in the past year or so. Her Sen pop-up – named after the word meaning ‘noodles’ in Thai and Lao – has shown her ability to create traditional Thai dishes like boat noodles and larb, suitable for a family member who created the legendary Houston Asia Market restaurant. Vongthong took over the kitchen from Hidden Omakase in March, where she organized sold-out seats for tastings of more than 12 dishes that bring together all of her influences.
Peter Nguyen – Riel
After working for some of Boston’s best chefs, Nguyen made his mark at Ryan Lachaine’s restaurant Montrose. The chef is responsible for some of the menu’s most exciting new dishes, like the Honey Walnut Crayfish that give the Cantonese classic a Texan twist. Nguyen’s constant presence in the kitchen also allows Lachaine to oversee his restaurant at Virgin Hotels Nashville with the confidence that Riel is in good hands.
Travis McShane – Ostia
The Kingwood native spent 10 years working for celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman in New York and Nashville before returning home to open his first solo project. At Ostia, McShane showcases the Mediterranean flavors he loves, including his version of Waxman’s famous roast chicken with salsa verde, made with ingredients that match the season. McShane’s homecoming was a resounding success, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.