8 top Austin chefs cook with passion and feed the soul of the city
A good chef knows how to prepare an exceptional meal with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. A great chef understands how to prepare an exceptional meal with these ingredients in a way that appeals to the palates of specific customers.
A top chef in Austin in 2022 must accomplish all of this and more, constantly creating new dishes, innovating, solving problems and evolving, all in an effort to impress the discerning tastes of local diners.
While Austin is blessed with an abundance of expert chefs who work tirelessly to feed this city with the fruits of their labor, these eight local culinary artists, all no strangers to accolades and fame, are the cream of the crop. cream, reliably producing the best meals in town and meeting the countless challenges of Austin’s dynamic food estate.
We’ll be celebrating these towering chefs at our upcoming CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, which recognize the best in Austin’s food and drink scene.
Check out this year’s Tastemaker nominees for Chef of the Year below, then join us to revel in their culinary success at our tasting event and awards program, the CultureMap Tastemaker Award 2022on Thursday April 28 at the Fair Market. Tickets are available now!
Tavel Bristol-Joseph, canje
Once best known for its softer side (indeed, Food & Wine magazine recently dubbed him a “baking savant”), Tavel Bristol-Joseph proved to Austin that he’s more than a one-trick pony. With the recent opening of Canje, the “new age Caribbean restaurant” of the prolific Emmer & Rye restaurant group, of which Bristol-Joseph is a partner, the executive chef is carrying out perhaps his most personal project to date. In an effort to pay homage to its Caribbean roots and honor its Guyanese heritage, Canje offers Bristol-Joseph the opportunity to immerse itself and Austin diners in the effervescent flavors and techniques unique to the Caribbean. From imaginative dishes that Austinites can relate to, but that include a riff on the ingredients (red snapper ceviche with sour orange, peanuts, bell peppers and taro chips) to perfectly seasoned traditional entrees (jerk chicken with charred tomato) and, of course, scrumptious desserts, Bristol-Joseph ushers the Austin restaurant scene into a new era of vibrant flavors.
Damien Brockway, Distant relatives
Although many Texans are unabashedly dedicated to the art of barbecuing, they may not have a deep understanding of how history has affected the craft. That’s far from the case for Damien Brockway, whose Distant Relatives barbecue food truck serves up “modern African-American dishes” and is inspired by the “textures, flavors, heritage and narrative of the African diaspora in the United States.” United”, especially with regard to this. with hardwood smoke, spices, preservation techniques and real nose-to-tail cooking. While he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and honed his skills in a variety of fine dining establishments across the country, it’s the mastery of everything this chef does, combined with his inherent drive to foster creativity. , collaboration and community, which have contributed to Brockway’s growing prevalence in Austin. There is no doubt that he will continue to garner accolades as one of the best chefs in town.
Kevin Fink, Emmer and rye
For another year, the steadfast captain of Emmer & Rye, Chef Kevin Fink – a local restaurant group partner and the beacon of the local farm-focused culinary destination that is Emmer & Rye – receives well-deserved kudos of CultureMap as one of Austin’s top chefs. This world traveler and culinary pioneer has developed his expertise in acclaimed restaurants across the country and the world, including working in restaurants in Italy and Denmark, as well as working for a time in the catering establishment. quintessentially American, the esteemed French Laundry of chef Thomas Keller in California. . And while over the course of his career he has garnered an impressive array of honors from top culinary organizations and publications around the world, it is Fink’s commitment to offering a regularly changing menu of farm-fresh dishes and season, and its insistence on extensive in-house production. of local ingredients that keep Austinites coming back to Emmer & Rye again and again. We can’t wait to see what he cooks up next.
Michel Fojtasek, Olamaie
Executive Chef Michael Fojtasek has been an Austin favorite for years. And it’s no wonder. With a Texas upbringing, an early introduction to spectacular Southern cuisine, a towering resume, and a fresh approach to creating elegant, perfectly indulgent Southern dishes, Fojtasek is well-suited to lead Austin’s culinary community. Fojtasek takes his charge seriously, almost as much as he cherishes his family’s southern roots. In fact, his crown jewel restaurant, Olamaie, is named after his mother and three generations of Olamaies before her, as well as his daughter, who carries on the tradition of the family name. And while his unrivaled Olamaie menu of tantalizing Southern dishes continues to excite Austin diners, it is perhaps his continued evolution as a chef and restaurateur that impresses Austinites the most. In addition to his hugely popular pandemic-spawned Little Ola cookies, Fojtasek recently announced the May 1 opening of his new South Congress Hotel steakhouse, Maie Day, which promises to be “a daily festival of food and community. “. We are ready to celebrate!
Kristen Kis, Arlo Gray
One of Austin’s most beloved female chefs excels at preparing brilliant dishes influenced by French and Italian culinary traditions mixed with nostalgic and whimsical inspirations from her Midwestern upbringing. And while diners at her downtown lakeside restaurant, Arlo Gray, eat it, they may not realize that chef Kristen Kish’s rise to Austin’s culinary scene is only his last triumph. The chef, who was born in South Korea and raised in Michigan, took up cooking at an early age. After attending Le Cordon Blue, she rocketed her culinary prowess into an admirable career that included gigs at Michelin-starred restaurants and working with some of the country’s most acclaimed chefs. Of course, it was his coveted win on Bravo season 10. Excellent chef it made her a household name and allowed her to build on her fame as a chef-tester as the host of several food-focused TV programs and the author of her first cookbook. But it was his move to the capital in 2018 and the subsequent opening of his first restaurant, Arlo Grey, that made Kish an Austin icon.
Fermin Nunez, Sure
While the name of this beloved East Side Mexican restaurant is Spanish for “luck,” there’s no such thing as luck in how Suerte has become a dominant force in Austin’s restaurant scene since opening in 2018. It’s thanks to the accomplished culinary artistry and smart yet humble approach to food that Executive Chef Fermin Nunez uses to craft a menu of flavorful Mexican dishes with locally sourced ingredients. Originally from Mexico, Nunez cut his teeth at legendary Austin restaurants like Launderette, La Condesa and Uchiko before opening his gem of Suerte. And it doesn’t stop at the perfect Mexican restaurant; later this summer, Nunez and his Suerte partner, Sam Hellman-Mass, will open Este, a Mexican seafood restaurant that will sprout out of the much-loved East Austin location that once housed Eastside Cafe. Announced among the top culinary organizations as an industry leader – including a recent honor of Food & Wine, who named him Best New Chef 2021 – Nunez could build his top-notch culinary empire anywhere. We’re just lucky he picked Austin.
Zacharie Perez, sour duck market
Born and raised in Texas, it’s no surprise that chef Zechariah Perez got his start in catering at a barbecue spot decades ago. Never mind, he didn’t work as a pitmaster or a chef, but as a lowly dishwasher. Hard work and dedication to his culinary education quickly promoted him to line cook and prep cook positions. Later, after attending cooking school, Perez continued to hone his craft at various Texas hotels, country clubs, and restaurants before opening his popular Austin breakfast trailer, Paperboy, and joining the Bryce Gilmore’s highly regarded restaurant group in Austin, where he spent most of his career and achieved culinary fame in his own right. As executive chef of the Gilmore neighborhood’s bakery, cafe, and cocktail garden, Sour Duck Market, Perez continues to woo Austin eaters with his homemade offerings, which range from decadent pastries and tacos to breakfast. bratwurst lunch and a heck of a double cheeseburger.
Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria
If there’s been a chef’s name on the lips of Austinites over the past two years, it’s Edgar Rico. With the opening of his go-to East Side taqueria, Nixta, in 2019, the Culinary Institute of America-trained chef introduced this taco-obsessed town to the ancient corn tortilla-making process of nixtamalization (which is since become fashionable in many a taco house in the capital) and caused an immediate sensation in a city that was already home to dozens of taquerias. Rico comes naturally from his passion and talent for creating appetizing dishes. And while his culinary training is extensive, he says he first fell in love with food at age 10, when he cooked his family’s Thanksgiving meal. He says Nixta is the culmination of what food means to him: “imaginative creations steeped in technique, history, tradition and finesse”. These refined creations have not gone unnoticed by Austin taco lovers or vaunted culinary institutions, including the James Beard Foundation, which recently named Rico a finalist for the James Beard Award in the Emerging Chef category. Now that’s something to taco ’bout!