The most tasteful time of the year is here, with the 2018 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink.
Aside from an opportunity to throw a marvelous party, it also offers a chance to spotlight worthy chefs, bars, and restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The category of Rising Star Chef of the Year is full of promise. These are the chefs who are emerging stars on the local dining scene, whether they're working the line, running a kitchen, or opening their own restaurant.
We'll toast the nominees and announce the winners at the Tastemaker Awards party on April 19 from 7-10 pm at Sixty Five Hundred, with tastings of food and drink, amusements, and more. Tickets are on sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Bonton Farms.
Here are the eight nominees for Rising Star Chef:
Alex Astranti, Uchi
A native of Italy, Astranti worked the front of the house before moving to the back after receiving his culinary degree from El Centro College. In his 10 years in the Dallas area, he's worked at acclaimed area restaurants such as Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine and Grace in Fort Worth, and Stampede 66 and Salvaje, where he was executive chef. He joined Hai Hospitality in 2015, first working at Uchi Dallas, then Top Knot which he helped open in 2016. He was named chef de cuisine of Uchi Dallas 2017, and also oversees Uchiba, the Top Knot replacement.
Jesus Carmona, Tacos Mariachi
In a previous life, Jesus Carmona worked in 5-star establishments such as Rosewood Hotels, Knife Dallas, and Spoon, and you can see it on the menu at this West Dallas gem, where the mole is made from scratch and the fish tacos are no ordinary fish tacos. His menu summons the Baja coast, with brightly flavored seafood such as shrimp in a pesto sauce, alongside traditional tacos such as al pastor, barbacoa, and carnitas, lengua. His signature dish is the mole fries, with crispy fries topped with house-made mole, crema fresca, and cotija cheese.
Thomas Gray, SĒR
A graduate of the Art Institute of Dallas, Thomas Gray has done some traveling, with stints at La Folie and Michael Mina's in San Francisco, and at the storied French Room at the historic Adolphus Hotel, where he was sous chef. He's done some traveling around Dallas kitchens, too: Prior to his appointment at SER, he was at Oak Dallas and Jack Ryan's Steak & Chophouse in Tyler. Gray has also worked as a sommelier, making him a more well rounded and balanced chef.
José Meza, Jalisco Norte
A native of Mexico City, Arroyave is dedicated to conveying the true flavor and authentic feeling of Mexican cuisine. After attaining a degree in gastronomy, he worked with Michelin-starred such chefs as Martin Berasategui, Bart de Pooyer, and Rene Redzepi at Noma in Denmark. He earned praise while working at Moxi, a highly regarded restaurant in San Miguel de Allende; and the famed Restaurant Carolina, at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, northwest of Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico. He came to Dallas in 2017 to work at Tim McIneny's Jalisco Norte, where he's presenting a fusion of old and new Mexico.
Luis Olvera, Trompo
Olvera grew up in Oak Cliff but had family in the restaurant industry, including his uncle who had a restaurant in Monterrey, where his family was from. He grew up eating tacos and, armed with a recipe that followed Monterrey's style of street tacos, started out making them out of his backyard. After building up a small catering business, he opened Trompo in April 2016 as a no-frills place with three tables and a small bar. It's really just about the tacos, which Olvera has raised to a fine art - enough to get his small taqueria named by Bon Appétit magazine as one of America's Best New Restaurants of 2016.
Sonny Pache, Ocean Prime
Pache has been with the Ocean Prime seafood and steakhouse chain for nearly 10 years, first in Philadelphia, then Dallas where he opened the restaurant as executive chef. Known for his community involvement, Pache has competed in local competitions such as the American Institute of Wine and Food's Caesar salad competition, which he won in 2012. Born in the Philippines and raised in Southern California, Pache was inspired by his family's passion for food and eventually found his calling in college, when he would cook for his roommates. Beyond hewing to Ocean Prime's standards, he features off-menu vegan offerings such as risotto and quinoa cake.
Anastacia Quinones, The Cedars Social
Quiñones grew up in the hospitality industry; her mother had a catering business. But she found her focus after attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She has become an exemplar of elevated modern Mexican food - first as the celebrated chef at Alma, the Tristan Simon restaurant on Henderson Avenue; at Komali, the Mexican restaurant owned by chef Abraham Salum; and at Kitchen LTO in Trinity Groves. Her exciting new post is at Cedars Social, newly reconceived as an authentic Mexican restaurant, partnered with restaurateur Monica Greene and cocktail queen Leann Berry.
Oliver Sitrin, Bullion
Sitrin is on a stellar team at Bullion, the downtown Dallas restaurant from chef Bruno Davaillon, but he's built his own local following from previous positions at restaurants such as the Blind Butcher on Greenville Avenue, where he explored the art of charcuterie. His mother was born in England, and that helped him connect with British chef Nick Barclay, under whom he apprenticed at Barclay's restaurant when he was only 16. He graduated from El Centro College, and has worked at restaurants such as Abacus, Loft 610, and Village Marquee Grill.