The action is underway for the 2019 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink, where we spotlight chefs, bars, and restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The category of Rising Star Chef of the Year celebrates emerging stars on the local dining scene, whether they're working the line, running a kitchen, or opening their own restaurant.
We consulted with a panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, and narrowed it down to 10 chefs as the finalists for 2019 Rising Stars.
Over the next few weeks, we'll spotlight nominees in every category: from best chefs to the best restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Winners will be announced at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards party on April 25 at Fashion Industry Gallery. We’ll reveal the winners, sip cocktails, and dine on bites provided by the nominees. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are the 10 nominees for Rising Star Chef:
Alice Eva Schermer, Highland Dallas
Schermer is chef de cuisine at Knife by John Tesar, where she's been ruling the roost since November 2017. She's had a wide variety of experience, working in hotel dining at HEI Hotels & Resorts where she was executive chef, as well as fine-dining and entertainment venues. She previously worked Truluck's, Live Nation, and DoubleTree by Hilton.
Donny Sirisavath, Khao Noodle Shop
It was only a couple of years ago that Donny Sirisavath was still working as an aviation technician, and his rise to fame, from hosting popular pop-ups to owner-founder of his own noodle-centric restaurant, has been nothing less than meteoric. The time and place for Khao Noodle Shop is so right. The East Dallas neighborhood where it's located is in the throes of a foodie renaissance, and Dallas is primed for what he offers: spicy Laotian food and unique "boat" noodles he makes by hand. Sirisavath's travels include trips through Southeast Asia, as well as cooking with a prominent Laotian chef at the Beard House.
Eric Freidline, Sevy's
Freidline is the well-liked chef de cuisine at Sevy's who has worked with chef-owner Jim Severson for three years, where he rolls out intriguing foodie specials like parsnip gnocchi with Jerusalem artichoke, caramelized fennel, and leek nage. The nage is what makes it really special. His prior experience includes supervising the development and opening of a small restaurant on an exotic animal hunting resort. He also worked at Chamberlains Steak & Chop House, and Kona Grill. Originally from Midland, he got his degree in culinary arts at the Art Institute of Dallas.
Graham Shockley, Nova
Shockley is a relative newbie in the kitchen but in his five years on the culinary scene, he's moved fast. A native of the Houston area, where he was exposed to a wide variety of cuisines while growing up, he graduated from Baylor, and started learning the ropes by working at a food truck in Waco. When he relocated to Dallas, it was serendipitous that he would move practically next-door to Nova, which won "Best Neighborhood Restaurant" in the 2018 Tastemaker Awards, where he's worked with chef Eric Spigner for three years. He's submerged himself into the Oak Cliff dining world, doing pop-up dinners at neighborhood restaurants such as Taco Y Vino.
Grant Morgan, Velvet Taco
Currently director of F&B for Velvet Taco, Morgan has worked at multiple AAA 4- and 5 Diamond-rated restaurants and cooked for numerous Hollywood A-listers. He began his career in his hometown Sedona at the renowned Heartline Cafe, learning every station until he knew the kitchen inside out. He's worked in resort towns like Las Vegas and Vail, Colorado, at luxury properties such as Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and Spa and Le Cirque at the Bellagio Hotel. He was lured to Dallas to work at Hotel Zaza for three years, before joining the FrontBurner group (The Ranch, Twin Peaks, Whiskey Cake, etc.).
Jared Harms, Pyramid
Chef Harms had some solid-gold experience prior to his hire at the Fairmont hotel where he has been executive chef since 2016. Prior to that, he was a sous chef at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts from 2010-2016, and notably, he was a cook at the legendary York Street from 2009-2010. Not too many chefs can make that claim. Harms also has a little something extra in his educational background: He graduated from A&M with a bachelor's in nutrition sciences.
Meagan Stout, Americano
Stout is a UNT grad and is currently sous chef at Americano at the Joule. She's covered a lot of ground: She was sous chef at Breslin Bar & Dining Room, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York under chef April Bloomfield, and has done stints at Sachet, French Room, and Barley & Board in Denton. She was also a James Beard Foundation grant recipient in the Women in Culinary Leadership program.
Patrick Hildebrandt, Texican
Hildebrandt came to Texican Court with more than a decade of hospitality experience at venues such as Sweet Basil in Vail, Colorado, the Empty Stomach Group in San Antonio, and The Hollow in Georgetown. Now he rules the roost at Two Mules Cantina, a restaurant and bar at Texican Court, a new property from Houston-based Valencia Group Hotels which opened in Irving's Las Colinas Urban Center, across the street from the Irving Convention Center and Toyota Music Factory in 2018.
Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag
Duong was deep in the corporate world as a buyer for Nordstrom when she began doing pop-ups in 2015. Her goal was to share the joys of authentic Vietnamese cuisine, which she learned while growing up as an unofficial sous chef for her mother, who cooked everything from scratch. "Right down to having me roast raw peanuts over the hot stove while removing its brown peel one peanut at a time," Duong says. She left corporate America in 2016 and opened Sandwich Hag in its permanent location in 2017. It's a point of pride for her that she will make no substitutions, championing bold flavors, vibrant spices, fresh ingredients, never taking any shortcuts, all while respecting the integrity of Vietnamese cuisine.
Zeb Hartline, Sheraton Dallas
Hartline joins the Sheraton with more than 15 years in the food and beverage industry. Hartline hails from southwestern Michigan, where he grew up on a 67-acre produce farm. He earned his degree at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Orlando, and has earned more than two dozen awards on the professional barbecue circuit. Most recently, he served for four years as executive chef over multiple restaurants and director of restaurants at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine. Prior to that, he worked at The JW Marriott & Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Grande Lakes Orlando and Orlando World Center Marriott.