Drum roll, please, for the inaugural CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, our annual celebration of the talent in the local food and drink community. Our mission: Shine a spotlight on the people making the city's restaurant scene special and honor their innovation, energy and creativity.
Over the next few weeks, we'll spotlight candidates in all categories of food and beverage, from the professional who mixes your cocktail to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth.
For our first category, we present the nominees for Best Rising Star Chef. These are the chefs whose chops are just emerging but who already show they have what it takes.
Gigliola Aguilera, Joyce & Gigi's
Gigliola "Gigi" Aguilera is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Austin who's worked at a number of top Dallas kitchens, including Fearing’s, Five Sixty and the Stoneleigh. She also worked in Europe, including a stint at a chocolatier in Switzerland, where she sharpened her pastry skills. She opened Joyce & Gigi's with her mother, Joyce, in December 2012.
Felipe Armenta, Pacific Table
Chef Felipe Armenta grew up in a restaurant family and drew raves as a chef in California. In 2010, he opened The Tavern in Fort Worth with tacos, enchiladas and other casual fare. But he really turned heads when he opened the elegant Pacific Table in 2013, joining a local embrace of fine-dining seafood à la John Tesar's Spoon.
Andrew Dilda, Barter
Brash young Andrew Dilda worked at Woodshed Smokehouse and CBD Provisions before nabbing the chef spot at Barter, the new restaurant concept in the old Private Social space. He's executing a menu conceived by his old Woodshed boss, Tim Love, while also adding his own improvisational touches.
Eric Dreyer, Fearing's
Eric Dreyer's affiliation with the Ritz-Carlton dates back to 1999 when he worked at a property in California. He cheffed at a number of luxury hotels, including the Grand Hyatt DFW, before joining Fearing's in 2007, where he was recently promoted to chef de cuisine. In 2013, Eater crowned him Dallas' Hottest Chef.
Justin Holt, Lucia
Since arriving in Dallas seven years ago, Justin Holt has worked with some of Dallas' most discriminating chefs, including David Uygur at Lucia and Anthony Bombaci at Nana (now Ser). His personal claim to fame has become his fondness for ramen, highlighted at a ramen pop-up shop he did in Bishop Arts.
Danyele McPherson, Remedy
Danyele McPherson graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in anthropology and history before realizing that being a chef was her true calling. She shot up through the ranks at Stephan Pyles before joining the legendary Grape as sous chef. She left in March and will helm a soda-shop concept called Remedy, coming soon to Greenville Avenue.
Nico Sanchez, Meso Maya
Nico Sanchez has worked in kitchens since he was a boy in Mexico. In Dallas, he began his chef career with Consilient and moved his way up to became chef at Cuba Libre. In addition to the two branches of Meso Maya, he also oversees his passion project La Ventana, a taqueria next to the Meso Maya in downtown Dallas.
Patrick Stark, Sundown at Granada
A graduate of CIA in New York, Patrick Stark ran a catering company before joining the Granada Theater in Dallas. He and Granada owner Mike Schoder launched the healthy, veg-friendly Sundown at Granada in 2012. They've taken a stance against GMOs, one that got the restaurant national attention. Stark also appeared on the TV show Cutthroat Kitchen.
Brian Zenner, Belly & Trumpet
A graduate of the Texas Culinary Academy, Brian Zenner began his culinary career at the Driskill Hotel in Austin. He lived and worked at a number of restaurants in Portland, Oregon, until 2010, when he joined the team at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. He was on the opening crew of Design District restaurant Oak, then moved to helm sister restaurant Belly & Trumpet, to great critical acclaim.
Come celebrate the Tastemakers with us on Tuesday, May 6, at Seven for Parties in the Dallas Design District. To learn more about the event, including information about our beneficiaries, judges, participating restaurants and ticket sales, visit our Tastemakers website