We're only a week away from the 2017 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink. As part of our run-up, we've elected nominees in all categories of food and beverage, from best chefs to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Now we move on to one of the biggest categories of all: best chef.
Angela Hernandez, Top Knot
A native of Austin, Hernandez joined the Uchi family in 2014 to work at Uchiko in Austin before coming to Dallas in 2016 to open Top Knot, the whimsical spot atop Uchi Dallas. A graduate of the Texas Culinary Academy, she worked for six years in New York including at Allen & Delancey and Corton, and she also worked at Flores, and at The Bazaar by Chef Jose Andres, both in Los Angeles.
Bruno Davaillon, Bullion
A native of the Loire Valley in France, Bruno Davaillon came to Dallas in 2010 to take on the post of chef at the venerable Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. Prior to Dallas, he was executive chef at Alain Ducasse's Mix at THE hotel at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Under his five-year leadership, Mix was awarded a Michelin star in both 2008 and 2009. Davaillon began cooking at age 16 and has cooked in some of the world's most legendary restaurants, such as Restaurant Lasserre, a temple of classic French gastronomy near the Champs-Élysées. He'll open a new restaurant, Bullion, in downtown Dallas in 2017.
Dean Fearing, Fearing's Restaurant
Charismatic Dean Fearing is one of the founders of Southwestern cuisine and one of Dallas' most beloved chefs. He helped make the Mansion on Turtle Creek a culinary destination before leaving to found Fearing's Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. He also authored the 2014 cookbook The Texas Food Bible. He's had countless features in national and international press and numerous TV cooking shows. He was recognized as a "Pioneer of American Cuisine" by his alma mater the Culinary Institute of America, and was presented with the Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance by Food Arts.
Julian Barsotti, Nonna, Carbone's, Sprezza
The current poster boy in Dallas for Italian food, Barsotti comes from a cooking family. His mother owns the catering operation Food Company, and his grandmother's family owns restaurants in New Jersey. He cooked at Oliveto in California before opening Nonna in Dallas in 2006. He's since followed that up with Italian-American restaurant Carbone's, which he opened in 2012, and Sprezza, a Roman-themed restaurant that opened in 2016.
Kirstyn Brewer, 80/20 Hospitality
Brewer is a returning nominee; in fact, she won in 2016 for Best Rising Star Chef. Her resume includes The Bazaar by Jose Andreas in Beverly Hills, where she worked with Top Chef Michael Voltaggio, and Consilient Restaurants' Westside Tavern in Los Angeles. Her employ with Consilient brought her to Dallas. She first worked at Hibiscus before moving to Victor Tangos, where she was executive chef for three years. She left in 2016 to open a still-to-come American/Chinese restaurant in the old Remedy space on Greenville Avenue.
Matt Balke, Bolsa
A native of Texas, Balke is an exceptionally well-rounded chef who graduated from Texas Tech with degrees in business marketing and hotel restaurant management before moving on to the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated as salutatorian in 2007. He worked at York Street, then two years at Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado, The Rustic in Dallas, and Smoke in Plano, before returning to rule the roost at Bolsa again.
Matt Hoa, Ten Ramen
A native of California, Hoa comes from a restaurant family, and is part of the "Teach" family of restaurants, including his tenure at Tei An, the noodle restaurant at One Arts Plaza. He began to attract attention as executive chef at Ten Ramen, whose intimate confines provide a showcase for the creative labors and exciting action of the chef team. Hoa is part of the opening team at the new offshoot at the Shacks complex in The Colony.
Matt McCallister, FT33, Filament
After cooking in kitchens across the country, Arizona native Matt McCallister found his home in Dallas at FT33, his first solo venture, which made waves on a national scale, including a spot on the 2013 Top 50 New Restaurant list from Bon Appétit, and a 2014 Food & Wine Best New Chef nod. He's since opened Filament, a more casual restaurant in Deep Ellum. He favors the rubble-on-the-plate look and is famous for his foraging expeditions.
Michael Ehlert, The French Room
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ehlert began his cooking career at Colorado restaurants such as Boulder Cafe and Jax Fish House, the restaurant of Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, and in New York at the Brasserie and chef Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen & Bar. In Dallas, he's worked at The Chesterfield, Campo, Hibiscus, and the Front Room at Hotel Lumen.
Stephan Pyles, Stampede 66, Flora Street Cafe
A fifth-generation West Texan born into a restaurant family, Stephan Pyles has led an amazing life of restaurants, travel, education, and charity. Prolific and creative, he's launched more than a dozen restaurants, from his ground-breaking Routh Street Cafe to the iconic Star Canyon to his eponymous restaurant on Ross Avenue to his latest stunner, Flora Street Cafe. He's produced and starred on TV cooking shows, published cookbooks, and won a James Beard Award, an accomplishment few Dallasites have achieved.