The annual 2019 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards celebrates the best in Dallas-Fort Worth food and drink, spotlighting bars and bartenders, restaurants and chefs.
Chefs are the biggest factor in the personality of any restaurant. They're often the reason people come to a restaurant in the first place. The best ones combine skill, dedication, and creativity — and that includes all 10 nominees in this list.
Our panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, had the tough job of narrowing it down to one that will win the top award.
You can find out who when the winners are announced at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards party on April 25 at Fashion Industry Gallery. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are our 10 nominees for the 2019 Tastemaker Awards Chef of the Year:
Anthony Dispensa — The French Room
This Houston native grew up in a food household before attending Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. He's worked with a variety of acclaimed chefs including Lydia Shire, Gordon Ramsay, Masaharu Morimoto, and Alan Ducasse, in cities across the world from London to Dubai. At the French Room, he's managed to continue the fine-dining tradition while infusing it with a breath of fresh air.
Bruno Davaillon — Bullion
A native of the Loire Valley in France, 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 came to Dallas in 2010 to take the reins at the venerable Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, before opening his gorgeous restaurant, Bullion, in downtown Dallas in 2018.
Matt Ford — Billy Can Can
Ford is an MVP whose resume runs from pizza and pastas at Americano to contemporary American at CBD Provisions and Craft Dallas, all places he worked before joining up with restaurateur Tristan Simon at this Victory Park hotspot. Billy Can Can's menu is modern Texas with a French influence, using Texas-raised beef and game, Gulf seafood, and locally grown produce including some from Ford's personal garden.
Joel Orsini — Izkina
The kitchen at this casual restaurant in Deep Ellum may be tiny, but chef Joel Orsini is putting out some big food. He attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked in New York City, before returning to Texas, where he worked in Austin as well as Dallas restaurants such as CBD Provisions and FT33. He's a farm-to-table proponent, currently building an apiary and rooftop garden atop the hostel where Izkina is located.
Jose Meza — Jalisco Norte
This high-profile chef is perhaps the only chef in Dallas who has worked at the famed NOMA in Copenhagen, Denmark. A native of Mexico City, he's worked at Enrique Olvera's Pujol in Mexico City, Moxi by Enrique Olvera in San Miguel de Allende, and Carolina Restaurant at The St. Regis Punta Mita Luxury Resort. He brings an elevated sense of Mexican cuisine to this Oak Lawn Avenue restaurant.
Manny Vera — Truluck's
Dallas native took the lessons he learned at home and has achieved a sweet success story at Truluck's, where he's worked for more than 20 years. Climbing his way up from prep cook to cover every station in the kitchen, he's now the executive chef and a partner in the organization, where he oversees the kitchen and executes to the standards of this high-quality steak and seafood chain.
Misti Norris — Petra & The Beast
A return nominee (for Rising Star in 2015), Norris has had a banner year, with accolades from across the country for her highly personal restaurant on Haskell Avenue. She honed her chops working at some of Dallas' most acclaimed restaurants including Nana, during the Anthony Bombaci reign, and Design District hot spot FT33, both now closed. She's a creative innovator who delves into the process, whether it's butchering her own meat or making her own charcuterie.
Nick Barclay — Fish n Fizz
A native of England, Barclay is having a renaissance in Dallas, where he ran an acclaimed restaurant in the '90s, before going to England to run an inn by the sea. He and his wife returned in 2018 to open their fish & chips joint, Fish & Fizz, in Richardson. It's not just that their approach is authentic; it's also that they execute it with care.
Rodman Shields — Common Table
Shields is officially the chef at Common Table, but you can find his imprint on many menus across town. If you're a restaurateur without the capital to hire a fancy chef full-time, Chef Rod has carved out a niche as the go-to consultant who can whip up a menu for your kitchen to execute. He's a graduate of Johnson & Wales in South Carolina who has also worked as a chef at high-end restaurants such as Nick & Sam’s and Cool River Cafe.
Wade Burch — Perle on Maple
Burch trained at the School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards and Windows on the World Wine School, and has worked at The Plaza Hotel in New York, The Pan Pacific Hotel in San Francisco, and The Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas. He's also appeared on Food Network's Chopped. His menu of bistro classics with a Texas twist has helped revitalize this restaurant at the grand Le Méridien Dallas The Stoneleigh hotel.