We've recognized the best neighborhood restaurants, along with breweries, bartenders, bars, burgers and rising star chefs. For this chapter, we look at the nominees for Chef of the Year. These chefs are well-established in the field, not only presiding over a kitchen or a restaurant, but also standing out in recent months for their accomplishments and culinary chops.
Here are the 10 candidates for Chef of the Year.
Tim Byres, Smoke
The chef and cookbook author (Smoke: New Firewood Cooking, whose foreword was written by recently deceased food writer Josh Ozersky) has achieved a noteworthy feat with the opening of a second branch of Smoke, his upscale meat-centric restaurant: He's almost made Plano seem cool. With every town in Texas requiring a smoked-meat guru, Dallas has Byres.
Graham Dodds, Hibiscus
After exiting the hotel restaurant world (Central 214, Front Room), chef Graham Dodds has breathed new life into Hibiscus, giving it the seasonal focus for which he is known. Dishes like Wagyu oxtail with crisp gnocchi and arugula pesto fill the same opulent niche Hibiscus has always occupied and yet are simultaneously trademark Dodds.
Omar Flores, Casa Rubia
After much critical acclaim at Oak Cliff seafood restaurant Driftwood, chef Omar Flores has rebounded at Casa Rubia, his Spanish tapas restaurant and one of the success stories at Trinity Groves. Classics like paella and mussels are on the menu but upgraded via Flores' finely tuned chef perspective.
Jeff Harris, AF+B
How to put this: Chef Jeff Harris, formerly of Craft Dallas and Bolsa, is good enough to get people from Dallas to drive to Fort Worth. At AF+B, he's doing high-end gastropub fare, putting a fine-dining polish and creative flair on rustic dishes such as chorizo Scotch eggs.
Kelly Hightower, Oso Food & Wine
Between owner Michael Cox and veteran chef Kelly Hightower, there's a lot of experience at Oso Food & Wine, Cox's charming neighborhood restaurant at Preston and Forest. Hightower is in his element with international flavors from Mediterranean hummus to lamb kofte with Moroccan spices to an Italian-themed chop salad.
Andrea Maricich, The Second Floor
At the Second Floor, the high-end hotel restaurant at the Westin Galleria, chef Andrea Maricich starts with traditional dishes, then adds cultural influences and seasonal notes that bring a new level of excitement. Her spring menu includes deviled eggs with New England lobster and a lemon Parmesan crisp.
Matt McCallister, FT33
Chef Matt McCallister continues to make waves at FT33, his Design District fine-dinery known for its minimalist-sounding menu and plate presentations in which much energy is devoted to making things look like a pile of rubble. The chef remains on the crest with the announcement of Filament, a second restaurant opening in Deep Ellum.
Kyle McClelland, Proof + Pantry
Northeast native Kyle McClelland helped anchor Proof + Pantry, the One Arts Plaza restaurant that was at the center of a media maelstrom when it rejected a review from the Dallas Morning News. He'll also helm a new sibling restaurant, Madrina, which will feature Mexican dishes crafted via French techniques.
Stephen Rogers, Gemma
Gemma is the favorite restaurant of the foodie set, thanks to husband-and-wife owners Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder. Rogers is a Dallas native who cooked in California before returning to his hometown where his thoughtful menu filters global flavors through a California sensibility.
John Tesar, Knife
One of the city's most mercurial and talented chefs, John Tesar is known for never being afraid to speak his mind; in staid, scared Dallas, that makes you dangerous. Knife, his modern revision of a steakhouse with a whole pantheon of meats, was one of the most important openings of 2014. Never at rest, he's now also helping out at the Design District restaurant Oak.
Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on May 14.