Every year, CultureMap Dallas hosts a celebration spotlighting the top talent fueling Dallas-Fort Worth's vibrant restaurant and bar scene: Called the Tastemaker Awards, it shines a light on the city's top culinary talent.
That celebration beging with a 10-part editorial series, profiling all of those nominated for an award in categories such as Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, Bar of the Year, Brewery of the Year, and more. Check out our page with all the nominees, voted on by a panel of judges consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts.
It'll culminate in a party on May 12 at Fashion Industry Gallery, emceed by comedian CJ Starr, where attendees get to dine on bites from nominated restaurants and find out who the winners are in all the categories. (Tickets are on sale here.)
The category we're here to toast today is Rising Star Chef of the Year — our up-and-comers, our emerging stars — and this year's crop is exceptionally bright. Their work ranges from authentic Mexican to BBQ to fine-dining at the city's top hotels. What they all have in common is that they're propelling Dallas' dining scene forward.
Here are our nominees for 2022 Rising Star Chef:
Fino Rodriguez, Taquero
Originally from Matehuala in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Fino worked at well known restaurants around Dallas including Mr. Mesero, Cafe Herrera, Lita's, and Oaxaca, before striking out on his own in 2017 with Taquero, an ambitious but tiny taqueria in West Dallas. Limited seating kept him in the realm of "hidden find" until 2020, when he relocated to the former Pints & Quarts space on Greenville Avenue, where his creative tacos and culinary prowess are earning him the acclaim he deserves.
Jason Rehbock, The Owners Box
Native of Chicago has been cooking since he was 16, including a meaningful stint at Foghorn's, a sports bar in Fayetteville, before he joined the Omni Dallas Hotel in 2017. He's thrived in the hotel environment, embracing the challenges presented in his role as chef of The Owners Box, the hotel's sports bar, including national cooking competitions and new menu items like his signature Italian beef slider, a nod to his Chicago roots.
Aldo Lugo, Jose
Working for an acclaimed restaurant such as Jose, the authentic Mexican in the Park Cities helmed by chef AQ Pittman, gives you an automatic bump, but sous chef Aldo Lugo, who's worked at the restaurant for more than two years, has his own special brio. Beyond his culinary talents, his positive generous spirit and willingness to always lend a hand have made valuable contributions to the restaurant's familial culture.
Jonah Friedmann, Commons Club at Virgin Hotels Dallas
Chicago native attended the Culinary Institute of America and also obtained a bachelor's in hospitality from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. He's worked at major hotel properties such as the Gaylord Texan, Sheraton Dallas, and Hotel Vin in Grapevine, which he helped open in 2020. Virgin has provided a platform for unparalleled creativity in dishes such as a French Dip with Akaushi American Wagyu NY Strip on a toasted hoagie bun.
Leo Morales, Parry Avenue Barbecue Company
Morales worked both in the back and front of the house, before barbecue became his passion. A restaurant industry lifer, he was culinary director and operating partner at Barrel & Bones Craft Bar and Smokehouse and previously a manager at Smoky Rose, the East Dallas BBQ restaurant before he opened this dedicated stand of his own on the edge of Exposition Park. He's also a generous soul who led a charitable initiative where he and fellow Dallas-area pitmasters prepared brisket for furloughed bartenders.
Marshall Cole, The Mitchell
Cole is most famous for a motorbike accident in which he sustained a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage, resulting in a loss of taste and smell, and symptoms still linger. But this Alabama native was already a rising star, having worked at notable eateries such as Flora St. Cafe and Sundown at Granada. He joined The Mitchell in downtown Dallas in 2021, not only helping get it open post-pandemic but also elevating its stature and profile.
Jordan Swim, Vestals Catering/FB Society
Swim has earned a name as one of the area's top caterers, but he's a versatile, well-rounded player who has also owned restaurants and helped others open restaurants, as well. He's partnered with FB Society, and has also served as a culinary arts instructor, which is how he became involved with City Square, the nonprofit focused on helping the homeless, where he created a program to provide food-service training for folks in search of a career.
Fabian Castillo, Jalisco Norte
A native of Mexico, Castillo puts his heritage to good use at this authentic Mexican kitchen and bar at Turtle Creek Village, where he's sous chef to acclaimed chef Jose Meza, whose resume includes the famed NOMA in Copenhagen.
Joshua Gianni Farrell, Will Call Bar
Farrell has toiled in some of Dallas' best kitchens including Jasper's and the Mansion on Turtle Creek, where he worked during the Bruno Davaillon tenure before landing as head chef at this beloved neighborhood bar in Deep Ellum, where he's made his mark doing bar food — over-the-top cheesesteaks, for example — that's fresh and made from scratch, both elevated and fun.