We're only days away from our 2018 Tastemaker Awards, CultureMap's celebration of the best of food and drink in Dallas, where we're spotlighting all facets of the food and beverage industry, from bars to restaurants to bartenders to chefs.
This entry pays tribute to the top talent in the kitchen: the best chefs. These are the folks dreaming up new dishes and executing them with precision and consistency. They're all experienced, veteran chefs at the top of their game who are helping make Dallas the exciting culinary capital it is today.
We'll celebrate them and all of our other nominees at our Tastemaker Awards party April 19 at Sixty Five Hundred, with food tastings from chefs, and cocktails made with bourbon from sponsor Woodford Reserve. Tickets are on sale now for $55, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Bonton Farms.
Here are the 10 best chefs for 2018:
Chris Patrick, Abacus
Patrick had big shoes to fill at Abacus, taking over a position occupied by the restaurant's former chef and owner. But Patrick stepped up and has helped maintain Abacus' global cuisine, as well as overseeing openings for White Tail Bistro, The Lounge at Abacus, and Hickory, three sibling concepts. He's a champion of local ingredients and cooked at the James Beard House in 2017.
Doug Pickering, Ferris Wheelers
Pickering has enjoyed a quick ascent from his previous corporate life in real estate and finance into the buzzy world of barbecue. First he did catering, then got his feet wet in the restaurant world at Deep Ellum bar Work. He's now living the glamorous life of a pitmaster and upping his BBQ game at Ferris Wheelers, where they're doing lunch and dinner seven days a week, and that's no picnic.
Eric Dreyer, Fearing's
The right-hand man to chef Dean Fearing, Dreyer's affiliation with the Ritz-Carlton dates back to 1999 when he worked at a property in California. He worked at a number of luxury hotels, including the Grand Hyatt DFW, before joining Fearing's in 2007. As chef de cuisine, he's helped the restaurant stay consistently excellent but also vibrant and vital. In 2013, Eater crowned him Dallas' Hottest Chef, and in 2014, he won the Tastemaker Award for Rising Star Chef.
Jeana Johnson, Mockingbird Diner
A native of Palestine, in East Texas, Johnson knows indigenous cuisine inside and out. She worked at restaurants such as Stephan Pyles and Smoke, before opening her ground-breaking taqueria Good 2 Go Taco and her innovative Vietnamese restaurant Mot Hai Ba. In 2018, she and restaurateur Jack Perkins opened Mockingbird Diner, a culinary homage to Dallas and Texas, where she's turning out letter-perfect versions of home-cooking classics such as chicken-fried steak.
Jeffrey Kollinger, Tillman's Roadhouse
Kollinger was (and still is) a caterer for more than 35 years, doing events for clients such as Pat and Emmitt Smith before acquiring this veteran Oak Cliff restaurant. They've managed to steady the course at this longtime staple in the historic Bishop Arts District, offering an inviting, relaxed atmosphere with well made food and cocktails.
Jon Stevens, Stock & Barrel
A California native, Stevens moved to Dallas in 2000 and worked with prototypical Dallas chefs such as Chris Ward and Avner Samuel before opening his own upscale casual restaurant, Stock & Barrel, in 2014. Four years later, he's opening Foxyco, a restaurant in Dallas' Design District with shared plates and dishes cooked over coal.
Michael Ehlert, The French Room
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ehlert worked at restaurants in Colorado including 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. After moving to Dallas, he worked at The Chesterfield, Campo, Hibiscus, and the Front Room at Hotel Lumen, before joining The French Room right as it undertook a massive renovation, putting him in a high-profile spot.
Omar Flores, Whistle Britches
Critical acclaim follows chef Omar Flores wherever he cooks: First at Oak Cliff seafood restaurant Driftwood, then at Casa Rubia, his Spanish tapas restaurant at Trinity Groves, and now at Whistle Britches, his own restaurant in North Dallas with a Southern theme. Lots of people are doing fried chicken these days, but it's hard to beat his version — spicy and salty with a thin-but-crunchy crust.
Sean Merchant, Bob's Steak & Chop House
Merchant held tenures at concepts both big and small: from the Mira Vista Country Club to the Covey brewpub in Fort Worth, before joining Bob's Steak & Chop House, one of Dallas' consummate steakhouses. He's not only steering the ship, he's also become a kind of missionary for Dallas' favorite dish, with tutorials on kinds of cuts and how to cook them.
Tracy Miller, Local
If you want to talk about trailblazers, look no further than chef Tracy Miller. She opened Local in the historic Boyd Hotel building during a downtime in Deep Ellum in 2003. The neighborhood is now filled with restaurants and shops taking over cool historical buildings, while Miller has been quietly, consistently dishing out excellent modern American food for 15 years.