Each year, we celebrate the best of Dallas food and drink with our annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.
No thanks to the coronavirus, 2020 is a little different from prior versions, but we're still here to honor the restaurants, bars, chefs, bartenders, and all the other F&B professionals that make Dallas such a vibrant scene.
We've already covered best chefs, neighborhood restaurants, pastry chefs, and breweries, and now we're at the category of Rising Star Chef of the Year. These are the emerging stars, the up-and-comers making their mark on the local culinary scene.
These 10 chefs made the list of finalists, and one winner will be announced on July 30, when we unveil all of the winners at our Virtual Party.
Herre are our nominees for 2020 Rising Star Chef.
Toby Archibald - Georgie by Curtis Stone
New Zealand native is an international chef who has worked in some high-flying restaurants and cities including North Bondi Fish in Sydney, Australia, and at famed Cafe Boulud, both in the New York location and in Toronto. He came to Dallas with his wife to open a restaurant, and has worked with big-name chefs including Bruno Davaillon at Boullion, and at Georgie by Curtis Stone, the Knox Street restaurant that's a collaboration between celebrity chef Curtis Stone and Dallas restaurateur Stephane Courseau.
Geo Arredondo - Muchacho Tex Mex
Chef Geo isn't one of those chefs talking about his process or his technique. He got his education on the job, making the quintessential rise from dishwasher to busboy to server to chef. On his journey, he learned every station in the kitchen. His combination of modesty and dedication make him a popular go-to hire by chefs such as Andre Natera, DJ Quintanilla, and Tre Wilcox. He was at Casa Komali and helped create a menu for Don't Tell Supper Club in Deep Ellum. He's currently at Muchacho Tex Mex, rejoining chef Omar Flores with whom he worked at Driftwood in Oak Cliff.
Josh Bonee - Lucky's Hot Chicken
This Nashville native came to Dallas to work for Stephan Pyles' Flora Street Café after a series of tenures in Tennessee and on the West Coast, including Easy Bistro in Chattanooga and Husk, the Nashville restaurant from celebu-chef Sean Brock. He worked in Napa Valley at the now closed Martini House, and Matteis Tavern in Los Olivos. After Flora Street Café, he was chef de cuisine, then executive chef, at Fine China, at the Statler hotel. He took time off to combat Guillan-Barre Syndrome, and is now prepping for the opening of Lucky's Hot Chicken, the Nashville-style chicken place opening on Gaston Avenue.
Jared Conoley - Manhattan Project Beer Company
Conoley has an impressive track record in Dallas at acclaimed restaurants such as Beverley's, Mot Hot Bai, The Joule, FT33, Oak, and Hotel ZaZa. He also spent a couple years in Austin at Olivia and Contigo.
Paolo Gama - Four Seasons Las Colinas
Gama's a native of Mexico who earned a degree in hospitality administration and management from the Universidad del Valle de Mexico, where he excelled in the pastry program. He was a pastry chef for Chef Vasquez Fidel Nieto, then worked on desserts for chef Hector Villalobos Oliver. He has extnesive hotel experience including the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, Omni Hotels in Orlando, Grupo Vidanta at a restaurant in Nuevo Vallarta, and the Four Seasons Punta de Mita resort in Nayarit, Mexico. He was also chef at the British Ambassador's Residence in Mexico City, and has been with the Four Seasons at Las Colinas since May 2018.
Yia Medina - Jasper's Uptown
Medina has an unusual background that includes studying criminology in college and getting a law degree. She came to Dallas from her native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit her homeland hard. She'd been cooking at the Ritz-Carlton in Dorado, Puerto Rico, so she transferred to Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas. She also worked at the Omni Dallas Hotel, although surely her most colorful appointment was at Circo Dallas, now closed. She was hired as executive chef at Jasper's Uptown, but has been working on initiatives to feed the hungry.
Daniel Pittman - Cane Rosso
Pittman made a name for himself with LUCK, his Trinity Groves restaurant where he was executive chef and co-owner for more than five years. He attended El Centro Culinary Institute, then earned his chops working for the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts for 8 years, in both the Las Colinas and Scottsdale locations. He served briefly as culinary director for Sinelli Concepts and is currently managing the kitchen and catering at Cane Rosso White Rock.
Hilario Serratos - Las Palmas Dallas
Serratos grew up in Leon, the largest city in the state of Guanajuato in the center of Mexico, right on the border of Jalisco. He began his cooking career in Houston, before moving to Dallas where he also worked in the printing industry. He was recommended for the chef position at Las Palmas, the Uptown Dallas Mexican restaurant, where he helped create a menu in collaboration with guest chef Pablo Urueña.
Aaron Skoultchi - Rapscallion, Boulevardier
Growing up in central New Jersey with Jewish and Japanese/Costa Rican parents gave Skoultchi an extrordinary exposure to an array of different foods from a young age. He moved to Tennessee to attend college, where he got the restaurant world working at Pat Martin's BBQ joint. After some time in Nashville's restaurant scene, he moved to Dallas and teamed up with his brother-in-law Josh Harmon to open Kitchen LTO, as well as Junction Craft Kitchen in Deep Ellum. He also worked with Josh Sutcliff at The Joule's Mirador. He spent a year rising through the ranks at Rapscallion, and is now chef de cuisine there as well as Boulevardier.
Jay Vopatek - Lovers Seafood & Market
A native of the Chicago area, Vopatek has the Midwesterner's signature niceness, but he also has a drive that has taken him to some high-profile assignments. Those range from Easy Tiger and La Condesa in Austin to the Burleson Brands outfit in Tennessee, where he worked at concepts such as Bistro By The Tracks, Sunspot, and Aubrey's. He came to Dallas to help open Hero, the sports bar in Victory Park, then joined the Shinsei-Lovers Seafood & Market family, where he's serving as chef de cuisine.