To hear the rest of the world speak of the Austin food scene, one would think it was only built on the backs of a few big-name chefs, but those out-of-towners are woefully missing the whole story. That's why, as part of our eighth annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, we are honoring seven nominees for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
From food truck proprietors to hotel chefs, the Capital City is brimming with talent. Meet the next generation of superstars below, then join us at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on April 10 as we announce the winner.
Daniel and Miguel Cobos, Vaquero Taquero
Like Coco Chanel’s little black dress or architect Louis Kahn’s breathtaking Kimbell Art Museum, the food coming out of the Cobos brothers' tiny truck proves there is power in purity. The menu is mainly devoted to two things — tacos and quesadillas — endlessly remixed with caramelized marinated pork, vegetal nopales, brined loin steak, or sprightly shredded chicken. A planned brick-and-mortar may slightly expand the menu, but don’t expect anything too flashy. This is cuisine steeped in heritage and memory. No flourish could make it any more right.
Abril Galindo, Four Seasons Austin
In a city preoccupied with the new, it takes extra oomph to revive a familiar brand. Luckily, that’s just what Abril Galindo has done at one Austin's most venerable spaces, the Four Seasons. Most interestingly, she has done so not by copycatting trend articles from Bon Appetít but by retracing her Gaudalajara roots. Although she officially serves as the executive sous chef for the hotel, the menu at its Live Oak bar is where her food seems most personal. Dishes like a scallop ceviche with cucumber, mint, and strawberry-habañero salsa and a masa flatbread with huitlacoche, pepitas, kale, and Cotija cheese celebrate the vibrancy of her hometown from hundreds of miles away.
Atticus Garant, Fairmont Hotel
With his charming demeanor and mega-watt smile, Atticus Garant is a sharp rejoinder to the bad-boy image mythologized in the American kitchen. A friendly personality isn’t necessary to create friendly cuisine (and, let’s face it, many of culinary history’s most revered figures were real jerks), but one can’t help but notice the cheer in everything Garant does. As executive sous chef, he has a part in Fairmont’s huge culinary program, though his talent is perhaps best enjoyed at the Revue food hall where a commitment to scratch cooking electrifies everything from rigatoni bolognese to poutine from his native Canada. Move over Marie Kondo — Garant knows what truly sparks joy.
Jason Purcell, Garrison
As if having one rising star chef on staff wasn’t enough, the Fairmont impressed this year with a twofer. At the hotel’s upscale anchor restaurant, Jason Purcell makes brilliant use of a showcase open kitchen, particularly the open fire where the chef de cuisine chars baby eggplant, grills branzino, and roasts beets. Yes, those techniques are very au courant, but what happens afterwards really ignites the restaurant. The eggplants are lifted from the mire with preserved citrus and romesco. The sweetness of the beets is countered with onion escabeche. And the branzino, served with a chickpea stew redolent of Israeli cuisine, has a thunderbolt of tamarind.
Rich Reimbolt, Better Half Coffee & Cocktails
As a veteran of McGuire Moorman Hospitality’s Jeffrey’s and Josephine House, Rich Reimbolt has found splendor as the executive chef of a much more casual restaurant just down the road. With a focus on approachability and the diversity of Texas cuisine, he has created one of Austin’s most contemporary menus, one that relishes in the freedom of a global palate without getting mired in New American pretension. In his hands, a breakfast sandwich is an awakening, and a simple grain bowl, moored in a tamari broth, becomes one of the city’s most successful plates.
Amanda Turner, Juniper
Perhaps more than any other chef on this list, Amanda Turner is the definition of a rising star. Fresh out of culinary school, she began her career as a line cook at Uchi before taking her skills to Odd Duck as a baker. Faster than a boule can rise, she was overseeing the entire bread program. She joined the opening team of Juniper as sous chef and when first being considered for this year’s Tastemaker Awards, it was for her work as the chef de cuisine. Since then, she has ascended to the executive chef role, where her wide-ranging talents are an essential strand in the Northern Italian restaurant’s DNA. Her wide-ranging talents can be seen in everything Juniper sends out, from charcuterie to pastry.
Lakana Trubiana, Dee Dee
Chefs in the Capital City are seldom known to use spice with temerity, instead letting fat take the lead. So it’s refreshing when someone arrives that knows how to direct an entire ensemble. In Lakana Trubiana’s Thai cuisine, no one note dominates. The sting of the chili paste broth in the om gai doesn’t numb the lemongrass or dill. Neither the salt nor the sugar jostle for stage time in the mango sticky rice. More protein-forward menu items are coming in the form of a new barbecue truck, but Austin can be assured that the spatchcocked whole chickens and dry short rubs will still astonish.