A quarter of the kitchen magicians named in Food & Wine magazine's 2017 list of the best new chefs are from Texas, proving that it's hard to top Lone Star talent.
Restaurant editor Jordana Rothman and "a seasoned team of always-hungry editors and reporters" ate their way from coast to coast to name 12 chefs from 10 restaurants to the annual list. Yoshi Okai from Otoko in Austin and Diego Galicia and Rico Torres from San Antonio's Mixtli made the cut, joining chefs from San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Portland, and Washington's Orcas Island.
In 2015, the culinary mag excitedly named Austin's then-unopened Otoko a must-try dining destination, and two years later, the excitement for the tiny restaurant has not waned. Yoshi Okai gets a nod for his reverence of Japanese traditions while seamlessly incorporating hyper-local ingredients and region-specific tastes into the sushi, with the magazine pointing out that "what might label Yoshi Okai a heretic in the sushi-yas of Tokyo is exactly what makes him Austin’s Best New Chef this year."
According to Food & Wine, "the most exciting regional Mexican cooking happening in America right now" is courtesy of Diego Galicia and Rico Torres, who change the menu at their 12-seat San Antonio restaurant every 45 days. The dishes at Mixtli are inspired by Mexico's lesser-known nuances — the bison herds of Chihuahua, the strawberry growers of Guanajuato — which the chefs learn about through their exclusive access to the University of Texas San Antonio’s collection of 16th-century Mexican cookbooks. The result, the magazine says, is "a deep dive into the range of Mexican gastronomy that’s as fun to think about as it is to eat."
Okai also happens to be nominated for Chef of the Year at the 2017 CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards, with Otoko vying for Restaurant of the Year. Swing by the party on April 19 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum to see if he gets to add another trophy to his already long list of accolades.