Austin, once considered a budding dining destination, now sits firmly on the map thanks to our many recognized culinary innovators. A new wave of talent is sweeping through kitchens around the city, pushing the envelop to entice and challenge diners' palates.
Below are the chefs nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year in the annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. Each is destined for stardom, shaping and redefining how we dine in the Capital City. We'll announce the winning chef on May 17, but first, it's time to meet the nominees.
Damien Brockway, Counter 3.Five.VII
With over 17 years of experience under his belt, Brockway rose from chef de cuisine to executive chef at this intimate dining concept. His humble beginnings started at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Soon after, he was honing his craft under James Beard Award-winning chefs and in Michelin star-rated restaurants. Today he demonstrates his range by plating intricate dishes under diners' watchful eyes.
Ji Peng Chen, Wu Chow
Hailing from Fuzhou, China, Chen leads Wu Chow's kitchen with uncompromising authenticity. Cooking in Virginia and New York, Chen has developed his own style of Chinese cooking that integrates tradition with Chinese-American dining culture. The long-awaited Wu Chow is the ideal space for him to showcase home-style dishes from various regions of China.
Taylor Hall, Apis Restaurant and Apiary
This Texas native's expansive culinary repertoire includes Wolfgang Puck's Postrio, Town Hall, and Pam Mazzola's James Beard Award-winning Boulevard. While he earned his stripes in kitchens throughout San Francisco, his heart still belonged to the Lone Star State. Since returning to Texas in 2007, he has been conceptualizing what is now Apis, a celebrated dining destination in the Hill Country.
Todd Havers, Cafe Josie
Chef Havers sharpened his skills at this establishment after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu. Six years later, he is making his signature mark as the executive chef, weaving his personal ties to Texas through his cuisine. His style of cooking highlights seasonal eats in a playful and approachable manner while paying homage to his grandmother and mother's Southern kitchens.
Michael Paley, Café No Sé and Central Standard
After graduating from the Florida Culinary School, this New Jersey native worked under big names in the industry (Daniel Boulud, Drew Nieporent) before gathering his own accolades. Under his leadership, Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky, earned a spot in Esquire magazine's top 25 restaurants in 2006. Food & Wine and Bon Appetite both gave him nods in 2012 and 2013. After directing Hotel Ella's dining in 2014, he now oversees the culinary operations at the chic South Congress Hotel.
Nicholas Yanes, Juniper
Before venturing out as executive chef and partner at this beloved East Austin eatery, Yanes was most recognized for his impact at Uchi restaurants. Juniper is inspired by his travels in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardi, and Emilia-Romagna. This native Texan integrates old-world techniques with his years of experience in Central Texas kitchens.