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Austin culinary star shines bright among Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2020

Austin culinary star shines bright among Food & Wine Best New Chefs

Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Emmer & Rye
Tavel Bristol-Joseph. Photo by Julie M. Neis
khao noodle shop Donny Sirisavath
Donny Sirisavath. Khao Noodle Shop/Facebook
Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Emmer & Rye
khao noodle shop Donny Sirisavath

For the past 32 years, Food & Wine has released its Best New Chefs, a collection of culinary rising stars from across the country. Using restaurant trips and insider tips, the prestigious publication editors traverse all 50 states to find the 10 people “mak[ing] the sharpest, most forward-thinking, and satisfying food in America."

The class of 2020 is a diverse mix of talent, and includes two Texas chefs: Austin's Tavel Bristol-Joseph and Dallas' Donny Sirisavath.

Of course, most of the chefs aren't actually all that new, including Bristol-Joseph. Austin foodies have been dining on his dishes for the past four years at Emmer & Rye, Henbit, Hestia, and Kalimotxo. (He's a partner in all four concepts alongside Kevin Fink, who landed on the Best New Chef list in 2016 and was recently short-listed for a James Beard Award.)

Food & Wine labels the pastry chef "a savant" with sugar, flour, and yeast, calling particular attention to his Parker House rolls at Hestia and his bread pudding at Emmer & Rye. 

"To be recognized, especially in these hard times, due to your hard work and dedication is something that I’m still trying to find the right words for," he tells CultureMap. 

For the Guyana-born chef who once dreamed of playing basketball (if you've ever stood in his well-over-6-foot shadow, you see why), Bristol-Joseph calls the nod a "great blessing," especially as the restaurant industry reels from the economic shutdown due to COVID-19.

"The two things that keep me going are having hope and believing. Belief that there is a brighter tomorrow and as long as you keep hope alive you’ll always come out stronger in the end. Look at me for example, I grew up in a poor country, sleeping on the floor for most of my life, to Food & Wine’s Best New Chef!"

Like Bristol-Joseph, Sirisavath, chef-owner of the acclaimed Khao Noodle Shop, is hardly an overnight success. The San Antonio native grew up working in his mother's Chinese restaurant, and though his career began down the decidedly non-culinary path of engineering, it was his mother who ultimately brought him back to food. 

After his mom received a terminal cancer diagnosis, the chef threw himself into taking care of her, he told Food & Wine. During their time together, Sirisavath found himself making the recipes of her native Laos — recipes that have made their way onto the menu at Khao Noodle Shop. 

As for being among Food & Wine's Best New Chefs, Sirisavath calls it an "honor" and  "confirmation that I belong here and that leaving a corporate job was worth it."

"Hopefully because of this recognition, Dallas restaurants will continue to push forward in making this city a food city again, making our industry thrive with winning this award," he continues. "This might be the push we all needed, to say we can overcome these tough moments and see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can survive through this, as long as we push forward together."

Bristol-Joseph and Sirisavath join eight others on this year's Best New Chefs list: 

Nick Bognar —  Indo, St. Louis
Trigg Brown — Win Son and Win Son Bakery, Brooklyn
Camille Cogswell — K’Far, Philadelphia
Eunjo Park — Kāwi, New York City
Niven Patel — Ghee, Miami
Daisy Ryan — Bell’s, Los Alamos, California
Lena Sareini — Selden Standard, Detroit
Douglass Williams — Mida, Boston

The full list is featured in the July issue of Food & Wine, on newsstands June 19.