6 of Austin’s best chefs feed the food scene beyond their doorstep

Most Austinians know their favorite restaurants, but chefs are the true heart of the food scene. After all, it takes a lot more than knowing how to make something to run a successful restaurant. And while they’re all unique enough to make for something that really stands out, readers should notice some common themes throughout this list.

Nominated for Chef of the Year Tastemaker, these culinary experts embody a few clear goals. Ingredients are the best. There can be no good food without good ingredients. These chefs often look to local farmers to let their work shine. Once those ingredients are sorted, cooking them together is a big deal. Each of these chefs has a strong presence at local events or has very close collaborators (including life partners). Usually both. And finally, the people at the end of the chain, the diners, need to be seen and invited.

So all are people, and these six were chosen by their peers. Our judges are a mix of last year’s winners and an editorial staff who names these names in articles he does many times throughout the year, and beyond the food they put on the table, these chefs I know

There’s still time to get to know these chefs before the winners are announced. After reading the many articles that have celebrated their work and the changing food scene over the past year, we’ll be hosting the Fair Market on May 11th. Come see who wins the annual Tastemaker Awards tasting event and award ceremony. Tickets are on sale now.

Amanda Turner, Olamie
Whether you’re a food festival attendee, fundraiser attendee, or award winner, if you have a list of chefs, Amanda Turner is on your list. In fact, before she made this list, in 2019 (with Juniper) and in 2022 she created a class of Rising Star Chefs, won both, and received great foresight from those judges. Proved. As Chef de Her Cuisine at Olameyer, nominated for Restaurant of the Year, she helped define Southern cuisine from the complex standpoint of a black female chef to become one of Austin’s most visible chefs. I’m still finding time. About a year and a half into her new role, she’s clearly making progress and shows no sign of stopping.

Bradley Nicholson, Lutie’s
There’s something about the chef couple that’s unparalleled and inspiring. It’s about shared passion, shared success in an industry notoriously competitive and tough.Bradley Nicholson and Susana Kerejaz or Austin couple. And it all takes place in a ’70s-style garden restaurant. Rising Star of 2022 His Chef Nominated Commodore Perry Teasing Awards Nicholson, the current executive of his Lutie’s in his estate hotel, is good at sharing the spotlight. When he’s not with his wife, it’s with the local producers he highlights on his plate. Lutie’s food, which often manifests itself as the perfect veggie pile, confirms Nicholson’s claim that “local heritage and responsibly sourced cuisine are truly celebrated” here in Austin.

Fermin Nunez and Suerte
Thanks to chefs like Fermín Nuñez, it’s sometimes hard for non-Texans to understand the fame Mexican food has. The chef was born in Torreon, Mexico, but lived in Austin for 14 years, food & wineFood Network, Netflix, new york times, and more (including countless Tastemaker Awards between him, Suerte and Este). He rarely stays in the spotlight, so it’s no surprise that Núñez is very active on social media, constantly putting other chefs and restaurants in the spotlight.

Gray Nonas, Bufalina
Grae Nonas isn’t exactly new to Tastemakers, but it’s been seven years since he was nominated with Michael Fojtasek at Olamaie. A lot has changed since then. Nonas is back after moving to Minneapolis. During the pandemic, he opened and closed his pasta restaurant, Le Cowboy. And after his 10-year lease for his beloved pizza restaurant expired, East he’s set to helm his new Bufalina in Austin. It’s hard to rebuild someone’s favorite restaurant, but Nonas has done it. The restaurant now serves Neapolitan-style pizza alongside Bufalina Due. It’s not much different from Nonas’ recent pasta ventures, but tradition is the key here – not reinventing the wheel.

Sarah McIntosh, Epithrie
Pastry chef Sarah McIntosh does it all. Currently nominated for Pastry Chef of the Year, she represents Episerie’s ideology not only for baked goods, but also for regional cuisine. Part restaurant, part grocery store, it’s a bit quaint to call this a cafe and leave it at that. McIntosh’s farm-to-table cuisine goes far beyond brown paper bag lunches, from must-haves (croissant breakfast sandwiches) to indulgences (local steak her frites). She’s one of Austin’s hectic chefs and somehow puts on every event, but it’s her slow her bake that puts her on the map. There is something beautiful about a pastry chef who continues to be trapped in the layer of first love even though he has branched out.

Tracy Malechek Ezekiel, Birdies
Birdie’s gets a lot of attention for its wines, but great food really makes it a great place to linger. The restaurant is co-owned by Tracy Malechek Ezekiel and her husband Arjab Ezekiel, and the casual atmosphere certainly comes not only from the counter service model, but also from homely origins… Pasta is also not against familiarity.) The environment Malechek-Ezekiel helped create was new york times, bon appetit, Esquireetc., but Austinians certainly appreciate that this neighborhood restaurant remains down-to-earth despite recognition.

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