Gayot, a national publication that touts itself as "a leading worldwide authority on the good life," has tabbed Tony's chef de cuisine Kate McLean as one of its Top 5 Rising Star Chefs in the United States. The award is given annually to chefs under the age of 30.
The 29-year-old McLean moved into her role in October, when Tony's executive chef Grant Gordon began to devote his efforts to running recently opened steakhouse Vallone's (Gordon's since bolted Vallone's).
"Her energy and creativity contribute to dishes like foie gras soup with quail, Granny Smith apples and pickled fennel or an ethereal Alba truffle soufflé," Gayot writes in a blurb about McLean.
"I was shocked. It was totally out of the blue for me (but) I'm very excited."
While it's difficult to know how exactly McLean was chosen, even she isn't sure, the occasion did seem like a good time to check in with the chef.
"I was shocked," McLean tells CultureMap about the recognition. "It was totally out of the blue for me (but) I'm very excited."
She says things are going well in her role at the helm of one of Houston's highest profile kitchens. "Everyone here is working hard so hard to make me look good. I feel very lucky."
While Gordon "made a big impression (at Tony's)," McLean is slowly making the menu her own by working with owner Tony Vallone and general manager Scott Sulma on new dishes. The chef says that the trio has "springified" the menu by working on a couple of new dishes each week. "We're really happy with it," she reports enthusiastically.
Next up? McLean says she'll start redoing the lunch menu and preparing for a wine dinner in April.
She credits Sulma for encouraging her to make changes she thinks are necessary to keep the restaurant running smoothly.
Looking at her role and the acclaim she's received, McLean sums up how she feels.
"I feel very lucky to come to work everyday."