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Best New Chef

Food & Wine's Best New Chef list includes Houston culinary whiz — and a Texas touch

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Dana Cowin editor of Food & Wine with Justin Yu of Oxheart March 2014
Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin and Justin Yu of Oxheart smile for the camera.  FWScout/Twitter
Paul Qui of Qui in Austin and Matt McAllister of FT33 in Dallas and Justin Yu of Oxheart in Houston
Paul Qui of Qui in Austin and Matt McAllister of FT33 in Dallas join Yu as Texas chefs selected for the honor. Paul Qui/Twitter
Dana Cowin editor of Food & Wine with Justin Yu of Oxheart March 2014
Paul Qui of Qui in Austin and Matt McAllister of FT33 in Dallas and Justin Yu of Oxheart in Houston

It's no April Fool's Day prank — Oxheart chef/owner Justin Yu is one of Food & Wine magazine's best new chefs for 2014. Editor-in-chief Dana Cowin revealed Yu's status by tweeting a selfie of the two of them together. The awards are given annually to chefs who have been operating their own restaurants for five years or fewer. 

Paul Qui of Qui restaurant in Austin and Matt McCallister of FT33 in Dallas join Yu in this year's class, giving Texas three of the 12 spots.

Past honorees on the list, which first launched in 1988, include celebrity chefs like Tom Colicchio and Michael Symon as well as Houstonians like Monica Pope, Bryan Caswell and Scott Tycer. Last year, Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd won the award.

Both Yu and Shepherd are finalists for this year's Best New Chef Southwest at the James Beard Awards. They'll learn their fate at a ceremony in New York City on May 5. 

Asked how he feels about winning, Yu replied, "Like I don't belong. Or that someone accidentally mistook me for some other Asian guy." All kidding aside, Yu said that "at the same time, I'm actually allowing myself to enjoy this one. It's one of those dreams you never think will happen . . . it's surreal." 

Now that Oxheart is two years old, I asked if Yu has considered what's next for him. "We're just happy with making Oxheart better than ever," he replied. "Mark (Clayton) came back as sous chef and is doing an amazing job. I feel like the food is getting better and better. The staff we have are loyal, hard working and selfless. I couldn't ask for more." 

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