Houston's best new chef
Food & Wine names talented Tatemó star to prestigious Best New Chef list for 2023
Chavez joins 10 other chefs nationwide in the class that also includes Austin chef Edgar Rico (Nixta Taqueria). He is the first Houston chef to earn a Best New Chef award since Justin Yu did so in 2014 for Oxheart.
Located on the eastern edge of Spring Branch, Tatemó serves a seven-course tasting menu built around dishes made with heirloom corn that Chavez and his team process using a traditional nixtamalization technique. Although the menu varies seasonally, it could include anything from a quesadilla with huitlacoche and caviar to a masa-coated fish taco served in a corn tortilla. It also serves a Sunday brunch that features dishes such as masa pancakes.
“There isn’t a single dish that does not use maize in one format or another — it is the lifeblood of the restaurant. (At one point, the restaurant was working with over 30 different varieties of corn.),” Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah writes in her profile of Chavez.
Chavez, who opened Tatemó in 2021 with his partner Megan Maul, is no stranger to national recognition. Last year, Esquire named his 20-seat establishment to its list of Best New Restaurants. He also earned a finalist nomination in the 2023 James Beard Awards for America’s Best New Restaurant. He won Rising Star Chef of the Year in the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.
"We're not a Mexican restaurant. We're a Houston restaurant," Chavez said on an episode of CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast. "Everything we source, as far as produce, is from within the city. Other than caviar and kampachi from California, it's Texas produce. It's a Texas restaurant inspired by maize. It's maize driven. That's how we like to identify ourselves."
Edgar Rico has earned similar acclaim, including a Best New Restaurant award from Food & Wine and a James Beard Award for Emerging Chef in 2022. Like Tatemó, Nixta Taqueria also serves dishes made with nixtamalized heirloom corn, but in a more casual environment. It is currently raising money to fund renovations mandated by the City of Austin.
“Take a trip to Texas, and you will find not one but two chefs putting the story and flavors of heirloom corn at the center of their menus,” Shah writes. “Although Emmanuel Chavez and Edgar Rico have wildly different approaches, their respect and belief in the importance of maize are the same.”
Considered among the more prestigious honors a chef can receive, Food & Wine takes great care to assemble its class of Best New Chefs. Shah traveled to 23 cities in three months, per the magazine, to visit a broad spectrum of restaurants. It also ensures the chefs operate ethically, as it explains: “F&W conducts background checks and requires each chef to share an anonymous multilingual survey with their staff that aims to gauge the workplace culture at each chef’s establishment.”
"The 2023 Food & Wine Best New Chefs represent a profound shift in the industry," Food & Wine editor in chef Hunter Lewis added in a statement. "They're not only creating exceptional food and dining experiences for their customers, but also cultivating nurturing environments for their teams. As a result, their restaurants are places of celebration, education, and joy. We are thrilled to showcase their excellence and innovation."
Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2023
- Amanda Shulman - Her Place Supper Club, Philadelphia
- Edgar Rico - Nixta Taqueria, Austin
- Aisha Ibrahim - Canlis, Seattle
- Isabel Coss - Lutece, Washington, DC
- Steven Pursley - Menya Rui, St. Louis
- Nando Chang & Valerie Chang - Itamae, Miami
- Hannah Ziskin - Quarter Sheets, Los Angeles
- Ed Szymanski - Dame & Lord's, New York City
- Eunji Lee - Lysée, New York City
- Emmanuel Chavez - Tatemó, Houston