Courtesy photo

Lee Ellis and Jim Mills, winners of the best new restaurant at this year's CultureMap Houston Tastemaker Awards for their eatery State Fare Kitchen and Bar, know what they're looking for when shopping for food.

At Whole Foods Market, Ellis (known as State Fare's "creator") and Mills (the "doer") are picking out ingredients to make their Sabine Pass Gumbo, a spicy mix of andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, and crab.

They've also revealed the recipe below so that you can make it at home. Join them as they get "all the good stuff," then whip up a stockpot of this gumbo the next time you need to please a crowd.

Sabine Pass Gumbo
Makes 1 gallon

1 gallon cool water
1 tablespoon chicken base (paste)
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups onion, diced medium (reserve peels and trimmings)
10 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 pounds andouille sausage, diced large
2 ½ ribs celery, diced medium (reserve leaves and trimmings)
3 green bell peppers, diced medium (reserve trimmings)
1 14 oz. can diced and peeled tomatoes (reserve liquid)
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 blue crabs, cleaned and halved (reserve top shell and liquid)
2 pounds medium Gulf shrimp, peeled and de-veined (reserve shell and liquid)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
Filé powder to taste
1 quart cooked white rice

Fill a stockpot with water, then add chicken base, all the reserved vegetable peelings, shrimp, and crab shells. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce and simmer about 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.

Place the canola oil in a heavy pot set over medium-high heat. Add the first measure of flour and stir well.

Stir continuously as the flour cooks and watch as the color changes. At first, it will turn light brown, then deepen into a darker brown. In the next stage, the roux will have a reddish color, then turn a dark brown (the color of milk chocolate).

Continue to stir until the flour is the color of a cup of strong black coffee — there will be small wisps of white smoke coming from the roux at this point.

When the correct color is reached, quickly add the second measure of flour and stir, then immediately add the onion. Stir well so that the water the onion releases will cool the roux to prevent overcooking.

After a minute, add the garlic. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the roux looks shiny, and then add the sausage.

Lower heat and stir in the white wine a bit at a time, mixing well between additions so the gumbo will be free from lumps.

Increase heat to medium and let cook, stirring often until the liquid boils.

Add the stock prepared from vegetable trimmings and seafood shells and return to the boil.

Add the diced celery, bell pepper, tomato, black pepper, bay leaf, and thyme.

Return to boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer and add the chicken breast and crab. Simmer slowly for an hour or so.

Taste and correct the seasoning, but keep in mind that the Worcestershire and hot sauce haven’t been added yet and that it will be reheated before serving. At State Fare, we always chill the gumbo overnight, which greatly improves the flavor.

To serve, reheat the gumbo to boiling, then reduce heat to a quick simmer and add the shrimp, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: The sausage we use is quite spicy, with a fair amount of red pepper, so this recipe doesn’t call for any. Other sausages might be milder so adjust the heat to taste.

When the shrimp are cooked through, ladle the gumbo into serving bowls, ensuring that each serving contains some crab. Send the rice to the table separately, along with filé powder to add if desired.

Jim Mills and Lee Ellis of State Fare Kitchen and Bar shop at Whole Foods Market.

Jim Mills and Lee Ellis of State Fare Kitchen and Bar shop at Whole Foods
Courtesy photo
Jim Mills and Lee Ellis of State Fare Kitchen and Bar shop at Whole Foods Market.

These are the best restaurants and bars in Texas for 2017

Texas Tastemakers

Each year we hold a Texas-sized celebration of two of the things we love most: food and drink. The annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards honorsthe top restaurant and bar talent in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

The program started in Austin in 2012 and has expanded to include every city we cover. Our mission is to shine a spotlight on the people making the restaurant scene special and honor their innovation, energy, and creativity. Here's how it works. First, we collaborated with industry experts to determine a list of nominees in each city. Our local panels then selected winners in every category, except Best New Restaurant, which was determined by you, our savvy readers.

The winners were revealed at our swanky tasting events and awards ceremonies, held April 18-20 in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. (See highlights from the Houston party, including a new video,here.)

Meet the winners below, and join us in toasting the best of Texas dining right now.


  • Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
  • Chef of the Year: Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: James Dumapit and David Baek, Old Thousand
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Abby Love, Dai Due
  • Bar of the Year: King Bee Lounge
  • Bartender of the Year: Josh Loving, Small Victory
  • Brewery of the Year: Hops & Grain
  • Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: June's All Day
  • Best Burger: Contigo
  • Best New Restaurant: Sophia's


  • Restaurant of the Year: Lucia
  • Chef of the Year: Julian Barsotti, Nonna, Carbone's, Sprezza
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Josh Sutcliff, Mirador
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Sarah Green, The Joule
  • Bar of the Year: Armoury D.E.
  • Bartender of the Year: Charlie Papaceno, Industry Alley Bar
  • Wine Program of the Year: Gemma
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Bbbop Seoul Kitchen
  • Best Fried Chicken: The Slow Bone
  • Best New Restaurant: Pie Tap Pizza Workshop + Bar

Fort Worth

  • Restaurant of the Year: Tokyo Cafe
  • Chef of the Year: Jesus Garcia, Oni Ramen
  • Best New Restaurant: Tortaco


  • Restaurant of the Year: Coltivare Pizza & Garden
  • Chef of the Year: Ryan Pera, Coltivare Pizza & Garden
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Martha de Leon, Pax Americana
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Victoria Dearmond, One Fifth/Underbelly
  • Bar of the Year: Eight Row Flint
  • Bartender of the Year: Leslie Ross Krockenberger, Reserve 101
  • Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros Steakhouse
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: State of Grace
  • Favorite Taco: Tacos Tierra Caliente
  • Best New Restaurant: State Fare

San Antonio

  • Restaurant of the Year: The Bin Tapas Bar
  • Chef of the Year: Stefan Bowers, Feast
  • Best New Restaurant: Sangria on the Burg

Ryan Pera, Houston Chef of the Year.

Coltivare Ryan Pera
Ryan Pera, Houston Chef of the Year.
Photo courtesy of Smilebooth

Night to remember at CultureMap Tastemaker Awards with top chefs, foodie revelers, and smokin' cookies

CultureMap Tastemaker Awards

Delicious bites delighted, tasty sips flowed, and lively beats amped up the vibe as more than 700 Houstonians turned out for the fourth annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, held at Asia Society Texas Center.

The culinary event celebrates Houston’s dynamic restaurant scene, with the respective winners in 10 different categories, from Restaurant of the Year to Favorite Taco, announced this year by celeb chef and restaurateur Bryan Caswell, who was also celebrating his birthday, and CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler. (For the full list of winners, click here.)

What’s more, the spectacular soiree offered partygoers mind-blowing fare from such Houston dining hotspots as Brennan's of Houston, Broken Barrel, Cafe Azur, Cane Rosso, and Fluff Bake Bar. Also doling out tasty eats were Fusion Taco, Le Colonial, Ninfa's on Navigation, Nobie's, Pi Pizza, The Pit Room, Ritual, State Fare, and State of Grace.

But the bite that got the most buzz was the smokin' Dragon Kiss meringue cookies presented by pastry chef Johnny Wesley of Liberty Kitchen. Guests took turns munching on the sweets and then blowing out reams of dry-ice induced smoke, much to the delight of passersby.

Making the night even sweeter, guests loaded up on desserts from KICPOPS, A Fare Extraordinaire, Petite Sweets, and Sprinkles Cupcakes, while bartenders, including Alexander Gregg (Moving Sidewalk), Josh Bearden (Helen in the Heights) and Justin Ware (Johnny's Gold Brick), shook things up, presenting thirst-quenching drinks made with Woodford Reserve bourbon.

Beer from Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Alaskan Brewing Co., and Odell Brewing Co., plus wine from Sonoma-Cutrer, bubbly from Korbel, mineral water from Topo Chico, and coffee by Illy Coffee Bar also flowed freely.

The party roared as DJ Senega spun high-energy tunes, Venetian Nail Spa offered foodie-inspired nail art, and Whole Foods Market, in partnership with Smilebooth, provided animated snaps.

Joining the fun were Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Gow Communications CEO David Gow andhiswife Audrey, Lawson and Lauren Gow, Lonnie Schiller, Shepard Ross (Pax Americana) with Erin Hicks, Ian Rosenberg (Weights + Measures) and his wife Julie, Nick Scurfield, Stuart Rosenberg, Jennifer Caswell, Magen Pastor, Lily Jang, Dominique McGhee, Sonia Soto, Kim Padgett, Lindsey Brown, Tiffany Halik, Lisa Gochman, Mary Clarkson (L'Olivier), Laura Beavers, andESPN 97.5's Raheel Ramzanali.

Akhil Khosla.

Houston, CultureMap Tastemakers, April 2017, Akhil Khosla.
Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group
Akhil Khosla.
Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

Houston Tastemaker Awards winners revealed: Big champ snags Restaurant, Bar, and Chef of the Year

Behold the Winners!

Your attention, please. Here are the winners of the 2017 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. These are Houston's best culinary professionals, as selected by a panel of restaurant industry experts.

On Tuesday night, emcee Bryan Caswell revealed this year's winners to a boisterous crowd at the Asia Society Texas Center. Obviously, the night's big champ is Agricole Hospitality. The Heights-based bar and restaurant company took home Bar of the Year (Eight Row Flint), Chef of the Year (Ryan Pera), and Restaurant of the Year (Coltivare).

Let there be no doubt that Agricole owners Pera and Morgan Weber have the respect of their peers. Congratulations to them, and to all of our nominees and winners.

Without further ado, here's the full list of winners:

Restaurant of the Year: Coltivare Pizza & Garden and Chef of the Year: Ryan Pera
As with Adam Dorris and Pax Americana winning last year, it makes sense that the Chef of the Year leads the Restaurant of the Year. At Coltivare, Ryan Pera’s creative salads and vegetable dishes, many of which incorporate ingredients grown in the restaurant’s garden, continue to set a high standard as one of Houston’s most satisfying dining experiences. While we’re still waiting for Pera to get the national respect he so clearly deserves, we think he’s aces.

Rising Star Chef of the Year: Martha de Leon
Speaking of Dorris, taking over a popular restaurant after its acclaimed chef depart would be a challenge for anyone, but Martha de Leon has kept Pax Americana running smoothly. Credit her steady work ethic and the relationships she’s cultivated with local farmers and ranchers for helping keep the restaurant at the top. At least while spring temperatures hold, Pax’s patio makes an excellent venue for sampling de Leon’s cooking, especially during the low-key Sunday brunch.

Pastry Chef of the Year: Victoria Dearmond
Recognizing Dearmond for the desserts she creates — everything from vinegar pie and seasonally-inspired desserts at Underbelly to the massive, one-and-a-half pound wood-fired apple pie at One Fifth — doesn’t begin to acknowledge the diverse set of roles she occupies at both restaurants, but it will have to do for today. Whatever the future holds, the skills she’s developed beyond the dessert station with back of the house operations like ordering and expediting will serve her well.

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: State of Grace
Yes, it’s possible to indulge in big pricey entrees and fancy wine at this River Oaks restaurant, but State of Grace serves its neighborhood well, too. The affordable lunch menu and $1 oyster happy hour make it possible to experience chef Bobby Matos’ menu at a lower cost. This week, it will begin serving a family-style Sunday supper priced at an eminently reasonable $29 per person.

Best New Restaurant: State Fare
Let’s give credit where it’s due; for as much fun as Nobie’s Cinderella run through the Best New Restaurant tournament was, State Fare is a very good restaurant that’s been a valuable addition to the Memorial area. Its diverse menu — everything from salads and sandwiches to shareable appetizers and hearty mains — has enough options to please just about anyone. The restaurant’s stylish look and comprehensive beverage options add to its appeal.

Bar of the Year: Eight Row Flint
“Whiskey. Beer. Tacos.” The simple slogan of Agricole Hospitality’s patio bar doesn’t explain the lengths it goes to honor those three staples. Some of the whiskey comes from barrels selected by co-owner Morgan Weber, the tacos utilize house-made corn tortillas and feature locally-sourced ingredients in the fillings, and the beer features plenty of craft options — and also Miller High Life, because why take things too seriously? Selling its entire allocation of Pappy Van Winkle and the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection at cost may have been a bit of a stunt, but it also allowed people to taste great bourbon at a price they may never see again, which is pretty great.

Bartender of the Year: Leslie Ross Krockenberger
Canard may not have survived, but give it credit for providing several very talented female bartenders with the opportunity to develop some incredibly delicious cocktails. The effects will be felt with Akiko Hagio at Star Fish and Rebecca Burkart at Worcester’s Annex and who knows where else in the months and years to come. Krockenberger gets credit for being the bar’s creative soul. Hopefully those energies find another outlet, but if all she does is talk whiskey with Reserve 101’s obsessive patrons, that will still be fun.

Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros Steakhouse
Let’s not make this too complicated. Pappas Bros has always had an incredibly wine inventory, but the upgrades its made to its staff by recruiting Master Sommelier Jack Mason and a whole platoon of Advanced Sommeliers to the restaurant ensures that customers receive expert advice when they decide to splurge on a bottle that could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. That investment deserves recognition.

Favorite Taco: Tacos Tierra Caliente
For as much as this publication focuses on new restaurants, sometimes the classics are best. In the world of Houston tacos, it doesn’t get much more classic than this humble taco truck that parks across the street from the West Alabama Ice House. Tacos in well-made corn tortillas are only $1.50, and the diverse meat options make feeding a crowd easy. Last year, Houstonians demonstrated their affection for the business, contributing over $17,000 via GoFundMe for funeral expenses when owner Maria Victoria’s daughter Maria Samano passed away suddenly.

Photo by Julie Soefer

Houston's 10 best restaurants lead city's culinary movement toward greatness

Meet The Tastemakers

The final category reveal in the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards is the most prestigious of all: Restaurant of the Year. As selected by our panel of industry insiders, these are the 10 establishments that are leading Houston's culinary movement.

Our panel of restaurant industry insiders recognizes the standards they set in providing their customers with consistently excellent food and service. Whether for a weeknight meal or to celebrate a special occasion, these restaurants deliver.

Who wins? Find out tonight at the Tastemaker Awards party at Asia Society Texas. A few last-minute tickets remain. Don’t miss out.

BCN Taste & Tradition
In our casual world, people may find fine dining to be intimidating, but few restaurants capture a sense of place better than BCN. At an intimate house in Montrose, chef Luis Roger serves intricately prepared Spanish cuisine that utilizes the highest quality ingredients he can source. While the prices put BCN in special occasion territory for most people, the front of house led by general manager Paco Calza ensures everyone feels welcome.

Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory
In a normal year, Treadsack’s twin restaurants would deserve separate entries, but our panelists’ recognition of their success also comes at a time when the restaurants are in transition. Mothership Ventures LLC, the company that owns the concepts, declared bankruptcy last month, and both restaurants announced this week that they’ve stopped serving lunch.

Despite the well-publicized struggles, both restaurants still serve a diverse array of food — Hunky Dory has a new steak-oriented direction under the direction of Graham Laborde, while Bernadine’s mix of Gulf Coast-inspired meat and seafood dishes remain one of Houston’s most satisfying meals — and include hard-working staffs who want to do a good job of pleasing their customers. Hopefully diners can put the negative publicity aside and allow both concepts to succeed or fail based on their own experiences, rather than what they’ve read online.

All of Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s four restaurants are excellent, but Caracol’s diverse, seafood-oriented menu and comprehensive beverage program make it stand out a little bit from its siblings. Dishes like the signature wood-roasted oysters with chipotle and the whimsical El Coco dessert (which involves smashing a chocolate shell with a mallet) ensure that meals there start and finish on a high note. Sunday brunch, with its well-dressed see-and-be-seen crowd, provides one of Houston’s prime people watching opportunities.

Coltivare Pizza & Garden
Since it opened in 2014, this restaurant that blends Southern and Italian flavors has become widely heralded as one of Houston’s best restaurants. Most of the credit for that goes to chef Ryan Pera’s menu, which utilizes high-quality, rigorously-sourced local ingredients, including items from the restaurant’s 3,000-square foot garden.

While it’s easy to get caught up in staples like the black pepper spaghetti or housemade charcuterie, the restaurant’s salads, which evolve seasonally, offer the most satisfying vegetable preparations in Houston. Combine the standout cuisine with creative cocktails and a well-priced wine list, and the result is a restaurant Houstonians are willing to wait for.

Benches outside are the most obvious change since Himalaya’s brush with celebrity — it was one of only two Houston restaurants featured by Anthony Bourdain on his show, Parts Unknown — but thankfully the restaurant’s food remains unchanged. Well, mostly unchanged: chef-owner Kaiser Lashkari is a relentless tinkerer whose recent mashups of classic Southern dishes like fried chicken, chicken fried steak, and crawfish etouffee with Indian spices have taken the restaurant to a creative high. The no frills decor and BYOB policy help ensure that even the most extravagant meal at Himalaya won’t break the bank.

Certainly it’s a sign that Hugo Ortega’s peers respect his work so much that they nominated two of his restaurants for this award. The good news is that Hugo’s, Ortega’s restaurant devoted to interior Mexican cuisine, might be better than ever. From delicate raw dishes to moles that deliver layers of flavor, Hugo’s menu offers intriguing options for every taste, and the pioneering tequila program remains one of the city’s best. No wonder that the restaurant remains popular with diners and professionals alike.

The Pass & Provisions
With Oxheart closing and moving away from its tasting menu format, The Pass becomes the only restaurant inside the Houston city limits (we see you, Curate) that serves a tasting menu. Given that chef-owners Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan have received James Beard award semifinalist nominations each of the last two years and that the restaurant is the only Houston establishment recognized in the prestigious Opinionated About Dining survey of America’s top 200 restaurants, it stands as the city’s premier destination for innovative cooking.

But don’t let all the accolades obscure that Provisions delivers simpler pleasures, too; just sit at the bar while enjoying an expertly-made, wood-fired pizza and a cocktail or two to experience how excellent even the restaurant’s casual side can be.

State of Grace
Having already discussed State of Grace’s charms in three other Tastemaker-related articles, this entry will be brief. Shortly before it opened, I stood in the mostly empty restaurant with owner Ford Fry. “I hope I haven’t made a (very expensive) mistake,” he said. Even though it has been open for less than two years, the restaurant’s wide-ranging menu and beautiful dining room have made it feel like an essential part of Houston from day one. Definitely not a mistake.

Five years into its tenure, Underbelly, James Beard award winner Chris Shepherd’s restaurant that tells “the story of Houston food” by interpreting the dishes created by the city’s immigrant communities, still has the power to inspire strong opinions. A recent social media kerfuffle — triggered by a diner who was upset at not being allowed to order from the bar menu in the dining room — brought out both fans and detractors.

And yet, at a time when Houston’s culinary diversity is attracting unprecedented levels of national attention, the restaurant’s mission to tell “the story of Houston food” through the use of locally-sourced ingredients and dishes inspired by the city’s immigrant communities, remains as important as ever. Although Shepherd likes to describe the restaurant as “consistently inconsistent,” this recognition by its peers, and its nomination in four other Tastemaker Awards categories, demonstrates that it it still succeeds in its overall goals.


Underbelly exterior CROPPED
Photo by Julie Soefer

The 9 best chefs in Houston lead the way as creators and mentors

Meet The Tastemakers

By any measure, Houston has achieved unprecedented levels of national attention for its diverse culinary scene. While lots of people deserve attention for the work they do to contribute to the city's overall success, these nine chefs selected as finalists for the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Chef of the Year are helping lead the way both as the creators of dishes that people want to eat and by mentoring the city’s next generation of culinary talent.

That many of them are known for being inspired by Texas and the Gulf Coast also speaks to the simple truth that our local culinary traditions can hold their own with those from other parts of the country and the world. But of course, we’re also pretty excited about chefs who share their homeland’s culinary heritage with us, too.

As selected by our panel of restaurant industry experts, these nine men represent Houston’s culinary vanguard. Join us tomorrow (April 18) at Asia Society Texas for the Tastemaker Awards party where we’ll celebrate all of the nominees and emcee Bryan Caswell will reveal the winners. Tickets are going fast. Don’t miss out.

Manabu Horiuchi, Kata Robata
The unofficial title of “other chefs favorite chef” applies to a few members of this list, but a plurality would probably cite Hori-san as a top choice. His delicate knife work and creative use of ingredients mean that Kata’s off-the-menu specials are always worth sampling, and its status as Houston’s best sushi restaurant is secure. Those skills earned him a James Beard semifinalist nod this year. For the full Hori-san experience, nothing beats an omakase tasting where the chef prepares a number of dishes using the ingredients he’s most excited about that day. It also allows diners to experience his generous nature and sly sense of humor.

Ronnie Killen, Killen’s Restaurants
Over the last year or so, Killen has stayed busy by relocating his eponymous steakhouse to a new larger location, opened a high-quality burger joint, began serving his celebrated barbecue at NRG Stadium, and launched Killen’s STQ, which has been so popular that prime tables get booked as far as two months in advance. Credit the chef’s relentless drive to be the best for all his success, as well as an eye for talent that’s allowed him to staff his restaurants with dedicated professionals who keep everything running smoothly. While he could take a pause and enjoy his status as the city’s king of meat, he’s already said he’s looking to expand his barbecue restaurant to a new location.

Graham Laborde, Bernadine's/Hunky Dory
Having established Bernadine’s, the restaurant he named for his grandmother, as one of the city’s most reliable destinations for modern Southern cuisine, would probably be sufficient to earn Laborde, last year’s Rising Star Chef of the Year winner, a spot on this list. Since then, he’s been elevated to culinary director for both Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory, filling in the lead role after Richard Knight’s culinary departure. Despite Treadsack’s well-publicized struggles, Laborde still oversees two kitchen restaurants that turn out high quality food. Whatever the future holds for those concepts, his track record of success speaks to his talent, and that will serve him well anywhere.

Bobby Matos, State of Grace
The see-and-be-seen types who have mostly moved on from State of Grace to restaurants in River Oaks District are missing out on one of the city’s most satisfying dining experiences. Whether it’s staple dishes like the butter burger and roasted oysters or seasonal specials like fried softshell crab and crawfish risotto, chef Matos has become even more adept at creating dishes that embody State of Grace’s blend of classic flavors with modern techniques. For the full experience, sit at the chef’s counter in front of the hearth where the six-course menu mixes a few staple items with one-off riffs that demonstrate his diverse abilities.

Hugo Ortega, H Town Restaurant Group
That the luxurious Marriott Marquis recruited Ortega and his wife/business partner Tracy Vaught to open a restaurant inside the downtown hotel makes sense. At a place that traffics in iconic Houston images and named a sports bar for Houston Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, what could be more Houston than Ortega, an immigrant who worked his way from dishwasher into a six-times James Beard award finalist that has established a wildly successful career by presenting authentic Mexican cuisine to eager diners?

By this point in his career, the only question about Ortega is when the rest of the country will finally catch up and transform him from “six times James Beard award finalist” into Houston’s newest recipient of the coveted medallion. In a recent review, Texas Monthly food critic Pat Sharpe predicts Xochi might finally be the restaurant that pushes Ortega into the culinary stratosphere occupied by chefs like Enrique Olvera and Rick Bayless thanks to its innovative take on Oaxacan cuisine and prime location inside a high-profile hotel. If it does, at least we’ll get to say we knew him before he was a superstar.

Ryan Pera, Agricole Hospitality
Speaking of Houston chefs that don’t get enough national respect, what does Pera have to do to get a little more love? Coltivare’s use of high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients in Italian-inspired dishes makes it one of the city’s most consistently satisfying places to dine, and Revival Market’s comfortable fare remains as reliable as ever. Perhaps his restaurant inside George Bush Intercontinental Airport and whatever top secret project he and business partner Morgan Weber are planning in EaDo (rumors are swirling about possibilities including a pizza place, an upscale diner, a distillery, or possibly some combination of all three) will allow him to earn the recognition he so richly deserves.

Chris Shepherd, One Fifth/Underbelly
Visitors to One Fifth may be surprised to find Chris Shepherd shucking oysters instead of expediting or working the line, but the past year has brought a number of changes for the James Beard award winner, including the realization that he can’t be everywhere at once. Instead, he’s helping to train the next generation of top level talent, including Rising Star Chef of the Year nominee Gary Ly and Pastry Chef of the Year nominee Victoria Dearmond, all while plotting the course for One Fifth’s ambitious goal to change concepts every year. If that weren’t enough, his tireless energy has made Southern Smoke one of Houston’s best food events thanks to lots of high-profile talent and a great cause, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight MS.

Danny Trace
The permanence of dishes like turtle soup, shrimp remoulade, and bananas Foster sometimes give diners the impression that not much changes at Brennan’s of Houston, but, as a recent throwback menu that included “steak Stanley” (filet mignon with horseradish cream sauce and bananas) demonstrated, finding the balance between classic and contemporary takes on the restaurant’s signature Creole cuisine requires finesse. For seven years as the restaurant’s executive chef, Trace both maintained that balance and the restaurant’s reputation as a culinary training ground, working with chefs including fellow Chef of the Year nominee Bobby Matos, former Rising Star Chef of the Year winner Patrick Feges (Southern Goods), and a host of others. With his surprising departure from the restaurant last month, all eyes on are Trace’s next move. Hopefully, he stays in Houston and allows diners to find out what his food tastes like when he doesn’t have to worry about dishes like steak Stanley.

Justin Yu, Oxheart/Better Luck Tomorrow
At the end of 1989’s Lovetown tour, at the height of their popularity after the success of the Joshua Tree and Rattle & Hum, U2 lead singer Bono told an audience that, “We have to go away and just dream it all up again.” Those dreams produced Achtung Baby, which represented a new musical direction and features some of the band’s most personal lyrics.

Yu can probably relate to the sentiment. Rather than rest on the laurels that come with having won a James Beard award for his work at his acclaimed restaurant Oxheart, Yu opted to close the restaurant to embark in two new directions: the first, a bar called Better Luck Tomorrow with Bobby Heugel, the second, the still-unnamed restaurant that will open in the Oxheart space. While he’s been vague about his plans, other than that BLT will serve a patty melt (but not its namesake sandwich), a job posting on Facebook hints that it will still preserve Oxheart’s ethos of using high quality local products and changing the menu regularly. As long as the results are more Achtung Baby than Pop, everything will be just fine.

Bobby Matos, State of Grace.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

New grocery store's Houston debut leads top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week

1. New Houston-area grocery stores offer shoppers bulk restaurant food and supplies without a membership. Four locations are open now with two more coming soon.

2. Booming Houston 'burb named best place to buy a home and raise a family in America. The city earned high marks for its job market, housing availability, and more.

3. Brad Paisley joins George Strait and Selena with induction into RodeoHouston's prestigious Star Trail of Fame. This honor makes Paisley the 10th star honored with a gold plaque to commemorate his years of outstanding entertainment at the Rodeo.

4. Brad Paisley steals hearts — and a fan's phone — in his Star Trail of Fame RodeoHouston show. The performer brought the warmth from his plaque unveiling onto the stage in front of a sold out matinee crowd.

5. Houston's best burgers smash the game with exotic add-ons, beefed-up buns, and more. Presenting the nominees for Best Burger in the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.

Netflix series Waco: American Apocalypse debuts with newly unearthed footage

Documentary News

Netflix has a new series on the tragedy that took place in Waco three decades ago: Called Waco: American Apocalypse, it's a three-part series documenting the standoff between cult leader David Koresh and the federal government that ended in a fiery inferno, televised live, with 76 people dead.

The series debuts on March 22, to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the event which took place from February 28 to April 19, 1993.

It's an oft-told tale and not the only new release to try and exploit the 30-year anniversary: Jeff Guinn, former books editor at the Fort Worth Star Telegram, just came out with a book in January, also described as definitive, called Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage.

Waco: American Apocalypse is directed by another Texan: Dallas native Tiller Russell (Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer), who obtained never-before-seen videotapes of FBI negotiations, as well as raw news footage and interviews with insiders.

Those insiders include one of David Koresh’s spiritual wives; the last child released from the compound alive; a sniper from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team; the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief; journalists; and members of the ATF tactical team who watched colleagues die in the shootout against the heavily armed members of the religious sect.

The FBI videotaped inside the hostage negation room, thinking they'd be there maybe 24 hours, not 51 days.

"These are video cassettes that were sitting in somebody’s closet for 30 years, that show the mechanics of hostage negotiations in an intimate setting - not the hostage negotiation scenarios you see in films, but a team of people grinding, day in and day out, for 51 days," Russell says.

He also procured footage from Waco TV station KWTX, who had a reporter embedded in the initial gunfight.

While the standoff was broadcast live on TV at the time, much of it was out of camera range. The film uses 3D graphics to recreate the details of the compound.

Russell acknowledges that the tale of the cult leader who was also a pedophile, the debate over the right to bear arms, the constitutional limits of religious freedom, dredge up painful conversations that continue today.

"It cast a long shadow, pre-saging the Timothy McVeigh bombing in Oklahoma, the shooting at Colombine, and a growing distrust of government, but I think it's important to reckon with our past so we don't repeat mistakes," he says.

"So much of what’s roiling in culture today can be traced to Waco, a story about God and guns in America with all these children at the center whose lives were determined by the adults around them," he says. "There was no playbook for what happened, everyone was out on a limb, and people made mistakes. But almost everybody was trying to do their very best."

"I think this is a story that's often recalled in politicized terms, with finger-pointing on who screwed up and how did we get here, but there's a profound humanity to it all," he says.

Watch the trailer below:

Texas Top Chef winner debuts new National Geographic series during SXSW

Top Chef

Texas is proud to claim chef Kristen Kish as its own, but the Top Chef winner has always had a global mindset. She first earned her chops in French and Italian cuisine at Boston's acclaimed Menton restaurant, infusing those influences into the menu at Arlo Grey with a pioneering curiosity and adventurous spirit. Now, she's bringing that explorer's mindset to a new National Geographic series that debuted Tuesday, March 21.

Available on Disney+, Restaurants at the End of the World is a docuseries in which Kish travels to off-the-beaten-path pockets of the planet. The four-part series follows Kish as she searches for the secret ingredients – people, places, culture, and traditions – within the world’s most remote restaurants in Boquete, Panama; Svalbard, Norway; North Haven Island, Maine; and Paraty, Brazil.

A lucky selection of South by Southwest (SXSW) attendees got a sneak peek of the series at a special dinner last week. The event took place inside Arlo Grey at the Line Hotel, where Kish mingled with guests and introduced clips from the upcoming series. A family-style dinner featured dishes inspired by different episodes of the series, from Maine-inspired Parker House rolls to Arctic char and strawberry semifreddo.

"This series is all about shared experiences and trading stories," Kish said, introducing the evening's menu. "So, when putting this menu together, I realized there are a lot of similarities. When I think back to all the places I went and new things I learned, there are so many familiar flavors to every bite that can bring you right back home into your own story."

The menu celebrated each location in the upcoming series, often in the same course: Parker House Rolls (with delicious whipped brown butter) were a nod to her New England episode ("Maine Island Barn Supper,"), paired with a scallop crudo commemoration of her time in Brazil ("Brazil’s Floating Feast,"). Meanwhile, the main course gave guests a glimpse of the great lengths Norwegian fishermen go to when harvesting Arctic char, accompanied by a clip of Kish's adventures with local purveyors in Svalbard, Norway.

The aim of both the dinner and the upcoming series is to showcase the tenacity it takes to run restaurants in such remote places. Each episode follows Kish behind the scenes with local purveyors, farmers, herders, kitchen crew, managers, and head chefs to hear their stories. She invites viewers along with her in the hunt for the best and freshest ingredients, unearthing the culture and heart behind global cuisine and showcasing the balancing act required to bring unique food to the table around the world.

“Food has an unparalleled power to bring us together and teach us about one another and the world around us, and we see that firsthand by going to restaurants in the world’s most remote areas,” says Chef Kish via release. “Filming this series with National Geographic was an adventure of a lifetime that taught me so much about an industry I’ve been steeped in my whole life. I can’t wait for viewers to come along on the journey with us and experience these dishes at restaurants most never even knew existed.”

The first episode of Restaurants around the World debuted on March 21.

Kristen Kish

Courtesy National Geographic

Top Chef winner Kristen Kish has a new National Geographic show that debuted on March 21.