Welcome back the 2018 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink. It includes awards to top chefs and restaurants, culminating in a grand event featuring sips and bites from participating nominees, as well as our partners, Woodford Reserve and Whole Foods Market.
We've elected nominees in all categories of food and beverage, from best chefs to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth. We'll toast them at a party on April 19 from 7-10 pm at Sixty Five Hundred, with tastings and awards. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are our nominees for Fort Worth's top Chef of the Year.
Ben Merritt, Fixture
After a decade of working for others, Merritt opened Fixture in 2015 in the Near Southside, where it has become a destination popular for its great food, service, music, and fried duck wings. In summer 2018, he'll launch a new venture called Ben's Triple B: Biscuits, Burgers and Brews near the campus of Texas Wesleyan University, featuring biscuits, breakfast, burgers, a full bar, and TVs for sports fans.
Blaine Staniford, Grace
Staniford has been a rising star since he first gained notice at the age of 19 for becoming one of the youngest graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. He spent two years under the tutelage of award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit Restaurant; worked with chef Michael Mina at Aqua and Pisces in San Francisco; was sous chef at Lola in Dallas; and executive chef at Fuse in downtown Dallas. Since 2008, he's been executive chef at acclaimed Fort Worth restaurant Grace, where he continues to introduce Fort Worth diners to innovative and inspiring dishes through seasonal menu changes and monthly wine dinners highlighting Grace’s passion for fresh and local ingredients.
Denise Shavandy, Café Modern
A Texas native, Shavandy has accumulated a wide range of experience that includes positions as executive chef at eatZi's; executive chef instructor at TSTC Culinary Institute in Abilene; and executive chef at Central Market in Southlake. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she launched her culinary career at The Pegasus and Spice International Café in Fort Worth. At Cafe Modern, she oversees the monthly dinner series and catering operations.
Grady Spears, Horseshoe Hill
The famed Fort Worth chef has worked at or owned many an iconic Tarrant County eatery including Reata, the Chisholm Club, the Roadrunner in Las Vegas, the Burning Pear in Sugarland, the Nutt House in Granbury, and Dutch's Hamburgers. In 2015, he opened Horseshoe Hill Cafe in the Stockyards. There he shares his cowboy cooking with locals and tourists, giving them a idea of what dinner on the open range tastes like, with rocky mountain oysters and his signature chicken fried steak prepared five different ways.
Hans Peter Muller, Swiss Pastry Shop
Muller has been at Swiss Pastry Shop, home of the famous Black Forest cake, for 33 years, 25 full time; he's been sole owner since his dad passed away in 2013. He has a degree in baking science from AIB International and a business degree from Abilene Christian University. But most of his baking education is from his dad, Hans Muller Sr., who brought the Black Forest cake recipe — which is actually an almond dacquoise — from Switzerland. He added Wagyu burgers and barbecue to the menu about five years ago, hoping to attract the foodie audience. It worked.
Jason Harper, Trio
Harper grew up in the restaurant industry and, after serving in the Army, worked for restaurants like Jason’s Deli, Cracker Barrel, and James Beard nominated chef Bruce Auden at Biga On The Banks. In DFW, he was sous chef at Abacus, then culinary school manager at Central Market, before he and his wife (and pastry chef) Miriam opened Trio Cafe in 2009. Their globally inspired menu has heavy influences in French, Asian, and New Orleans cuisine, and they've recently expanded with a catering kitchen studio.
Jon Bonnell, Waters
One of Fort Worth's beloved celebrity chefs, Bonnell has owned the long-running acclaimed game meat temple Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine since 2001. In 2013, he opened Waters, dedicated to seafood; it's now located in downtown Fort Worth. He's a TV cooking show regular and published his third cookbook, Jon Bonnell's Waters: Fine Coastal Cuisine, in 2014. He also owns Buffalo Bros Pizza, Wings & Subs on the TCU campus and is the celebrity chef for TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium, where he oversees the menu for all home football games.
Kevin Martinez, Tokyo Cafe
An energetic chef and supporter of the local scene, Martinez helped revive Tokyo Cafe and always stays ahead of the curve. He gained acclaim in 2011 after winning the Chefs Under Fire regional competition for Dallas-Fort Worth. Though he already had made a name for himself as a chef, he went back to school to get his degree in a culinary arts. He's also written food stories, founded support groups to encourage and mentor fellow chefs, and hosts fundraisers for deserving causes. This is his third nomination for Best Chef; he made the list in 2016 and in 2017.
Lanny Lancarte, Righteous Foods
Part of the dynasty of Joe T. Garcia's Tex-Mex restaurant, Lancarte has been a culinary trailblazer. He was ahead of the pack in 2005 when he opened Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana, his upscale temple to interior Mexican cuisine — a trend that resonates a decade later all over town at restaurants such as Mesa in Oak Cliff and the Mesero and Meso Maya chains. In 2014, he blazed another trail by embracing healthier dining with Righteous Foods, where he does juices, great coffee, and health-conscious food focusing on the use of responsibly sourced ingredients.
Scott Lewis, Piattello
Lewis studied at Le Cordon Bleu and has worked in the culinary industry for more than 16 years. He worked at all three Dallas restaurants belonging to Julian Barsotti, beginning at Nonna, then Carbone's where he served as sous chef, and lastly at Sprezza, where he was head chef. He was a nominee in the 2017 Tastemaker Awards for Rising Star Chef, and now returns to slay the Best Chef category.