We're a week away from the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual culinary celebration of the best in Dallas-Fort Worth food and drink.
The Tastemaker Awards spotlights the top talent in Dallas-Fort Worth's restaurant and bar communities, as determined by their peers.
We're halfway through our special editorial series, where we honor each of the nominees. We've already paid tribute to the 10 Best Bars, and we've also launched our bracket vote for Fort Worth's Best New Restaurant, where you get to help decide who will be the winner. (Click here to see who's winning so far and cast your vote.)
Now we come to the rock stars of the kitchen: Fort Worth's top chefs for 2021, and it's a deliciously varied lineup, from veteran names to newbies, from fine dining to BBQ, with the thing in common being their pursuit of excellence.
Who will win? Find out at the Tastemaker Awards party on August 19 at Fashion Industry Gallery, where we’ll dine on bites from nominated restaurants while emcee CJ Starr reveals the winners. Buy tickets here.
Here are the nine best chefs for 2021:
Felipe Armenta - Towne Grill
Armenta is a return nominee, having been nominated for Best Chef in 2020, and more than deserving. He's one of Fort Worth's prolific restaurateurs, with a portfolio of eateries that includes The Tavern, Pacific Table, Maria's Mexican Kitchen (which earned a Tastemaker nomination this year for Best New Restaurant), and the recently opened Towne Grill, and seems to be growing every day.
Chetra Chau - Chetra's Kitchen
Chau had almost 20 years in the industry, from catering to to corporate gigs to homestyle cooking to fine dining, before he opened this unassuming but highly personal gem in Bedford. It may not look like much from the outside, but Chau is serving excellent, globe-trotting food. Even everyday items get his chef-inspired touch: His BLT comes with an over-easy egg and Korean barbecue sauce and his tacos are riffs on beef Wellington and Philly cheesesteaks.
Mistee Moon - Nood Food
Single mom with wildly colored hair and tattoos has had her own catering business for 20 years, but after losing her "day job" due to the pandemic, she ramped it up, making her food available to the public with weekly meal programs, which often feature a healthy and/or Asian twist. She's also an accomplished baker who makes amazing cakes.
Jett Mora - Cafe Modern
Los Angeles native began working for Wolfgang Puck Catering in 2011 in the company's flagship Hollywood kitchen, creating menus for weddings, special events, corporate galas, and some of the country’s premier events, including the Oscars Governors Ball. He also served as executive chef at Puck's West Hollywood restaurant Red Seven, before cooking inside Wolfgang's Test Kitchen, a culinary incubator. He moved to Fort Worth to lead the culinary team at the Modern, which is kind of a big deal.
Grant Morgan - 97 West
Morgan began his career in his hometown Sedona at the renowned Heartline Cafe, and has worked in resort towns like Las Vegas and Vail, Colorado, at luxury properties such as Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and Spa and Le Cirque at the Bellagio Hotel. He was lured to Dallas to work at Hotel Zaza, then served as F&B director for Velvet Taco/FrontBurner, before signing on as chef at 97 West, one of the buzziest openings in Fort Worth and a Tastemaker nominee for Best New Restaurant.
Denise Shavandy - American Revelry
A returning Tastemaker nominee (she was nominated for Best Chef in 2020), Shavandy earned great acclaim during her five-year stint at Cafe Modern, following a career that included eatZi's, Central Market, and The Pegasus. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she's also been a culinary instructor, and won on an episode of the Food Network show Chopped. She recently signed on as executive chef at American Revelry, the top-notch American restaurant in Burleson, where her creations are already making waves.
Victor Villareal - La Onda
Villarreal is a return nominee, having been nominated for best chef once before in 2019. He's cooked in some of the top kitchens in Dallas-Fort Worth, including the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Clay Pigeon, Sera, and Grace, and just opened La Onda, a Latin-inspired seafood restaurant with raw and cooked seafood dishes, such as smoked clam & scallop ceviche and oysters on the half-shell. (La Onda was also nominated this year for Best New Restaurant, and has made it to finalist status.)
Derrick Walker - Smoke-A-Holics
Fort Worth native got his start in the barbecue business by catering special events and hosting pop-ups. Walker's barbecue is undeniably great, with brisket, sausage, chicken, and spare ribs - good enough to have earned a Tastemaker nomination in 2020 for Best New Restaurant. But he elevates it further by adding a soul food twist, including smoked oxtails with cheese grits and smoked and smothered chopped steak.
Patrick Whitfield - Ella B's
After running a catering business with his wife Patricia for more than 12 years, Whitfield opened Ella B's, a classy Southern and soul food spot in Arlington, with a name and menu inspired by his grandmother, Ella B. Whitfield, that includes Cajun and low-country Southern food. It's kitty-corner to the Texas Stadium — fitting since Whitfield previously cooked for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys for two years. He's also been a private chef to celebrities and has his own line of barbecue sauces and spices.