Lone Star Chefs: It's Not Always about Being Bigger, They're Just Better

Categories: Get Lit

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Our Texas chefs not only come from Texas but from all over the world and bring their culinary homes with them -- fortunately for us.

Lone Star Chefs by John DeMers and Julie Soefer highlights 13 outstanding and diverse Texas masters. This book is part biography, part cookbook and part restaurant guide. The photographs of the restaurants, chefs and their dishes are beautiful and stylish. Each chapter includes an essay documenting the history and inspirations of the profiled chefs, art-quality photos of their food and restaurant interiors, and recipes for some of their signature dishes -- all capturing each chef's unique, creative vision.

If you are a Texas foodie and haven't eaten in at least half of these masters' restaurants, then stop calling yourself a Texas foodie.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth
From Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Marfa, these Lone Star Chefs are cooking up dishes that your grandmother never dreamed of but would love. Scott Tycer says, "I'm a firm believer in the historical value of cooking. You can make a chicken-fried steak in a fine dining restaurant and maybe not even call it chicken fried steak."

Tycer's father's side of the family grew up poor, and he remembers visiting his grandmother in Corpus Christi and knowing that despite their circumstance, the food was always amazing. It was laden with saturated fats -- lard, chicken fat, bacon fat -- but that made even the simplest fried eggs into religious epiphanies. His mother's family was more well-off in Houston and mostly cooked from the Junior League Cookbook. One particular casserole still turns up on his menu from time to time: curried chicken casserole, reinvented of course, but "still worthy of the respect I gave it as a child," Tycer says.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth
At Cochineal in Marfa, diners walk in and see a shelf of cookbooks that promises French, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese or Latin American flavors on a menu that changes virtually every night. Chefs Tom Rapp and Toshi Sakihara bring their Illinois-born and Okinawa-born influences to every dish. Rapp explains, "We are a white-tablecloth restaurant without the fake elegance of white tablecloths. This is unlike anything within 800 miles."

Austin and now Houston have Tyson Cole's Uchi. It's all about quality ingredients, done simply, put together the right way. Which is much easier to say than to execute, says Cole.

"Florida-born, Texas-sculpted Tyson Cole has a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. But when he pulls out his iPhone to show a visitor a photograph, it isn't of a wobbly first step or a festive third birthday. The photo shows a raw slab of Kobe-style short ribs on a cutting board, the first step to the grilled beef, heirloom peaches, apple, and tiny okra now gracing the table. Having painfully worked his way inside the Japanese mind by way of the cuisine and even the language, he knows you can't understand anything without understanding where it came from."

Cole has reimagined all that's sacred about Japanese cuisine with an undaunting sense of respect for tradition, all the while layering in his American genius.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth
The 13 Texas masters in Lone Star Chefs are true Texas greats: Robert Del Grande, Scott Tycer, Monica Pope, Bryan Caswell, Dean Fearing, Stephan Pyles, Kent Rathbun, Jon Bonnell, Tyson Cole, Terry Conlan, Andrew Weissman, Tom Rapp and Toshi Sakihara. Each chef is bringing his or her food story to life every night across our great state. On any given plate, you will bear witness to mothers and grandmothers they have loved, books they have read, places they have been and ingredients they have tasted. Dig in!



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Location Info

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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12 comments
Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

Only one name that I think was a major oversight: Anita Jaisinghani.

ruthmarie
ruthmarie

Really enjoyed reading this article, really feel proud of all the Texas chefs.  I love T'afia and Monica Pope, have had many great meals there. 

JMTexas
JMTexas

Curious to know if I'm the only one out there, but how is Monica Pope a great chef. Been to T'afia 4 times and each time successively underwhelmed.

HeflinW
HeflinW

agree, and Marco Wiles. Just as Jaisinghai re-invented Indian and transcended the cliches of Indian cuisne here, so Wiles ushered in a different vibe for those of us who love Italian. And not just Italian-American that preceded his arrival.

(Bonus: Wiles' Dolce Vita, and Jaisinghani's Indika are withina few feet of each other ; ) try eating at one and dessert at the other.)

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

We are in Texas after all - no one book is going to make every Texan foodie happy.  I love what Ronnie does and dine at Killen's often.

Peggy
Peggy

I guess that it is a matter of personal taste.  I have eaten at T'afia dozens of times and enjoy what Monica Pope delivers.  She is considered a master level chef by many in the nation...she is a James Beard nominee, competed on Top Chefs Masters, and is a culinary ambassador around the world for the local food movement.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Did you ever eat at Boulevard Bistrot or Quilted Toque? Pope practically invented eating local/organic/seasonal in this town and helped re-energize farmers markets with her Midtown Farmers Market at t'afia; all these places doing it now owe her for blazing that trail. And although t'afia can be unpredictable, it's still one of my favorite restaurants. The food and flavors are subtle and unique, just like Pope herself.

JMTexas
JMTexas

True, props for the farmers market and local ingredients in a city that had not embraced that value until recently (even more props to Revival Market for making local goodies available all week). But to put Pope on a pedistal (excuse the alliteration) with those others mentioned is a stretch.

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

While I wouldn't mind Laura or Susan being in Houston, I am not willing to trade Monica for them. Monica is the reason Houston has any sense of locavorism.  It didn't exist in any accessible way before her. Her work with farmers and the markets is part of her culinary talent that shines in her food creations. We should be proud of our own and what they have added to our culinary scene. Every restaurant has inconsistencies. Bryan Caswell is a master and yet El Real has some real down days, but we keep going back because its Caswell and we know his caliber.So to answer your original question if you are the only one out there - I'm going to say yes. Thank you for your opinions though.

JMTexas
JMTexas

Laura Sawicki...and Susan Spicer should she set up shop here. 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

You're right. It should be a book of all male chefs. No female chefs at all, no matter how groundbreaking their work nor how tenaciously they continue to strive and succeed in their field. Who would you have in her place?

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