Best Old/New Fusion - 2009
When it was announced that wunderkind chef Randy Rucker — known for his daring molecular gastronomy and cutting-edge cuisine at the now-closed Laidback Manor — would be taking over the executive chef position at the supremely old-school Rainbow Lodge, the collective heads of Houston's food community cocked in bewilderment. But it's turned out to be the most successful marriage — however unlikely — that the dining scene has seen in recent years. Rucker's inventive and capricious techniques somehow pair wonderfully with the wild game and lodge-like setting of the stately restaurant. His best work is on display in dishes like chicken from Bryan Farms wrapped in housemade pancetta and served alongside housemade chicken sausage, or Texas redfish on the half shell with preserved Meyer lemon and baby arugula.