Bryan Caswell, who was just named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 2009, took to Twitter immediately after the official announcement to share his joy with the world. Past recipients of the Best New Chef award, which recognizes rising culinary stars across the United States, have included such influential chefs as Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless (who both won in 1988) and Nobu Matsuhisa (1989).
It's a major honor for a Texan-by-way-of-Louisiana, where our corner of the world is often ignored by major food awards and publications. But it's just the most recent of many recognitions that Caswell has garnered since leaving Bank -- where he worked under the legendary Jean-Georges Vongerichten -- to start his own seafood restaurant, Reef.
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Taking an education at the Culinary Institute of America and combining it with years of East Texas family cooking, studies in New York City and Italy, and a love of seafood, Caswell and partner Bill Floyd opened Reef in June 2007. With an emphasis on fresh, local seafood and inventive cooking techniques (most nostably on display in Reef's heralded crispy-skinned snapper), the restaurant quickly caught the attention of Houston and the rest of the world.
In late 2008, Bon Appetit named Reef the best seafood restaurant in America. At the same time, Caswell himself was short-listed for a prestigious James Beard Award as "Best Chef: Southwest." The winner in that category -- along with all the others -- will be announced in early May.
As for bringing such attention to our city and to his passion for Gulf Coast cuisine, Caswell had simply this to say:
Thanks for all the congrats! I love this town, me encanta mi ciudad, te amo Houston!