Houston Dominates Food & Wine's Best New Chef List

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Each year, Food & Wine recognizes the nation's great up-and-coming chefs with The People's Best New Chef -- a contest which allows readers to vote on the 10 best new chefs from 10 regions around the country. This is the first year that Food & Wine has employed a Gulf Coast regional category -- exciting news, as many Houston chefs refer to their own cooking as "Gulf Coast" or even "Third Coast" cuisine.

Weirdly, though, despite Food & Wine's map placing the new Gulf Coast placard directly in the middle of Texas, our state is still lumped in with the Southwest region as in past years. I maintain that this makes no sense.

Regardless of bizarre regional situation, Houston dominated the Southwest category: five chefs out of the 10 nominees were from Houston.

Granted, chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions were lumped together -- meaning that we actually have four horses in the race instead of five individual contestants -- but we'll take it.

In addition to Siegel-Gardner and Gallivan, our other hometown nominees were:

Kevin Naderi, Roost Chris Shepherd, Underbelly Justin Yu, Oxheart

Two Austin chefs made the cut as well, along with one chef each from Dallas, Denver and Tuscon. Because modern Texas cuisine has so much in common with Arizona and Colorado. And because San Juan, Puerto Rico is very...Gulf Coast. But I digress.

For chefs Shepherd and Yu, this nomination is the second round of big news in a year that's also seen them both announced as semifinalists for this year's James Beard Awards -- each of the men in categories that are somewhat of an amalgamation of the Food & Wine nomination: Yu is a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, while Shepherd is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southwest. Both of their restaurants, Oxheart and Underbelly, were independently recognized as Beard semifinalists as well.

Oxheart's sommelier, Justin Vann, was also recognized by Food & Wine earlier this year as one of the magazine's top 10 sommeliers of 2013.

While you can catch all of these chefs in their natural habitats nearly every day, you can see Naderi in action outside of Roost if you come out to Menu of Menus this year. That's where the chef will be defending his Iron Fork title from last year's head-to-head cooking battle, with chef Randy Evans of Haven as host and emcee. Who will be Naderi's nemesis? Check back later this week when we unveil his competitor.

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