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Jan 20, 2011 12:42 PM

His Majesty The Chef: Best Male Chef In Austin

Since my other thread devoted to female chefs in Austin is foundering I thought I'd give equal space to the men.

Who's your favorite male cook in Austin?

The grinding work of professional kitchens is hard on anybody so let's celebrate the menfolk who're putting delicious food on our tables.

I'll go ahead and nominate Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck and Barley Swine.

He put some of the best food I've ever eaten in Austin in front of me last year.

No small feat as I've supped at the tables of some of the best cooks in Texas.

And if you want to contribute to the other thread here's the hot link:

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  1. I'll follow your nomination with three others that must be considered.

    Parkside/Backspace's Shawn Cirkiel.

    Uchi/Uchiko's Tyson Cole.

    Jezebel [sniffle]/Braise's Parind Vora. (Does he cook regularly at Simplicity?)

    1. My vote goes to Bryce Gilmore as well.

      But here are a couple more to consider...

      Deegan McClung of Jeffrey's
      David Bull of Congress and Second

      4 Replies
      1. re: abidonfood

        Are we allowed to list Ray Tatum? Is he still active, post-Backstage?

        1. re: tom in austin

          Hell yeah we can list Raymond and yes he's still active.

          As we speak he's having his cart fabricated for his "Three Little Pigs" restaurant on wheels.

          The old lion of Austin chefs will be making his presence felt with his Hog Themed menu.

          I've heard rumors of a "Tibia Lollipop" being featured but am unsure of exactly what it is.

          The thought of a pig tibia being coaxed into an edible lollipop format is enticing however.

          And abidonfood: I do like your choice of McClung. He cooked at half of my favorite NOLA restaurants before migrating to Austin.

          David Bull, not so sure. I was hoping this list would be guys who are doing a lot of the actual cooking in their restaurants.

          Bull may be sweating it out on the line at the new joint that his name is attached to but I'd be surprised if he was.

          1. re: scrumptiouschef

            For the record, I've seen Tyson and Parind cooking on the line at their restaurants. (Or, in Tyson's case, cutting up raw things and assembling them with other raw things -- not sure if that is called cooking or prepping or what.)

            I haven't witnessed Shawn cooking at Parkside, but I've seen him cook at a couple events, so I wouldn't be surprised if he was pretty hands-on.

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              We popped over to Three Little Pigs last night, and, man, is it good to have Raymond just around the corner. Of the four dishes we decided to sample, I'd order every single one again: Duck Boudin Cake, Pork Belly Slider, Curry Pork with Noodles and Cracklin Meatloaf. I had no doubt that the food would be good, but even the curry pork (of which I didn't expect much) with it's lemongrass and galangal was like some glorious conglomeration of Thai fresh ingredients and Southern style pulled pork.

              In one fell swoop, TLP shot to the top of my list of trailer destinations in ATX.

        2. While I'm a huge fan of Tyson Cole, I think a lot of the amazing Uchiko can be attributed to Paul Qui, the executive chef there. He's also the person responsible for East Side King.

          And Philp Speer is hands down the best pastry chef I've ever come across anywhere, not just Austin.

          6 Replies
          1. re: foodiegal71

            Whoa foodie gal not so fast.

            Yes, philip is talented but have you been to Jack Allen's?

            The pastry person there is not as cutting edge but my lord the flavors are incredible.

            Check out Jack Allen's then get back to me.

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              Whenever you post something like this, just like w/ your Odd Duck endorsements, I idly wonder "Is this scrumptiouschef's joint?"

              "So without further adieu, come forward, silent rogue, and receive thy prize!"

              We're all dying to know!

              1. re: tom in austin

                Not affiliated with Bryce or his daddy's joint.

                Just love good food and love endorsing other chef's talents.

              2. re: scrumptiouschef

                foodiegal, thank you, I really appreciate the kind words! There are many talented pastry chefs in Austin, in TX, and beyond, I have a great group of peers and am grateful to be in such great company.

                Scrumptious, I love that you noted Diana Sanchez at Jack Allen's! She is my Cousin and very talented... Kudos to her.

                I have had the pleasure, during my tenure here in Austin, to work with so many talented cooks, whose names no one would ever recognize. Some of the best tasting meals I have had in Austin restaurants are made by team members without recognition.

                1. re: Philip Speer

                  "Some of the best tasting meals I have had in Austin restaurants are made by team members without recognition."

                  Speer speaks the truth.

                  While the exec at a given restaurant may or may not be a talented cook [often times their gifts extend more towards the Dale Carnegie side of the business], it's always a given that Octavio in the dish hall is.

                  It's easy to tell who the best cook in the kitchen is when it's time to eat the "family meal".

                  This is when all the cooks take a minute to wolf down a quick meal prepared by a cook that's typically been voted into the position by the staff.

                  Some of the best food you're never going to get a chance to eat in a restaurant is enjoyed by the crew, standing up in the prep room, while Moises, Rudy, Octavio or Xao beams over his creation.

                  Just to stay on topic though: Stephen Galloway put some memorable fried chicken combos in front of me last year.

                  I haven't been by yet in 2011 but if this man were to wear a mantle it would be "Fried Chicken King Of Austin".

                  His Deep South style cooking makes him one of the finer chefs in town.

                  1914 E 12th St

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Is the fried chicken on offer daily? I drove by earlier and almost popped in for lunch but hit Springhill on Airport instead. (A mistake.)

            2. I'm sort of shocked that Rene Ortiz (La Condesa) hasn't come up in this conversation. I've yet to have anything less than an excellent experience at his restaurant. And he's also highly creative with his preparations.

              17 Replies
              1. re: poryorick

                While I wasn't overwhelmed by La Condesa (when a restaurant is slammed on a Saturday night, execution is often enough) I think their pastry chef Laura Sawicki belongs in the best pastry chef discussion.

                La Condesa
                400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                1. re: NWLarry

                  I agree with you about Sawicki; if you ever get the chance to trough feed at Condesa's brunch pastry table, I highly recommend it. I could bankrupt myself on it.

                  I recently talked to a relatively well-known local chef (who shall remain nameless to preserve collegiality amongst culinariat) and he said that Rene was the best chef in Austin. I'd already come to that conclusion personally, but it was gratifying to hear someone amongst the ranks of the best say the same.

                  There's something to be said for Ortiz's constant sabbaticals to food destinations across the US and abroad, though perhaps the wanderlust has an unintended consequence on consistency at La Condesa; perhaps I've just been lucky, because I've had nothing but excellent dining experiences there on a pretty regular basis.

                  La Condesa
                  400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                  1. re: poryorick

                    poryorick, what do you enjoy at La Condessa? I've been 3 times and only once was a dish decent, and it was a fish dish with no Latin flavors. I see random praise on this board for La Condessa but I rarely see anyone stating which dishes they enjoy.

                    The pastries are standout though, I agree.

                    I've been twice for brunch and La Condessa has the least distinctive brunch I've had in Austin. Watery eggs, bland food. I'd rather go to the wich wich across the street than brunch at LC.

                    1. re: Carter B.

                      A friend who is a chef worked in the La Condesa kitchen.

                      My first question was "do they have a tia making the tortillas from scratch"?

                      The dreaded response of "no", they're getting em from a plastic bag squelched any interest I had.

                      I wanted to like Iliana de la Vega's Oaxacan kitchen on wheels "El Naranjo Mobile" and it was pretty good but Fiesta Mart tortillas?

                      Come on.

                      It takes talent, effort and desire to put out scratch tortillas for your patrons.

                      If you're not willing to do that it's like a "chef" who doesn't make his own stock.

                      It's called pissing up a rope.

                      Why bother?

                      Can you imagine a bunch of fuss being made of a pizza parlor that didn't bother throwing their own dough?

                      Maybe things have changed and both La Condesa and El Naranjo have stepped into the clearlight and started producing scratch tortillas.

                      If so I can hardly wait to visit, eat and report back.

                      La Condesa
                      400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                        Dinner at La Condesa last week included a small stack of 3.5", fresh, scratch corn tortillas.

                        1. re: Steven Dilley

                          Steven, what did you have? Was it good? Would you recommend it?

                          1. re: Steven Dilley

                            Nice, I'll make my way by there next week and give the place a shot.

                            1. re: scrumptiouschef

                              You gentlemen should be aware that La Condesa was the final stop on a rather long night. That said, their equivalent of fundido was nicely spiced and came with the above-mentioned tortillas. (Confirmed to be made in-house.) The restaurant comp'ed the table a plate of crab tostadas, which was surprisingly good and likely the most successful dish of the evening. Despite our server's enthusiasm, I wasn't a big fan of the pork belly dish. (Aside from Uchi, I've had rather bad luck with that cut in this town.) Desserts were mixed, though I seem to recall a rather good one. Unfortunately, the tequila and mezcal have rendered other details rather fuzzy and this write-up rather useless. Was it good? There were some good dishes. Would I recommend it? My hunch is there are likely at least a handful of good dishes on the menu, and if you properly cracked the code could have a good or very good meal.

                              (Drinks were surprisingly so-so. Not sure why I was expecting something better. I will say this: anyone who is serious about cocktails (well-balanced, well-made, well-conceived, grown-up cocktails) needs to check out Bar Congress. Not Second Bar & Kitchen but Bar Congress. Some very good drinks being made.)

                              1. re: Steven Dilley

                                Thanks for confirming the house-made tortillas. They've always appeared to be such when I've been, so I didn't bother to ask

                                On the cocktail front, get over to Haddington's and try out the offerings that Bill Norris has developed for the bar there. I love Adam's stuff, but I still think Norris has a slight leg up on him.

                                1. re: poryorick

                                  Agreed. Haddington's is good for drinks. I've had consistency issues when he's been absent, but overall I'm a fan. (Though I still prefer Congress.)

                        2. re: Carter B.

                          That's too bad, Carter. My first trip to La Condesa was for brunch, and between the house-made donuts and the fried quinoa Huevos Chilangos, it's one of my more memorable brunch experiences here. I've been multiple times since, and have had many of the fresh fish dishes (hamachi, cangrejo, trucha), the duck mole, huaraches and several other dishes along with a complement of drinks (including the amazing tabacco-infused Cubito), and have, as I said, had anything less than excellent food.

                          I'm sorry for you if your palate is more attuned to the offerings of Which Wich than LC, but I have a feeling that's not actually the case and rather it's just your attempt to demean someone else's opinion. We've had good exchanges here before (when I was using a previous pseudo), so I'm not sure why you chose this approach.

                          That's the pork belly sliders, cangrejo tostadas and huevos chilangos below.

                          La Condesa
                          400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                          1. re: poryorick

                            Could it be? Has the once and future king returned? My favorite food writer in all of Austin? Dare I hope beyond hope?

                            If the lord of Austin chow is endorsing La Condesa, then I'll go back immediately and try it again. I've been to dinner there and a private party, and I like it, for what it is, plus I've enjoyed the desserts (but then again, what do I know about sweets?)

                            Now that I've got a menu of recommendations from 1.61 km/h (possibly), I'll take that as a royal charge. And if it is you, you've been missed. Glad to know you're back, even in another guise.

                            La Condesa
                            400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                            1. re: tom in austin

                              Oh, no. Sorry to disappoint, Tom. I'd like to see his return, as well, but, alas, I am not. Just another wayward 'hound that found a topic worth chiming in on.

                              1. re: tom in austin

                                I don't know 1.61 km/h, but I've read some great posts from 88.55 km/hr :)

                              2. re: poryorick

                                Finally dish recommendations for more than the queso, thanks poryorick.

                                We have different definitions of demeaning--I disagree with your opinion on the restaurant but see no personal attacks with what I wrote above other than pleas to learn names of dishes. You like their brunch, I don't. Groovy. I won't go there again for brunch. If I'm there for dinner and I can remember where these recommendations are buried in this thread of another title, I'll try some of these dishes out. Thanks for that.

                                1. re: Carter B.

                                  Sorry, CB. After taking a break for a while from this place, and in light the way discourse on teh internetz has devolved since then, I'm trying hard to become a gentler sort of critic...disagreement without being disagreeable. I just can't abide that even the worst dish at LC doesn't have something on the best at a chain sandwich joint, but we can disagree, if we must. Glad to hear your open to giving Rene another go; there's always a chance I've just been damned lucky this whole time, too.

                                  1. re: poryorick

                                    I'm very serious when I say I've had two very bad brunches there and I'd rather eat at wich wich--though part of that is I've never been to wich wich and my chow mantra is I'll try any restaurant--chain or no--once.

                                    Anyway, welcome back whoever you are. Hope you can light a fire on this board. We need more postings and research into new places.

                      2. The chef that is actually overseeing the cooking for David Bull is Rebecca Meeker, who just before signing on with him opened a restaurant in Taiwan for Joel Robuchon. She's a close friend of close friends. A celebrity chef may come up with concepts and menus but its the chef de cuisine and sous chefs that make a kitchen work.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chascates

                          Totally true, which is why I made sure to point out that my picked chefs work in the kitchen.

                          Back in the Jezebel days, I asked Chef Vora how often he worked on the line. He told me directly, and I quote, "If I'm not working in the kitchen, we're closed."

                          I've eaten at the bar in Uchi a few times (years ago) only to have Tyson working there with other chefs, slicing things up. Once he eavesdropped my conversation and gave us special items he thought my wife and I would like. Sort of mischievous in his approach.

                          Like I said above, I can't speak for Shawn. Never toured the Parkside kitchen. But I've seen him cook before, or at least, help get stuff ready in a very hands-on way. I can say that I completely love the product his restaurant puts out, though, so even that says something.