1. Chris Shepherd
Following the success of Underbelly and debut of One Fifth, the award-winning chef consulted on the opening of Ember at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The tavern-style eatery elevates airport dining, serving Gulf seafood, handcut steaks, burgers, local produce and draft beers.
2. Hugo Ortega
After six nominations for the James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest, Ortega finally brought home the gold in May. Another recent accomplishment for the Mexico City-born chef was the debut of Xochi in the new Marriott Marquis. His and Tracy Vaught’s H Town Restaurant Group also operate Backstreet Cafe, Caracol, Hugo’s and Prego.
3. Justin Yu
Native Houstonian Yu crisscrossed the globe honing his culinary skills before opening the now shuttered Oxheart. He’s back with Better Luck Tomorrow, a neighborhood bar co-owned by cocktail guru Bobby Heugel. Look for seasonal libations and interesting wines paired with inventive bar food. Yu also co-owns Public Services, a wine and whiskey bar, with Justin Vann.
4. Kiran Verma
Beloved Kiran Verma kicked off a stellar year with a brand-new restaurant in Levy Park designed exactly as she envisioned by Gensler architects. But she didn’t stop there. She recently introduced a Sadhya eight-course vegetarian tasting menu, a lavish four-course lobster menu, and a bar bites menu. Her famous wine dinners continue in the gorgeous new glass-enclosed wine room.
5. Travis Lenig
This native Houstonian graduated with a degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Houston and has spent most of his career in upscale restaurants, including his recent stint as culinary director for F.E.E.D TX (Liberty Kitchens). In February, Lenig opened his own spot, Field & Tides, in Houston’s historic Heights neighborhood.