Whenever I visit a restaurant in Houston, I make sure that my belly is empty since even the proportioned sized foods here come in large sizes. Of course, I couldn’t be at all the 8000 (and more) eateries in this huge city. But I tried researching as much as possible to find some of the best chefs in Houston. In the end, I was quite satisfied with what I found.
From seafood to steak, these chefs can bring art and divine tests into even the simplest dishes. Many of them also penned cookbooks or appeared in TV shows. I am here to show you my top five list of the top chefs in Houston.
Best Chefs in Houston
Chris Shepherd- One of the 10 Best New Chefs in America (entitled by Food and Wine)
Chris Shepherd is a popular name in Houston, Texas, and you may have heard of his popular restaurant, Underbelly. It opened in 2012, intending to enhance the local food culture. Hence, the eatery only used local bounties and culinary customs.
Unfortunately, Chris Shepherd recently announced to leave Underbelly as of writing and will focus more on his other restaurant, Southern Smoke Foundation. But you can still visit Underbelly, the James Beard semifinalist award winner for the ‘Best New Restaurant.’
Restaurants of Note-
As I mentioned above, Chris Shepherd is about to leave his decade-built restaurant Underbelly. However, if you want to test his culinary magic, don’t delay and visit Southern Smoke.
Awards and Achievements-
- Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly was included in one of the 38 restaurants that eaters find necessary.
- In 2013, he won the title of One of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food and Wine.
- In 2019, he reached the semifinal as ‘Outstanding Chef’ in James Beard Award.
Manabu Horiuchi- Master of Sushi and Seafood
They say your mental condition can be shared with your work. That may be why the dishes from Manabu Horiuchi bring happiness to any eater. Also known as Hori-San by his fans, he is a Japanese currently working in Kata Robata, which he opened in 2009.
The whole initial part of his cooking career took place in Japan. He trained himself at Tsuji Culinary Institute of Japan and later started working as the sous chef at Ichimura Kansai Kapou. His move to Houston happened in 2000 with the help of the Japanese Consul General.
If your goal is to test something unique, go for his Omakase tasting. In it, he prepares a dish containing only the ingredients he feels passionate about on that day.
Manabu Horiuchi’s name is always followed by his one and only restaurant, Kata Robata. This restaurant is the number one place to get top-level Japanese delicacies.
Before Kata Robata, he had been at Kubo’s Sushi Bar for eight years straight.
In 2009, Horiuchi’s restaurant, Kata Robata, got the title of ‘No. 1 Restaurant in Houston’ by the Houston Chronicle.
I couldn’t find any cookbooks by Chef Horiuchi. However, if you want to make Sushi at home, you can check out the Sushi Cookbook for Beginners by Chika Ravitch.
Paul Petronella- Chef, Owner, and Sever of Paulie’s Restaurant
When it comes to satisfactory service, Paul Petronella is hard to top. He is an excellent individual that you may have short chats with if the restaurant is not too crowded. He is great at making mouth-watering platters and even gelato and ice creams.
Paul’s strategies and planning with his restaurant are so thoughtful. For example, in one interview, he mentioned that he is trying to make many changes to the menu and customs, yet do it gradually and subtly not to displease the old customers.
He had collaborations with other amazing chefs, namely Terrence and Seth.
Paul Petronella currently works in his restaurant Paulie’s as an expeditor. The menu here mainly includes Italian delicacies as well as paninis, pizzas, and other desserts and sweets. I would love to visit there again.
Awards and Achievements-
Currently, Paulie doesn’t hold any official awards to note. However, his becoming one of the most successful restauranters in Houston is already an achievement. I feel like he is more focused on reducing people’s waiting time and making that short period worthwhile with excellent food. I love that ambition.
Sylvia Casares- Houston’s Enchilada Queen
If you like Mexican desserts and enchiladas like me, any of the restaurants of Sylvia Casares should be your go-to. As a chef myself, she inspired me a lot. Significantly, the way she never compromises on the test and nutrition of her foods is a habit most chefs should follow.
Sylvia is known as Houston’s Enchilada Queen. In addition, her Tex Mex and fajitas are not to be missed.
Restaurants Owned by Sylvia-
Currently, Sylvia Casares owns two restaurants in Eldridge and Woodway. Additionally, you can also get her catering service or join her cooking classes.
Achievements and Honors-
There are tons of accolades granted to Sylvia. Some of them are-
- ’14 Essential Mexican and Tex-Mex Restaurants in Houston’ from Texas Monthly.
- Top 50 Tex-Mex Restaurants by USA Today.
- Sylvia managed to join her eateries in the ‘Ten Great Mexican Restaurants in the US’ list.
Hugo Ortega- Expert Mexican Chef
Hugo Ortega is a prime example of going from bottom to top in one’s career. Who would’ve guessed that the person who started working as a dishwasher and line cook would later be a James Beard Award-winning chef?
Ortega has five total restaurants, each with top-class service, static menus, and high popularity. He was an executive chef of Backstreet and later opened his own restaurants in Houston with his wife. But when he arrived here in 1984, he had no job leads.
If you research his life story, you will learn that he had to endure tough work before managing to enrol in Houston Community College’s Culinary Arts Program.
The five restaurants run by Hugo are Backstreet Café, Caracol, Hugo’s, URBE, and Xochi. Here, you can pre-order thanksgiving, get catering service, organize parties, and whatnot. These are some perfect places for lavish events.
- Hugo doesn’t lack awards and achievements. He consecutively won the Best Chef: Southwest from James Beard Foundation from 2012 to 2017.
- He earned the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 from Southern Foodways Alliance.
- Mayor Sylvester Turner declared June 20, 2017, Hugo Ortega day in Houston.
Houston is rich with restaurants and big names in culinary art. If you are a resident or planning a visit there, I recommend checking at least some of the above chefs and visiting their restaurants. If you can’t, fortunately, their cookbooks will suffice in dishing up their recipes at your home.