Planning a trip to the Southwest? You’ll find more than sagebrush and sharpshooters here. The culinary scene is abuzz with masters and innovators that are really turning heads, and earning their places among the greats. We profile 10 of the most exciting and creative chefs in the region, from Arizona to Utah.
When it comes to easy-going, chef Bryce Gilmore is as unpretentious as it gets. He loves eggs, Austin, and having fun with food. He cut his teeth while working in his father’s popular restaurant, Z’Tejas Grill, and after high school headed to the California Culinary School in San Francisco. After spending a few years working in high-profile restaurants, he went back home to be part of the burgeoning food scene in the capital of the Lone Star State. Bryce’s first solo appearance was a food truck called Odd Duck, which became so popular that he was almost forced into making it a brick-and-mortar, now called Barley Swine. His restaurant has won numerous awards from local critics, and Bryce himself has received much acclaim.
Barley Swine, 2024 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX, USA, +1 512 394 8150
Odd Duck, 1201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX, USA, +1 512 433 6521
With the help of Bowman Brown Utah has become a rising star in terms of good food. Bowman was raised in Arizona, then attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and the Atlantic Culinary Institute in New Hampshire before landing in Northern Utah. He was paired with now-celebrity chef Viet Pham when they opened Forage, and the duo pleasantly surprised the sometimes dry Salt Lake food scene. Their menu was fresh, up-scale, and unlike anything anyone had seen before. Bowman takes boyscout-like skills and forages (literally) the bounteous Wasatch Mountains for wild herbs, leaves, and flowers. His creativity and drive continue to appease and delight the increasingly refined palates of his patrons.
Forage, 370 E. 900 S. Salt Lake City, UT, USA,+1 801 708 7834
With a name like The Gladly, who wouldn’t want to spend some time in Bernie Kantak’s newest restaurant? This is his second contribution to the Arizona food scene, and his momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Raised in upstate New York and educated at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Bernie quickly realized that his dream was to spend his days in the kitchen. His combining of unusual flavors, like lamb nibblets with cumin-fig glaze, and coffee-charred shortribs, demonstrate his playfulness and zeal in the creation of good food. Bernie has even reinvented the salad and given it new life with the Citizen Public House’s chopped salad. If a chef can make a salad so good that it gets its own Facebook page, that surely means he’s doing something right.
Citizen Public House, 7111 E 5th Ave., Scottsdale, AZ, USA+1 480 398 4208
The Gladly Restaurant, 2201 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ, USA, +1 602 759 8132
Born in Illinois, this move to the American Southwest was a welcomed addition. Jennifer James’ menus at Jennifer James 101 have a clean and simple nature that demonstrates her meticulous attention to ingredients and design. Jennifer is keenly aware of her diners and strives to give them the best possible experience at her restaurants. A visitor can expect to be treated well, and enjoy food that has been carefully considered, masterfully executed, and beautifully presented.
Jennifer James 101, 4615 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM, USA, + 1 505 884 3860
Jeff Osaka is not new to the culinary field but his ingenuity continues to attract attention. Born in Los Angeles, California, the chef didn’t make his way to a professional kitchen until his late twenties. He quickly made up for lost time by working throughout California and the Western US with the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Chinois Las Vegas. He has since opened, owned, and cooked for multiple new restaurants.
Chef Justin Yu is a Houston native. He did the rounds cooking in Chicago, Napa, Dranouter, and Copenhagen, only to find himself right back on the Gulf Coast. His first concept, Oxheart, helped to earn him recognition with the distinguished James Beard Foundation. He’s trying to spread the word about the richness of Houston’s community and commodities by using locally grown ingredients in his dishes and by participating in the Houston Culinary Tours. Together, they’re giving Houston quite a name for itself.
Oxheart, 1302 Nance Street, Houston, TX, USA,+1 832 830 8592