Top of the food chain

San Antonio's top culinary stars take the spotlight at prestigious gala

San Antonio's top culinary stars take spotlight at prestigious gala

StarChefs Benjamin Crick
Benjamin Krick of Juniper Tar poured gin and tonics all night. Photo by Megan Swann for StarChefs
StarChefs Pieter Sypestyn
Chef Pieter Sypesteyn celebrates his win. Photo by Megan Swann for StarChefs
StarChefs Adam Brick
Chef Adam Brick plates his Wagyu beef crudo for attendees. Photo by Megan Swann for StarChefs
StarChefs Counter 3.5.7
The innovative dessert from Austin's Counter 3. Five. VII chef Daniela Herrera. Photo by Megan Swann for StarChefs
StarChefs Emmer and Rye
Chefs Kevin Fink and Page Pressley of Austin's Emmer & Rye made white Sonora gondolini with ricotta, tomato water, and basil for the gala. Photo by Megan Swann for StarChefs
StarChefs Benjamin Crick
StarChefs Pieter Sypestyn
StarChefs Adam Brick
StarChefs Counter 3.5.7
StarChefs Emmer and Rye

On December 13, San Antonio’s culinary stars headed to Austin for a night of celebration. StarChefs, a national organization committed to supporting the success of restaurant professionals, hosted its quarterly Rising Stars awards gala and tasting at Fair Market, an event space on the city's east side. The evening, which was emceed by CultureMap San Antonio food editor Brandon Watson, featured delectable selections from some of the Lone Star State's best chefs, artisans, bartenders, and sommeliers.

Every year, StarChefs selects four markets on which to focus the spotlight, and hosts similar awards galas in those cities. Now in its 12th year, the lists of Rising Stars Award recipients read like a crystal ball into the epicurean future of each given city. When the awards first came to Central Texas in 2012, they recognized the likes of Quealy Watson, Michael Sohocki, Jason Dady, and Jeret Peña, all startlingly accurate predictions of the greatness to come.

Five years later, StarChefs is back to honor a new class of San Antonio and Austin culinary professionals. But StarChefs didn’t come to town simply to burnish the already shiny reputations of our newly minted local chef celebs. The organization met with more than 100 industry pros before presenting the 2017 class of Rising Stars, many of whom may have yet to cross into local foodie culture at large — but, assuredly, not for long. These incredible talents are the ones to keep your eyes (and bellies) on in the coming years.

Four of the names are already synonymous with San Antonio’s food scene. Rising Stars concept award winners Jeremy Mandrell, Anne Ng, and Charlie Biedenharn, have made Bakery Lorraine an internationally lauded destination, especially for their beautiful macarons filled with unexpected flavors. For the event, they shrunk their signature cookie down to sprinkles on a strawberry toaster pastry. Chad Carey, winner of the restaurateur award, may not yet be a household name, but his restaurants and venues through Empty Stomach Group — Barbaro, Chisme, Hot Joy, and Paper Tiger are always at the tip of San Antonians' tongues. His featured dish, miso-aged wagyu, brown rice risotto, roasted mushrooms, and sanscho butter, seemed to draw inspiration from all of the above.

Pieter Sypesteyn of San Antonio’s lauded Cookhouse was in attendance to receive the Community Chef Award. The New Orleans native was raised in a restaurant family, so when he opened a food truck in San Antonio in 2007, it was only natural for the chef to bring home the flavors of his pater familias. That truck evolved into Cookhouse, and has quickly become a keystone in San Antonio’s growing restaurant community. In addition to his delicious NOLA-inspired menu, Sypesteyn and his wife run Third Coast Charities, a foundation which fosters positive relationships between local businesses and residents. His offering at the gala, a true indication of his bayou bona fides, were his savory and rich boudin balls.

Benjamin Krick, bartender Rising Star, continues raising the bar of international cocktail culture in San Antonio. After extensive travels throughout Europe and North Africa, Krick landed at the Esquire, where he worked under legendary local barman Houston Eaves. His style at Juniper Tar incorporates a travelogue of different spirits, including fortified wines. At the gala, he chose to showcase his art in the simplest form — a Portuguese gin and tonic made with white port, Broker’s gin, lime cordial, and Fever Tree Indian tonic.

If StarChefs waits another five years before returning to San Antonio, something tells me that this year’s Rising Stars award recipients will have blossomed into the next generation of our region’s and — our country’s — most exciting culinary superstars.