Best Chefs 2007

February 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Edit

Presented in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Starlight Gala

The Top 10
1. Mark Cox – Mark’s American Cuisine
2. Marco Wiles – Da Marco
3. Philippe Schmit – bistro moderne
4. Olivier Ciesielski – Tony’s
5. Georges Guy – Chez Georges
6. Robert Del Grande – Café Annie
7. Charles Clark – Ibiza
8. John Sheely – Mockingbird Bistro
9. Robert Gadsby – Noé Restaurant &Bar
10. Rafael Galindo – Café Red Onion

The Rest of the Best
Arturo Boada – Beso
John Marion Carrabba – Piatto Ristorante
Bryan Caswell – BANK, Hotel ICON
Donald Chang – Uptown Sushi
James Cole – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse &Wine Bar
Michael Cordúa – Américas
Lance Fegen – Glass Wall
Jason Gould – Gravitas
Mark Holley – Pesce
Joe Mannke – Bistro Le Cep
Youssef Nafaa – Mia Bella/Saffron
Arturo Osorio – Amerigo’s Grille
Ryan Pera – 17, Alden Hotel
Monica Pope – T’afia
Kent Rathbun – Jasper’s
Carlos Rodriguez – Vic &Anthony’s
John Schenk – Strip House

Mark Cox
This summer, Chef Mark Cox will have been pleasing palates for 10 years with his namesake, Mark’s American Cuisine. Built in 1927 as St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, the building has seen quite a few businesses after the congregation moved in 1940. Despite the heavy rotation of tenants, this fine-dining institution has staying power. With seasonal menus, as well as a daily menu, Mark’s offers the freshest and highest quality ingredients from across the country combined in an artistically inventive way. Cox’s intention is to have a neighborhood restaurant; and although the scene and cuisine are definitely lavish, he has created an intimate environment that is unpretentious and homey. “I try to cook for our guests, but it is personal — not to intimidate, but tempt,” he says of his fare. In addition to his culinary prowess, this chef knows how to run an upscale establishment; from the linens to the wine to the service, everything at Mark’s is exceptional. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m in the kitchen,” he says. “Each plate is a signature going out, and I only have one opportunity to serve it.” Mark’s American Cuisine, 1658 Westheimer

Philippe Schmit
Houston has been very happy to welcome bistro moderne, next to Hotel Derek in the Galleria — and it’s been especially eager to receive its celebrity-style chef. With stunning good looks and a sexy French accent, Chef Philippe Schmit sauntered into the city’s heart, as well as its stomach. As chef/partner of the 2-year-old French bistro, he has been happy to accommodate patrons, and there have been many. “They want to experience all different foods — as long as it’s not too cutting-edge and the new experience doesn’t interfere with the pleasure of eating,” he says about the Houston diner. From the hotel crowd to the business bunch to first-class foodies, people have been flocking to bistro moderne for its modern twist on classic French fare served in Texas’ largest city. Add in a steer mount, super-friendly service and cowboy-size portions, and you know that Schmit satisfies. “The key words are: great food in a casual atmosphere.” bistro moderne, 2525 W. Loop South

Olivier Ciesielski
Tony Vallone is the granddaddy of dining in Houston, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he chose French Chef Olivier Ciesielski to hold the culinary reins at his upscale European institution that bears his name. Tony’s is always filled to the brim with a list of Houston’s who’s who — from business lunches to ladies who lunch, special occasions to regular patrons. The guests who frequent this institution appreciate the fine ingredients, deliciously prepared, as well as the everyone-knows-your-name service. No one appreciates Tony’s more than Ciesielski. “I got what I want for the kitchen — like Christmas,” he says of the new location on Richmond. “I am very fortunate to be here. I have the best team I could ever have, from the dishwasher to the owner.” Truly grateful, Ciesielski praises the Bayou City, as well. “We surprise everybody when they come to Houston — people from New York, people from L.A. Business is very good in Houston.” Tony’s, 3755 Richmond Ave.

Georges Guy
Chez Georges is a family affair. From the guests in the dining room to the staff in the kitchen — they’re all one happy family. Chef Georges Guy, his wife, Monique, and their son Lionel (shown below at left) take fine French cuisine very seriously, even if it’s a lot of fun. “We like what we do,” the chef simply states. For 13 years, the family welcomed patrons on the west side of Houston, but they comfortably moved into their lower Westheimer home-turned-restaurant last year. Their lighthearted, adventuresome spirit is especially present in the degustation meal. Changing daily (according to the freshness of ingredients and the whims of the chef), this is a six-course “surprise” that leaves diners very happy, indeed. “I would like my customers to trust me,” Chef Guy says. “It’s not Americanized French cooking. I’m old-fashioned French cooking, but I’m real French cooking.” Chez Georges, 219 Westheimer

Robert Del Grande
Cafe Annie helped to establish the fine-dining scene in Houston 26 years ago. This elegantly Southwestern hot spot has been riding the wave of culinary greatness for a long time — due in very large part to Chef Robert Del Grande. Times have changed (including a move down the street expected for 2008), and Cafe Annie has managed to keep its top-notch rank by staying ahead of the curve. “I think that people are more stylish and more casual at the same time,” Del Grande reveals. In contrast to the formalities and forethought of the ’80s, he sees patrons decide to visit Cafe Annie and call from the car on the way to the restaurant to see about getting a table. And the restaurant has accommodated these changes, namely in the new Bar Annie, replete with a high-quality, but low-profile menu. Something that remains the same is the impeccable service, superior ingredients and creative cooking — embodied by the crabmeat tostada that’s been a favorite for 23 years. Cafe Annie, 1728 Post Oak Blvd.

Charles Clark
Change has become a constant for Chef Charles Clark. His urban-chic Mediterranean-influenced restaurant, Ibiza, has been shaking things up in the heart of Midtown for six years; and now, Clark has helped to successfully open Catalan Food &Wine on Washington Avenue. His passion for good food and wine is evident in what he’s brought to Houston — a comfortably sexy atmosphere infused with indulgent sights, smells and flavors. Like his favorite thing to do in the kitchen, braising, Clark has undergone his own metamorphosis. “It starts out tough, something no one would want to eat, but over time …” he trails off. “It’s a transition — from one extreme to the next.” Clark grew up in Louisiana, then traveled throughout Europe, soaking up the art of dining that is so integral to life there. He worked in Dallas waiting tables and in top kitchens, and studied culinary arts at The Art Institute of Houston. “I went to school, but I’m really self-taught,” he reveals. “I clawed my way to the top.” Ibiza, 2450 Louisiana, Ste. 300

John Sheely
Chef John Sheely started working in restaurants when he was 15 — as a dishwasher. He’s come a long way from those days, and Houston is all the better for it. “I thought I was going to be a doctor for a long time; but then, I got a job in the restaurant business, and it was all over,” he laughs. There is a precision to Sheely’s success, although not medical. He established Mockingbird Bistro as a “French-inspired Texas bistro” in a 1920s building, using local ingredients when he can. Downplaying his obvious culinary talent, Sheely insists the difference is in the ingredients. He tells of his favorite tomato farmer, a local lawyer who raises red rubies in Meyerland, selling his wares out of the back of his Mercedes. “You can taste the love and the work that goes into it. That’s what it’s about to me. He’s like a proud papa showing off his kids.” Despite his humble nature, Sheely is one of the founding fathers of the world-class culinary scene here in Houston. Mockingbird Bistro, 1985 Welch

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