Why He's Amazing: Because at his restaurant—inspired by a south Texas hunting lodge—he's preparing terrific rustic dishes, like ox tongue sliders with pickled green tomato.
Culinary School: Le Cordon Bleu (Austin)
Background: Brix (Yountville, CA); La Toque, Angèle (Napa); Olivia (Austin)
Quintessential Dish: Rabbit with sage dumplings
Born: San Angelo, Texas. "Cotton and cattle and oil, that's about all there is out there."
On His Travel Obsession: "When I worked, I'd do nothing but save all my money so that later I could travel and spend it." He hiked New York's Adirondacks for 10 months, spent six months in Croatia, walked across Slovenia (it took him 21 days) and hitchhiked from Munich to Hungary before walking to Italy.
On Launching Contigo: After moving back to Austin, "I met up with a childhood friend I hadn't seen in ages—Ben Edgerton—who wanted to open a beer bar. I wanted to open a meat market to focus on butchery. We met and discussed meshing our ideas."
Insider Tip: Contigo's best seats are outside, at the picnic tables under the cedar elm and strung lights. When the weather gets chilly, the staff lends guests Mexican blankets.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.