Why He's Amazing: In the middle of meat-loving Houston, he's become famous for his extraordinary garden prix fixe menu, featuring preserved, raw and caramelized vegetables. At $49, it's one of the country's best bargains.
Quintessential Dish: A stew of Queen Anne peas and fermented brassicas with Texas rice, mushrooms and caramelized sauerkraut.
Culinary School: The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY; University of Houston.
Restaurant CV: *17, Houston; Green Zebra, Spring, C-House, Chicago; Ubuntu, Napa.
Inspirational Spot: The Rothko Chapel, a meditative art space in Houston. "It's really nice to sit in there. You stare at the paintings and you start to notice all the little details—the canvases look straight black or straight brown, but they're filled with color. Being able to think like that is really important for a chef. It's the little details that make a dish yours, and special."
All-Time Favorite Restaurant: Relæ, in Copenhagen.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.