CHEF BENCHAWAN JABTHONG Painter, one of CityBook’s picks for “Coolest People,” made Houston proud by bringing home the Best Chef: Texas award. The James Beard Awards were broadcast Monday night, June 5, from the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The chef and her husband-biz partner Graham Painter own Street to Kitchen in Houston and Th Prsrv in Kemah with David Skinner of Eculent.
The 29-year-old beat out other regional finalists including chef John Russ (Clementine, San Antonio), Reyna Duog (Sandwich Hag, Dallas), Emiliano Marentes (Elmi, El Paso) and David Kirkland and Ernest Servantes (Burnt Bean Co., Seguin). Surprisingly, Austin got completely snubbed this year. Painter is the first Houstonian to win in the Best Chef: Texas category which was created in 2022.
Wildly known as “Chef G,” Painter moved to Houston eight years ago from Northern Thailand and could barely speak English. Painter learned her cooking skills from her family and her grandmother who owned a restaurant, and then she cooked in different Bangkok pastry shops and restaurants. Prior to opening Thai restaurant Street to Kitchen in 2020, Painter worked at Theodore Rex under chef Justin Yu and seafood eatery SaltAir Kitchen.
East End Street to Kitchen opened during the height of the pandemic, but it gained popularity early on and has retained a loyal following. Describing her cuisine as “unapologetically Thai,” Painter was inspired to open her own eatery because she couldn’t find genuine Thai flavors at Houston restaurants. Painter’s newest spot in Kemah, Th Prsrv, focuses on Thai and Native American cuisines, echoing both chef Painter and co-owner David Skinnner’s upbringing with indigenous cuisines. Because of Painter’s prestigious award, expect a long wait if you are planning on dining at either one of these hotspots!
Last year, Houston had its first breakthrough in a James Beard Award national category when Julep won the top prize for Outstanding Bar Program. This year, Nancy’s Hustle was a Beard finalist in the Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages category but lost out to Ototo, a sake bar in Los Angeles. Additionally, Houston’s Tatemó, a small tortilla-centric restaurant lauded for its tasting menu, was in the final running for Best New Restaurant, but Kann, chef Gregory Gourdet’s Haitian restaurant in Portland, Oregon, took home the coveted 2023 award.
The James Beard Foundation Awards, a.k.a. the “Oscars of food,” have been presented in the Windy City since 2015 and are scheduled to remain there through 2027.
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