HMB’s Top Picks for the 2018 Tastemaker Awards

CultureMap, Tastemaker Awards, Houston Moms Blog, Houston Foodies

HMB’s Top Picks for the 2018 Tastemaker Awards

This Wednesday, April 4th is CultureMap’s signature annual event, the Tastemaker Awards. Houston’s best food and cocktails will be on display for tasting, savoring, and celebrating! In order to make it to this final contest of the best of the best in food and libations, each of the top picks have to be nominated by their peers in the Houston restaurant and bar scene.  This truly is a selection of Houston’s finest by the palates who know.

Now we all know Houston is a foodie paradise. Many great chefs, bartenders, and restaurateurs have begun their careers here or spent time perfecting their skills in our great city. And why is that? Well, simply put, Houston loves to EAT and DRINK.

We also love the hardworking folks behind the great food and drinks and how their stories came to be. Here are our top picks and the ones I am most excited about sampling at Tastemaker Awards because of their backstories::

Kiran Verma

Kiran’s Restaurant

Nominated for: Chef of the Year

Serving: Papadam Tacos with Lamb.

Kiran has been a mainstay on the Houston food scene for years now. Her culinary talents and her warm hospitality have been recognized as exceptional. Yet what I find amazing is that her start on the food scene was somewhat unconventional. Kiran and her husband moved to Houston years ago to pursue his education at University of Houston, and she happened into her role in the restaurant business when someone she knew was selling their restaurant in West Houston. Having no restaurant experience, two children leaving the homestead, and a husband that traveled, Kiran took a chance and opened Ashiana’s off Briar Forest Drive in Houston’s Energy Corridor. 

Her confidence in her passion for serving high quality food and creating a highly enjoyable dining experience was enough for her to take that chance on herself. Digest, so to speak, what that must have felt like at a time in her life when she could have been planning how to slow down and coast. It is inspiring how Kiran opted to turn it up a notch and go for it instead!

Samantha Mendoza

Killen’s Steakhouse

Nominated for: Pastry Chef of the Year

Serving: Banana Toffee Raspberry Cream Puff.

Killen’s is a well-recognized Houston brand. If that name doesn’t ring quality food for you, then you just don’t know Houston food. But what about Samantha Mendoza? I didn’t know the name until I read about her in the nomination list for Pastry Chef of the Year in her role at Killen’s Steakhouse. She’s a world-recognized exceptional pastry chef. Her pastries are the MOST picturesque you can find anywhere. She was recruited by one of the Houston area’s top restaurants, and she’s under 30. This lady is a rock star. You will find me fan-girling at her table come Wednesday.

Kristine Nguyen

Nancy’s Hustle

Nominated for: Bartender of the Year

She will be featured in the Woodford Reserve Bartender Showcase serving up a signature cocktail.

At the helm of the bar of EaDo’s new French neighborhood bistro, Nancy’s Hustle, is Kristine Nguyen. She isn’t afraid to mix things up. Not only does she mix her celebrated cocktail concoctions, she also has a sweet mix of intriguing tattoos {which have some interesting tales behind them} and a keen business sense.

In addition to her roles behind the bar at Bad News Bar and now Nancy’s Hustle, she’s also a co-owner of one of Houston’s first poke casual dining spots in East Downtown. SeaSide Poke infuses traditional poke flavors with “Houston” flavors, which range from barbeque to Korean to Vietnamese to Soul Food. This is a businesswoman who isn’t afraid to conduct business true to herself and blaze new paths. I can’t wait to see how her cocktails reflect her individuality.

Second Servings of Houston

The benefiting charity of this year’s Tastemaker Awards Second Servings of Houston. I hadn’t heard of the organization before preparing to attend this year’s event and was amazed to find that they have successfully implemented one of the most natural and humane ideas I could think of – sharing potentially wasted food with those who go hungry.

We have all witnessed the waste that goes on at banquets, in our school cafeterias, and even in the restaurants we frequent. Second Servings of Houston does the hard legwork to ensure leftover food that was destined for the trash makes it to people who could truly use it in a safe and sanitary manner. Their work not only benefits those who fill their bellies with good food, but also the environment. You can find more information about their mission and how you can support them here. Or join us next Wednesday to fill your belly and help Second Servings of Houston at the same time!

I look forward to seeing you at one of Houston’s most delectable celebrations. Tickets are still available here. And before signing off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you that Houston legend, Grammy nominated rapper and Rice University lecturer, Bun B, is the event emcee, and well, that’s just another reason I’m fan-girling.

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