We started with 16 chefs in our Innovators bracket, carefully chosen, agonized over, and debated. The list was quickly narrowed, week after week, until it came down to the final two: Sameh Wadi of Minneapolis's Saffron and Tyson Cole of Austin's Uchi and Uchiko. And it was a very tight race right up until the end, when Cole took the lead, and won! We want to say congratulations to all of the chefs: You are all winners! In the next few weeks we'll be featuring four of them in CHOW Report videos (including Cole); look for the first on June 6. And now, a little bit more about Tyson Cole.
What restaurants inspire your cooking?
Mugaritz in Spain for their creativity and the way they honor each ingredient, and Casa Mono [in New York] because I love food cooked on the plancha.
What people inspire your cooking?
My wife and three girls because they all have individual tastes. For example: My oldest daughter, Aubrey, only eats earth tones, and my middle daughter, Larkin, only eats fruits that are primary colors.
What about chefs—who's inspiring to you?
José Andrés: I love his playfulness and attitude towards food.
Do any particular things (ingredients, techniques, ideas, books, etc.) inspire your cooking?
For techniques, El Bulli. For ingredients: I believe that food inspires the dish. [As far as ideas,] my desire for perfection and simplicity ... I am currently slightly obsessed with monochromatic presentations.
What are your favorite restaurants in Austin? In the rest of the country?
In Austin: Bartlett's, Barley Swine, Enoteca Vespaio. In the rest of the country: ABC Kitchen, Eleven Madison Park, Avenues in Chicago, and Soto in NYC.
And here is a dish that Cole feels represents his innovative style. It's a machi cure (see photo at left), and this is what he says about it:
As a sushi chef I had to be “guest-centric.” I was trying to make sushi more user-friendly, and this dish, originally created at Uchi, is a representation of that. The fish is served raw (like a sashimi would be) but then is cured and smoked and then fresh fruit and various textures are added.