Matt McCallister, FT33, Dallas, TX
The backstory: The Scottsdale, Arizona, native dabbled in visual arts and struggled with drug use in his younger days but was always curious about the culinary world. He worked as a short-order cook at a Jewish deli, always with the conviction that one day he would have his own high-end restaurant. In 2006, he began working under famed Dallas chef Stephen Pyles, rapidly climbing up the ranks to sous chef and eventually executive chef. After traveling and working under the likes of Grant Achatz, Jose Andres and Marc Vetri, McCallister opened his first solo venture FT33 in 2012.
Why he's one to watch: McCallister has gained national attention for his modern approach to hyper-seasonal cuisine. "It’s very nature-inspired," McCallister tell us of his cooking philosophy. "My plating style is kind of whimsical and it’s not super structured and perfect. It tends to be a little messy, but it’s like contrived messy. It looks like it just carefully fell on a plate." Last year, he earned the title of “People’s Best New Chef Southwest” by Food & Wine Magazine, and this year, he's up for a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest. McCallister and his wife also founded Chefs for Farmers, a local organization that puts farmers and growers in close touch with the Dallas food community.
Upcoming projects: McCallister tell us that he is currently working on another restaurant project: "It’s in the works. It’s under wraps, and it’s kind of a secret. I’ve been looking at negotiating spaces." He also hints that the new eatery will be a super progressive concept: "FT33 was kind of my trial run, and I’m wondering if I can get even more progressive and open something really small and crazy?"