Food & Wine has just released its list of Best New Chefs for 2017, including San Francisco’s own Val M. Cantu of Californios. It’s the first list published with newly appointed editor-in-chief Nilou Motamed at the helm, and is a diverse mix of chefs from varied backgrounds around the country; Cantu is the only SF representative this year. Last year’s SF contingent included David Barzelay of Lazy Bear and Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club.
Cantu has long been a rising star in San Francisco, first as a chef at Sons & Daughters, then as the chef of his Mexican-influenced pop-up. In 2015, Cantu opened a small, petite 25-seat brick-and-mortar version called Californios in the Mission, offering a refined tasting menu ($157) of dishes like tres frijoles— beans prepared three ways and topped with caviar and gold leaf. Now an Eater SF Essential 38 honoree, the restaurant has quietly (until now) become one of San Francisco’s best tasting menu experiences.
As for Cantu’s peers, this year’s breakdown includes 12 recipients from eight different cities, composed of eight men and four women. (Last year, the list included exactly one woman.) To be in the running, chefs must have been in charge of a kitchen for less than five years; winners of the title are featured in the annual Best New Chefs issue in July, and participate in the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June.