Houston Restaurant Pioneer Named the Best Chef in the Entire World

It's a Stunning, Humbling Honor for Chris Shepherd

BY // 06.10.19
photography Julie Soefer

It’s a common refrain now. Chef Chris Shepherd has done it again. And again. And again. And the most recent feather in his cap stands out as the biggest deal yet. Houston’s culinary champion has earned the distinction of being lauded as the Best Chef in the World.

Luxury magazine Robb Report heaps the praise on Shepherd in its annual “Best of the Best” issue, which includes a round-up of top restaurants, chefs and dishes from around the globe.

It’s no wonder Shepherd, with awards from Food & Wine and the James Beard Foundation, took home top honors. Even with the Robb Report touting diversity.

“Because although cultural appropriation in restaurants is a hot topic, we found that as we selected our Best of the Best winners, some of the most outstanding food you’ll find today is made by people inspired by the idea of eating without borders,” the intro reads.

Shepherd definitely fits that mold. The Houston chef finds himself in seriously impressive company, joining New York City’s Korean smash Atomix, Brat in London and Mil in the hills of Peru on the Best of the Best.

The publication was moved not only by Shepherd’s tantalizing flavors — thanks to dishes like Georgia James’ uni panna cotta and and UB Preserv’s Vietnamese short rib fajitas — but also by his ambition, with projects such as the hyper-local (since closed) Underbelly and the rotating One Fifth restaurants.

No one is more stunned than Shepherd himself. It’s been a few days now since he found out, and the honor still hasn’t sunk in.

“Not really. No,” Shepherd laughs.

“It was one of those things where we were on our way to France, and I get a text, ‘Congrats.’ On what? He sent me a picture and I was like oh, that’s cool. We made a list, maybe a story about Houston or whatever,” Shepherd says.

“I didn’t read the details of it. Getting back in the country, I was like hey, I’m going to go see if they have one of those magazines. I walked over, they did. And I was like ohhhh I really don’t know what this means.”

one fifth mediterranean taboon roasted tomatoes with whipped feta
One Fifth brings taboon roasted tomatoes with whipped feta.

The mind-blowing honor means a lot to Chris Shepherd personally, a lot to Underbelly Hospitality and a lot to Houston.

“I mean that’s good, I’ll take it,” Shepherd tells PaperCity. “I think we’re talking about more eyes on the city. If it brings more tourists, if it brings anybody, people notice Houston a little bit more — I’ll take it.”

Moving forward, he says the pressure’s there. “We have to be better, we have to be good, we have to do everything we need as a city to take advantage of this, to really push forward and be strong,” Shepherd says.

He claims he’s not sure how he earned this honor, but the writers were pretty clear. It was that combination of his commitment to culinary diversity and that industrious spirit, that willingness and even eagerness to cycle through the One Fifth projects — even when one seems to have undeniable lasting power.

The article notes One Fifth Steak taking hold and achieving permanent status with offbeat steak powerhouse Georgia James.

Will One Fifth Romance Languages have a similar fate?

“I think there’s always that thought. I love the idea of that restaurant a lot. I don’t know yet. Just going to get through the next few months and see where we lie,” Shepherd says.

“If we make that decision down the road, we’ll start looing for a full-time spot for it. Of course everything has to be right. The stars have to align right.”

And he truly means align for everyone, not just him. Shepherd insists that his entire restaurant team is what made this Robb Report win possible.

“This is for the staff. For me to be named, that’s for all of us to be named. Valets, dishwashers, busers, cooks, servers, managers, everybody,” Shepherd says.

There you have it. Houston boasts the best chef in the world — and he’s definitely not one to boast.

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