Josh Watkins has achieved in his youth an extremely meaty resume that many chefs spend their whole careers trying to build. He appeared on Iron Chef America at the age of 23 and has held positions at some of the most highly regarded restaurants in Texas. But that description can only serve as background for this wunderkind of the kitchen.
He grew up in Austin, but left it as a teenager to hone his craft at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. As a student there, he worked with chef Reed Hearon to open some high-profile restaurants in the city, including the James Beard-winning Rose Pistola.
But if home is where the heart is, Watkins had surely left his heart back in Texas. Returning to the Lone Star State, first at The French Room at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, then at Austin’s Driskill Grill, the chef gained experience and blew away his colleagues with culinary prowess beyond his years. At the latter, he worked under Chef David Bull, with whom he developed a lasting relationship and appeared on the aforementioned Iron Chef America.
Today, Chef Watkins serves as the executive chef of Carillon, the restaurant that he opened in June 2008 at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center. Since then, the restaurant has achieved widespread acclaim in Austin, as an establishment where the chef “brings a new dimension to simplified elegance through a unique combination of ingredients and a blend of contemporary and classical cooking techniques,” according to his bio on Carillon’s website. The chef also emphasizes the use of local and sustainable ingredients in his cuisine.
The rise of Josh Watkins has coincided with Austin’s transformation into a burgeoning dining city. No one can say for sure whether he’s really led the trend. But his accolades have been well-deserved and numerous, and his youth promises a long and exciting career ahead of him.