Executive Chef Josh Watkins brings a new dimension to simplified elegance through a unique combination of ingredients and a blend of contemporary and classical cooking techniques.
Though a native Austinite, Watkins went to school at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, a city known for its culinary heritage. There he spent three years honing his culinary skills and developing his own ideas of food. His time in San Francisco included being a part of one of Reed Heron’s restaurant openings after another, Rose Pistola, earned the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant award. Working alongside Chef Heron, Watkins thrived in the high intensity kitchen environment of the Black Cat restaurant. Inspired by the wealth of high quality, fresh, local produce and seafood San Francisco had to offer, Watkins decided to bring the same elevated dining experience back home.
Returning to Texas, Watkins first worked under Chef William Koval at the French Room in the Adolphus Hotel, nationally recognized as the best restaurant in Dallas by publications such as The New York Times and Bon Appétit magazine. Here Watkins refined his culinary techniques working his way through the classic French kitchen brigade.
Making the move back to Austin, Watkins joined the culinary team at the historic Driskill Grill under the tutelage of nationally acclaimed chef David Bull. By the age of 23, Watkins earned the Chef de Cuisine position and later made an appearance on Food Network’s Iron Chef America alongside Bull where they battled celebrity chef Bobby Flay. He also accompanied Chef Bull to the James Beard House in New York City, where only the country’s most innovative and talented chefs are invited to cook and share their love of food. Watkins also helped plan and execute their offerings at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival where Bull was named one of the top 10 new chefs. In 2007, Watkins was named executive chef of the Driskill Grill and earned the establishment a consecutive five-star rating.
Chef Watkins’ passion for farm fresh, ingredient-driven food led him to open The Carillon Restaurant at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in June of 2008. His unique approach to traditional foods and emphasis on using local, sustainable ingredients has caught the attention of food critics across the state, including the Austin American Statesman’s respected food critic, Mike Sutter. Sutter gave the restaurant a well-earned four-star rating, making The Carillon one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. In addition to running the flagship restaurant, Watkins also directs all of the hotel’s culinary programs including Gabriel’s Café, the OneTwenty5 Café, and all banquet and catering functions. As Addie Broyles of the Statesman put it, “Only a chef with Josh Watkins’ energy and excitement could pull off in a short time the opening of multiple dining venues at the new AT&T Hotel and Conference Center on the south edge of The University of Texas campus.”