A native Austinite, Josh Watkins quit his Central Texas hometown for schooling at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. While stationed in the Golden State, Watkins worked on several restaurant openings with former high-profile San Franciscan Chef Reed Hearon—one of which, Rose Pistola, earned the James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” award. Inspired by the wealth of seafood and high-quality, local produce San Francisco had to offer, Watkins decided to bring the same elevated, seasonal dining experience back home.
Returning to Texas, prodigal son Watkins first worked under Chef William Koval at The French Room in the Adolphus Hotel, nationally recognized as the best restaurant in Dallas by The New York Times and Bon Appétit. And finally making the move back to Austin, Watkins joined the culinary team at the historic Driskill Grill under the tutelage of nationally acclaimed chef—and fellow Rising Star—David Bull.
By 23, Watkins had worked his way up to chef de cuisine (even making an appearance on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” alongside Bull). And by 2007, with Watkins at the helm as executive chef, The Driskill Grill earned consecutive five-star ratings. Watkins’ passion for farm fresh, ingredient-driven food led him to open Carillon at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in June of 2008. It’s there, in the seat of his native city, that Watkins’ daring approach to traditional foods and emphasis on local, sustainable ingredients finally blossomed into something entirely its own. And it's where he earned a 2012 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Chef Award. Carillon quickly caught the attention of food critics across the state, earning Watkins a four-star rating from the Austin-American Statesman, and gaining for Austin another talented chef invested in the city’s thriving local culinary scene.