By Richard Leong
NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) - Three of the 12 most promising new chefs in the United States named in Food & Wine Magazine's annual list on Tuesday work in Texas, showing the southwestern state known for its wide open spaces and cowboys is also a big source of culinary talent.
The trio, Paul Qui of Austin, Matt McCallister of Dallas and Justin Yu of Houston, come from diverse backgrounds, which is reflected in their food, according to the magazine.
"There has historically been very little innovation in Texas since the focus has been on places like super-successful steakhouses. But talented chefs, like Justin Yu, returned home from cooking around the world and brought innovation with them," Dana Cowin, the magazine's editor-in-chief, told Reuters.
"The 2014 winners are an incredibly eclectic group," she added.
The annual list is closely watched as previous chefs named by the magazine have achieved national success and won James Beard awards, the most prestigious U.S. culinary prize.
Qui, a native of the Philippines who moved to the United States when he was 10 years old, won the television competition show "Top Chef" two years ago at the age of 31. His eponymous restaurant showcases a global approach with an Asian flair.
Critics have praised McCallister of the FT33 restaurant in Dallas for his cutting-edge techniques with local ingredients, while Yu's eatery, Oxheart, has grabbed acclaim for its experimental tasting menus. The small venue in Houston has 30 seats and Yu's wife Karen Man is the pastry chef.
Low operating costs and a growing population of well-traveled food enthusiasts have fed a burgeoning restaurant boom across the state, Cowin said. "The result is a fantastic food scene in Austin and Houston, and a growing scene in Dallas."
The other nine chefs on the magazine's 26th annual list are part of a new generation who have promoted culinary trends such as refining ethnic cuisines and re-defining fine dining.
Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton, of Ox in Portland, Oregon, use wood-fired grills and their own twist on traditional Argentine food.
Cowin said Cara Stadler, who runs the Tao Yuan restaurant in Brunswick, Maine, makes "ingenious Chinese dumplings" and shows her talent in her Asian-French inspired dishes.
Creativity also runs high at Ari Taymor's Alma in Los Angeles and David Beran's Next in Chicago. The two chefs have won praise for their inventive use of local ingredients with modern techniques, according to the magazine.
Joe Ogrodnek and Walker Stern serve French dishes in their Dover restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, in an informal setting, while Matthew Accarrino's SPQR restaurant in San Francisco and Eli Culp's Fork in Philadelphia share a similar aesthetic with sophisticated dishes. (Editing by Eric Walsh)