Raised deep in the heart of Texas, Val Cantú grew up hunting with his brother and father, who owned a Mexican restaurant that was like a second home to Cantú. Always intrigued by cooking but ambivalent about career options, Cantú studied business and English literature at the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 2006. His interest in cooking only grew over time, and by 2009, Cantú’s feelings about his future had crystallized. Not wanting to waste any time, he got his first professional gig at Uchi under Rising Star alums Tyson Cole, Philip Speer, and Paul Qui.
Having fallen in love with fine dining, Cantú went on to stage at Benu and Saison in San Francisco, moving there permanently to work at Sons & Daughters. It was during this time that Cantú noticed the lack of fine dining restaurants highlighting Mexican food. With the seeds for Californios planted in his imagination, Cantú took off for Mexico City to stage at Enrique Olvera’s Pujol.
Inspired by his time abroad, and by his own deep dive into the history of Mexican cuisine, Cantú returned to San Francisco, hosting several pop-ups as he carved out his vision. In 2015, Cantú opened Californios. The restaurant has since received two Michelin stars, and has moved from its small chef’s counter into an impressive space, giving his team the room they need to continue innovating and pushing culinary boundaries. Through his cooking and leadership, Cantú continues to redefine the perception of Mexican cuisine through a tasting menu steeped in tradition, progress, and the true romance of fine dining.
Awards & Press
- Michelin 2 Stars