Other cities on the list, which was compiled following personal visits by Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah, include Los Angeles, New York City, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Núñez is the only Texas chef to make the cut.
Shah writes, “You will not find a single packaged tortilla at Suerte. The restaurant goes through, on average, 100 to 150 pounds of dried corn every single night. That translates into nearly 300 pounds of masa. The busiest station in the kitchen is the tortilla station, which produces between 2,500 and 3,000 from-scratch tortillas each shift.”
Suerte specializes in Mexican cuisine, including such dishes as aguachile (Núñez’s version features white prawns in an apple-habanero broth), goat barbacoa (with a salsa made with Fresno and Aleppo chiles), and pan-seared fish in peanut mole. Reached by phone at the magazine’s celebratory Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Núñez said that when he returns to Austin, he has plans to inaugurate a special smoker and try his hand at a goat barbacoa similar to the type he has previously enjoyed in Mexico City.
Of the honor, Núñez said “it’s a big responsibility” to represent the restaurant, but also admitted that “I’ve known for about two or three months” and “it feels amazing to finally be able to tell people.” Ahead of the release, he had divulged the secret only to Suerte owner Sam Hellman-Mass, a small number of coworkers, his sister, and his mother.
In 2019, Texas Monthly ranked Suerte number two on its list of the best new restaurants in the state, praising its expertise with not only “cushy tortillas and pillowy tamales but also bite-size molotes (a little like hush puppies) and other edibles not often seen this side of the border.” Núñez, who is from the Mexican city of Torreón, has been executive chef at the popular restaurant since it opened in March of 2018. Suerte was previously honored by Food & Wine in May 2019 as number two on its list of the ten best new restaurants in the country, with Houston restaurant Indigo at number eight.
As part of his role as Best New Chef, Núñez compiled a guide to Austin eats for the magazine. Among his picks are the carne guisada at Joe’s Bakery for breakfast, burgers and beer at Bad Larry Burger Club, and a caramel-and-vodka-based cocktail at Kalimotxo.