Val M. Cantú is the chef and owner of Californios, a two Michelin-starred California Mexican restaurant in San Francisco’s Soma district. At the age of five, his father moved the family to a small town in central Texas and opened a Mexican restaurant and tortilleria. Val graduated with a degree in English and business from the University of Texas at Austin before returning to cooking. In Austin, he worked at Uchi, before moving to the Bay Area.
Once in San Francisco, he spent a year as sous chef at Sons and Daughters in Nob Hill, and quickly began working on Californios. Having fallen in love with the bounty of the Bay Area, Californios first appeared as a pop-up in 2013, while he searched for a physical space. The restaurant opened in the Mission district in January 2015, designed by his wife, Carolyn Cantú, and managed by his sister-in-law, Charlotte Randolph.
Californios was awarded a Michelin star in its first year, in October 2015. Val was named a Rising Star Chef by StarChefs and the San Francisco Chronicle in 2016, and one of America’s Best New Chefs, by Food & Wine magazine, in 2017. Californios was honored with, a perfect, four-star review, from Michael Bauer and the San Francisco Chronicle in October 2017, and two-stars from the Michelin Guide, shortly thereafter. During the pandemic, Californios moved to a new and much larger space in Soma, where they have twice been awarded two Michelin-stars. Californios is the only Mexican restaurant in the world to have attained two Michelin-stars.