Cork & Barrel’s Executive Chef Josh K. Watkins is an Austin native who’s been hands-on in the kitchen since the age of 15. Throughout his culinary career, he’s risen from a homegrown chef to opening several restaurant concepts, and he brings his cultivated passion for food to the Round Rock area with the opening of the Irish gastropub.
A graduate from the California Culinary Academy (CCA), Watkins was first immersed into the Bay Area culinary scene and its emphasis on using fresh, local ingredients. When Watkins eventually moved back home, he became chef de cuisine at The Driskill Grill at age 23, and at 27, he was promoted to executive chef. After helming a hotel’s main restaurant outlet, Watkins was later tapped to open Carillon, the restaurant at the new AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in 2008. Now, his Bay Area cooking ethos combined with Texas ingredients blends in with traditional Irish fare at Cork & Barrel.
Watkins' Cork & Barrel menu is ripe with Irish classics made for Texans. Dishes like Guinness Battered Fish & Chips, Torched Scottish Salmon and Rosemary Campfire Hoey Irish Stew, lead the standouts. Watkins aims to cultivate a great culture by cooking with passion, defying complicacy, and mentoring a team to success with integrity, innovation, and reliability. “We’re innovating all things traditional in our atmosphere and maintaining the heart and soul a comfortable Northern Ireland pub provides,” Watkins said.
Watkins has received notable recognition throughout his career, including StarChefs Best Chef List (2012), and was featured on the BravoTV competition show, Tops in Texas Cook-off. He’s culinary awards also include Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s Live Fire! and Wine & Swineevents and the Stars Across Texas Classic Festival.