Food & Wine's The People's Best New Chef 2011: Gulf Coast
February 15th, 2011
02:30 AM ET
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If there's one thing our friends at Food & Wine do even better than throwing fabulous festivals all around the country, developing stellar recipes and generally making our lives more appetizing - it's identifying up and coming talent from around the country.

Since 1988, the editors of Food & Wine have feasted their way from coast to coast, seeking out 10 innovative chefs, each with a distinctive vision, creating exceptionally delicious food. They've bestowed upon these shining stars the title of Best New Chef. This year, the dining public has a say.

In each of the ten designated regions of the country, you - yes, YOU - may vote for the chef whose restaurant has most significantly stirred your soul and your palate. The winner of the The People's Best New Chef 2011 will be the subject of a profile in the July issue of Food & Wine and will no doubt hold you in tremendous gratitude and esteem until the end of time.

We and the editors of Food & Wine would greatly prefer that you only vote for chefs whose restaurants you've actually visited, so the "chef" part of The People's Best New Chef 2011 really holds true. See more details at and let the clicking commence!

Midwest | Pacific | Southwest | Northwest | New England
Southeast | New York Area | Great Lakes | Mid-Atlantic | Gulf Coast

James Lewis
Caleb Chancey

James Lewis
Bettola - Birmingham, AL

On getting diners to leave their comfort zones: “I am not going to sell myself out to please every single person—you just can’t. I do things simply, and I use ingredients that people like, and then I get them to try new things.”

Joe Wolfson
Harvi Sahota

Joe Wolfson
Ham and High - Montgomery, AL

Extreme locavorism: Ham and High is located in a planned community that has individual farming plots for residences, as well as one for the restaurant.

Jeff McInnis
Tracey-Ann Farrett

Jeff McInnis
Gigi - Miami, FL

Best perk of running his own kitchen: “I [can] play loud country music, rock or gangster rap during the middle of service if I feel the urge.”

Tim Balloo
Courtesy of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Timon Balloo
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill - Miami, FL

Why he’s amazing: Because he juxtaposes unlikely ingredients in interesting ways, such as a scallop crudo with apple, truffle and jalapeño.

Marco Ferraro
Mia Nunez

Marco Ferraro
Wish - Miami Beach, FL

Powerful food memory: “Every January, my family killed the pigs they raised all year to make sausages, salami, prosciutto, soppressata, pancetta and, of course, freshly cooked pork.”

James Petrakis
Courtesy of The Ravenous Pig

James Petrakis
The Ravenous Pig - Winter Park, FL

Must-try dish: Beer-steamed mussels with truffle fries.

Aaron Burgau
Courtesy of Aaron Burgau

Aaron Burgau
Patois - New Orleans, LA

Best known for: Putting ink where his mouth is: A die-hard New Orleans Saints fan, Burgau has their motto “Who Dat!” tattooed on the inside of his lip.

Joshua Smith
Courtesy of a Mano

Joshua Smith
a Mano - New Orleans, LA

Favorite cooking technique: “Not cooking at all. I like curing meat and the sorts of preservation methods that have been around forever. That is what I think is cool.”

Michael Stoltzfus
Courtesy of Coquette

Michael Stoltzfus
Coquette - New Orleans, LA

How he got into cooking: “I was getting ready to go to college, and two weeks before, my mom opened a bakery. She said, ‘Come work for me, make a little extra money.’ I started there doing breakfast—simple egg sandwiches, simple omelets. And I never went to college.”

Vishwesh Bhatt
Courtesy of Snackbar

Vishwesh Bhatt
Snackbar - Oxford, MS

Why he’s amazing: Because he returned to his hometown to cook French-influenced Southern food and make his own charcuterie for what he calls his “Bubba Brasserie.”

Midwest | Pacific | Southwest | Northwest | New England
Southeast | New York Area | Great Lakes | Mid-Atlantic | Gulf Coast

Voting starts on 2/15/11 and ends 3/1/11 at One vote per computer per region. Votes from any automated means or intended to disrupt the voting process (in American Express Publishing Corporation’s sole discretion) will be void. Chefs with the highest eligible votes per region will become finalists (10 total). The People's Best New Chef title will be determined based on highest number of eligible votes received during the voting period. All votes subject to verification.

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Best New Chef 2011 • Content Partner • Food and Wine

soundoff (113 Responses)
  1. Cv

    All these chefs food makes me blow mud.

    March 2, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  2. Philip

    Bettola has the best italian food in the South East!!! James Lewis you have my vote!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  3. Annie

    Simply......... Bettola is exquisite.... :D

    March 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  4. Joan

    Love agnello, love lombatello, love the wines, love quattro pasta, love margherita pizza, love all the food from bettola!!! Good Luck James

    March 1, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  5. Becky Cade

    James Lewis

    March 1, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  6. Lu

    Bettola´s restaurant is the best, the food is spectacular, the flavors are amazing, and the service is personalized. Great job James Lewis

    March 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  7. M.Boulware

    We had dinner at Bettola tonite and every bite was delicious. The flavors of each choice was to perfection. The bread, sausages, pastas and anti pasta selections were divine. can't wait to return!!!! Hope James wins...he deserves it.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  8. Jackie

    I hope polldaddy is able to weed out the cheaters (Birmingham) at the final tally. So sad... Impossible to jump 15% in a day

    March 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  9. ruski

    Bettola is a tiny gem of a restaurant that Birmingham is lucky to have.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  10. auburn bandmember

    one word Torta Chocolata......Bettola is theplace to eat

    March 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  11. john nelson

    love the pizza

    March 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  12. Food Goddess

    Nothing compares to The Ravenous Pig – what they do to food is simply magic.

    March 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  13. garden girl

    The oven at Bettola is really cool. My kids love to watch their pizzas being prepared, baked and served by Bettolas friendly staff. Good Luck Jim.

    March 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  14. Tuba Boy

    I love Bettola. Cant wait to eat at Chef Lewis' new restaurant

    March 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  15. katy davis

    not only is the food at Bettola amazing Angel, the bartender mixes some tasty cocktails. Looking forward to spring for a honeysuckle martini. Best of luck Bettola.

    March 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  16. another chef

    I dream of the Bettola's Gnocchi with with fava beans and wild mushrooms.

    March 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  17. mississippi girl

    Even the staff eats at Bettola on their nights off.

    March 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  18. david sturgeon

    We ever we come to Birmingham we look forward to eating at Bettola. Birmingham is quickly emerging as a great restaurant city.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  19. Michael Lopez

    James Petrakis at The Ravenous Pig is my vote. It's the way eating was meant to be: beautiful to look at, delicious to taste served in stylish surroundings by friendly people. This is civilization.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  20. Susan Sturgeon

    Bettola is amazing. Chef Jim Lewis has created a masterpiece.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  21. kayla

    My vote for Best Chef goes to James Lewis, owner of Bettola in Birmingham, Al....
    The first time I went there, I awoke the next morning still thinking about that
    wonderful dinner!!

    March 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  22. Tim Anderson

    I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the country and have always lamented the lack of truly innovative restaurant in this Walt Disney town (Orlando). Ever since James Petrakis opened The Ravenous Pig here, we have finally got our exceptional restaurant! It is always my first choice for dinner–if I can get a reservation. :)

    March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  23. Kathe Schaffler

    If you have not eaten at the Ravenous Pig in Orlando, then you do not know what you are missing. The food is incredible, the service is awesome and the atmosphere is wonderful.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  24. Britt

    Does anyone else find it odd that the chef from Bettola jumped more than 15% in the past few days to 1st place out of nowhere? Seems unlikely in such a short period of time and at the end of the voting period at that. Oh well. Here's to one final day of voting!

    March 1, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • kayla

      he jumped up 15% because of a massive email launch throughout Birmingham to get everyone to vote for him....and it worked!! Go James!!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
      • Gibby

        Shennanigans! There's no way people were voting from midnight Monday to 7am tuesday. They jumped 2% overnight. Absolute shenanigans.

        March 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  25. Alex

    Last day to vote for Vish! Does anyone else find it odd that the chef from Bettola jumped more than 15% in the past few days to 1st place out of nowhere? Seems unlikely in such a short period of time and at the end of the voting period at that. Oh well. Here's to one final day of voting!

    March 1, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  26. jeaneyye

    Best chef!

    March 1, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  27. Douglas J. Nesbitt

    James Petrakis and the Ravenous Pig – Innovative, inspiring, elegant yet simple. A culinary tour de force!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  28. AOF


    February 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  29. Avon Student

    Avon's got your back James Petrakis!

    February 28, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  30. susan

    Bettola rocks!!!!!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  31. Sara

    The Ravenous Pig has convinced us that Central Florida really does have an emerging food scene- one that is worth sticking around for. Nothing else in Orlando compares to what Petrakis is doing here.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  32. Micheal

    James is the best chef i've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and his food is only better

    February 28, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  33. Micheal

    James is the best chef i have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and his cuisine is only better

    February 28, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  34. Edward

    I took my wife to Bettola for her birthday and i could not have asked for a better time. The only thing better then the food was the service.

    February 28, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  35. Anita

    Great job Chef James Lewis! Amazing neapolitan pizzas you have brought a piece of Italy to Birmingham!

    February 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  36. David Claytor

    The Ravenous Pig is an incredibly exciting dining experience. I was fortunate enough to attend a beer dinner and it was an awesome community event where I got to meet the brewers from Gainesville Florida's Swamphead Brewery and talk to the chef about the dishes. Fantastic grub every time!

    February 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  37. Randall B Robertson

    The Ravenous Pig brings Big Apple sophistication to Florida fare. Always the freshest gulf seafood, accoutrements and precise service. The Mahi sandwich to die for!

    February 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  38. Cuqui Moore

    Coquette...... congratulations!!!!
    Michael's food presentation is uniquely stunning & a royal treat to the taste buds!! The scallops are awesome!

    February 28, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  39. G

    James Lewis at Bettola has taken dishes as common as pizza and created amazing dishes you just MUST have again! G

    February 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  40. madge Sokol

    James Lewis at Bettola. New, local, affordable and most of all really good.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  41. Rohn Jambo

    Ravenous Pig is so money. Fresh ingredients and flavorful dishes. One of my new favorites nestled in Orlando.

    February 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  42. Leela

    The Ravenous Pig all the way!!! Love the shrimp and grits, biscuits and salads. all the fun inventive flavors, local ingredients and great drink drink list. plus the unpretensious bar dining option is lots of fun.

    February 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  43. Jessica Dowd

    The Ravenous Pig is hands down the best restaurant in our area (Winter Park/Orlando, Florida). James and Julie Petrakis are both amazing chefs and the food at the Pig is creative, delicious, always changing, made with as many local ingredients as possible, and everything that can possibly be made in house is seriously fantastic. My husband is a Research and Development Chef for a very major restaurant company and we spend all of our birthdays, anniversaries, and really any occasions at the Ravenous Pig. Vote for James...and go eat at the Pig!!

    February 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  44. Liz Saley

    Ham and High is outstanding! We visit every week to see what's new – Chef Joe Wolfson keeps it fresh, exciting and always delicious. The pork and fish dishes are to die for – everyone needs to drop by to visit Joe!

    February 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Babar

      I've been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

      March 2, 2011 at 4:18 am |
  45. Bhuvana desai

    Vishwesh, you are great. Keep up the good work


    February 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  46. Lino Eakins

    Great article! jfgoiprjg

    February 24, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  47. J bravo

    Gibby you sound hot!

    February 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
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