For 23 years, the editors of Food & Wine have sought out the up-and-coming culinary luminaries in the United States and honored them with the title of "Best New Chef."
This year, for the first time they're giving you, our esteemed constituent of eaters, a say in one of the coveted spots. Not only will the "People's Best New Chef" be featured in the July issue of Food & Wine alongside this year's editorially chosen "Best New Chefs," they’ll be among the ranks of palate-pleasing powerhouses that have become household names.
Since 1988, 226 chefs have been given this honor; we're taking a look at how far some of them have come.
David Chang is the chef and owner of the Momofuku empire, including Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm bar, Momofuku Ko, Milk Bar and Má Pêche.
Prior to opening Noodle Bar in 2004 and winning the title of "Best New Chef" there in 2006, Chang worked in the New York kitchens of fellow "Best New Chef" alumni Daniel Boulud and Tom Colicchio.
Ssäm Bar was recently announced as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants by Restaurant Magazine and San Pellegrino, while Ko has been honored with the distinction of two Michelin stars for three consecutive years.
Chang has gone on to win three James Beard awards, including “Rising Star Chef of the Year” and “Best Chef New York City.” He has also been dubbed one of the world's most influential people in Time’s annual "Time 100,” a GQ “Man of the Year” and one of Esquire Magazine’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.”
He recently announced he will be expanding his empire in fall 2011 to the land down under - opening a restaurant in the $860 million Star City Casino in Sydney, Australia.
Tom Colicchio – Class of ’91
Tom Colicchio won the “Best New Chef” honor at the now-closed Mondrian in New York City.
Since then, Colicchio has built an empire with his Craft family of restaurants (craftsteak, craftbar, ‘wichcraft) – starting with the Craft flagship in 2001 that earned him the James Beard Foundation Award for “Best New Restaurant” in 2002. More recently, Tom took top honors in May 2010 when he was awarded The James Beard Foundation’s coveted “Outstanding Chef” award.
But perhaps Colicchio’s most popular role to date is as lead judge for Bravo's Emmy Award-winning cooking competition "Top Chef” – which is now in its eighth season.
As a son of a lunch lady, Colicchio is also a hugely vocal champion of school lunch reform.
Thomas Keller – Class of ’88
Thomas Keller first captured national attention at New York City's Rakel in 1988, but it wasn't until 1994 when Keller took ownership of The French Laundry in Yountville, California, that things were really set in motion.
Today, Chef Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings by the Michelin Guide, and has received numerous awards from the James Beard Foundation, including the honor of "Outstanding Chef."
His Thomas Keller Restaurant Group currently consists of the gastronomic destinations The French Laundry and Per Se, as well as Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bakery. Keller also serves as the American president of the Bocuse d’Or, a culinary competition considered the restaurant world’s Olympics.
Daniel Boulud – Class of ’88
Since earning the storied New York City restaurant Le Cirque its first four-star review from The New York Times, Lyon-born Boulud has remained in the American cooking spotlight.
In 1992, while still at Le Cirque, Boulud also received the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: New York City.”
A year later, he stepped out on his own and opened his eponymous restaurant, Daniel, in the heart of Manhattan.
Boulud’s accolades include James Beard Foundation awards for “Outstanding Restaurant,” “Outstanding Restaurateur,” the aforementioned “Best Chef, New York City” and “Outstanding Chef of the Year.”
His flagship restaurant, Daniel, currently possesses three Michelin stars, four stars from the New York Times and was deemed the number eight restaurant in the world in San Pellegrino's annual "World's 50 Best Restaurants.”
The DB empire now includes restaurants in New York City, Miami, Palm Beach, Vancouver, London, Beijing and Singapore.
Boulud is also the chairman of the Bocuse d’Or Foundation, working closely with fellow '88 “Best New Chef” Thomas Keller.
Grant Achatz – Class of '02
After working for four years at Thomas Keller's French Laundry and a four-day stint at Ferran Adrià's mecca of molecular gastronomy, elBulli, Grant Achatz opened up Alinea in 2005.
Since then, Achatz and his North American temple of molecular gastronomy have received five James Beard awards, including “Rising Star Chef in America” and “Outstanding Service.”
San Pellegrino's annual "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list recently named Alinea the seventh best restaurant in the world - the highest entry for North America. The Chicago restaurant also holds three Michelin stars.
All of this is a considerable feat, especially considering Achatz’s 2007 battle with stage IVB tongue cancer compromised his ability to taste. Devoted to his craft, Achatz, now cancer-free, only missed 14 services throughout the course of his radiation treatment.
Achatz's upcoming memoir "Life, on the Line" will be released March 3, and his highly anticipated restaurant Next, and cocktail lounge Aviary are set to open later this year.
Dan Barber – Class of ’02
Dan Barber opened New York City’s Blue Hill restaurant in 2000; two years later, he was a "Best New Chef."
Four years after that, Barber was named the creative director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the part-farm, part-education center in Pocantico Hills, New York, dedicated to sustainable agriculture.
Barber has since received James Beard awards for “Best Chef: New York City” in 2006 and for “Outstanding Chef” in 2009. In 2009, he was also named one of the world's 100 most influential people in Time magazine.
As a longtime advocate of knowing where your food comes from, Barber often speaks on agricultural policy, including his recent TED talks on sustainable fishing and the ethics of foie gras.
Nancy Silverton – Class of ’90
It was the baguette heard around the world: Nancy Silverton opened the Los Angeles doors of La Brea Bakery in 1989 and sparked an artisan bread movement.
Silverton opened the market-driven restaurant Campanile six months later with partners Mark Peel and Manfred Krankl. Both La Brea Bakery and Campanile are still Los Angeles landmarks.
In 1990, Silverton was named “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation and inducted into its "Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America.”
Silverton has since penned seven cookbooks.
She sold La Brea Bakery in 2001 (for a reported $55 million), and is now dabbling in dough as the owner of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza alongside Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.
John Besh – Class of ’99
Louisiana-raised John Besh is owner of six New Orleans restaurants – August, Besh Steak, Lüke, La Provence, American Sector and Domenica.
His first cookbook, “My New Orleans,” was nominated for a 2010 James Beard Foundation Award. Besh had previously won the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast” in 2006.
Besh was the runner-up in the first season of the Food Network's “The Next Iron Chef,” competing against the likes of previous Food & Wine “Best New Chefs,” Michael Symon, Gavin Kaysen and Traci des Jardins.
Besh recently prepared the food for Eatocracy’s second secret supper at the New Orleans home of James Carville and Mary Matalin.
Rick Bayless – Class of ’88
Rick Bayless has made it his mission to change how Americans perceive Mexican food with his Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO.
In 1991, he won a James Beard Award for "Best American Chef: Midwest.” Four years later, he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who’s of Food & Beverage in America” and named "Chef of the Year" by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
His cookbook “Mexico – One Plate at a Time” took home the “Best International Cookbook” distinction at the 2001 James Beard Awards, while Frontera Grill won “Outstanding Restaurant” from the Foundation in 2007.
Bayless also won the first season of “Top Chef Masters,” and has received multiple humanitarian awards for his Frontera Farmer Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting small Midwestern farms.
Nobu Matsuhisa - Class of '89
Born in Japan, Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa opened his first restaurant, Matsuhisa, stateside in Beverly Hills in 1987. Two years later, it was here that he won the title of “Best New Chef.”
While his first restaurant did share his last name, it wasn’t until he opened NOBU in 1994 with Robert DeNiro and Myriad Restaurant Group, that Nobuyuki, better known as Nobu, became a household name.
Nobu has since been inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who’s of Food & Beverage in America” in 2002. He has also been nominated for the James Beard "Outstanding Chef" award nine times.
Nobu currently operates 10 restaurants in the United States, and 9 internationally, including in Greece and Japan.
Show your regional pride and vote for your local favorite for The People's Best New Chef 2011.
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