Philadelphia native Matthew Aita got his start at temples of haute cuisine such as Daniel and Jean-Georges. That exceptional training was put to good use when he opened his Manhattan bistro Le Philosophe in 2013. Aita joined Chefs Club in 2014 as Executive Chef, overseeing the nightly execution of superstar dishes in the restaurant’s New York City location.
As a green vegetable-averse child, it took a certain amount of coercion to get Aita to eat broccoli. So his mother concocted this cheesy walnut pesto, threw a few florets in, and he could no longer resist. This pesto is now Aita’s favorite pasta sauce and it forms the base of his addictive broccoli pizzetta.
Wunderkind Alex Stupak rose to prominence as a Pastry Chef first at Grant Achatz’s Alinea and later at Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50. But in early 2011, he shocked the culinary world by leaving avant-garde pastry for the savory side of Mexican food. Since then, he has become a master of a new vocabulary –think salsa and agave over spherification and alginate. He has built a mini-empire in NYC by the name of Empellón.
Back in his wd~50 days, Stupak loved Wylie Dufresne’s tendency to smoke unexpected ingredients such as cranberries and mashed potatoes. Stupak experimented with smoking cashews, and now they are one of just four ingredients in his signature salsa, along with chipotle peppers, sugar, and salt.
A chance meeting in a Lima supermarket in 2001 changed Diego Oka’s trajectory: the then- seventeen-year-old walked up to Peru’s biggest celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio and asked for a job. The next day, Oka started an internship at Acurio’s flagship, Astrid y Gastón. He went on to open Acurio’s restaurants in Mexico City, Bogotá, San Francisco, and now, Miami, showcasing the richness of his home country’s cuisine.
Leche de tigre, the citrusy ‘tiger’s milk’ marinade in this traditional ceviche, is like the mother sauce of Peruvian cuisine, says Oka. Acidity (often a squeeze of lime) and chili peppers (here, aji amarillo) are essential, but variations on the sauce are endless. The ceviche garnishes, like onion, corn nuts and every hue of potato, are colorful and as vibrant as Andean embroidery.
Long before she was an “Iron Chef” and a frequent judge, cook and host on food television, Alex Guarnaschelli was climbing the ranks in legendary kitchens: those of Guy Savoy, Daniel Boulud, Larry Forgione, and Joachim Splichal among them. Each saw something very special in her. For example, a four-day stage in Savoy’s three Michelin- starred Paris flagship turned into a four-year appointment as sous chef in another one of his restaurants. Since 2003, Guarnaschelli has been the Executive Chef of Butter in Manhattan, where the menu is mostly American, but firmly rooted in the French technique she honed over so many years.
Roasted Autumn squash and juicy pears are not an obvious combination, but they “have such a great time when they play in the salad sandbox together,” says Guarnaschelli. Two great fall favorites in one robust, delicious dish.
Born in LA and raised in Israel, Ori Menashe and his wife Genevieve Gergis might seem an improbable duo to run Bestia, one of the hottest Italian restaurants in America. But unwind a forkful of his handmade pasta or hold a slice of his salami up to the light and all doubt drifts away. The restaurant power couple (she’s responsible for Bestia’s outstanding desserts) combined forces to open in 2012, and it’s been packed ever since.
Menashe orders 32 ducks every week at Bestia, and needed a creative way use the excess skin. His solution? Smoke it, render it, and use it as the unexpected base for his super-creamy chicken liver. The spread is presented with a small well of saba, and bread for scooping.
Betony’s Bryce Shuman grew up a traveler, his family living in places ranging from the Costa Rican jungle to the Arctic Circle. This early introduction to extraordinary foods and experiences have benefited him throughout his career, including as he worked alongside Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park for six years. In 2013, Bryce opened Betony with fellow EMP alum Eamon Rockey. Here, his menu combines interpretive Americana with influences and ingredients from all over. The Michelin Guide instantly took notice, awarding Betony a prestigious star just one year after he opened.
“It doesn’t need to be complicated to be amazing,” says Shuman of this salad, but there’s still more here than meets the eye. Hidden underneath the leaves and the earthy beets is a spread of Robiola Bosina cheese from Italy’s Piedmont region that adds creamy richness to an otherwise crisp and slightly bitter fall salad.
Jeremy Fox hails from Cleveland, but his name and cuisine are inextricably linked to California. Two courses shy of finishing culinary school, Fox dropped out and worked for Chef Mike Lata in Charleston for one and a half years. In 2001, Fox bought a one-way ticket to California, landing first at San Francisco’s Rubicon and, the following year, at David Kinch’s Manresa. He was Kinch’s Chef de Cuisine by the time he left in 2007 to open vegetable-centric Ubuntu in Napa. Since 2013, Fox has run the kitchens at Rustic Canyon and Esters in Santa Monica, where he’s just as likely to be roasting a steak as he is a sunchoke.
Stuck in a creative funk late in the summer of 2015, Jeremy conceptualized this dish on his drive to work one morning. Toying with ways to bring crunch, aroma and depth to vegetables, Fox hit upon a topping of Egyptian dukkah. The result is more textural with nuts and seeds rounding out the spices, almost like loose granola.
After cooking extraordinary Italian and French food with stars Nancy Silverton, Roland Passot, and Daniel Boulud, Bryant Ng opened his first restaurant, Spice Table to reflect his familial ties to Asia –his mother from Hong Kong, father from Singapore, and his wife’s family from Vietnam. He shuttered Spice Table in late 2013 and in June 2015, Ng’s Cassia opened in Santa Monica. Here, he explores the intersection of French and Vietnamese cuisines, with a vibrant palette of herbs and spices. The New York Times critic Pete Wells praised Ng for “being more focused on balance than extremes,” in his glowing three-star review of the restaurant.
Bryant Ng’s take on Singaporean chili crab, the island city-state’s most emblematic hawker fare, is the stu of culinary obsession. “If you’re a baller, or even if you just play one on TV,” writes the inimitable Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, “you’re probably going to want the white pepper crab, a fat crustacean crusted with turmeric and spice.”
Eric Ripert of New York’s venerable Le Bernardin trained with some of the best chefs in the world, only to become one himself. He started at La Tour d’Argent in Paris at seventeen and found an early mentor in Joël Robuchon at the iconic Jamin. Moving to the U.S. in 1989, he became Jean-Louis Palladin’s sous chef at his eponymous restaurant in Washington, D.C. Heading next to Manhattan, he spent a year with David Bouley before taking over Gilbert Le Coze’s kitchen at seafood temple Le Bernardin, after the chef died tragically in 1994. Since then, Ripert and his restaurant have earned every accolade imaginable: four consecutive four-star reviews from The New York Times, three Michelin stars, and a spot among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Ripert remembers his grandmother Emilienne making “endless croque monsieurs” with a “medieval- looking iron contraption” held right over the fire to make melty, toasty sandwiches. Now he honors her memory with his own version of the dish at Le Bernardin, smoked salmon and beautiful pearls of caviar replacing the traditional ham and cheese. Eric has called it his “best creation.”
Linton Hopkins opened his flagship Restaurant Eugene in his native Atlanta in 2004, naming it after his grandfather. From the beginning, it has been a family project: his wife Gina is the sommelier, his kids growing up in the restaurant. Since then the Hopkins’s have opened nearly a dozen restaurants together around the city. Linton has served as President of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and he speaks of heirloom crops like Carolina gold rice, Sea Island red peas, and antebellum grits with pride, happy to share these edible legacies.
Hopkins remembers very well the first time he ate shrimp and grits as a boy, in a small town tucked between Charleston and Myrtle Beach on the Atlantic coast. An equally important memory: his epiphany that the secret to his own sauce for the dish was she-crab roe. The richness of the roe transforms cream, Cognac, and shallots into a “sauce for the gods,” says Hopkins.
Long before Australian superstar Curtis Stone played the savior of hapless home cooks on TLC’s Take Home Chef he paid his dues in some of the toughest kitchens in Europe. He started in London’s historic Savoy Hotel at eighteen, then climbed the ranks in three restaurants led by the famous Marco Pierre White. From him, Stone learned humility, a maniacal work ethic, the importance of sweating the details and a reverence for great produce. Now settled in Los Angeles, Curtis has two restaurants: Maude, where the tasting menu revolves around one ingredient each month; and Gwen, a combined butcher shop-and-restaurant.
Exceptional Spanish ingredients are Stone’s inspiration here. He loves the octopus from Spain, so gravitated towards other Spanish flavors like saffron and olives, the latter made into a jet-black oil.
When Lyons-born Daniel Boulud arrived on the shores of Manhattan in 1982 at the age of 27, he had already been working in Michelin-starred restaurants for half of his life. From 1986 to 1992, he headed the kitchen of Sirio Maccioni’s iconic Le Cirque, and in 1993, launched his namesake flagship on the Upper East Side. Since then, Boulud has become one of the most prolific chef-restaurateurs in the world, with a score of restaurants around the globe from New York to Toronto to Singapore, not to mention more than a half-dozen books to his name. Among countless awards, Michelin stars, and James Beard awards, Boulud also received The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
“I think every chef is remembered for a few dishes, even if he created a thousand of them,” says Boulud. If that’s true, then a big part of Daniel’s legacy is wrapped in crispy, golden potato and involves just three other main ingredients: striped bass, leeks, and red wine. He created the dish at Le Cirque in 1985 — a nod to Fredy Girardet and Paul Bocuse — and has riffed on the recipe many times since.
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, Marcus Samuelsson now embraces Harlem as home. At the age of just 24, his so-called New Scandinavian cuisine at Manhattan’s Aquavit earned three stars from the New York Times. In 2010, Samuelsson opened the Southern-inflected Red Rooster in Harlem. President Obama famously hosted a Democratic fundraiser there shortly after that. Five years later, Streetbird Rotisserie soon followed, a shrine to golden roasted or fried chicken with an atlas’ worth of global references. Marcus now stands at the center of an empire, with projects around the world.
Samuelsson adores the richness of the arctic char that swim in the cold, clear waters near northern Sweden, and finds that it stands its ground here with the smoky bacon. Meanwhile apple and bacon also go hand in hand, says Marcus, hence the light, crisp broth shining through in this dish.
Cooking school dropout Mario Batali is one of America’s most important interpreter of Italian cuisine. He has a professorial knowledge of Italian food, and single-handedly expanded the Italian-American pantry. Sporting a ponytail and his signature orange Crocs, holding forth about porchetta and pillowy gnocchi, he brought “Molto Mario” to our TV screens in the early days of the Food Network. The huge success of Babbo, which he and business partner Joe Bastianich opened in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in 1998, begat an empire of Roman proportions. Now the two, along with Joe’s mother Lidia, run over twenty restaurants and markets scattered further afield, including the behemoth Eataly.
These broad, flat noodles, about a thumb’s width across, come from Tuscany, where “pappa” is the name of a thick tomato soup and “pappare” means to gobble up said soup or pasta. Batali’s ragu here gets additional richness from the same region of Italy, with a good glug of Chianti.
New Zealand-born Morgan McGlone is a third-generation chef who fell hard for Southern fried chicken while working alongside Sean Brock at Husk in Charleston. McGlone became Chef de Cuisine at the Nashville outpost in 2013. It was here that McGlone made the life-altering discovery of “hot chicken”: crispy, crackly birds that are anointed with rendered lard and so much cayenne pepper that it hurts. Inspired, Morgan returned to Australia in 2014 to open Belles Hot Chicken in Melbourne, which has been a runaway success.
They say Nashville Hot Chicken was born out of one wife’s fiery revenge for her husband’s infidelity. Morgan’s take on the Southern classic came out of years of recipe development alongside Sean Brock and a studious survey of the Music City restaurants serving it. His secret? A dark, fragrant chicken fat masala he uses to baste the birds after cooking them, lending a complex flavor beneath the burn of the Cayenne.
Greg and Gabrielle Denton are masters of fire and champions of chimichurri. These 2014 Food & Wine Best New Chefs met at Hiro Sone’s Michelin-starred Terra in St. Helena, CA. Their restaurant Ox in Portland, Oregon, recalls an Argentinian steakhouse, a massive wood-fired grill the centerpiece of the kitchen. Here, they tap into the incredible richness of the Pacific Northwest produce but explore the culinary traditions of Spain, France and Italy.
Typically an asado, or Argentine cookout, unfolds over several hours, grilled sausages, flanken-cut short ribs, or even whole sides of lamb alternate with red wine and storytelling around the wood fire. Here, Greg and Gabi decided to capture that same generosity and abundance with a mounded platter of their favorite cuts, along with plenty of chimichurri.
Erik Anderson was born in Chicago and spent his childhood exploring every facet of his parents’ restaurant. His cooking career took off in 2006 while at The French Laundry under living legend Thomas Keller, and later working at a trio of the best restaurants in Minneapolis. Anderson relocated to Nashville, where he and co-chef Josh Habiger turned Southern cuisine on its head at The Catbird Seat and were chosen as Food & Wine Best New Chefs in 2012. Now back in Minneapolis, Anderson and partner Jamie Malone will soon open Brut, a restaurant with modern French cookery and a deep Champagne selection.
Using super-tart dried raspberry powder as a counterpoint to richer dishes — there with roasted beef and here with potato puree — was an idea that Erik Anderson starting experimenting with for a Jeremiah Tower tribute dinner he cooked in Chicago in 2014. Crispy potato chips on top provide a second, textural contrast.
Didier Elena grew up in Monaco, the son of a French physician mother and an Italian fisherman father. He met the mythical Alain Ducasse at a barbershop one fateful 1988. Two days later, Elena had dropped out of medical school to work in Ducasse’s Le Louis XV. Apart from a two and a half year stint with another French titan, Paul Bocuse, Didier would spend nearly 25 years as his right-hand in some of the world’s most esteemed kitchens from New York to Toyko, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of French cuisine along the way. Since 2012, Didier has been the Culinary Director of Chefs Club, spearheading the restaurant’s unique culinary programming in both Aspen and NYC.
Back when Didier was the chef at the ultra-luxe Les Crayeres in Champagne, he sought a humble accompaniment for his take on Tournedos Rossini done with whole roasted foie gras and a massive côte de boeuf. Riffing on a classic gratin dauphinois and its crispy golden veil of cheese, he mixed pureed potatoes into pâte a choux and dropped it into the deep fryer — thus, crispy Comté churros were born.