POPSUGAR Food

2010's Best New Chefs and Their Dishes

Jun 22 2010 - 5:50am

Nothing at the Classic [1] induces more excitement than Saturday night's big ticket, the Best New Chefs Dinner. It was my favorite event last year [2] for a multitude of reasons: superb flavor combinations, a jaw-dropping view of the mountains at sunset, fantastic energy, and the best people-watching in the world. The annual by-invitation-only event was opened up to the public this year, which meant lots of crowds, but the opportunity to meet and eat with trendsetters still made it all worthwhile. Here, you'll get to know this year's Best New Chefs [3] and their signature dishes.

The Best New Chef: Roy Choi

First order of business: meet Kogi BBQ [4] founder Roy Choi. The trendsetting chef, whose Los Angeles Korean taco truck kicked off a street food revolution [5], was an atypical winner, since his empire didn't even include a sit-down restaurant until two months ago [6].

Roy Choi's Dish: Chego Meatballs

Choi followed in 2009 Best New Chef Nate Appleman's footsteps [7], choosing to make a spicy meatball. His, however, had been wrapped in sesame leaf, then was covered in an Asian sweet and spicy sauce and served with polenta purée.

The Best New Chef: Matt Lightner

Like all the other chefs, Matt Lightner was busy plating his dish. Nebraska native Lightner, who now heads up Castagna [8] in Portland, OR, has spent time cooking at such prestigious institutions as Noma [9] in Copenhagen and Mugaritz [10] in Spain.

Matt Lightner's Dish: Sweet Walla Onions

Chef Lightner admitted he's obsessed with onions [11], and told me he loves these sweet walla onions, which grow in a soil free of sulfite, giving them a sweet flavor without the edge. While this dish wasn't my favorite, it was certainly interesting. The tender onion was filled with a small fish roe, and topped with a barbecue glaze and herbs.

The Best New Chef: Clayton Miller

Trummer's on Main [12], a restaurant based out of Clifton, VA, is home to Clayton Miller. The chef, who has worked for Thomas Keller [13], Daniel Boulud, and Norman Van Aiken, now heads up this restaurant in the outskirts of Washington DC.

Clayton Miller's Dish: Pork Terrine

Chef Miller prepared a country pork terrine garnished with rye bread crumbs, pickled tomatillo, and smoked mayonnaise. The toothpick wasn't a very effective eating instrument, but the dish itself was porky deliciousness.

The Best New Chef: Missy Robbins

New York restaurant A Voce [14] has gotten plenty of press, and much of that is undoubtedly attributed to executive chef Missy Robbins, who's been there since 2008.

Missy Robbins's Dish: Strachiatella Cheese

The chef's dish — which was one of our top tastes — was simple, yet stunning. She served strachiatella cheese with grilled pickled ramps and house-cured lamb pancetta, along with grilled bread on the side.

The Best New Chef: Jonathon Sawyer

If Jonathon Sawyer's bearded smile looks familiar, it might be because he's made guest appearances with Michael Symon [15] on the show Dinner: Impossible [16]. The Symon protégé, who once was a chef at Lolita [17], now helms the kitchen at Cleveland's Greenhouse Tavern [18].

Jonathon Sawyer's Dish: Raviolini

At the end of the night, Sawyer took home the people's choice award for best dish with his handmade fromage blanc raviolini, served in a compostable spoon with stewed tomatoes and grated cheese.

The Best New Chef: Alex Seidel

Denver's Alex Seidel was the only winner who didn't have to make a long trek to Aspen. The friendly chef, who runs the kitchen at Fruition [19], used lamb raised from Irish Cream Farms (less than two hours away!) to prepare the most complex dish of the night.

Alex Seidel's Dish: Baby Lamb Ribeye

Seidel's baby lamb ribeye with English pea and potato risotto, lamb sweetbread confit, and wilted pea tendrils, involved more elements than any other dish. The most unique component was the chef's risotto made out of starchy potatoes.

The Best New Chef: Michael Sheerin

I've always wanted to try Chicago's Blackbird [20], one of the city's most esteemed restaurants. There, chef de cuisine Mike Sheerin is known for his inventive ingredient applications.

Mike Sheerin's Dish: Sepia Noodles

What a wild dish! Sepia, a sea creature related to cuttlefish, was cut into noodle strips, then served with cardamom tofu, green garlic, and fried chocolate. Yes, you heard that right. My favorite part was the chocolate, which shattered on the tongue with an earthy flavor that wasn't sweet.

The Best New Chef: John Shields

John Shields of Chilhowie, VA, destination Town House [21] quietly assembled his course as the sun set in the background. His forward-thinking culinary approach comes from years of experience as sous chef at both Alinea and Charlie Trotter's.

John Shields's Dish: Scrambled Egg Mousse

Although the feedback for this dish ran the gamut from spectacular to disappointing, I thought it was the most intellectual and multifaceted. Somehow, Shields managed to lend scrambled eggs an airy, mousse-like texture. Each bite revealed a different ingredient: ground spices, such as cloves, usually reserved for dessert; the shocking burst of smoked steelhead roe; birch syrup; or preserved ramps.

The Best New Chef: Jason Stratton

I'd been looking forward to meeting Jason Stratton since dining at his restaurant, Spinasse [22], back in April. He seemed quiet, but expressed his style through his food and the colorful outfit under those chef's whites.

Jason Stratton's Dish: Rabbit Russian Salad

Jason served a fusion of two dishes I tried at the restaurant: the rabbit and radicchio salad and the insalata Russa. His dish was a rabbit Russian salad made with marinated rabbit, baby beets, peas, carrots, and tuna maionesse.

The Best New Chef: James Syhabout

I spotted James Syhabout, the chef at Oakland, CA's ultrahot restaurant Commis [23], just about everywhere during the Classic with fellow West Coast winner Roy Choi.

James Syhabout's Dish: Parmesan Financiers

What exactly were these amuses-bouche? I couldn't decide if these pastries, which came topped with young herbs and an unripe green strawberry conserve, were a snack or a dessert, savory or sweet. But the answer clearly didn't matter. Our votes for best dish went to this hometown boy!


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