1998 America's Best New Chefs | Lee Hefter

Spago Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

Age: 31

Background: Worked at China Moon Café, San Francisco; Granita, Malibu.

How he got into cooking: "I got a job in a Chinese kitchen when I was 16 to learn about food and eat for free."

First memorable meal: "I still remember the sashimi tuna pizza dinner I had at New York's Quilted Giraffe when I was 18."

Weirdest food he's ever eaten: "English food--all those organ meats and savory pies."

Favorite equipment: "I always keep a regular tablespoon in my pocket. I can spoon sauces and turn meat and fish with it--it's my ace in the hole."

Favorite place to eat: Il Mulino, New York City.

What he'd do if he weren't a chef: "I would make jewelry."

Recipe tip: When making stuffed pasta with a butter sauce, partially cook the pasta in boiling water, then finish it in the sauce for more flavor.

Info: 176 N. Cañon Dr.; 310-385-0880.

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