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Turn this page and you'll see the future of American food: our 10 Best New Chefs of 2001. To find them, we sifted through hundreds of nominations from restaurant critics, chefs and other trusted sources, then sent our editors on a nationwide eating binge. One thing the winners have in common is that each has been in charge of restaurant kitchens in the United States for less than five years. Another is that their food surprised us, thrilled us, made us put down our forks in wide-eyed admiration. and pick them up again, fast. So get ready to meet tomorrow's stars, introduced here through interviews and recipes that show off their talent. And know that the future is in good hands.


Frank Ruta
Palena, Washington, DC

Why
Because his versions of authentic Italian dishes have an unusual and welcome depth of flavor.

Born
1957, McKeesport, PA.

Education
American Culinary Federation, Pittsburgh.

Experience
The White House and Le Pavillon, Washington, DC.

How he began cooking
"My mother had me stirring pasta as soon as I was tall enough to reach the stove."

Things he cooked at the White House
Fried chicken for Jimmy Carter; well-done steak for Ronald Reagan; shad roe for George Bush.

How he nearly didn't get the job
Part one: Someone from the White House called and Ruta hung up on him. "I thought it was a joke."
Part two: He brought kitchen knives to an audition-interview and was detained for two hours by White House guards. "They looked at me like I was crazy."

Favorite cookbook
Roma in Cucina by Luigi Carnacina and Vincenzo Buonassisi.

Pet peeve
When chefs tart up classic dishes without renaming them. "It's like going to see Turandot and getting Yellow Submarine instead."

Pastimes
Gardening, making wine.

About his recipe
Ruta says his Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms "taste like walking through the forest. I fill them with lovage, sorrel, nettles. all the weeds in my backyard."

Details
Palena, 3529 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-537-9250.



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Sandro Gamba
NoMI, Chicago

Why
Because his French culinary credentials are the best around, but he's not afraid to serve sushi, too.

Born
1970, St. Avold, France.

Education
A traditional restaurant apprenticeship in his hometown.

Experience
Le Moulin de Mougins, Provence, France; Le Jamin, Paris; Louis XV, Monte Carlo; Lespinasse, Washington, DC.

First food memory
Croissants from his father's pastry shop.

One culinary inspiration
His grandmother, who ran a renowned bistro in the town of Neufchâteau. "She made the best mashed potatoes you can have in your life."

what Alain Ducasse taught him
"How to give flavor to an ingredient and how to manage 50 people."

What Joel Robuchon taught him
"Respect, discipline and how to use salt and pepper."

Favorite local snack
Barbecued ribs. "Every small restaurant here does them, and they're very, very good."

About his recipe
The restaurant that preceded NoMI in the Park Hyatt was famous for bagel chips and salmon, so Gamba put the chips into Peeky Toe Crab Napoleon, his best-selling lunch dish.

Details
NoMI, 800 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-239-4030.


Randy Lewis
Indigo, New Orleans

Why
Because he cooks with prime regional ingredients but avoids all the clichés of "updated" Southern food.

Born
1969, Fairfield, CA.

Education
New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, VT.

Experience
Norman's, Coral Gables, FL. Lewis also worked as a private chef near Lake Tahoe, NV.

First thing cooked
Crème caramel. "Sometimes it came out good."

Favorite local snack
Uglesich's oyster po'boy with roast beef gravy.

Dislike
Canned peas.

Ambition
"To open a small French bistro that feels like a juke joint, with picnic tables and a guy playing guitar. It's a selfish thing. that's the kind of place I'd like to go to."

About his recipe
Whenever Lewis eats red beans and rice, he fishes out the ham hock. He believes it's an underappreciated cut of meat, so he invented a refined Ham Hock Salad with Pickled-Okra Sauce to pay his respects.

Details
Indigo, 2285 Bayou Rd.; 504-947-0123.


Wylie Dufresne
71 Clinton Fresh Food, New York City

Why
Because he absorbed many of the ideas of his mentor, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and has plenty of his own, too.

Born
1970, Providence.

Education
The French Culinary Institute, New York City.

Experience
Jo Jo and Jean Georges, New York City; Prime, Las Vegas.

First food memory
Watching his great-grandmother pick rhubarb.

Perks of working in Vegas Living in the Mirage for six months and learning to play blackjack.

Food vice
American cheese. "There's nothing wrong with stacking up 10 or 12 slices and putting the whole thing in your mouth."

Ingredient crush
Black soybeans. "They smell and taste like corn."

What worries him
Mad-cow disease. "I want that thing solved, or we won't have any beef in 10 years. Come on, we need hamburgers!"

About his recipe
The chive oil in Dufresne's Sea Bass with Edamame-Rye Crust shows Vongerichten's influence, but the rye crumbs are original. "Rye is one of my favorite breads."

Details
71 Clinton Fresh Food, 71 Clinton St.; 212-614-6960.


Craig Stoll
Delfina, San Francisco

Why
Because he reinvigorates the culinary union of Northern California and Northern Italy.

Born
1965, New York City.

Education
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

Experience
Campton Place and Splendido, San Francisco; Da Delfina, Artimino, Tuscany, Italy.

What he learned in Italy
"To understand my ingredients. If we served sheep's milk ricotta at night, I had spent the day with the cheesemaker. I'd met the sheep."

How he applies that back home
"If I buy fava beans, I want to know which row they were picked from."

Favorite local spot
Thep Phenom. "The best Thai food in the universe."

Pet peeve
When waiters say "Enjoy."

Food vice
Jolly Ranchers. "I'm trying to work them into a dessert."

Ingredient crush
Farro.

Ambition
To open a pizzeria, or some other Italian neighborhood joint.

About his recipe
Stoll's Gnocchi with Sweet Peas, Tomatoes and Sage Brown Butter is colorful, with its bright greens and yellows, as well as eminently uncomplicated.

Details
Delfina, 3621 18th St.; 415-552-4055.


Anita Lo
Annisa, New York City

Why
Because her knack for weaving far-ranging influences into a coherent sensibility is almost uncanny.

Born
1965, Detroit.

Education
Ecole Ritz-Escoffier, Paris.

Experience
Michel Rostang and Guy Savoy, Paris; Chanterelle and Mirezi, New York City.

Earliest food memory
Eating an orange on her aunt's porch in Malaysia, with juice dripping off her elbows, age two.

Most influential trip
"My partner and I took a year off before we opened Annisa and traveled all over Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Bali, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong."

Least favorite food trend
"I'm probably a little too old for foam."

Pastimes
Fishing, playing piano.

Favorite local snack
Teppanyaki (meats or vegetables sizzled on a tableside griddle) at East Village Japanese restaurants after work.

Pet peeve
Timid eaters. "People need to stop being afraid of food."

About her recipe
Lo's Roasted Cod with Steamer Clams and Pistachio Sauce highlights her skill with unorthodox combinations.

Details
Annisa, 13 Barrow St.; 212-741-6699.


Kelly Courtney
Mod, Chicago

Why
Because she successfully transplants the California farm-produce fetish to the capital of the Midwestern farm belt.

Born
1967, Columbia, SC.

Experience
Square One and Stars, San Francisco.

Earliest food memory
Eating wild pig roasted on a sugarcane spit while living with her grandmother in Pahokee, in south Florida.

First thing cooked
Pan-fried bluegills she caught herself.

How she learned to hunt
From her father. "We'd get quail, turkey, deer, ducks. It's not a sport for him; he only hunts for what he eats."

Vice
Smoked oysters on Triscuits.

Dislike
"I hate button mushrooms more than anything in the world."

Favorite musician
Dolly Parton.

Ambition
"I really want a farm and the tackiest ranch house I can find, with sliding glass doors and a pool with a slide and a tiki bar out back. the full Boogie Nights setup."

About her recipe
Courtney says her Brined Pork Chops with Mascarpone Mac and Cheese "screams of the American dinner table, but it also has a superclean, modern feel."

Details
Mod, 1520 N. Damen Ave.; 773-252-1500.


Will Packwood
Emilia's, Austin, TX

Why
Because even his innovations betray his deep respect for classical techniques and traditions.

Born
1971, Portogruaro, Italy.

Education
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

Experience
Saleh Al Lago, Seattle; the Driskill Hotel and Mezzaluna Gateway, Austin, TX.

Earliest food memory
"Our life in Italy was focused on the kitchen. On holidays we'd wake up, have breakfast, then start making lunch. And then as soon as lunch was over, we'd start making dinner."

Ingredient crush
Figs.

Least favorite food
"Americanized Italian, like manicotti."

Favorite local spot
Cong Ly for pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup.

Favorite book
Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.

Source he couldn't live without
His fish purveyors, Browne Trading in Maine and Triar in Florida. "It's hard to procure great seafood in Austin."

About his recipe
Packwood's Milk Chocolate Banana Pie is an easy-to-make recipe inspired by a beloved childhood dessert, chocolate-dipped bananas.

Details
Emilia's, 600 E. Third St.; 512-469-9722.


E. Michael Reidt
Bomboa, Boston

Why
Because his interpretation of Brazilian cuisine is soulful and smart.

Born
1970, Lowell, MA.

Education
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

Experience
Olives and Alloro, Boston.

First thing cooked
Barbecued chicken. "It was blood-raw. To this day my mother can't eat chicken legs."

How he got into brazilian cuisine
"I'm fascinated by the culture. Brazilians are passionate about everything."

Favorite cookbook
The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller.

Ingredient crush
Bananas. "I was trying to get my two-year-old son to eat lentils, so I mixed them with bananas. Then I learned it's a dish from the Canary Islands. It's on my menu now."

Most exotic thing he's eaten
Camel. "It didn't sit very well."

Best advice he ever got
"Something Todd English screamed at me once: 'Focus!' It's in the back of my mind whether I'm surfing 30-foot waves in Hawaii or searing a potato cake."

About his recipe
Coconut and lime give Reidt's Soft-Shell Crabs with Farro Salad a Latin flavor; the bacon and watermelon aren't Latin, but they're inspired additions.

Details
Bomboa, 35 Stanhope St.; 617-236-6363.


Johnathan Sundstrom
Earth & Ocean, Seattle

Why
Because his food. whether the ingredients come from land, sea or air. is out of this world.

Born
1967, Los Angeles.

Education
New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, VT.

Experience
Dahlia Lounge, Seattle.

First thing cooked
Eclairs, with his grandmother in Salt Lake City.

How he got into cooking
He was a dishwasher at a teppanyaki restaurant called the 47 Samurai and was promoted until he was "the only white guy there doing teppanyaki."

Favorite cookbook
Fou de Saveur by Marc Veyrat.

Why his vegetables are so good
He was the chef at a vegetarian restaurant for nine months. "I'm not a vegetarian, but I thought it would be interesting to be restricted."

Ingredient crush
Bacon. "I put it anywhere I can get away with it."

Pastimes
Aikido, gardening.

Ambition
To have a truffle business.

About his recipe
Sundstrom says his Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon is "a pretty quick dish, the kind of thing I would make at home in the summer." It also reflects his love of Moroccan cuisine.

Details
Earth & Ocean, 1112 Fourth Ave.; 206-264-6060.

Published July 2001
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