There’s a culinary legend in the making every day—at least that’s the way it seems on TV, in the blogosphere and in restaurants. Some chefs are as well-known as the most glittery stars of music, fashion and film. In this issue we look at the biggest talents at every age, from Elissa Bernstein (the spectacular 19-year-old baking blogger) to Cecilia Chiang (the 91-year-old restaurateur who changed our view of Chinese food in America in the ’60s). What becomes clear when I think about icons like Wolfgang Puck (the brilliant 62-year-old chef, with me in the photo at right) is that they are all people whose outsized originality and talent have shifted our perspectives on food. These men and women are at once both singular and representative of larger truths—and their recipes are universally delicious. You must try Thomas McNaughton’s parsnip-filled triangoli with aged balsamic, or Madhur Jaffrey’s supersimple Swiss chard spiced with ginger and cumin.
World-renowned chefs René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma and Daniel Patterson of San Francisco’s Coi allowed us to eavesdrop on their creative process, showing the importance of an open mind and an excellent palate. While brewing coffee at breakfast, they arrived at the idea of roasting squash in coffee beans. Then Dan took the dish to a whole new level, reinventing it as coffee-roasted carrots garnished with crème fraîche, which he put on his restaurant menu.
These individuals, who have created so much excitement around food, have brought us to an extraordinary culinary moment. Today, seemingly anyone with a passion for cooking, a talent for packaging and a hipster zip code is launching an artisanal food business. Young entrepreneurs like these are the ones we believe will lead us into the future. Check out “Trendspotting” to learn more about these legends in the making, and please be sure to let me know if the story inspires your own DIY dreams.
Where I’m Coming From: My Recent Expeditions
Domenica: New Orleans
Alon Shaya creates dramatic and delicious dishes like a whole roasted cauliflower, pierced with a knife and ready to cut. 123 Baronne St.; 504-648-6020.
Fundamental L.A.: Los Angeles
These guys are sandwich savants. I loved the torta with braised chicken thighs, tomatillos and pickled jalapeños. 1303 Westwood Blvd.; 310-444-7581.
Mezze: Los Angeles
The Mideast meets Cal in the pretty and tasty smoked sablefish and lebneh flatbread. 401 N. La Cienega Blvd.; 310-657-4103.
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