Chefs are a competitive bunch. Not that this comes as a huge surprise, but the truth of it struck me anew as we were putting together this issue. For example, for the last 21 years, F&W has awarded the title of Best New Chef to men and women who show outstanding talent and promise. As I made my phone calls to the 2009 winners—surely my favorite calls of the year—a few told me they’d set their sights on this award while they were still in culinary school. They had a dream and the drive to achieve it. Turn to page 169 for the ’09 winners and their simplest recipes.
For Daniel Humm, a Best New Chef 2005 who shares remarkable recipes with us in “Rustic Food at Its Peak,” competitiveness was a factor in his decision to become a chef. As a teenager growing up in Switzerland, Humm both raced mountain bikes and cooked professionally, but his performance in the kitchen exceeded his success on the racecourse, so he decided to focus on food. Try his herb-roasted veal with porcini risotto, and it will be clear that he chose well.
Our Well-Being column this month documents another kind of competition: Tim Cushman, a Best New Chef 2008, decided to get in shape, so he challenged his staff to a 10-week weight-loss and fitness contest. (His strategy for winning: Eat lots of fresh salsas with lean meat and seafood.) We also profile Hosea Rosenberg, Bravo’s latest Top Chef, who said that he knew he would win: “I’m very competitive,” he explains. Hosea honors his father, who’s battling cancer, by sharing his dad’s favorite recipes, including sesame-crusted tuna and warm chocolate cake with brandied cherries.
The competitiveness of chefs benefits all of us in so many ways: It makes for good television, but it’s also the reason many of them create such delicious food. And that means everyone they cook for gets to be a winner, too.
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Where I’m Coming From
Notes From My Recent Expeditions:
Palm Beach, FL
On the patio at the Brazilian Court Hotel, I loved Zach Bell’s beef duo of braised short ribs and hanger steak.
Palm Beach, FL
I might have to buy a Breakers condo just so I can have the buffet breakfast at the Circle every day: amazing OJ, malty waffles, bacon.
New York City
Christopher Lee’s tuna tartare with miso-sake dressing was a great way to begin a lovely meal at Aureole, which is opening in a new space across the street from my office.