The People's Best New Chef: Great Lakes Contenders

Posted April 01, 2015

At F&W, we name America’s 10 most brilliant up-and-coming chefs every year. Now we want to know who you think is the most talented new chef in America.

At F&W, we name America’s 10 most brilliant up-and-coming chefs every year. Now we want to know who you think is the most talented new chef in America.

California, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, New York Area, Northwest & Pacific, Southeast, Southwest

Jake Bickelhaupt

Photo © Jack C. Newell

Jake Bickelhaupt

Restaurant: 42 grams

Location: Chicago

Why He's Amazing: Because this alumnus of some of the country’s most forward-thinking restaurants has created an 18-seat tasting-menu-only restaurant that’s like going to the best elegant yet unpretentious dinner party.

Background: Schwa, Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Cultured barley porridge with pig heart, crispy jowl and pine syrup

On the Restaurant’s Name: “My wife Alexa and I hope that people leave the restaurant feeling like they were welcomed into our home and that we gave them our heart and soul. The theory is that 21 grams is the weight of the soul, so 21 plus 21 is the weight of our two souls coming together.”

Marc Djozlija

Photo © Sal Rodriguez

Marc Djozlija

Restaurant: Wright & Co.

Location: Detroit

Why He's Amazing: Because the Wolfgang Puck alumnus now has his own place in downtown Detroit, where he serves excellent, boldly flavored small plates like bay scallops in brandy and dates with almonds and Gorgonzola.

Background: Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group (multiple locations)

Quintessential Dish: Lime-poached shrimp with cilantro-tomato relish and avocado mousse

Advice to Young Cooks: Never stop learning. “What do you do when there’s nothing to do? Don’t be complacent. A lot of the best chefs in the world are just conscientious people who are information sponges and never went to culinary school.”

Beverly Kim & Johnny Clark

Photo © Jordan Clark

Beverly Kim & Johnny Clark

Restaurant: Parachute

Location: Chicago

Why They're Amazing: Because the husband-and-wife pair are injecting the heat and funk of the food of Korea (and the rest of Asia) into dishes like an incredible bibimbap made with duck egg, kale and short rib in foie gras sauce.

Background: Kim: Aria, Opera (Chicago); Clark: Town (New York City), C-House (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Pork belly pancake with caramelized kimchi sauce and black garlic aioli

How They Describe Their Food: “We cook what we want to eat,” says Clark, “and we are a multicultural family, so we have cravings for all different flavors. Sometimes we feel like eating Indian food, sometimes a cassoulet.”

Garrett Lipar

Photo © Jeff Nguyen of Jefresh

Garrett Lipar

Restaurant: Torino

Location: Ferndale, MI

Why He's Amazing: Because he’s cooking some of the most innovative food that Detroit has ever seen: locally sourced and foraged ingredients presented simply but stunningly, inspired by his time cooking in Sweden.

Background: Boka (Chicago); Public (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Birch bark flour waffle with porcini mushroom powder and acorn squash gelato

Nordic Influence: Lipar spent time cooking as an intern at Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm and in other restaurants around Scandinavia before taking the reins at Torino.

Abbi Merriss

Photo © Porsha Begly

Abbi Merriss

Restaurant: Bluebeard

Location: Indianapolis

Why She's Amazing: Because she has launched the Indianapolis restaurant scene into a new stratosphere, using Midwestern ingredients to make wonderfully uncommon, Mediterranean-inspired dishes like spice-rubbed beef carpaccio with peanuts, pickled ramps and fried shallots.

Background: Recess, R Bistro (Indianapolis); Elements (Philadelphia)

Quintessential Dish: Roasted butternut squash with pickled carrot, chickpeas, marcona almonds and maple pepper vinaigrette

Favorite Cookbook: Happy in the Kitchen, by Michel Richard

Nicole Pederson

Photo © Galdones Photography

Nicole Pederson

Restaurant: Found

Location: Evanston, IL

Why She's Amazing: Because she's updating comfort-food favorites with global flavors (like harissa, za'atar and garam masala), and the results are incredibly addictive.

Background: C-House, Lula Café (Chicago); Gramercy Tavern (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Roast squash and brussels sprouts with house-made harissa, cilantro and pepitas

On Helping Cook President Obama’s First State Dinner: "It was amazing. It was like being in someone's house, which was a bit weird. It's a professional kitchen but with armed guards with machine guns walking around."

Iliana Regan

Photo © Jeffrey Marini

Iliana Regan

Restaurant: Elizabeth

Location: Chicago

Why She's Amazing: Because she’s brought Nordic-style cooking to Chicago using Midwestern ingredients (think acorn puree, pickled crab apples, wild greens and cured bear meat), and it’s fascinating, beautiful, rustic and modern all at once.

Background: One Sister underground supper club (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with wild edible weeds, juniper vinaigrette and roasted garlic aioli

Guilty Pleasure Snack Food: “Hot dogs from Home Depot. I get a Chicago Dog with everything on it.”

James Rigato
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © David Lewinski

James Rigato

Restaurant: The Root

Location: White Lake, MI

Why He's Amazing: Because, tucked away in a suburban Michigan strip mall, his thoughtfully sourced, farm-to-table cooking is gaining national attention—he was a contestant on Top Chef season 12.

Background: The Rugby Grille at The Townsend Hotel (Birmingham, MI); Shiraz Grille (Grand Rapids, MI)

Quintessential Dish: Crispy braised Michigan pork belly with creamed sweet corn and kimchi

Secret Talent: Karaoke. “I crush karaoke! I want to open a karaoke bar. I love getting up on stage and singing ‘The Beautiful Ones’ or ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince.”

Lee Wolen

Photo © Eric Kleinberg

Lee Wolen

Restaurant: Boka

Location: Chicago

Why He's Amazing: Because he’s bucking the small plates, esoteric ingredient trend by not only embracing the traditional entrée but serving masterful renditions of it—like his revered brioche-stuffed roast chicken.

Background: The Lobby at The Peninsula Hotel, Moto (Chicago); Eleven Madison Park (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Salt cod ravioli

Childhood Comfort Food: “I got interested in food watching my grandma cook when I was a kid—matzo ball soup, brisket, potato pancakes. I just loved to eat.”

Erling Wu-Bower

Photo © Derek Richmond

Erling Wu-Bower

Restaurant: Nico Osteria

Location: Chicago

Why He's Amazing: Because though he’s the son of a Chinese mother and a Creole father, he’s cooking like a sophisticated Italian grandmother, turning out knockout dishes like pappardelle with milk-braised pork and black truffles.

Background: Avec, The Publican, Publican Quality Meats (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Salt-crusted branzino with roasted peppers, almonds and basil

Foodie Family: “My mom was a food writer and worked for the Chicago Sun-Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and my dad is Creole, so food runs in my blood. We would start talking about what we would have for dinner at breakfast.”

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