Meet the People's Best New Chef

By F&W Editors Posted April 09, 2015

After tallying thousands of your votes, we're proud to introduce the winner of our 2015 online competition. Meet the People's Best New Chef 2015 and the incredible regional winners around the country.

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.

After tallying thousands of your votes, we're proud to introduce the winner of our 2015 online competition. Meet the People's Best New Chef 2015 and the incredible regional winners around the country.

The People's Best New Chef 2015 / Gulf Coast Winner
Cory Bahr
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo courtesy of Restaurant Cotton

Cory Bahr

Restaurant: Cotton

Location: Monroe, LA

Why He's Amazing: Because he's sourcing the best ingredients—from cornmeal and sweet potatoes to rabbits, venison and duck eggs—from friends and neighbors for his updated and spectacular Southern dishes.

Background: Sage (Monroe, LA); internships at Commander's Palace and Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse (New Orleans)

Quintessential Dish: Muscovy duck wraps: bacon-wrapped duck breast with local honey glaze

Greatest Inspiration: His grandparents. "I went to the School of Grandmother's Kitchen. I grew up hunting, fishing, raising my own gardens. We were always cooking, canning, preserving, you name it."

View All Midwest Contenders

The Regional Winners
Ari Weiswasser
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © Tom Deininger

Ari Weiswasser

Restaurant: Glen Ellen Star

Location: Glen Ellen, CA

Why He's Amazing: Because after years of cooking in vaunted, mainly big city kitchens, he's highlighting the simple beauty of garden- and pasture-grown food in a town of 784 people.

Background: The French Laundry (Yountville, CA); Daniel (New York); Le Bec-Fin (Philadelphia)

Quintessential Dish: Brick chicken with creamy farro and green tomato "chow chow"

Wine Connection: Weiswasser's wife is Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser, of Sonoma's Benziger wine family. "We have gardens in the middle of the winery," he says. "The goal is to source as much as possible from them." Another goal: to make Glen Ellen Star "a vegetable-driven restaurant."

View All California Contenders

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.”

View All Great Lakes Contenders

Justin Severino
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © Adam Milliron

Justin Severino

Restaurant: Cure

Location: Pittsburgh

Why He's Amazing: Because he closed a successful butcher shop in California to open a meat-centric restaurant in Pittsburgh where he butchers and cures everything himself and educates eaters about the provenance of their food.

Background: Elements, Eleven (Pittsburgh); Manresa (Los Gatos, CA); Bouchée Restaurant and Wine Bar (Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA)

Quintessential Dish: Salumi platter (which includes a changing selection of meats such as bresaola, blackstrap ham, goat prosciutto, rabbit rillettes and 'nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork sausage from Italy)

Early Culinary Influences: "I grew up in an Italian family. We ate dinner at home six days a week. My grandmother was a lunch lady at the Catholic high school, and my grandfather was a butcher."

View All Mid-Atlantic Contenders

Matthew McClure
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo courtesy of The Hive at 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville

Matthew McClure

Restaurants: The Hive

Location: Bentonville, AR

Why He's Amazing: Because he’s not just elevating Southern cooking in the town where Walmart got its start, he’s melding local ingredients (smoked ham, peaches, cornmeal, field peas) with those brought to Bentonville by its growing immigrant population in dishes like garam masala roast chicken with okra ratatouille.

Background: Ashley’s (Little Rock, AR); Harvest (Cambridge, MA); No. 9 Park (Boston)

Quintessential Dish: Pimento cheese with bacon jam and toasted bread

On Returning to Arkansas from Boston: “I think I was wide-eyed and excited about being in a big city. There was a point in my life I said I was never moving home. Now I couldn’t be happier to be in Bentonville cooking at this level. The food movement here is very youthful and hot.”

View All Midwest Contenders

Matthew MacCartney
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo courtesy of Jamestown FiSH

Matthew MacCartney

Restaurant: Jamestown Fish

Location: Jamestown, RI

Why He's Amazing: Because his fish-centric dishes take cues from classic French, Italian and American-immigrant cooking but they taste innovative and modern.

Background: Craft, Gramercy Tavern, Daniel (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Jamestown Fish Cookpot: lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, monkfish, leeks, tomatoes, saffron, garlic, hot pepper, Pernod, potatoes and chouriço

His Sommelier Side: MacCartney spent 10 years in the wine business, working on the beverage programs at Gramercy Tavern and Craft. "I'm always thinking about wines that will go with [my food]." MacCartney's vast list at Jamestown Fish includes bottles from the US and Western Europe, as well as countries like Lebanon and Hungary.

View All New England Contenders

Fabian von Hauske & Jeremiah Stone
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © Charles Roussel

Fabian von Hauske & Jeremiah Stone

Restaurant: Contra

Location: New York City

Why They're Amazing: Because the two young chefs are showing New York City something new, modern and understated: a nightly five-course tasting menu that varies depending on their mood and foregoes an excess of salt, sugar or spice in favor of showing off their greenmarket ingredients.

Background: von Hauske: Noma (Copenhagen), Attica (Melbourne); Stone: Isa (Brooklyn), Rino (Paris)

Quintessential Dish: Lightly smoked swordfish with horseradish cream sauce, fresh peas and fennel

Dessert for Dinner: For staff meals, von Hauske likes to serve dessert. “I don’t like keeping things in the freezer for too long, so every Saturday night, I’ll take every single leftover from the week and will turn it into a Sunday Staff Sundae. Recently we had a toasted buckwheat mousse with yogurt sorbet and grains covered in chocolate and caramel and a custard with pistachios. We mixed it all together and made this humongous delicious thing.”

View All New York Area Contenders

Eric Sakai
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © Cooper Fredrickson

Eric Sakai

Restaurant: Restaurant Marron

Location: Seattle

Why He's Amazing: Because his New American cuisine is luxurious, smartly creative and delicious.

Background: Rubicon, Acquerello (San Francisco); Le Bistro (Honolulu)

Quintessential Dish: Roasted Moulard duck breast with fish sauce and maple

Culinary Mentor: Alan Takasaki at Le Bistro in Honolulu. “Alan provided a positive growth environment for his staff. I was always encouraged to expand my horizons and strive to be a better cook each day. His ability to make sure everything was done right, but doing it in a positive manner, is something I carry with me.”

View All Northwest & Pacific Contenders

Kim Floresca & Daniel Ryan
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © Kim Floresca

Kim Floresca & Daniel Ryan

Restaurant: [ONE]

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Why They're Amazing: Because after working together in some of the world's most acclaimed kitchens, they're cooking up sublimely inventive food—like wild onion madeleines and savory pumpernickel macarons—at their very own spot.

Background: Both: The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena, CA); Floresca: Per Se (New York City); Tru (Chicago); Ryan: Adour, Eleven Madison Park (New York City); Alinea (Chicago)

Quintesesntial Dish: Beef tartare with cured egg yolk, puffed tendon and capers

On Working as Co-Chefs: "There's no competition between us,” says Floresca. “We're a team, and we feed off each other."

View All Southeast Contenders

Ryan Pera
People's Best New Chef Winner

Photo © Julie Soefer

Ryan Pera

Restaurant: Coltivare Pizza & Garden, Revival Market

Location: Houston

Why He's Amazing: Because his modern Italian dishes and wood-fired pizzas take the terms “fresh” and “local” to a new level: Most of their elements come either from Pera’s restaurant-cum-general-store, Revival Market (which peddles goods from Houston-area farmers, ranchers and cheesemakers), or from Coltivare’s gorgeous 3,000-square-foot backyard garden.

Background: The Grove (Houston); Washington Park (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Ricotta gnocchi with Parmesan, greens and balsamic

How He Stays Fit: “For the past three years, I’ve been leaving my restaurant right in the middle of the day to exercise. It’s a huge stress reliever that has gotten me in shape. At this point, I’m an exercise freak, playing basketball, running, weights, Pilates, balance exercises.”

View All Southwest Contenders

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