The People's Best New Chef: Gulf Coast Contenders

Food & Wine: The People's Best New Chef: Gulf Coast
By F&W Editors 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.

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

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."

Michael Doyle

Photo © Johnny Gembitsky

Michael Doyle

Restaurant: Maurepas Foods

Location: New Orleans

Why He's Amazing: Because he's redefining modern Southern cooking with audacious dishes such as butternut squash with snails, pickled peanuts and spiced whiskey butter.

Background: Dante's Kitchen (New Orleans)

Quintessential Dish: Pimentón sausage sandwich with squid, romesco sauce, mustard greens and aioli

What Distinguishes Him From Other Chefs: "If we're talking about making fish with butter sauce and crabmeat on top, there's 750 other guys in this town who can do that as well or better than I can. But if you're talking about putting a bunch of pickles all over the brussels sprouts, I'm your guy."

Kristen Essig

Photo © Rush Jagoe

Kristen Essig

Restaurant: Meauxbar

Location: New Orleans

Why She's Amazing: Because, with mentors like Anne Kearney and Emeril Lagasse, she’s garnering well-deserved attention for her enlightened bistro-inspired dishes, such as beef tartare finished with cacao and chipotle-spiked marinade.

Background: Sainte Marie, Peristyle, Emeril’s (New Orleans)

Quintessential Dish: Louisiana Gulf fish amandine with rice pilaf haricots verts

Commitment to Sustainability: “I work with the Gulf Restoration Network and the Audubon Lasting Fisheries Chef Council in New Orleans to make sure the Gulf is healthy and that we’re working with sustainable fish. I don’t use any farmed fish anywhere on my menus.”

Juan Carlos Gonzalez

Photo © David G. Spielman

Juan Carlos Gonzalez

Restaurant: SoBou

Location: New Orleans

Why He's Amazing: Because his dishes inspired by Creole and Puerto Rican street food—like shrimp-and-tasso pinchos [bar snacks]—take pub food to a new level.

Background: Internship at Le Bernardin (New York City); Commander's Palace, Café Adelaide (New Orleans); Bistro Alex (Houston)

Quintessential Dish: Blue crab and Cajun bowfin caviar mini tacos with Crystal hot sauce aioli

First Mentor: Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. "I was 18 years old, going on 19. I was a kid, right out of high school. I went to the interview, and it was chef Eric and me, and he was like, 'You don't have any schooling. You don't have any experience in the kitchen, and you don't know anything. I'll hire you.' And I was like, 'Sweet. How much am I going to get paid?' And he said, 'You're not.' I worked [as an intern] for free for him for one year...It was a great experience."

Michael Gulotta

Photo © Rush Jagoe

Michael Gulotta

Restaurant: MoPho

Location: New Orleans

Why He's Amazing: Because, after years as chef de cuisine at John Besh’s fine-dining paragon, August, he’s turning out awesome Delta-inspired Vietnamese food—like pho with oxtail and mustard greens—in a casual (paper towels for napkins, picnic tables on the back patio) strip-mall restaurant.

Background: August, Marisol (New Orleans)

Quintessential Dish: Pepper jelly-braised Cedar Key clams with lamb lardo and annatto beignets

Secret Weapon Ingredient: Fermented red pepper paste. “It gives you sweet heat and umami.”

Deme Lomas

Photo © Stephan Göttlicher

Deme Lomas

Restaurant: Niu Kitchen

Location: Miami

Why He's Amazing: Because the Barcelona-born chef infuses classic Catalan flavors with playful, modernist twists, as in poached eggs topped with airy potato foam, jamón ibérico and grated black truffle.

Background: Barceloneta (Miami Beach); Fishop, El Xalet de Montjuïc (Barcelona)

Quintessential Dish: Cold tomato soup with mustard ice cream and manchego pesto

On the Restaurant’s Name: Niu means “nest” in Catalan.

Phillip Lopez

Photo © Sara Essex Bradley

Phillip Lopez

Restaurant: Root, Square Root

Location: New Orleans

Why He's Amazing: Because he's making New American food that's unabashedly postmodern. For instance, a dish of scallops with chorizo dust and caramelized cauliflower, served in a cigar box with Cohiba smoke piped in, is an ode to his Mexican-Cuban father's leathery-smelling cigars.

Background: Coastal Grill (Virginia Beach), Citronelle (Washington, DC); August, Lüke, American Sector, Rambla (New Orleans)

Quintessential Dish: Smoked cornmeal-encrusted oysters with mustard green foam

Kitchen Gadgetry: "One of the cool things I have is an ultrasonic homogenizer. You can immerse flavors into different liquids and mediums using ultrasonic waves, almost like a really high-tech tuning fork. But at the other end of the table, there's an old-school mortar and pestle. We use both of them for different aspects in our kitchen."

Jose Mendin

Photo © Hector Torres

Jose Mendin

Restaurant: Pubbelly

Location: Miami Beach

Why He's Amazing: Because he's revitalizing Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood with this boisterous, Asian-inspired gastropub.

Background: Mercadito, Nobu, Veranda (Miami); SushiSamba (Las Vegas)

Quintessential Dish: Ramen in lemongrass and miso broth with poached egg and barbecued pork belly

How He Got Into the Food Business: He still has a frayed cookbook that belonged to his grandmother, a professional cook, but he wasn't always keen on following in her footsteps: "Before I decided to become a chef, I never cooked [a day] in my life. My parents took me out to dinner every Sunday. My dad would look at the new restaurant reviews in the Puerto Rican newspaper, and we would go all over the island to try these places."

Ryan Prewitt

Photo © Chris Granger

Ryan Prewitt

Restaurant: Pêche Seafood Grill

Location: New Orleans

Why He's Amazing: Because his deceptively simple menu, sourced largely from nearby Gulf waters, combines live-fire cooking with a nose-to-tail ethos—and to delicious effect. Case in point: his buttery, grilled Royal Red shrimp—you can even eat the legs, which have a pleasantly briny crunch.

Background: Cochon Lafayette (Lafayette, LA); Herbsaint (New Orleans)

Quintessential Dish: Whole grilled redfish with salsa verde

Guilty Pleasure Snack Food: “At the end of long car drives, when it’s all falling apart and I can’t go on, I love Corn Nuts and Mountain Dew. That combination of salty and sweet just does it for me. Corn Nuts come in like a thousand different flavors, but I like the classic salted variety. We buy them in bulk at the restaurant. They’ve become the unofficial snack food of the kitchen.”

José Santaella

Photo courtesy of Santaella

José Santaella

Restaurant: Santaella

Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Why He's Amazing: Because after years of working with some of the top chefs around the United States, he's redefining cocina criolla—the cooking of his home, Puerto Rico.

Background: Le Bernardin (New York City); Chez Michel, Gary Danko (San Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Morcilla (blood sausage) rulos (curlers), served with spicy Puerto Rican mayonnaise

On His Cooking: "My style is between classic and modern—modern Caribbean. It’s a fusion of everything. But always we have good tostones [twice-fried green plantains]."


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