The People's Best New Chef: Midwest Contenders

Food & Wine: The People's Best New Chef: Midwest
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

Paul Berglund

Photo © Greg Jansen

Paul Berglund

Restaurant: The Bachelor Farmer

Location: Minneapolis

Why He's Amazing: Because he's redefining Nordic cooking in Minnesota with his sophisticated and modern treatment of its humble ingredients.

Background: Oliveto (Oakland, CA), Rustica Bakery (Minneapolis), Heartland Restaurant (St. Paul)

Quintessential Dish: Poached eggs, braised celery root, savoy spinach and porcini whey

Former Career: Officer in the US Navy

Ryan Brazeal

Photo © Paul Andrews, courtesy of KC Magazine

Ryan Brazeal

Restaurant: Novel

Location: Kansas City, MO

Why He's Amazing: Because he's brought a refined sensibility to seasonal Midwestern ingredients in dishes like chilled corn soup with seaweed, fermented crab paste, marinated clams and jalapeño.

Background: Má Pêche, Allen & Delancey, Nobu 57 (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Crispy egg with tripe, chipotle and bacon hush puppies

On Foodies Photographing Their Meals: While he allows diners to snap shots of his food, Brazeal would rather they enjoy it in person. "It's not some ethereal, otherworldly experience. It's a restaurant."

Jim Christiansen

Photo © Sonia Prickett

Jim Christiansen

Restaurant: Heyday

Location: Minneapolis

Why He's Amazing: Because—inspired by foraged-food temples Noma (in Copenhagen) and Fäviken (in rural Sweden)—he’s embracing a hyperseasonal, close-to-home ingredient philosophy in the Midwest, and the results are playful, gorgeous and exquisitely flavorful.

Background: Il Gatto, La Belle Vie, Sea Change (Minneapolis)

Quintessential Dish: Lamb tartare with sunchoke mayonnaise, pickled elderberry-flower buds and fried artichoke chips

Rookie Mistake: “I was cooking at Solera in Minneapolis, and two of my chefs told me not to use a blowtorch in the basement, but I was 24 years old and of course I was blowtorching dishes in the basement on a Saturday night, with 200 guests in the restaurant. Suddenly one of the chefs came downstairs and yelled, ‘What the hell are you doing? Everyone’s on the street!’ Never blowtorch near a fire alarm.”

Tim Dahl

Photo courtesy of Tim Dahl

Tim Dahl

Restaurant: Nostrano

Location: Madison, WI

Why He's Amazing: Because although he trained as a pastry chef, Dahl's Italian-inflected savory dishes are incredibly spot-on.

Background: Blackbird, Avec, NoMI (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Seafood brodetto in chile oil-spiked tomato broth

On Learning the Value of Simplicity: "I think as most chefs progress, they find that simplicity is where it's at. I need three things on a plate, and that's it. When you're younger and more inexperienced, you want to keep adding more and more and more because you think that's going to make it better, when that's what's holding you back."

Dan Fox

Photo © Nicole Peaslee

Dan Fox

Restaurant: Heritage Tavern

Location: Madison, WI

Why He's Amazing: Because not only is his Asian-accented cooking both hearty and refined, he also raises his own heritage pigs.

Background: The Madison Club (Madison); Spring, Everest (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Fried suckling pig leg and blackfin tuna sashimi (with lomo-roasted potatoes, chicharrones, caramelized vegetables, Bibb lettuce and Korean chile paste)

Heritage Hogs: Fox is the founder and owner of Fox Heritage Farms in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, where he raises Mangalitsas, Swabian-Halls and seven other old-fashioned hog varieties.

Thomas Hauck

Photo © Kevin J. Miyazaki

Thomas Hauck

Restaurant: C. 1880

Location: Milwaukee

Why He's Amazing: Because, with a résumé that includes cooking at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France and several years with Michel Richard at Citronelle in Washington, DC, he’s luring Milwaukee diners out of their comfort zones with dishes such as coffee-and-chile-pepper-crusted venison served alongside cabbage and Bosc pear slaw.

Background: Le Globe (Perpignan, France), l'Essentiel (Chambéry, France), Citronelle (Washington, DC), Mason Street Grill (Milwaukee)

Quintessential Dish: Lamb with baba ghanoush and pita panzanella

Hometown Pride (and Humility): "We do things really well here [in Milwaukee], but we don't bang our chests and brag. [But] we can compete with anyone. We've got it here. Great beer, great meats, great farmers."

Thomas Kim

Photo © Joy Estelle Summers

Thomas Kim

Restaurants: The Rabbit Hole, The Left Handed Cook

Location: Minneapolis

Why He's Amazing: Because, after a single visit to Minneapolis in 2012, he moved there from his native California (where he’d cooked with sushi master Jin Suzuki) and opened a restaurant where he specializes in addictive Korean-American gastropub food.

Background: Roy’s (Pasadena, CA); The Standing Room (Redondo Beach, CA); Sai Sai Noodle Bar at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel (Los Angeles)

Quintessential Dish: Poutine with pork belly, curry gravy, poached egg and kimchi aioli

Mama’s Boy: Kim still uses his mother’s kimchi recipe. “One of my first memories is making mandu (Korean pot stickers) and kimchi with her in huge batches for church. I remember huge jars of kimchi fermenting, and my friends would think they were dead bodies or something. I was embarrassed as a little kid, but now I’ve grown to appreciate it.”

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.”

Ben Poremba

Photo © Greg Rannells

Ben Poremba

Restaurants: Elaia, Olio

Location: St. Louis

Why He's Amazing: Because he ingeniously serves upscale and rustic interpretations of Mediterranean ingredients in side-by-side restaurants. And the food is delicious.

Background: The Maryland House (St. Louis)

Quintessential Dish: Elaia: Sunchoke soup with black truffle sabayon and crispy leeks; Olio: Burrata with black pepper, ajwain seeds and maple syrup

Meat Epiphany: Poremba did a short stint at the Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche in Parma, Italy. "Being from Israel, I wasn't exposed to pork and discovered it during my stay in Italy. Pork there is used nose to tail, especially in salumi making. Salt and time can turn something—a piece of ham—into something amazing."

Patrick Ryan

Photo © Lyndon Wade/The Wade Brothers

Patrick Ryan

Restaurant: Port Fonda

Location: Kansas City, MO

Why He's Amazing: His food truck was such a sensation, he had to open a restaurant to meet the demand for his deftly spiced regional Mexican cooking.

Background: Frontera Grill, Topolobampo (Chicago); Room 39, The River Club (Kansas City, MO)

Quintessential Dish: Tacos de lengua (braised beef tongue)

What’s Banned in His Kitchen: Black chef coats, combat boots, Zubaz pants (garishly patterned baggy pants from the '90s) and floppy chef hats.

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