The People's Best New Chef: Northwest & Pacific Contenders

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

Zoi Antonitsas

Photo © Sarah Flotard

Zoi Antonitsas

Restaurant: Westward

Location: Seattle

Why She's Amazing: Because her fresh, festive, Mediterranean-inspired dishes (grilled octopus with skordalia, roasted Idaho trout with apricots, marcona almonds and ras el hanout) transport diners from her charming waterside restaurant on Seattle’s Lake Union to the sunny coasts of Greece.

Background: Madison Park Conservatory (Seattle); Zazu Kitchen + Farm (Sebastopol, CA); Bizou (San Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Braised Anderson Ranch lamb shoulder with herb and onion salad, pomegranate, tzatziki and pita

Alternate Career Aspiration: “To be an artist—I’m an art school dropout. I still like the idea of maybe doing children’s book illustrations someday.”

Kris Komori

Photo © Guy Hand

Kris Komori

Restaurant: State & Lemp

Location: Boise, ID

Why He's Amazing: Because he left Portland, Oregon, for Boise, Idaho, where he’s taking the town’s tiny, burgeoning dining scene to new heights: Each night, his single five-course tasting menu combines seasonal elements with, as he puts it, “tons of cool textures” (and colors and flavors) in dishes such as scallop with pea puree, grilled apricots, salted plums and truffle oil.

Background: Park Kitchen, The Bent Brick (Portland, OR)

Quintessential Dish: Sake-cured sardine with ground cherries, leek ash meringue and puffed wild rice

Hidden Talent: “You can ask me in a couple years. I just got a banjo for my birthday, so I’m terrible at it now, but I think that will develop.”

Joshua McFadden

Photo © Stuart Mullenberg

Joshua McFadden

Restaurant: Ava Gene's, Roman Candle Baking Co.

Location: Portland, OR

Why He's Amazing: Because his rustic Roman pastas and meats are fantastic, but his simple vegetable iterations—like a salad of apples, walnuts, chile and lime—are mind-bogglingly good.

Background: Franny's (Brooklyn); Lupa, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Blue Hill (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Beets, carrots, celeriac, pickled raisins and pistachio nut butter

Claim to Fame: The "infamous kale salad," as he calls it, which he "introduced" at Franny's in Brooklyn. The dish of raw Lacinato kale ribbons tossed with a garlic-and-lemon dressing and topped with breadcrumbs and pecorino has been written about on countless blogs and in the New York Times.

Garrett Melkonian

Photo courtesy of Sarah Flotard

Garrett Melkonian

Restaurant: Mamnoon

Location: Seattle

Why He's Amazing: Because he’s applying the obsessive attention to detail he learned as a pastry chef to the Middle Eastern food he grew up eating—all while donating more than $25,000 since the restaurant’s opening to Syrian refugee relief.

Background: Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle); Campton Place, Elizabeth Daniel (San Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Samkeh harra: roasted black cod with Aleppo peppers, garlic, cilantro, pine nuts, tomato and mint

What “Mamnoon” Means: “It’s ‘thankful’ in Arabic and Farsi. We focus mainly on Lebanese, Syrian and Persian cuisine, with a few Armenian dishes and a touch of Turkish influence here and there. At its very heart, it’s a union of cultures that don’t always play well together, but on any given night you have this melding of cultures in the restaurant because of what the restaurant does. You’ll have a group of people from Lebanon sitting two tables down from people of Iranian cultures.”

Bonnie Morales

Photo © Kachka

Bonnie Morales

Restaurant: Kachka

Location: Portland, OR

Why She's Amazing: Because she has translated the often monotonous Soviet-era dishes she grew up with (she’s the first-generation American daughter of immigrants from Belarus) into a bevy of terrific and fun shared plates called zakuski: pickled, cured and house-made sour-cream-smeared delights that wash down quite nicely with swigs of Kachka’s 50-plus vodkas.

Background: Tru, Moto (Chicago); Craft (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Open-face Baltic sprat sandwich: smoked fish, hard-boiled eggs, parsley and mayonnaise on smetana butter-fried pumpernickel toast

Mentor: Her mother. “I look to her for inspiration, and she’s a pretty damn good cook. The amount of food that she puts out for 30 of our closest relatives is really impressive, so I think she could hold her own on the line if she was ever put in that position. I learned from her to over-prepare and cook for three times more people than you think you need to.”

Sarah Pliner

Photo © John Valls

Sarah Pliner

Restaurant: Aviary

Location: Portland, OR

Why She's Amazing: Because she's injecting fun and creativity into Portland's already successful farm-to-table model. Her unexpected yet winning ingredient combinations include fried chicken skin, bitter greens, watermelon and baba ghanoush.

Background: Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, Tocqueville, Tabla, Socialista, Aldea (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Crispy pig's ear with coconut rice, Chinese sausage and avocado

Advice for Young Chefs: "Cook as much as you can at home, play with spices and flavors and try things that you don't think would work...You need to hone your palate on what works together and why it works together. Every time you make something bad, you'll come up with an idea for something that's good."

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.”

Johanna Ware

Photo courtesy of Smallwares

Johanna Ware

Restaurant: Smallwares

Location: Portland, OR

Why She's Amazing: Because she's shaking up Portland's food scene with her fiery, Asian-accented small plates.

Background: Public, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar (New York City); Nostrana (Portland, OR)

Quintessential Dish: Scallop sashimi with ají amarillo, lychee and pink peppercorns

What She’d Be If She Wasn’t a Chef: A poet. "I'm probably a better cook, but I would love to do food writing later on in my career."

Ian Wilson

Photo © Carlie Armstrong

Ian Wilson

Restaurant: Fenrir

Location: Portland, OR

Why He's Amazing: Because at 25, he’s been a coffee roaster and cooked at a brewery, and now he’s opened his own Scandinavian-leaning small-plates restaurant, where Portlanders are loving his regionally sourced, pickled and fermented offerings.

Background: 2nd Story (Portland, OR)

Quintessential Dish: Bone marrow with charred radicchio, mustard caviar and toasted bread

Where the Restaurant’s Name Comes From: “Fenrir was the name of a giant wolf demi-god from Norse mythology. We’re sort of loosely Scandinavian, and we didn’t want to call it something too myth-heavy and ridiculous like Thor’s Hammer or something.”

Justin Woodward

Photo © Susan Seubert

Justin Woodward

Restaurant: Castagna

Location: Portland, OR

Why He's Amazing: Because he's a vegetable fanatic dedicated to Oregon ingredients, a modern sensibility and the traditions of Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon.

Background: WD-50 (New York City), L'Auberge Del Mar (Del Mar, CA)

Quintessential Dish: Asparagus with sorrel and pine needles

Insider Tip: Be sure to request the off-the-menu dessert flight. Woodward worked under modernist dessert master Alex Stupak at New York City's WD-50, and his sweets are as sublime as they are beautiful.

The Dish
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