What it Feels Like to Learn You're a Best New Chef

Here, the 2014 F&W Best New Chefs tell how they felt when they first heard the news that they'd be joining the ranks of legendary chefs.

For more than 25 years, Food & Wine has been finding new, incredible talents and showcasing them as F&W Best New Chefs. Alums include Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Barbara Lynch and April Bloomfield. Here, the 2014 F&W Best New Chefs tell how they felt when they first heard the news that they'd be joining the ranks of legendary chefs.

“I thought it was a joke, actually. Because when Dana said the reveal was on April 1, I was like, some one’s got to be joking. It’s something I had been dreaming about for a very long time. I felt a mixture of impending doom and elation.” –Justin Yu; Oxheart, Houston

“I was excited.” –Walker Stern; Dover, Brooklyn

“I was super excited.” –Joe Ogrodnek; Dover, Brooklyn

“I saw a New York telephone number come up on my cellphone and I’d always dreamt about Dana Cowin being on the other end of it. So when I answered it and it was Dana Cowin, I was really taken aback and I wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted. I thought maybe she wanted a reservation or maybe she was coming to town. I just couldn’t believe that’s what she was calling about. It was pretty mind blowing. I had a hard time finding the words.” –Greg Denton; Ox, Portland, OR

“I was pretty stunned. I was out to lunch eating sushi and I didn’t take the first phone call because I had food in my mouth. Dana didn’t leave a message but then a couple of minutes later my husband called and I picked up and he was super emotional, he was crying. He said, 'We just got some really, really good news and he told me and I couldn’t believe it.' At that point I was outside of the restaurant and saying, 'Shut up! Really?!' He finally convinced me that he wasn’t messing with me. I just got really nervous and completely lost my appetite. I had to go back in and cancel the rest of my order and go take a walk. You just know that Best New Chefs is always the best of the best and all of a sudden there’s that anxiety of knowing you have to be better than you are now. We have to live up to and surpass people’s expectations because this is a huge thing.” –Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton; Ox, Portland, OR

“I was shocked. I think I probably said 'holy shit.'” –Ari Taymor; Alma, Los Angeles

“I don’t think I said anything for a second. Then I felt embarrassed because I hadn’t said anything.” –Cara Stadler; Tao Yuan, Brunswick, ME

“I was surprised. You never expect to get that call. I had a lot going on so I was in the middle of stuff and then I got this phone call and then I went back to whatever I was doing. I got home and was like, huh, forgot about that call.” –Dave Beran; Next, Chicago

“I think I said a four-letter word followed by another four-letter word.” –Matt McCallister; FT33, Dallas

“I was speechless. It’s such an amazing life event. Best New Chefs has been around since 1988. The first class included Thomas Keller, who is one of my mentors. I realized I had climbed into a certain echelon and it was overwhelming.” –Matthew Accarrino; SPQR, San Francisco

“I’m a pretty quiet dude when good things happen so I just took it all in, sat in my office and smiled. Then went to work.” –Paul Qui; Qui, Austin

“I sat there and took it all in. it was like one of those Hollywood flashbacks—I saw my whole career in my head. It was always something that I silently worked toward. You hope that if you do the work you’ll get recognition. It’s nice.” –Eli Kulp; Fork, Philadelphia

Related: Class of 2014: Show Your #BNCFace!
10 Party Recipes from Past Best New Chefs
25 Incredible Recipes from 25 Best New Chef All-Stars

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