Why Because he's almost single-handedly energizing the dining scene in Kansas City, bringing urbane food to the land of barbecue and creating excellent, extremely personal American dishes.
Born Harrisonville, MO; 1974.
Experience The American Restaurant in Kansas City, MO; Tru in Chicago; Röckenwagner in Santa Monica, CA.
Career turning point Dropping out of culinary school. "I went to cooking school at a community college, but I wasn't doing well. Then I got a job at a place called the Stolen Grill and I just dived right in. Thank goodness I dropped out of school."
Most humbling moment His first night at Tru. "I'd never seen the attitude, the discipline before. I walked in from a kitchen with four guys to one with 20 pros. When people had a five-second break, they swept the floor. It didn't take me long to pick up a broom. But when you're sweeping, the cooks yell at you not to brush their feet."
Biggest motivator His wife, Megan, the pastry chef at Bluestem. "When I get complacent, she'll start ripping up the storeroom."
His dream restaurant "I want to have a place where everything is perfectthe service, the kitchen, the menu. I'd like to do the kind of fine dining that you see in big cities."
Won Best New Chef at: Bluestem; Kansas City, MO
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.