F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: Graham Elliot, Graham Elliot Bistro, Grahamwich (Chicago)
Experience: The Mansion on Turtle Creek (Dallas); Jackson House Inn & Restaurant (Woodstock, VT); Charlie Trotter’s, Tru, Avenues (Chicago)
Education: Johnson & Wales University
Recipe you’re most famous for?
Our foie-lipops, which are our foie gras lollipops encrusted in Pop Rocks candy and sea salt. We decided that foie was kind of a gateway drug for offal. How best to get people to try it? Put it on a stick.
What should beginner cooks learn first?
How to do eggs perfectly. You’re learning how to control heat.
What’s your best-bang-for-the-buck ingredient?
Citrus in general—not any one in particular. Clementines, grapefruits, oranges.
What is the most cherished souvenir?
I have a piece of the Bonnet stove from Charlie Trotter’s restaurant. We did a dinner party there for his final night. I guess someone was cleaning the stove afterward and the burner broke, so they gave me a piece. Gavin Kaysen is known for stealing spoons—he has like a thousand spoons.
What is your talent, besides cooking?
I sing and play guitar. If you go to any of the websites for our restaurants, it’s all my music that’s playing.
When you were learning to cook, was there someone you considered a food mentor?
Matthias Merges, so much so that my son’s middle name is Matthias. I worked for him at Charlie Trotter’s for about three years. I learned everything: to become one with the ingredients, cook by the season, be spontaneous, think on your feet, think for yourself. A good chef doesn’t dirty his apron in the kitchen or out of the kitchen. I still look up to him. He’s gone on to open a new place called Yusho in Chicago.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
Becoming a Chef, by Dornenburg and Page. Probably the first book where I understood what independent chef-driven restaurants were, and who these chefs around the country were. That started me on the journey.
What cooking technique will people be talking about in five years?
Beware the wok: It’s coming!
Why Because his cooking is personal, delicious and adventurousand he's brave and talented enough to turn oats into an improbably wonderful side dish for quail.
Born Seattle, 1977.
Education Johnson & Wales University, Norfolk, VA.
Experience The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas; Charlie Trotter's and TRU, Chicago.
Most humbling moment "At Charlie Trotter's, I sent out a vegetable terrine with the plastic wrap still on. Charlie made me go out to the dining room and apologize."
Favorite warm-weather activity Foraging for wild mushrooms, asparagus and ginger. "I tell guests it was picked 100 yards outside of the restaurant."
Ingredient obsession Unusual spices, like black cardamom, fenugreek and amla (Indian gooseberry).
What he loves about his menu "Jackson House's owner, Carl Delnegro, really believes in me. If I wanted to juice a beef tenderloin and serve a glass of it, Carl would say 'Great.'"
Favorite kitchen tools A small offset spatula and a Palm Pilot. "It's awesome for helping me keep track of different vendors, plus orders and schedules."
Most memorable meal The 50-course 20th-anniversary dinner at Spain's El Bulli in 2002.
Won Best New Chef at: The Jackson House Inn; Woodstock, VT
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.