Background Born in New York City. Trained at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Worked at Aqua in San Francisco; Daniel in New York City; and the French Laundry in Yountville, California.
What he's done that no other American has done Won the Japanese Iron Chef competition. "At least once a week people take pictures with me. It's embarrassing."
Worst day of his life The opening of the French Laundry. "It was like the Titanic. We were so disorganized. We didn't even have sauté pans."
Dish he could eat every day Ice cream.
What he eats at 1 A.M. Refrigerated leftovers. "It has to be cold. I don't like to cook when I get home."
Weirdest thing he's ever eaten Grilled chicken "breast plate" at a bar in Japan after winning the Iron Chef contest. "During the whole meal I kept saying, 'I'm not hungry.'"
Food vice Bread and butter. "I wait for the bread guy every day and immediately make a bread-and-butter sandwich."
Favorite kitchen tool Artist's palette knife. "To flip fish and meat and anything else I think of."
What he'd be if he weren't a chef A farmer.
Recipe tip Don't depend on a thermometer to know when meat is done. Poke it. If it feels like mush, it's rare. If a little blood comes out, it's medium rare. If it feels like a baseball bat, it's well done and you're in trouble.
Won Best New Chef at: Charles Nob Hill, San Francisco (closed)
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.