Kelly English

Best New Chef 2009: Kelly English
Photo courtesy of Kelly English

Why he won Because he’s as adept at preparing stunning, seasonal dishes as he is at reinventing French-Creole standouts, like Natchitoches meat pies.

Born 1978 Raised New Orleans

Education The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.

Experience Restaurant August and Lüke, New Orleans; La Provence, Lacombe, LA.

Career turning point “When I told my dad, who’s a lawyer, that I wanted to go to culinary school instead of law school, he was surprisingly excited. He took me to August in New Orleans—we had gnocchi in fennel cream with crab and truffles, and from that first bite, I knew. That dish changed my life.”

How he decided to open Iris “I was in Memphis with my now-wife, Angela, and I heard about a space that was for sale, a local institution called La Tourelle. Inside, there was a stained-glass fleur-de-lys [a New Orleans symbol]. We went outside and there was a rainbow. I said, ‘What’s next, a unicorn?’ ”

Culinary inheritance “When my grandmother died, my father and his sisters created a cookbook of all her recipes. We’re an eating family, I’m telling you.”