Laurent Gras

Why Because his cosmopolitan riffs on French cuisine display a restless imagination and masterful skill.

Born Antibes, France, 1965.

Education École Hôtelière, Nice, France.

Experience Peacock Alley, New York City; Restaurant Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy, Paris.

How he describes his food "It's grounded in French technique but with more powerful, exciting flavors."

Guilty pleasure The pastrami sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen in New York City, especially on Sundays in winter."

Where he would eat on a $1,000 budget El Bulli in Rosas, Spain. "A lot of chefs seem to be copying Ferran Adrià. I want to go there and see what's going on."

Where he would eat on a $10 budget New York Noodle Town in Manhattan's Chinatown.

About his recipe For his lamb marinated in jasmine tea with sweet pea sauce, Gras suggests using a young lamb. "It should havea soft flavor." Gras buys his jasmine tea from Ten Ren in San Francisco (www.tenren.com lists store locations throughout the United States). "I use the $60-per-pound tea for the recipe, but for drinking, I'll usually go ahead and spend $100 per pound."

Won Best New Chef at: Fifth Floor, San Francisco