jordana-rothman-portrait-fwcooks-0119.jpg
jordana-rothman-portrait-fwcooks-0119.jpg

Jordana Rothman

Jordana Rothman is a seasoned writer and editor, with a focus on American restaurant culture and a commitment to empowering marginalized voices in the food space. As Restaurant Editor at Large at Food & Wine, she spends half the year on the road researching the magazine’s Best New Chefs platform, now in its 31st year. In 2015 Jordana co-authored her first book, Tacos: Recipes + Provocations, with chef Alex Stupak of New York's Empellón restaurants; it was nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award and three IACP cookbook awards, even though she slipped a "Hail Satan" into the recipe index. Jordana also once challenged competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi to a hot dog eating contest. She lost.
From a hauntingly beautiful bowl of pasta to a spectacular salad worth donning a bib for, these outstanding dishes stayed on our Restaurant Editor-at-Large Jordana Rothman's mind long after the last plates were cleared.
Advertisement
From a neighborhood charmer in Philly to a hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don't-care NOLA butcher shop to some of the best restaurants in NYC, here are the 10 best new places to eat in America right now.
The hunt for the 31st annual class of Best New Chefs turned up 10 rising stars who are lighting the way forward for American cuisine.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Super-Slow Scrambies
Rating: Unrated
3
You could call them scrambled eggs, although that word doesn't really do them justice. They're scrambled, yes, in technical terms, but more so coaxed—led gently through the cooking process with saintlike patience. I prefer to call them Slow Scrambies, and they're a staple dish in the a.m. ritual I've dubbed #baroquebreakfast. Slow Scrambies are a morning indulgence nonpareil, not only because they are suffused with lots of good French butter, but also because making and eating them is a shamelessly decadent use of an hour. Everything about Slow Scrambies is an exercise in intention, starting with the eggs I get at the Greenmarket in my neighborhood each week—always a half dozen so nothing sits in my fridge too long. Whisking in a few spoonfuls of cream before cooking (or a scoop of ricotta afterwards) dials up the decadence, but they'll get plenty creamy without it. Note that the less you stir while they're in the pan, the larger the curd; I like to whisk them consistently so the end result has the texture of soft polenta.When everything's ready, I drag my favorite sunny yellow chair over to the window where a few prisms catch the morning light, throwing trippy little rainbows around my kitchen.From there I sip coffee while keeping an eye on the Scrambies, checking in to break up the curds and make sure that my how-low-can-you-go flame hasn't given up the ghost. Whether I'm making Scrambies, or my other other-top favorites Oatsies and Toasties, #baroquebreakfast and all its languid trappings is a gift to myself from myself of my most rare commodity—time.
For working chefs like Kristen Kish of Austin’s Arlo Grey, the tickets don’t stop coming in on Turkey Day. Unable to travel to her family this year, Kristen brought Thanksgiving to her restaurant.
I was in a strip mall in Los Angeles when the proverbial light switched on. My friend was late to dinner. I was due on a red-eye, and, my god, what's a girl got to do to get a drink in this place? BYOB, you say? Oh. Fantastic. Point is, I wasn't feeling especially sunny when the steamed fish arrived at my table at Kato. But that smell was something to feel good about—scallion, soy sauce, and roasted ginger oil. "Good thing you made it," I heckled my tardy date after a bite or two, "because this is a Best New Chef." The class of 2018 was taking shape.The road to Best New Chefs doesn't always look like that, of course. Eureka moments are part of the magic, but there are also the quiet riots, the chefs who surprise you, and the ones you eighty-six until you wake up in a cold sweat and realize you had it all wrong. The thing is, parsing through America's most captivating emerging culinary talent gets harder every year. As more up-and-comers enter the kitchen, the pool of cooks with fewer than five years of head chef experience gets deeper, weirder, and more exhilarating. And then there's the matter of Best New Chefs itself—a proud, gorgeous, 300-pound gorilla that incurs more weight with each passing year. That the franchise's 30th anniversary happened to coincide with an unprecedented cultural reckoning in the restaurant industry only made our choices this year feel more meaningful.Since 1988, Food & Wine Best New Chefs have reflected the American way of eating and shaped the future of food (see "The Tastemakers"). This year's class is no different. Taken together, these chefs represent the country's best restaurant cooking right now and offer a clarion call for the kind of future we'd like to see: one that celebrates character, commitment, and imagination on and off the plate; amplifies all kinds of voices; and is always, of course, full of dazzling things to eat.
Measure your life in takeoffs and touchdowns and you pick up some funky lessons. You come to memorize which airport terminals have yoga rooms because they're the best places to nap through a flight delay. You have a favorite seat on a 757, another on a 737, and you even stop panicking in prop planes—those beer cans with wings that wobble with every gust like a fawn taking its first steps. You train yourself to keep pace with your home time zone, even if it means banging out a few hundred words at 3 a.m. on Oahu, before the sun flips the switch over Honolulu Harbor. Instead of counting sheep on a red eye, you teach yourself all the lyrics to Drake's "Back to Back" and it stays in your head for five months until you exorcise it at a karaoke bar in New York City.This is life on the road as Food & Wine Restaurant Editor, a post that's taken me, over the past six months, across 37,000 miles and through countless dining rooms, all in the service of finding the year's most captivating places to eat. These are turbulent times in America, and for the restaurant business itself. Revelations of harassment in high-profile kitchens have forced the industry into a long-overdue reckoning. So it felt exactly right as I hopscotched around the country, that the most resonant places offered more than unforgettable food. Yes, there was smooth chicken liver mellowed with Cognac, and bright green chermoula drenching silvery sardines, and an omelet so simple and fine and thoroughly French it could lead a séance for Paul Bocuse. But what struck me most was how many chefs seem to be reckoning with complicated notions of home and identity, untangling it all in beautiful ways on the dinner plate.Among the 10 restaurants you'll discover in the Restaurants of the Year is Junebaby from Edouardo Jordan, a Florida-raised chef with Georgian roots, who was troubled by the lack of Black representation in the Southern food movement. His Seattle hit is as delicious an experience as it is an eye-opening one. Here, versions of poverty foods like chitlins and hog maw live alongside the more ubiquitous biscuits and pimento cheese, honoring the fraught history of Southern cuisine. At Reem's in Oakland, California, I was moved by Reem Assil, a Syrian and Palestinian chef who uses food to cultivate understanding for the Arab experience in America. In Austin was another interpretation of first-gen life, from Texas-raised Japanese chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto. At their izakaya Kemuri Tatsu-ya, they explore the role of smoke in both of the cultures that shaped them, conjuring an imaginary world where Tokyo cowboys slurp ramen noodles after quick-draw duels.In the end, the restaurants we fell in love with this year were the ones that delivered a rich portrait of the people who made them—where they're from, where they've been, where they are now. On this journey of our own, they reminded us that we may be shaped by the things we pick up on the road, but there can be just as much power in finding a way to bring it all back home.
Advertisement
In a city that treasures its historic restaurants, restaurant editor Jordana Rothman finds a few upstarts gunning for progress.
Food & Wine spent the holiday beside the water protectors of the North Dakota prairie—the site of one of the largest Native-led demonstrations in American history.
In the fall of 2012, Food & Wine tasked me with wrangling hundreds of chefs for a large-scale interview project. I was just coming off a hyperlocal food editor gig at a New York weekly, and the work was a chance to broaden my knowledge of national culinary talent. I spoke with chefs doing honest work in their regions, such as Landon Schoenefeld of Haute Dish in Minneapolis, and Kevin Sousa who was using his Pittsburgh restaurants as engines for urban renewal. And, of course, I spoke with the heavyweights—David Kinch, Charlie Palmer, Grant Achatz, who talked my ear off for two hours about sherry vinegar and Sleep No More. The sea-change chefs. The kahunas.And then there was Judy Rodgers. Read more >
Just as bartenders have evolved to become more knowledgeable and engaged with their craft, so too have bar patrons. But not every bar—nor every barkeep—can keep up. Pay attention and you might spot a few surefire signs: If your bartender mixes a classic daiquiri with bottled sour mix, or shakes a Manhattan (a drink that should invariably be stirred) it’s an indication you ought to stick to the basics. We talked to a few cocktail industry vets to suss out other harbingers of doom behind the bar. Read more >