Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2020

The 32nd class of Best New Chefs matters more than ever.
By Khushbu Shah
May 12, 2020

There is a typical structure to these types of introductions. First, the editor talks about how many places they traveled to in the creation of the list (that would be 25 for me; remember airplanes?). Then they recall how many meals they’ve eaten for research (110). Finally, there is a statement about what made this year in dining so special (Bold flavors! Casual dining has never been better!).

But there is nothing typical about 2020. By March, it had become clear that life as we knew it was on pause as the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world. Restaurants were hit fast and hard. Most had to close—some temporarily, others forever. The handful that remained open were forced to swap the intimate conviviality of the dining room for the sanitized transactions of delivery and curbside pickup. Restaurants, places of hospitality, had to become inhospitable to survive.

 So why run this list now, when restaurants as we know them are on indefinite hiatus? Since 1988, Food & Wine has recognized 31 classes of Best New Chefs—groups of 10 (or sometimes 11) chefs who make the sharpest, most forward-thinking, and satisfying food in America. For 32 years, the accolade has celebrated the best cooking of the day while heralding the culinary leaders of tomorrow.

In that respect, this year is no different. This year’s class will shape the future. They are resilient and brilliant, thoughtful and caring. They are leading their teams through unprecedented circumstances, navigating choppy waters with sheer determination and optimism as their compass. They are the people who not only will help rebuild their shattered industry, but also will eventually help it thrive in new ways—through their cooking, their resolve, and their vision for what a more equitable future in restaurants might look like.

What a strange time to be a restaurant editor, but what an honor. During my first year on the road scouting for Food & Wine, I encountered the punchy, flavor-to-the-face kind of cooking I am always chasing. I saw menus that weren’t afraid to deviate from the standard French culinary techniques. I met chefs who cared just as much about their staff and their communities as they did their food. This groundbreaking cooking and leadership are evident in all corners of the kitchen, which is why, for the first time in more than 20 years, we’re including pastry chefs in this class of BNCs.

The fallout from the pandemic has revealed new layers of strength and creativity, best embodied by this year’s class of Best New Chefs. With them at the helm, the future of dining looks brighter, fairer, and more delicious than ever before.

Food & Wine is partnering with Southern Smoke Foundation to help raise money for restaurant workers around the country who are in crisis. Please consider making a donation today.

Nick Bognar, Indo

Cedric Angeles

At Indo, in St. Louis, you will find Thai dishes next to a menu of Japanese favorites, heavy on the sushi. The chef, Nick Bognar, understands that the menu might not make sense at first. “I just want to tell people, ‘Don’t try to put a box on it.’” It’s good advice for a meal at Bognar’s table, where none of the dishes are what you might expect. They’re a testament to Bognar’s flavor-to-the-face cooking style, each dish fully loaded with punches of spicy, fishy, salty, sour, bitter, and umami flavors. Read more.

Nick Bognar’s salad of fresh shredded cabbage is a riot of flavors and textures. The tangy, spicy dressing soaks into each bite, which is punctuated with pops of sweet crunch from the quick-candied peanuts and bursts of verdant flavor from fistfuls of herbs.

Get the recipe: Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Peanuts and Fish Sauce

Cedric Angeles

Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Hestia, Emmer & Rye, Henbit, TLV, and Kalimotxo

Cedric Angeles

Tavel Bristol-Joseph is a savant when it comes to sugar, flour, and yeast: His Parker House rolls, served with a glacier of cultured butter, are more pillowy than a cumulus cloud after a thunderstorm. His plated s’mores, a dark chocolate mousse with wobbly torched meringue surrounded by a moat of coconut ash and koji cream, is the most finessed version of any dessert inspired by a campfire. But the first time he ever learned to bake, it was as a punishment. “I was not a great student growing up, and I was a bad kid,” he explains with a laugh. Read more.

Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph bakes a perfectly creamy cheesecake, without a water bath and with no risk of a cracked or sunken top, by incorporating whipped cream cheese with heavy cream to make the batter.

Get the recipe: Basque Cheesecake

Cedric Angeles

Trigg Brown, Win Son and Win Son Bakery

Gary He

Trigg Brown started working in kitchens at the age of 15 as a bored high school student in rural Virginia, looking for a way to pay for gas. He continued cooking in kitchens while studying English literature at the University of Virginia, eventually landing a job at Tom Colicchio’s Colicchio & Sons in New York City before moving onto chef Justin Smillie’s beloved Cal-Ital spot, Upland. So naturally, Brown’s next move was to open Win Son, a groundbreaking Taiwanese-American restaurant in a far-flung corner of Brooklyn, having never visited the island nation until just months before opening. Wait, what? Read more.

Clams are often covered and gently steamed until they open. Here, chef Trigg Brown cooks them uncovered over high heat to coax steam from the cooking liquid and concentrate its flavor at the same time. The result: tender, juicy clams with a rich, reduced broth in only 15 minutes.

Get the recipe: Manila Clams with Shiro Dashi and Basil

Gary He

Camille Cogswell, K'Far

Jason Varney

Kfar translates to “village” in Hebrew, and chef Camille Cogswell’s version is a culinary utopia. Her restaurant, K’Far, located on a busy corner of Rittenhouse neighborhood in Philadelphia, is a place where piping hot rings of Jerusalem bagels, shaped like lithe zeros that got stretched out at yoga class, are constantly being pulled from the ovens. (The restaurant makes around 1,300 pieces a week.) They are best slathered with butter and generous amounts of za’atar or piled with fluffy yellow scrambled eggs and brushstrokes of bright green schug, a fiery Yemenite hot sauce. It’s enough to make you forget cream cheese ever existed. Read more.

For this Yemenite bread, traditionally baked overnight for eating on the Sabbath, chef Camille Cogswell slow-bakes coiled dough until it's caramelized, giving it a richly flavored, golden-brown interior.

Get the recipe: Kubaneh Toast with Brown Sugar Ricotta and Berries

Tara Donne

Eunjo Park, Kāwi

Gary He

Eunjo Park is on a mission to get the world to respect the rice cake, the chewy Korean staple that has long been seen as the base for humble, everyday dishes. But at Kāwi, in New York City, alongside a menu of candied anchovy–stuffed kimbaps and bold, spicy raw seafood, Park chops up rice cakes like an East Asian gnocchi and showers them in Parmesan and black truffle or buries them in a jammy ragù made from extra-fatty Wagyu beef. Read more.

Chef Eunjo Park’s Pickled Vegetable Kimbap recipe combines pickled peppers and daikon, seasoned rice, and nori for a quick, fresh snack.

Get the recipe: Pickled Vegetable Kimbap

Tara Donne

Niven Patel, Ghee

Cedric Angeles

There is farm-to-table, and then there is Niven Patel’s farm to table. The chef, who now owns two restaurants and a pop-up in Miami, supplies them all with fresh produce from his own farm, a two-acre plot located 40 minutes south in Homestead, Florida, dubbed “Rancho Patel.” From these two acres come a steady supply of fresh produce that most chefs could only dream about. Read more.

Chef Niven Patel’s Kale-and-Corn Pakoras are filled with fresh corn, peppers, and garam masala.  A mix of chickpea and rice flours helps them fry up light, lacy, and extra crunchy.

Get the recipe: Kale-and-Corn Pakoras

Cedric Angeles

Daisy Ryan, Bell’s

Aubrie Pick

On a quiet stretch of road 140 miles north of Los Angeles, in Los Alamos—a place that walks the line between a small town and a ghost town—sits one of the most joyous and warm bistros in the country. But don’t call Bell’s a French restaurant. Chef and co-owner Daisy Ryan (who runs the spot with her husband, Greg) is adamant that the food she serves is “Franch.” Ask her what that means and she’ll tell you that it’s French-inspired food, but more relaxed. Read more.

Chef Daisy Ryan’s easy Beef Tenderloin Tartare with Anchovy-Cornichon Vinaigrette combines capers and cornichons with lean beef tenderloin. Freezing the beef chills the fat, making it easier to make very thin, even cuts.

Get the recipe: Beef Tenderloin Tartare with Anchovy-Cornichon Vinaigrette

Aubrie Pick

Lena Sareini, Selden Standard

Catherine Sareini

There is nothing Lena Sareini loves more than a clean plate. “I know a lot of times when people go out for dessert, it’s just an indulgence,” she says. Some might take just one or two bites before being overwhelmed with sugar. “I want to see empty plates come back.” To do this, Sareini, the pastry chef at Detroit’s Selden Standard, works savory elements—often unexpected ones—into each of her recipes. Read more.

This dessert from chef Lena Sareini is all about contrast—in temperature, texture, and flavor. Smooth and creamy panna cotta is paired with a lightly floral, lightly sweet granita for an icy, cool bite. A base of tangy, tart apricot jam and a garnish of crispy crumbled toasted baguette finishes off each plate.

Get the recipe: Labneh Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom Granita

Tara Donne

Donny Sirisavath, Khao Noodle Shop

Cedric Angeles

Every day after school from the time he was 9 years old, Donny Sirisavath filled water glasses or bussed tables at his mom’s Chinese restaurant in San Antonio. The menu was filled with Chinese and Thai dishes, even though Sirisavath’s mom was a refugee from Laos. “At the time, Lao food was not familiar and not popular,” he explains. By the time he was 20, Sirisavath wanted nothing to do with the restaurant, so he spent the better part of the next decade wandering down several career paths. Read more.

Lemongrass Skirt Steak Skewers from chef Donny Sirisavath rely on a marinade of lager beer and oyster sauce for a quick hit of flavor.

Get the recipe: Lemongrass Skirt Steak Skewers

Cedric Angeles

Douglass Williams, Mida

Michael Piazza

Douglass Williams is a master of texture, almost at a molecular level. It’s deeply apparent throughout the menu at Mida, Williams’ Italian restaurant on the border of Boston’s affluent South End and Roxbury, an African American neighborhood. Just take a look at the polenta. Williams fries the tender cornmeal bricks until golden and crunchy and crowns them with a dollop of sweet gorgonzola dolce, lemon zest, and a generous drizzle of honey. The outside remains crisp, while the inside, enriched with Parmesan and olive oil, is incredibly creamy. Read more.

Chef Douglass Williams’ method for carbonara allows you to hold the cooked pasta before adding it to the garlic–oil–pasta cooking liquid emulsion. It makes for a simple, creamy carbonara without the stress.

Get the recipe: Summer Crab Carbonara with Lemons and Capers

Michael Piazza