Heritage Radio Break: The Impact of F&W Best New Chefs
In honor of this week's 2016 Best New Chefs reveal, F&W editor Nilou Motamed visited Heritage Radio's "The Front Burner" with Jimmy Bradley and Andrew Friedman to discuss the platform's lasting impact since launching in 1988, three years before the James Beard Awards. Joining in the conversation: new recruits Jeremiah Stone and Fabian Von Hauske of Contra and Wildair in NYC as well as BNC alums Tom Valenti (1990) and Katie Button (2015).
You can listen to the full audio above to hear more about the impact of joining a club that includes now-legends like Thomas Keller, Nancy Silverton and Nobu Matsuhisa—as well as how the latest nominees reflect the current state of the culinary world. Here are just some of the highlights:
"The magazine's issue on the Best New Chefs is one that I would flip through every year pining for, thinking 'Oh gosh, how amazing would that be?!'” remembered Button, the chef of Cúrate and The Nightbell in Asheville, North Carolina. And then it happened. "My Twitter exploded with messages from tons of former Best New Chefs, people that I greatly admire like David Chang...It felt like you were joining a family but also getting recognized by your peers. Being a part of that club is pretty special."
Stone echoed the desire to be included in the annual issue: "It’s a kind of cover that grabs your eye. There’s a bunch of people in chef coats so if you’re in the industry in anyway you’re like, what is this? You think, 'this is another level, I want to be on there one day.'"
"Leading up to my award in 1990, previous years had inspired me to think of making culinary pilgrimages to such exotic lands as Berkley, L.A. or Chicago. It inspired a wide-eyed wonderment. I wanted to know what these people were doing. How different regions were performing--were they French-trained? American-trained? This was before information was so readily available," said Valenti, formerly of Ouest in New York.
"The idea of these very young chefs as entrepreneurs is something we’re really seeing on the list: mini empies that they’ve already put together. Two have done TED Talks. Three started restaurants in their own homes...Seeing Food & Wine and the success of Best New Chefs along the way helps communicate that you can go from one restaurant to being an empire builder," said Motamed. The sheer immensity of the talent that’s represented—and the fact that you all are a part of that history—is incredible."
"Food & Wine is giving you a platform and you need to decide what you’re going to do with that. And I'm in that moment where I need to find my voice and decide where I want to be," said Button. "The best thing that’s happened is that I feel like I have Food & Wine in my corner...It’s a commitment they’re making to the chefs. Not just this one-time award," said Button.
Quotes have been edited for clarity.