Michael Gulotta of MoPho in New Orleans is a 2016 F&W Best New Chef
Where: MoPho, New Orleans
514 City Park Ave.; 504-482-6845; mophonola.com
Why Gulotta is amazing: He's turning out awesome, Delta-inspired Vietnamese food—like pho with oxtail and mustard greens—in a casual strip-mall restaurant that explores the seafood traditions around both Southeast Asia and the American South.
Résumé: August, New Orleans; travel/guest chef roles in Germany at Spielweg and in Liguria, Italy; Marisol, New Orleans
Education: Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA
Quintessential dish: Red pepper jelly clams, braised with white wine, mint, pepper jelly and coconut milk, and served with beignets. "It's a Southeast Asian dish reinterpreted through Louisiana."
Why Gulotta doesn't call MoPho a pho joint: Gulotta is a huge fan of coconut milk—his go-to brand is Chaokoh, for its balance of cream to water—but he realizes that it's not a traditional Vietnamese ingredient. "We don't call MoPho a Vietnamese restaurant anymore because my friends come in and say, 'You use way too much coconut milk to call this Vietnamese.' We just do what we do."
Neighborhood party: Every Saturday, Gulotta roasts a whole pig on the restaurant's patio and serves it with sides like crispy smoked cracklings, spicy pickles and Creole cream cheese roti.
Favorite cookbook: Made in Italy by Giorgio Locatelli. "I am a fan of great storytelling in cookbooks, and the way he describes his youth in Italy reminds me of my own memories growing up in south Louisiana. It also transports me back to my time working in Piedmont and Liguria."
Most beloved kitchen tools: "We have two mortar and pestles: a stone one for our curries and a clay one for our som tam salad. They get a ton of use. They're the opposite of trendy and hip, but it's pretty damn cool to see the newfound respect everyone in the kitchen has for grinding things by hand."
New restaurant: The Italian spot Tana, located within a cocktail lounge. Gulotta smartly incorporates Southern grains and vegetables into the food of his family's homeland, Liguria, turning out pasta like garganelli made with freshly milled corn.
Next mission: To work with New Orleans's Vietnamese fishing community to create a locavore fish sauce.
Three items you'll always find in his fridge: Herb puree ("You can always drizzle it on a piece of bread"); cheese—"like a wash-rind, really fatty Munster-style, something salty, funky and creamy that you can dip bread into"; and "some kind of chutney."
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