The People's Best New Chef: California Contenders

At F&W, we name America’s 10 most brilliant up-and-coming chefs every year. Now we want to know who you think is the most talented new chef in America.

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At F&W, we name America’s 10 most brilliant up-and-coming chefs every year. Now we want to know who you think is the most talented new chef in America.

California, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, New York Area, Northwest & Pacific, Southeast, Southwest
California Chefs

  • Nicolas Delaroque
  • Michael Hung
  • Jessica Koslow
  • Yoni Levy
  • Ori Menashe
  • Zach Pollack
  • Evan & Sarah Rich
  • Carlos Salgado
  • Ari Weiswasser
  • Kris Yenbamroong

© Michael Short, SF Chronicle

Nicolas Delaroque

Restaurant: Nico

Location: San Francisco

Why He's Amazing: Because the French-born chef defies cooking trends and instead dishes out understated, sublime homages to his home country—at incredible bistro prices.

Background: Manresa (Los Gatos, CA); Luce (San Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Cauliflower puree with crispy egg and shaved truffle

Secret Weapon Ingredient: Verjus. “I love to season things with it; 75 percent of the time I’ll use it to bring some acidity to a dish.”

Photo courtesy of Faith & Flower.

Michael Hung

Restaurant: Faith & Flower

Location: Los Angeles

Why He's Amazing: Because his California gastropub menu, shot through with Asian and Indian flavors, draws hordes to the glamorous, 1920s-inspired Faith & Flower. Bonus reason: because he was a consulting chef for the film Ratatouille.

Background: La Folie, Bushi-Tei, Jardinière (San Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Agnolotti with braised oxtail, Chinese chile bean paste and Asian pear salsa

Guilty Pleasure Snack Food: Popeyes fried chicken. “On Tuesdays they do two pieces of dark meat for $2! I used to live in the Mission District in San Francisco, and there would literally be a line out the door for $2 Tuesdays. I’d be in that line sometimes.”


© Scott Barry

Jessica Koslow

Restaurant: Sqirl

Location: Los Angeles

Why She's Amazing: Because her sought-after jams and pickles — made with rare heirloom varieties — have transformed the way we think about preserves. And she now features them in dishes — savory and sweet — at her terrific East Hollywood café.

Background: Abattoir, Bacchanalia, Star Provisions (Atlanta)

Quintessential Dish: Kokuho Rose brown rice with sorrel pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, black radish, sheep milk feta and a poached egg

Previous Studies: Koslow has a master’s in communications, culture and technology from Georgetown University.


© Alanna Hale

Yoni Levy

Restaurant: Alta CA

Location: San Francisco

Why He's Amazing: Because San Francisco techies geek out over his quirky comfort food — like beef tendon puffs and a caraway-spiked beet salad served with hunks of boiled potato instead of goat cheese.

Background: Flora (Oakland, CA), Old Town Social, Lula Café (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Cracked wheat porridge with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and baby turnips

The Inspiration Behind the Porridge: Levy’s grandparents grew up eating the Eastern European cereal kasha. “So many cultures have porridge dishes, and I always order them when I go out,” he says. “I'm that person who mixes everything together on my plate so I can taste it all at once and feel every texture in one bite.”


© Sierra Prescott

Ori Menashe

Restaurant: Bestia

Location: Los Angeles

Why He's Amazing: Because he's a meat virtuoso: Bestia's menu offers more than 60 forms of sensational house-made charcuterie, in addition to impeccable pastas and pizza.

Background: Angelini Osteria, All'Angelo, Pizzeria Mozza, La Terza (Los Angeles)

Quintessential Dish: Cavatelli alla Norcina: ricotta dumplings with house-made pork sausage, black truffles and Grana Padano

Where He Grew Up: He was born in Los Angeles and moved to Israel at age 7.


© Dylan + Jeni

Zach Pollack

Restaurant: Alimento

Location: Los Angeles

Why He's Amazing: Because after three years at the super-cool southern Italian spot Sotto (of which he’s still part owner), he’s turned his focus toward homey northern Italian dishes at a self-financed restaurant in out-of-the-way Silver Lake.

Background: Sotto, Grace (Los Angeles); Pizzeria Ortica (Costa Mesa, CA)

Quintessential Dish: Pig in a Blanket: spelt flour pastry with mortadella, Stracchino cheese, tomato jam, pickled mustard seeds and turnip sauerkraut

Devoted Student: Pollack studied architecture at Brown University and became passionate about food while studying abroad in Florence.


© Michael O'Neal

Evan & Sarah Rich

Restaurant: Rich Table

Location: San Francisco

Why They're Amazing: Because the husband-and-wife team combines incongruous ingredients in unexpectedly delicious ways. Case in point: headcheese with coffee mustard.

Background: Both: Bouley (New York), Coi (San Francisco); Evan: Quince (San Francisco); Sarah: Michael Mina (San Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Chicken-liver mousse with pole beans and dill, topped with a pain de mie cracker. "It's a riff on the green bean casserole I had as a kid," says Evan.

On the Restaurant’s Concept: “We came into opening this restaurant and people would ask, ‘What kind of restaurant is it?’ ” says Evan. “I would say, ‘I don't know, a food restaurant?’ We don't want to change the world with our cooking. We don't want to change your idea about food. We just want you to come in and enjoy it.”


© Anne Watson Photography

Carlos Salgado

Restaurant: Taco María

Location: Costa Mesa, CA

Why He's Amazing: Because after launching a sought-after taco truck, he’s taken Mexican food in Southern California to a new level with his first restaurant, where he serves exceptional tacos by day and elegant four-course tasting menus by night.

Background: Coi (San Francisco), Commis (Oakland, CA)

Quintessential Dish: Taco de camarón: spot prawns, peanuts and purslane on a squid-ink tortilla

Family Business: Salgado grew up working at his family’s casual Mexican restaurant, La Siesta, in Orange, California. “I was their clumsiest employee,” he says.


© Tom Deininger


Ari Weiswasser

Restaurant: Glen Ellen Star

Location: Glen Ellen, CA

Why He's Amazing: Because after years of cooking in vaunted, mainly big city kitchens, he's highlighting the simple beauty of garden- and pasture-grown food in a town of 784 people.

Background: The French Laundry (Yountville, CA); Daniel (New York); Le Bec-Fin (Philadelphia)

Quintessential Dish: Brick chicken with creamy farro and green tomato "chow chow"

Wine Connection: Weiswasser's wife is Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser, of Sonoma's Benziger wine family. "We have gardens in the middle of the winery," he says. "The goal is to source as much as possible from them." Another goal: to make Glen Ellen Star "a vegetable-driven restaurant."

Photo courtesy NIGHT+MARKET.

Kris Yenbamroong

Restaurant: Night + Market Weho, Night + Market Song

Location: West Hollywood; Silver Lake, CA

Why He's Amazing: Because he created a terrific, innovative pork-centric Thai street food spot adjacent to his parents' well-respected but aging Thai restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.

Background: Talésai (West Hollywood)

Quintessential Dish: Pork toro: grilled fatty hog collar with jaew northeastern chile dip

Food Style: "In Thai, it's called aharn glam lao, which roughly translates to 'food to facilitate drinking' or 'booze food.' That's at the heart of what we do. We make food for drunkards."

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