Bradford Thompson

Why Because he's in full control of every ingredient on his French-American menu, getting the most from each and enhancing the simplest dishes with smart flourishes.

Born Wilmington, DE, 1969.

Experience Vincent on Camelback, Phoenix; Daniel, Café Boulud and db bistro moderne, New York City.

On starting his career "I began working at a chain restaurant to pay off my University of Rochester college loans. All I'll say is that there were lots of potatoes to peel and lots of dishes to wash."

Favorite kitchen tool A chitarra—a wood frame with steel wires like guitar strings that cuts spaghetti. "It took three trips to Italy to get it. I finally found it in a hardware store in Umbria. I only use it every couple of months, but I love having it."

Most useful cookbook James Peterson's Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making. "I didn't go to cooking school, so it's a great reference for me."

Fantasy splurge Dinner at Yan Toh Heen at the InterContinental hotel in Hong Kong. "I've never been to Asia. I think it would be so cool to go to a completely foreign place when you're jet-lagged and tired, have a transportive meal and then go home and feel like it was a dream."

Most heroic moment Being part of the crew Daniel Boulud took to feed rescue workers at Ground Zero after September 11.

Won Best New Chef at: Mary Elaine's; Scottsdale, AZ