Christophe Emé

Why Because after working in some of the best kitchens in Paris, he's bringing that rigorous French training to laid-back Los Angeles—and creating dishes with an infectious sense of playfulness.

Born Baugé, France; 1969.

Education Centre de Formation d'Apprentis, Angers, France.

Experience Michel Rostang, Laurent and Taillevent in Paris; L'Orangerie in Los Angeles.

First kitchen job "I was an apprentice in a hotel restaurant in western France. When you're only 16 and you don't chop the vegetables right, the older chefs treat you terribly. Once, the manager got so upset with my carrot salad, he slapped me. Now you can't do that, but then you could."

Most memorable experience Taillevent's 50th anniversary dinner. "All the Michelin three-star chefs were there—from France, Belgium, Spain. I especially remember Paul Bocuse. To be 25 and to see all those big, big stars, it was amazing."

Ingredient obsession Cilantro. "You can do so many things with it. I don't need 140 spices in my kitchen. Some people think having all those ingredients makes them artists; I think they're fashion victims."

What he'd be if he weren't a chef A restaurant designer. "I love to set tables, to do the flowers...I love that."

Won Best New Chef at: Ortolan; Los Angeles