Eric Michel Klein

Why Because he brings a European sensibility to American cooking, sometimes adding influences from Alsace and Germany, including venison steaks and ice wine.

Born Colmar, Alsace-Lorraine, France, 1973.

Education Storck hotel school, Guebwiller, France.

Experience Schillinger, France; Holzschopf, Germany; Röckenwagner, Aubergine, Chinois and Spago Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

Why he became a chef "I grew up on a cattle farm; my mom is a butcher and my dad raises cattle. In the spring and summer I'd farm, in the fall I'd butcher meat, and in the winter I'd fix tractors. We never had any vacations. My parents told me to be a chef so I could have time off."

Most unlikely source of inspiration "I use Junior League cookbooks, because they help me understand American cooking."

Favorite activities Gardening and fixing cars and motorcycles. "It comes from fixing the tractors."

Favorite kitchen tool His tasting spoon. "It's a big soupspoon from Aubergine that I've had for eight years. I take a spoon from every restaurant I've worked for, but this is my favorite. My essentials are an apron, a jacket, a towel and my spoon. Oh yeah, and my two suitcases of knives."

Advice to future cooks "You can learn from anyone in a restaurant kitchen, whether it's the chef or the guy washing vegetables."

Won Best New Chef at: Maple Drive; Los Angeles (closed)