Eric Ziebold

Why Because his tantalizing contemporary-American menu is both ambitious and accessible, with charming comfort-food touches—chips and dip with caviar, ricotta cheese dumplings, mini Parker House rolls.

Born Ames, IA; 1972.

Education The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

Experience Vidalia in Washington, D.C.; Spago in Los Angeles; The French Laundry in Yountville, CA.

Toughest rite of passage "I was on the wrestling team in high school. A big part of wrestling is cutting weight. The night before a meet, I'd wander through the grocery store making a list of everything I'd buy when the weigh-in was over."

Pet peeve Chefs who tuck their kitchen towels under their arms. "When you hold your towel under your arm, you're essentially one-handed. Just tuck the towel in your apron."

Ingredient obsession Espelette, a Basque pepper. "I have a hard time with spicy food but this doesn't overwhelm me; it's perfectly balanced."

Favorite childhood snack Onion dip from Anderson Erickson Dairy, 20 minutes south of Ames.

Favorite cheap meal Pho with tripe, fatty brisket and flank steak at Pho 75, a Washington-area Vietnamese chain.

Won Best New Chef at: CityZen; Washington, DC