John Besh

Background Born in Meridian, Mississippi. Trained at The Culinary Institute of America. Worked at Windsor Court Hotel and Graham's in New Orleans and Romantik Hotel Spielweg in Münstertal, Germany.

First food memory Trout amandine after a fishing trip, age five.

Strangest customer request To cook for someone on an all-pork diet.

What he'd be if he weren't a chef A winemaker.

Favorite place to eat Alain Assaud, a six-table bistro in St-Rémy, Provence.

How he brought FOOD & WINE to Iraq "I was in the Marine reserves, so I had to leave cooking school to go to the Gulf War. My teachers sent me FOOD & WINE. My platoon was the only one in the Marine Corps reading food magazines at the front."

Favorite kitchen tool Long-handled iced-tea spoon. "I use it to make quenelles, to scoop foods like caviar and to taste everything."

Recipe tip Before dredging food in flour, let it firm up in the refrigerator for 15 minutes; this makes for easier handling and a more even coating.

Won Best New Chef at: Artesia, Abita Springs, LA (closed)