Kim Alter

Restaurant: Plum (Read a review)

Location: Oakland, CA

Why She's Amazing: Because she brings down-to-earth boldness to cerebral dishes.

Culinary School: California Culinary Academy (San Francisco)

background: Acquerello, Masa's, Gary Danko, Coi (/sites/default/files/an Francisco); NoMI (Chicago); Manresa (Los Gatos, CA); Ubuntu (Napa); Plate Shop (Sausalito, CA)

Quintessential Dish: Braised apples, celery root and rutabaga with red quinoa

On Chicago: Alter interned at Blackbird, Charlie Trotter's and Alinea before working at NoMI. "I'm from California. I wanted to see what Chicago was like, but winter there destroyed me."

Money-Making Secret: Waiting tables. While working in the kitchen at Manresa, "I was pretty grumpy because I had to wait tables to pay for my commute from San Francisco."

Her Mentor: Suzette Gresham from Acquerello. She "[helped] me understand the basics, gave me opportunities to be on the hot line, sat me down every night—she used to give me homework—she was just really motherly. It was good for me; she really took me under her wing and gave me a good base to go on to my next job."