Mat Wolf

Why Because he cooks with energy and enthusiasm and finds fresh potential in New Orleans food traditions as well as in basic ingredients like salmon and mustard.

Born Seattle, 1973.

Education South Seattle Community College. "I researched more-famous culinary schools, and I decided that you get out of it what you put into it."

Experience Commander's Palace, New Orleans; Campagna and Flying Fish, Seattle.

Early influences "My father was obsessed with cooking shows; we watched them together. When I was a kid, I'd pretend there was a camera in front of me when I made a sandwich, that's how many cooking shows I watched."

Most humbling moment "In my first week at Commander's Palace, I undercooked the chicken for the staff meal. I had to feed a hundred people, and every one of them was pissed off. Even the dishwashers were throwing chicken wings at me."

Pet peeve Dirt. "I'm a neat freak to a fault. I guarantee you that any good chef is an even better cleaner."

Most memorable meal "The first time my parents came to visit me in New Orleans, we ate dinner at Commander's Palace. My boss, chef Jamie Shannon, brought out every course. I don't know what we ate, but I felt so special having Jamie serve our meal."

Won Best New Chef at: Gautreau's; New Orleans