Tyson Cole

Why Because he's managed the seemingly impossible task of combining a traditional Japanese sensibility with thoroughly American audacity. The result: food that's utterly delicious and wildly inventive.

Born Sarasota, FL; 1970.

Experience Kyoto and Musashino in Austin, TX; Bond St in New York City.

How he got into sushi "I was unemployed and Kyoto gave me a job as a dishwasher. I fell in love with Japanese food and started working the grill. I begged them to let me make sushi; they said no, because I wasn't Japanese. Finally, a few people left, and they had no choice."

On getting fired and rehired "Denzel Washington came in a few nights in a row; on the third night, I gave him a plum-wine-marinated orange. The manager fired me for giving away food. Then they found out who he was and hired me back."

Favorite kitchen tool His fugubiki knife. "It was handmade for me by one of Japan's oldest sword makers. And it looks like the sword in Kill Bill."

Most memorable meal Chiba near Tokyo. "It's the first place I went the first time I visited Japan. There's a burner on the table; they bring you vegetables and you make stock. Then you cook crab. At the end, we drank sake out of the crab shell and made Japanese risotto in the pot."

Won Best New Chef at: Uchi; Austin