Best New Chefs 2009: Christopher Kostow

Best New Chefs 2009

Christopher Kostow

Meadowood, St. Helena, CA

Born: Highland Park, IL; 1976.

Experience: Georges at the Cove, La Jolla, CA; Le Jardin des Sens, Montpellier, France; Chez Georges, Paris; La Terrasse, Côte d'Azur; Elisabeth Daniel and Campton Place, San Francisco.

We loved: Bolinas goat poached in whey with wheatgrass, sea salt and olive oil.

How he started cooking:

"When I was in high school, I had a summer job at Counterpoint, the café at Ravinia, the music-festival-center outside Chicago. I made fried chicken and hamburgers. I was [enamored] with fried chicken — I'd come in at 9 in the morning and play the same Beastie Boys CD over and over again and just make fried chicken. My parents were freaked out because I wouldn't go to summer school, I'd just go and fry chicken."

Humbling moment:

"When I started at La Terrasse, I worked for the most intense guy you've ever met. He was 6-foot-4 with a handlebar mustache. We did a freestanding savory cheese soufflé with a paper-thin savory tuile cracker outside and a poached egg inside. For the first two weeks, every soufflé I made fell. Finally, the chef pushed me out of the way — he knocked me to the floor — whipped the egg whites and made a perfect soufflé. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks, I was so freaked out by this soufflé."

Most beloved equipment:

"I'm using my combi oven [a multifunctional oven that also steams and poaches food] more than ever. I use it for steaming things like squid omelets and slow-cooked eggs."

Childhood food memory:

"I used to go fishing with my dad in Ontario, Canada, with a Native American guide. There are thousands of acres of lakes there, and we'd catch lake trout, pike, walleye. We'd bring a bag of cornmeal, a skillet and some lard, white bread, butter, lemon ... We'd fry up the fish, and it was the greatest thing in the world."

Memorable meals:

Dinner at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris ("The orchestration of the meal was out of control"); dinner at Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm ("The meal was based on his memory of his mother's food, and he brought out aquavit he'd made. It was [absurdly] good.")

Favorite snack food:

Cereal. "I live for cereal. Special K Red Berries, Special K Original, Honey Bunches of Oats (all flavors), Frosted Flakes, Chex, Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Mini-Wheats. Truth be told, cereal and milk is all I have in my house to eat."

Dream restaurant:

An old-school Jewish deli featuring house-made and locally sourced ingredients. "I'd go and stage at Katz's in New York City for a couple months."

Food trend he dislikes:

"People think that just because they're treating food in a rustic manner that it's soulful. If you say, 'That's bad,' they'll say, 'You're just jaded because it's not fine dining.'"

Favorite cookbook:

Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras and The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. "There's never been a better cookbook than French Laundry. All my cooks say that book made them want to cook."

Best New Chef Recipes & More:

Smoked Salmon Crisps
Thomas Keller's salmon cornets (tuiles shaped into tiny cones and topped with crème fraîche and fresh salmon) are a famous kickoff to his luxe and whimsical meals. The original recipe appears in The French Laundry Cookbook. Shaping the tuiles into cones is tricky and involves working very quickly with a cornet mold. Instead, leave the tuiles flat, like crackers, and top them.

Recipes from Hall of Fame Best New Chefs

Summer Radishes with Chèvre, Nori and Smoked Salt
© Anna Williams

Best New Chefs' Easiest Recipes


Past Best New Chefs

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