These past F&W Best New Chefs are branching out into imaginative new ventures, building restaurant empires which include food halls, seafood shacks and a pan-Asian restaurant where nothing is more than $10.

By Food & Wine
Updated March 31, 2015

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Restaurant Empire Builders: Chefs Reinvent Themselves

Three past Best New Chefs are moving away from the food that made them famous and reimagining their professional directions.

James Syhabout, Oakland, CA

Best New Chef 2010: James Syhabout
Credit: Photo courtesy of James Syhabout.

© James Syhabout

Reputation Maker At Commis in Oakland, California, Syhabout serves exquisite modern American dishes.

New Direction At Hawker Fare, Syhabout puts down his tweezers and picks up his wok, serving street food-inspired dishes from Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Every dish on the menu, like poached chicken over rice cooked in chicken fat with fermented mung beans and ginger, costs less than $10.


Interview with F&W Best New Chef 2011 James Syhabout

Andrew Carmellini, New York City

F&W Best New Chef 2000 Andrew Carmellini.

© Jacque Burke

Reputation Maker Carmellini became a Best New Chef while creating French-inspired dishes at Café Boulud, and then turned into one of NYC's hottest Italian chefs at A Voce and Locanda Verde.

New Direction Carmellini's inspired American food at The Dutch draws on everything from New England seafood shacks to Southern barbecue spots. On the menu: rabbit-and-hard-cider potpie and fried chicken with honey-butter biscuits baked to order.

Fabio Trabocchi, Washington, DC

F&W Best New Chef 2002 Fabio Trabocchi.

© John Kernick

Reputation Maker Trabocchi served elegant, decadent Italian food at Maestro in McLean, Virginia, and then at New York City's Fiamma, where he shaved truffles on top of pasta with abandon.

New Direction At Washington, DC's Fiola, Trabocchi is focusing on more casual Italian, like eggplant parmigiana and tomato-braised oxtail. But he can't go totally rustic: His parmigiana is served in a delicate lemon froth.

Vinny Dotolo & Jon Shook, Los Angeles, CA


Son of a Gun restaurant"> © Amy Theilig

New Direction At Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook's new restaurant, Son of a Gun, the walls are covered with items like life buoys and the bathroom is decorated with photos of celebrities posing with the fish they caught. The food is likewise seafood-oriented: shrimp toast sandwiches, brandade with soft egg.

Reputation Maker The menu is a far cry from the pair's original place, Animal, where meaty dishes like foie gras on biscuits and gravy rule.

Restaurant Empire Builders: Cocktails & Bars


© Heather Anne Thomas

Bottle Shop

H&F Bottle Shop, Atlanta: At his new wine and spirits store in Buckhead, chef Linton Hopkins offers items like the house-brand Finch's gin and Bloody Mary mix, bar tools, homemade bitters, plus recipe cards for making many of the wondrous cocktails from his two other Atlanta spots, Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch.

Drinks at Artusi in Seattle

© Lindsay Borden

Bar Impresarios

Artusi, Seattle: "In Italy, there's this hour-and-a-half before dinner when no one's even thinking of eating, when the bars are packed," says chef Jason Stratton. "The energy is really vibrant." The Spinasse chef is hoping to bring that same buzz to his new bar, Artusi. The focus will be on Italian-inspired cocktails, aperitivos and simple dishes like squab in saor (fried and marinated in vinegar). Stratton painted the 43-foot-long mural for the walls. "I wanted to bring something to the place that's a little bit playful," he says.

Taste by Niche, St. Louis: The 18-seat bar at Gerard Craft's restaurant was always overflowing with fans of mixologist Ted Kilgore's esoteric cocktails, so Craft moved Taste to a larger location. The new space has triple the seats and twice as many drinks. Highlights include the Duck and Cover (with duck fat–infused Grand Marnier) and mash-ups like barrel-aged Negroni with French 75, called Unusual 75.

F&W Best New Chef 2004 Scott Dolich

© Garrett Sonoda

Locavore Spirits

Everything at Park Kitchen chef Scott Dolich's The Bent Brick tavern in Portland, Oregon, is from the Pacific Northwest. That means no Cognac or Campari. Instead, Dolich is relying on locally made spirits. He talks to F&W's Megan Krigbaum about his favorites.

House Spirits Krogstad Aquavit ($24) "I'm genetically drawn to aquavit," he says. "I love how it's bright and herbaceous, just served chilled, straight."

Ransom Spirits Smalls Gin ($30)

Courtesy of Ransom Spirits

Ransom Spirits Smalls Gin ($30) "It's almost too good to mix with anything," says Dolich of this earthy gin. He plays up its herbal side in a cocktail with sweet vermouth, an herbal cordial and bitters.

Bull Run Distilling Co. Medoyeff Vodka ($28)

© David Papazian

Bull Run Distilling Co. Medoyeff Vodka ($28) For his Spring Water cocktail, Dolich mixes this affordable vodka (made just five blocks from The Bent Brick) with lower-alcohol spirits like elderflower cordial.

Restaurant Empire Builders: Ultimate Food Hall

F&W Best New Chef Cathal Armstrong launches Society Fair.

© John Kernick

The Irish-born chef Cathal Armstrong has already built an Alexandria, Virginia, empire that includes three great restaurants and a bar. This fall, he'll launch Society Fair, an old-fashioned food hall with a bakery and butcher shop, where he'll sell items like pigs in a blanket with house-made sausage. Also in the works: Cooking classes where customers can eat what they make or take it home.

Society Fair will sell a wide range of dishes for takeout, including this bay leaf-scented roast chicken.

More from Star Chefs and Top Restaurants:

Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken
Fig-and-Prosciutto Flatbread
Credit: © Quentin Bacon
Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes
Credit: © Quentin Bacon