Career wake up call: "When I was 25, before I started cooking, I hit rock bottom. Then one day, I was lying on the couch watching Essence of Emeril, and I had an out-of-body experience. I felt like Emeril stepped out of the TV and shook me by the shoulders and said, 'Get off that couch. Taste this, smell this, do something.'"
Best New Chef 2010:Clayton Miller, Trummer's on Main, Clifton, Virginia.
What he learned at the French Laundry: Attention to the most minute detail. "In the middle of my interview with Thomas Keller, he was giving me a tour of the kitchen, and suddenly he dropped down on his knees and started wiping down a counter. And I was like, Should I start wiping it down too?"
Ingredient obsession: Vinegar. "I currently have nine kinds that are fermenting, from straight red wine to one with late-harvest Riesling. On top of that, there are five kinds that we're finishing in new-American-oak barrels."
Memorable meal: A 19-course lunch-into-dinner meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. "We thought it was just a four-course lunch. We also got a tour of the farm and their practices: It's a model that you would want to follow."
Who he follows on Twitter: Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina ("He has a good blog going on, too [seanbrock.wordpress.com]"); Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea; Chris Cosentino of San Francisco's Incanto ("He's hilarious and entertaining; he'll post pictures of pigs being bled out in Spainwho does that?").
Favorite cooking show: Top Chef. "It's one of the only cooking shows that respects what a chef does on a daily basis. Every Wednesday night, my chef buddies and I watch it at a barThe Bottleneck Lounge. We yell at Padma [Lakshmi, Top Chef host/judge] for her bad outfits. (Just kidding Padma! Much love Padma!)"