Today’s Special: 100 Up-and-Coming Chefs
By Beverly Stephen
Would you like to know which restaurants a prominent chef like Daniel Boulud patronizes both in his home city of New York and elsewhere? If like so many food lovers, you travel to eat, you would be thrilled to know what’s on Boulud’s radar. Or that of Jose Andres, Dominique Crenn, or Marcus Samuelsson.
The Phaidon editors asked 20 iconic chefs who’s next. They each were allowed to nominate five chefs so that in the encyclopedic Today’s Specials a total of 100 up-and-coming chefs are profiled and present a selection of their recipes. The result is truly global and spans a variety of dining experiences from tasting menus to pop-ups.
So, what does Boulud like when he’s home in Manhattan? James Kent at Crown Shy is a favorite.
“James’s cuisine is identified with creative presentation, great skill, flavorful combinations, and soulful taste,” Boulud writes. Kent has been famous for his roasted chicken since his days at The NoMad and he keeps it on his menu at Crown Shy. His recipe for charred carrots with razor clams and lemon thyme is also featured in Today’s Specials.
Boulud also has high praise for Del Posto executive chef Melissa Rodriguez, the first woman to helm a kitchen holding four stars from the New York Times. “Melissa is one of the great mentors of today and one of the best female chefs in America. She was really meant to be a great Italian chef in the legacy of many of her peers,” says Boulud. Her pastas, like handkerchief with herbs, mussels, and saffron, are outstanding.
Naturally, he showers kudos on Gavin Kaysen, Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis. Kaysen was his long-time chef at Café Boulud in Manhattan. “Gavin is reaching a whole new generation of cooks in the Midwest, encouraging them to become great chefs,” says Boulud. His menu includes bison tartare and tamarind glazed pork chop.
Who wouldn’t want to know what Jose Andres likes in Barcelona? He highlights Carlota Claver, who serves contemporary Catalan cuisine at her restaurant La Gormanda. She grew up in the restaurant business. Her parents are the restaurateurs behind Barcelona notables Alba Granados and Alba Paris. Andres says: “Barcelona is one of the world’s most competitive cities for gastronomy. On the other hand, there’s unlimited opportunity to create, explore, and take risks, and Carlota is doing all of those things with a maturity unlike any young chef I’ve seen.”
Check out her recipe for “octopus bomba.” Andres also salutes Dulce Martinez at El Molin De Mingo in Peruyes, Spain and Victor Moreno at Moreno in Caracas, Venezuela. Then he praises Johnny Spero at Reverie in his hometown of Washington, D.C. Spero served as executive sous chef at Andres’s fine-dining Minibar before heading off to Spain to stage at the legendary Mugaritz. Then he returned to D.C. to open his own modern American restaurant. Andres calls him a “chef’s chef, someone who challenges you to think while you are eating.” His Kanpachi collar with potato pita and his roasted pear ice cream are indeed food for thought.
San Francisco’s Dominique Crenn, known for her exquisite poetic cuisine, is the first female chef to garner three Michelin stars and was named best female chef in the world in 2016. Not surprisingly, her nominees are women and span the globe: Berangere Boucher of Nomikai in Paris; Manoella Buffara at Manu, Curitiba, Brazil; Martina Caruso of Signum in Malfa, Italy; Macarena De Castro of Maca De Castro, in Mallorca. Spain; and Antonia Klugmann of L’Argine a Venco in Dolegna del Collio, Italy. Crenn praises Buffara’s dedication to climate awareness and sustainability causes close to her own heart but also takes pleasure in her joie de vivre. “Cooking with her or eating her food is like attending a party,” Crenn says. “ She guides you with her flavors; she shows you how much fun you could be having.”
Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster, New York City, and author of The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food does take the opportunity to highlight two black chefs, but he also embraces chefs executing Mexican, Filipino, and Lebanese flavors. Paul Carmichael worked with Samuelsson at Aquavit before joining David Chang who dispatched him to Australia to open Momofuku Seiobo. Though staying true to the Momofuko tradition, he has also gradually incorporated flavors from his native Barbados such as sofrito-drizzled marron (a lobster-like crustacean) and jerked pork chops. “Australians now have, more than ten thousand miles from Carmichael’s native waters, a world-class Caribbean restaurant.”
In Houston, Jonathan “Jonny” Rhodes serves “neo-soul food” at Indigo. “On one plate, he captures the story of the simple yam from its agricultural origins in Nigeria to preservation techniques detailed in the antebellum writings of Frederick Douglass. On another, he presents smoked turnips with his rendition of ‘slabber sauce’ an oil, flour, water, and pepper mixture invented as a means of survival by slaves traversing the Middle Passage.” Heady stuff. “As Houston begins to truly make a name for itself as a prime culinary and restaurant destination, Jonny is leading the pack,” Samuelsson writes. “There is no other chef in the city doing work as important and tasty as his.”
For Mexican inspiration he turns to Diana Davila at Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Chicago; for Filipino to Aaron Verzosa at Archipelago Ago in Seattle; for Lebanese to Lena Sareini at Selden Standard in Detroit.
Whether you’re crisscrossing the United States or hopping around the globe, when travel is once again feasible, you’re bound to come across one of these trail-blazing chefs and have the meal of a lifetime. In the meantime, there are plenty of their delicious recipes to enjoy at home.
The editors note that “this book came together before our world changed.” These chefs, they write, “will continue their stories by reopening their restaurants, reimagining them, or paving new courses forward; they are indeed leaders among the exciting ones to watch.”
Beverly Stephen, the former executive editor of Food Arts magazine, is a principal of the culinary travel company Flavor Forays. She is the co-author, with Barbara Mathias, of On the Road With Flavor Forays An Insider’s Guide to Four of America’s Hottest Food Cities—Austin, Charleston, Portland and New Orleans.