The restaurant game is constantly evolving and only the chefs at the very top of their creative game get the accolades.
Here are five that we think justly deserve the highest honors:
It is hard to believe that the “weirdest” city in the world did not have a single, dedicated ramen shop before this chef and his brother opened one in. Still, with experience gained at the two-star Michelin restaurant Urasawa, Mr. Aikawa has certainly expanded and invigorated the local culinary scene in. There is plenty for the vegan diner to appreciate here but our favorite is the Tonkotsu Original with its creamy Shion Aikawa – Tatsu-Ya (Austin) pork-bone broth. Simply put, this food is a delight for all the senses.
Jose Andres – Minibar (Washington D.C.)
To say that this Spanish-born chef is cooking on all four burners is an understatement. Not only does he have three “to die for” restaurants in the nation’s capital but he heads the International Culinary Center and also is the lead proponent of the charitable organization World Central Kitchen (It teaches homeless veterans and former prison inmates how to prepare food so they can get a job in a restaurant.) The price fixed menu with its 25 – yes, 25! – courses is incomparable just like the chef.
Frank Coe – Open Door (New York)
This innovative and infectiously friendly chef who hails from County Cork, Ireland has definitely been flying under the radar lately. Still, after stints at restaurants in Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Australia, Mr. Coe chose New York City as his base of operations. These days, you can try his duck confit with red onion marmalade and wild mushrooms or the oddly concocted but still delicious monkfish “osso buco” at the Open Door Gastropub. If you’re lucky, Frank will even come out a have sit-down with you while you eat.
Ari Taymor – Alma (Los Angeles)
Combining a fierce dedication to local ingredients with a truly cosmopolitan attitude, this relative newcomer – it’s only been five years since he was unceremoniously canned from his intern position at the famed eatery, Lucques – completely controls the menu and the preparation at his downtown eatery. It only seats forty and they never pressure you too leave – 55 tops is the average – but the food is exquisite. The game-changer is the lack of a paper menu. Instead their market approach means you only get what they serve but you will not go away unsatisfied.
Cara Stadler – Tao Yuan (Brunswick, ME)
Let’s be honest. No one really expects to find one of the foremost Chinese restaurants in the United States in a little town on the east coast of Maine. Nevertheless, Tao Yuan has found a home there. Its name refers to a mystical place off the beaten path and its location does not disappoint. Still, for those who make the journey, the food is nothing short of spectacular. If anything, don’t miss Grandma Tang’s Roast Pork Buns.