Michael Psilakis: sitting on top of the world.Photo: Kevin WickFood & Wine announced its 2008 class of best new chefs ahead of tonight’s gala, and the names may be unfamiliar to most New Yorkers. Only one local chef made the cut: Michael Psilakis of Anthos, Kefi, and Mia Dona. It’s been a good month for Psilakis: His new restaurant got two stars from the New York Times, and Anthos, his flagship, is up for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. The full list of best new chefs is after the jump.
FOOD & WINE MAGAZINE’S BEST NEW CHEFS 2008
Jim Burke, James (Philadelphia, PA)
Jim Burke, 34, is the owner and chef of James, a seasonally-focused, modern Italian restaurant in the Bella Vista neighborhood. Before opening James with his wife, Kristina, in 2006, Burke worked with top Philadelphia chefs Marc Vetri of Vetri (a Best New Chef 1999) and Vince Alberici of The Marker. He later headed the kitchen at Stephen Starr’s Angelina. He also did a stint at the Michelin-starred Ristorante Frosio in Almè, Italy.
Gerard Craft, Niche (St. Louis, MO)
The chef and owner of Niche and the adjoining Veruca Bakeshop & Café, Gerard Craft, 28, began his career washing dishes in a pool hall in Salt Lake City. His love of cooking led him to take a job at Bistro Toujours, one of the city’s top restaurants, under Bryan Moscatello (a Best New Chef 2005). Craft held positions at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles under Mohammad Islam and the Metropolitan in Salt Lake City under Perry Hendrix. He moved to St. Louis in 2005 to open Niche, which is in a converted warehouse in the Benton Park area. Menu standouts are a “Bacon and Eggs” sandwich of braised pork belly, buttery brioche and an oozing poached egg.
Tim Cushman, O Ya (Boston, MA)
Tim Cushman, 55, a Boston native, is chef and co-owner of O Ya, a contemporary New England restaurant with Japanese influences. With over 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Cushman has apprenticed at hotels and restaurants around the world, including the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and Hostellerie de la Poste in France. He also worked with top Japanese chefs including Nobu Matsuhisa and Hiro Urasawa, and served as corporate chef at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises under founder Rich Melman. Cushman owns a restaurant consulting business called Ideas in Taste.
Jeremy Fox, Ubuntu (Napa, CA)
Jeremy Fox, 31, is the first Food & Wine Best New Chef to head a vegetarian restaurant, Ubuntu. Fox, who studied at Johnson & Wales University, started his career at Mumbo Jumbo in Atlanta; then he traveled the world working in high-profile restaurants such as Michelin two-star De Snippe in Belgium; Gordon Ramsay in London; Rubicon and Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco; and Manresa in Los Gatos, California. A carnivore himself, Fox and his wife, pastry chef Deanie Hickox Fox, create Ubuntu’s vegetarian menu with produce from the restaurant’s own gardens.
Koren Grieveson, Avec (Chicago, IL)
Influenced by the cuisine of Europe’s wine regions, South African-born chef Koren Grieveson, 36, helped launch the wine bar Avec in October 2003 with her mentor, chef Paul Kahan (a Best New Chef 1999). Grieveson, who lived in Angola, Iran, England and Brazil as a child, was a caterer for the entertainment industry and a solider in the United States Army for nine years before attending the Culinary Institute of America. Prior to opening Avec she worked with Kahan for five years as sous chef at his restaurant Blackbird and also worked at San Francisco’s Aqua under chef Michael Mina.
Michael Psilakis, Anthos (New York City)
Growing up on Long Island as a first-generation American child in a Greek family, Michael Psilakis, 38, learned about the flavors and techniques of traditional Greek cooking from his mother. Today he has three Manhattan restaurants: Anthos, Kefi and (his newest) Mia Dona. Psilakis earned a degree in accounting and finance before a job as a waiter at T.G.I. Friday’s led him to reconsider his career path. Psilakis worked his way up from waiter to owner of the trattoria Ecco on Long Island. He then opened his own Greek restaurant, Onera, in New York (later reinventing it as Kefi) and partnered with long-time friend and restaurateur, Donatella Arpaia, for Anthos and Mia Dona.
Ethan Stowell, Union (Seattle, WA)
Simple flavors and fresh ingredients are the mantra of Ethan Stowell, the chef and co-owner of Union. In addition to Union, a five-year-old American bistro with a menu that changes daily, the self-trained, 33-year-old chef also co-owns two other Seattle restaurants, the year-old Tavolàta and How To Cook A Wolf, which opened in November 2007. He has worked with several Seattle chefs, including Tim Kelley of The Painted Table. Stowell owns over 600 cookbooks and claims to have read them all.
Giuseppe Tentori, Boka (Chicago, IL)
As a boy, Giuseppe Tentori helped out on his grandmother’s farm in a small town outside of Milan. At the age of 19, while at Antica Osteria la Rampina in Milan, he was invited by chef Gabriel Viti (a Best New Chef 1991) to work at Carlos’ in Highland Park, Illinois. He went on to become sous chef at the Metropolitan in Salt Lake City and chef de cuisine at Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s before becoming executive chef at Boka in March 2007. Tentori, 35, has created an innovative menu revolving around seasonal ingredients. Tentori’s eclectic, multi-layered dishes include smoked trout and squid stuffed with baby spinach, spicy pineapple and black tapioca.
Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood (Waterbury, VT)
Eric Warnstedt, 32, is executive chef and co-owner of Hen of the Wood at the Grist Mill, a historic site specializing in seasonal Vermont cooking using the best local ingredients (such as the namesake hen of the wood mushroom). A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Warnstedt worked in the kitchens at Wildwood Restaurant in Portland, Oregon; Mark’s in Fort Lauderdale; and Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. He opened Hen of the Wood with co-owner Craig Tresser in October 2005.
Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s (New Orleans, LA)
A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Sue Zemanick has a passion for seafood that’s reflected in her menu at the French/Creole Gautreau’s. Zemanick apprenticed under chef Rick Moonen at Oceana in New York before moving to New Orleans and taking a job at Commander’s Palace. She eventually found her way to Gautreau’s, where she worked under chef Mat Wolf (a Best New Chef 2004). She became executive chef in 2005.