Name: Jim Leiken
Restaurant: DB Bistro Moderne
Background: A local product (he grew up in Scarsdale), Leiken worked with Mike Anthony at March, and later opened Tabla’s Bread Bar as head cook. Another spell at March under Wayne Nish led to three years at Daniel, where he worked every station in what amounted to a fine-dining graduate program. He’s currently executive sous chef (the equivalent to chef de cuisine) at DB Bistro Moderne.
Why he’s a comer: The Daniel Boulud stable is a veritable success factory — look no further than Gavin Kaysen, of Café Boulud, who was just nominated for a James Beard Award as a rising star. Leiken is the latest Boulud prodigy to be promoted from within to a leadership position — in his case, Boulud’s still-unnamed hamburger restaurant on the Bowery. “People respect him and like him in the kitchen,” says Olivier Muller, Leiken’s boss at DB Bistro. “He’s very New York, but also calm. He just has the leadership personality a good chef needs.”
Self-described style: “When I look at an ingredient. I think about how I would like to eat it. Or I think of it this way: Imagine you’re a soft-shell crab. Imagine you’re a striped bass. How would you want to be cooked? What makes sense in a classical way with the ingredient?”
Judge him by: “I really like the Nantucket-bay scallops,” the chef says. “That’s mine. They’re very clean flavors, very simple. And the garnish makes sense. It’s a winter dish, and we’re using fresh celery root and winter citrus — blood orange. Everything works well together and just speaks nicely.”
Guesstimated time of arrival: I’ve been in the business a while,” says Leiken. “I’ve had a few offers, but I’ve been holding out. I’m very loyal to Daniel. Opening a Daniel Boulud restaurant is a feather in the cap of any chef.”