We were just leafing through Time Out Chicago’s annual food and drink guide at Whole Foods the other day, and looking at the interviews of chefs we already knew about, we couldn’t suppress a slight feeling of… isn’t there anyone new? These wizards of the kitchen are all so… late 2010/early 2011. So we’re glad to see that this week they call out 20 new chefs we have to pay attention to, selected by a pretty illustrious crew of name chefs who presumably know how to spot an up-and-comer at the garde manger station. Now our life has purpose and meaning again! And it is a very new list, no passing off Longman & Eagle or Ruxbin as a hot new restaurant. So new, in fact, that we only have opinions of our own to toss in about a few of them.
• Justin White, Small Bar: Nominated by Stephanie Izard, he’s got a solid pedigree under the radar at places like Green Zebra and The Bristol. We did a Key Ingredient with him and even though he’s making comfy bar food, he had a focused, borderline-scientific intensity about it that was, dare we say it, almost Achatzian.
• Johnny Anderes, Telegraph: Nominated by Paul Kahan. Quickly made Telegraph into this year’s Longman & Eagle, which was last year’s Avec, which is where he used to work.
• Jonathan Zaragoza, Birrieria Zaragoza: First guy to really break through the barrier between the hordes of Mexican line cooks laboring anonymously and name chefs since Geno Bahena; his family’s place on south Pulaski is the humble Mexican joint par excellence, but he’s made it his entry to collaboration with the likes of Rob Levitt and general admiration (Art Smith nominated him).
There’s 17 more to go, no doubt we’ve eaten the food of some of them at places like Avec. The Purple Pig, and Perennial Virant, but now we have a reason to watch for them, too.
20 Chefs to Watch [Time Out Chicago]