Food & Wine showed off its picks for 2011's Best New Chefs In America uptown at the Bohemian National Hall last night. And the high-ceilinged space was full of culinary stars everywhere you looked — shades of the Food & Wine Classic. All that food media in one room with an open bar meant loose lips and interesting news from Eater that Slashfood "is not being merged fully into HuffPo," but will apparently live on in some way.
But it wasn't all about the crowd! It was also about the chefs being honored and the tall models zeroing in on them. And there were opportunities to speak with some of them (the chefs, not the models) about what the award would mean they'd be able to do next.
Below are brief interviews with: Stephanie Izard of Girl and The Goat, Bowman Brown and Viet Pham of Forage, James Lewis of Bettola, Joshua Skenes of Saison, Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus, Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica, and The People's Best New Chef award-winner James Bissonnette of Coppa.
In 10 words or less, what does winning this award mean you will be able to do that you couldn't do before?
Izard: It's a stepping stone to anything you want it to be. It just takes things to another level.
Pham: I have no idea. We're already doing what we really want to be doing. The sky's the limit. We're just so blessed.
Willmann: I'm finally going to be able to absolutely quit sleeping.
Zarate: First, this represents 18 years of working hard to achieve this. Second, it means a lot of responsibility and chances. I'm going to celebrate it and make the most of the opportunity it presents.
Skenes: I don't know yet. We'll see what doors it opens. I'm going to just keep my head down and keep working hard.
Bissonnette: To go to my high school reunion and look my former punk rock friends in the face. Seriously though, I hope it brings more people to the restaurant and makes people who are like, "You shouldn't have won this," curious. I want them to doubt me and come to my restaurant so I can show them I deserve it.
Lewis: The exposure opens doors and allows you to show what you have to offer. I'm just approaching this from an honest perspective and I'm going to try to best implement my vision
Is there a chef you model yourself after?
Izard: I take little bits from different people. Like Mario Batali, and Daniel Boulud because he's freaking amazing.
Brown: Lots of chefs. Some are more influential than others. There are six to twelve cooks who are doing things that I most look to. David Kinch, Daniel Patterson, and René Redzepi. The fact that someone like Chef Redzepi understands his environment and translates it to the plate — that's what we're trying to do in Salt Lake City.
Willmann: I don't want to disrespect anyone in that way.
Zarate: Many, my mentor, for one. Mark Gregory from New Zealand, the executive chef of One Aldwych in London. He's a model to follow. I want to do something for Peruvian food in the same way, I want to be an ambassador for Peruvian food.
Skenes: No. I like to take what I genuinely like to cook or want to create.
Bissonnette: Jacques Pépin.
Lewis: Well, my next project is to do artisanal butchery and I worked with Dario Ceccini and his passion for life and what he does, it's something that everyone can see, and that becomes a part of them. Learning from him wasn't just about learning technical methods, but about the love and passion that he has for what he does and transfers to everyone around him. It's not just about technique, but about who you are.
The Daily Byte is a regular column dedicated to covering interesting food news and trends across the country. Click here for previous columns.