California Bay Area Best Chef Awards 2012

These 6 trailblazers represent the best of the best in food

"Rising Star Chef 2012" Ravi Kapur serves Hawaiian-Korean fusion food to a line-up of guests at Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco.

California’s Bay Area restaurant scene is anything but breezy. The essence might be laid-back and the food straightforward, but it takes a fiercely determined, competitive chef to make it there.

So, San Francisco Magazine’s newly announced Best Chef Awards really mean something. These six individuals had the magical combo of hard-won attributes it takes to survive in the often-fickle restaurant world, and do it all while serving up impeccable food, night after night — and for that, they deserve some recognition.

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Consider yourself lucky if you ever have the chance to try what these masters have to offer; with only six lucky winners, they’re the cream of the crop.

Christopher Kostow nabbed Chef of the Year, proving himself somewhat of a precocious one at the relatively young age of 36. He’s so good, St. Helena’s Restaurant at Meadowood shut down their kitchen for a winter just to give it a facelift for this through-and-through Californian chef, who effortlessly combines a garden-grown sensibility with avant-garde culinary technique.

Anna Weinberg’s food business acumen led her to transform the struggling San Francisco spot South into the popular new Marlowe, and then seize even the touristy North Beach scene with her all-the-rage Park Tavern — all of which got her named Best Restaurateur of the Year.

The inventive Hawaiian spirit infused in pop-up restaurant Liholiho Yacht Club won Ravi Kapur the title of Rising Star Chef, in a tie with Korean-American fusion cuisine innovator Dennis Lee at his four-month-old Namu Gaji.

Belinda Leong is Pastry Chef of the Year, using her eclectic, extensive background to inform her whimsical yet classic pastry creations at B. Patisserie (and soon, at her own Pacific Heights patisserie and café).  

The smooth "tableside manner" of wine expert Yoon Ha of Benu won him Sommelier of the Year — and called "a ninja in the art of service."