California chefs triumph at the James Beard Foundation Awards

This is an extract from a posting in my monthly series of LA-focused food articles for The Staff Canteen website.

Earlier this month, the great and the good of the US food industry gathered in New York for the annual James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards, the biggest highlight of the culinary year in North America. Founded in 1990, the awards recognise hospitality professionals forexcellence and aim to celebrate, preserve and nurture America’s culinary heritage and diversity.

This year California won big, picking up both Outstanding Chef and Restaurant, the James Beard Awards’ most prestigious honours.

For the first time in a very long time, a Los Angeles chef took home the main award, with Nancy Silverton, founder of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, winning Outstanding Chef. The last time an LA-based chef won this category was in 1998 when Spago’s Wolfgang Puck shared it with Jean Georges Vongerichten.
Nancy Silverton

Silverton is only the fourth woman to win the Outstanding Chef award after Alice Waters (1992), Lidia Bastianich (2002) and Judy Rodgers (2004). She beat other nominees including fellow LA female chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques; as well as California-based David Kinch of the two-Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos; and Michael Anthony from Danny Meyer’s iconic Gramercy Tavern in New York.

Silverton trained in Europe, at London’s Le Cordon Bleu and the Ecole Le Notre in Plaiser in France, and inspired by a lack of high quality sourdough breads in the USA, founded the now iconic La Brea Bakery 1989, which quickly turned her into the country’s leading expert of artisanal bread baking. That same year, together with her ex-husband, Mark Peel, she also opened restaurant Campanile, and in 1990 she won the James Beard Foundation’s Pastry Chef of the Year award.

After selling her shares in both businesses and experimenting with Italian ingredients, Silverton teamed up with Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich to open Pizzeria Mozza in 2006. The trio has gone on to launch Osteria Mozza, a more formal restaurant, as well as Pizzeria Mozza outlets in Singapore, Newport Beach and San Diego. She has also written numerous award-winning books.

In another West Coast victory the Slanted Door, the acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco, won Outstanding Restaurant. This is an annual award the James Beard Foundation gives to a restaurant that has set national standards in food, service and atmosphere for at least a decade.

Chef-owner Charles Phan, who first opened the Slanted Door in the Mission District in 1995 and moved it to the Ferry Building in 2003, pioneered the use of organic Californian ingredients in Vietnamese dishes while giving a new high-end twist to a cuisine not previously associated with fine dining. Nearly two decades on, the Slanted Door remains one of San Francisco’s top restaurants.

Daniel PattersonMeanwhile fellow San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson from the two-Michelin-starred Coi beat LA’s Michael Cimarusti of Providence and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun to claim the Best Chef West category. Known for his fiercely local and seasonal menus of innovative dishes, which often lean towards vegetables and showcase precise and clean flavours, Patterson finally took home this regional award after his sixth consecutive nomination.

Other Californian winners included the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, which won the award for Outstanding Service, and the Shed in Healdsburg, which was honoured for its interior design. And former Spago pastry chef and cookbook author Sherry Yard marked another success story for California by being inaugurated into the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious cadre of Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

2014 was also a good year for female chefs, with Boston’s Barbara Lynch winning Outstanding Restaurateur; and British-born chef April Bloomfield being named Best Chef in New York City for her cooking at the Michelin-starred Spotted Pig. This is also good news for California though as Bloomfield co-owns Café Tosca in San Francisco and is rumoured to be planning a restaurant in Venice Beach.

The complete list of winners of the 2014 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards:

Outstanding Chef: Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
Outstanding Restaurant: The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York
Outstanding Restaurateur: Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo (No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters and others), Boston
Rising Star Chefs (tie): Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig, Chicago, and Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, Wash.
Best New Restaurant: Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Dave Beran, Next, Chicago
Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic: Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, D.C.
Best Chef, Midwest: Justin Aprahamian, Sanford, Milwaukee
Best Chef, New York City: April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig
Best Chef, Northeast: Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Best Chef, Northwest: Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland, Ore.
Best Chef, South (tie): Ryan Prewitt, Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans and Sue
Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans
Best Chef, Southeast: Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, N.C.
Best Chef, Southwest: Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston
Best Chef, West: Daniel Patterson, Coi, San Francisco
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional: Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Outstanding Wine Program: The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
Outstanding Bar Program: The Bar at the NoMad Hotel, New York
Outstanding Service: The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, Calif.
Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America:
Edward Behr (Food Writer, Vermont) John Besh (Chef and Restaurateur, New Orleans) David Chang (Momofuku Restaurant Group, New York) Barry Estabrook (Writer, Vermont) Paul Kahan (Executive Chef and Partner, Chicago) Sherry Yard (Pastry Chef, Cookbook Author, Los Angeles)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sirio Maccioni (Restaurateur, New York)
Humanitarian of the Year: Matt Haley (Chef, Restaurateur and Philanthropist, Delaware)
Outstanding Restaurant Design 75 Seats and Under: Project: Grace, Chicago; Design Firm: Lawton Stanley; Architects Designers: Maria Contreras, Christopher Lawton, and Micah Stanley
Outstanding Restaurant Design 76 Seats and Over: Project: Shed, Healdsburg, CA; Design Firm: Jensen Architects Designers: Scott Davis, Mark Jensen, Lincoln Lighthill, Dean Orr, and Andy Pluess

Chef Profile: José Andrés

This is an extract from an article I wrote for FOUR – The World’s Best Food Magazine. You can read the full version by visiting

For José Andrés running a restaurant is about telling a story. “What I look for is the story that inspires the menu, the place and the experience,” José explains. “I root everything I do in a story, something authentic, which could be historical or personal, and then I have fun with it.”

A chef with a larger than life personality, an infectious laugh and a mischievous streak—he famously pushed Anthony Bourdain’s head into a crate of peaches telling him to ‘smell it’—José is one of the USA’s most celebrated chefs today. He is the country’s face of Spanish food, responsible for introducing Americans to tapas by successfully challenging their conventional ethos that anything but heaping portions would leave them unsatisfied.

Presented with the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef Award in 2011, José is a household name thanks to his numerous books and TV shows, and an impassioned food activist who considers his celebrity status a great responsibility, his growing empire of restaurants, which started with a single tapas bar in Washington, D.C., 20 years ago, now spans across the USA and Puerto Rico.

So what sets José Andrés apart? A disciple of iconic Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s elBulli, José’s food combines tradition with the avant-garde. It showcases both the old and new of Spain’s rich gastronomic heritage by reinventing classic ideas to create innovative dishes that both educate and excite but never intimidate.

Take his Olives Two Ways, for instance. Served in two parts, it comprises a helping of traditional olives, stuffed with piquillo pepper and anchovy, as well as an entirely modern creation: translucent balls of liquefied olive that explode in the diner’s mouth. It’s a dish that not only seems simple but involves a great deal of effort and technique behind the scenes, it also perfectly illustrates José’s philosophy of marrying tradition with modernity while at the same time providing the diner with something that is fun and enjoyable. “My food is about reimagining familiar flavours to create a totally new experience,” he says. “As a chef this is my way to give you something unexpected and special.”

Growing up in Catalonia, in northern Spain, the world capital of avant-garde cuisine, José, inspired by the local food markets, decided early on in life that cooking was his destiny: “I always knew I wanted to be a chef because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” He attended the School of Restaurants and Hotels in Barcelona and trained at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, most notably elBulli with now best friend Adrià, whom he describes as a ‘great mentor’. “Working at elBulli was like watching the big bang happening right in front of me,” he recalls. “We learned how to think beyond the ingredients in front of us and questioned why eating could not just feed our stomach, but also our brain and senses way beyond what we feel comfortable with. It had a big impact on me.”

In 1991, José came to the USA to help launch a short-lived Spanish-owned restaurant called El Dorado Petit in New York, before moving to Washington, D.C where he opened tapas bar Jaleo, together with now long-term business partner Rob Wilder and Roberto Alvarez. At the time, Spanish cuisine had virtually no presence in the USA, with few diners able to tell a croqueta from a tortilla, never mind grasp the concept of small sharing plates. “People didn’t know about tapas and the Spanish way of eating,” José recounts. “I remember I tried to explain to someone that I was opening a tapas bar but with my accent they understood ‘topless’ bar.”

Against the odds Jaleo was an instant hit with both critics and customers, prompting Wilder and Alvarez to hire José full-time to run the kitchen of Café Atlántico, an existing Latin Caribbean restaurant. From these humble beginnings, the chef started to inspire a whole generation of diners and chefs, alike. “When we opened Jaleo I was a young kid and I didn’t realise that I had this huge responsibility in setting the stage for what Spanish cooking would be,” José admits. “It didn’t happen overnight but soon what we were doing at Jaleo others were starting to replicate not just around the city but in other parts of the country, too. Now you see small plate concepts all over the USA but back then it was very different.”

In 2003, José used some of his own money to convert a corner of Café Atlántico into Minibar, a six-seat counter serving a menu of molecular gastronomy of the school of thought of his erstwhile mentor Adrià. The move put him in an elite group of chefs serving ground breaking dishes in the USA and saw his career skyrocket: he won the James Beard Award for the Best Mid-Atlantic Chef and became the host of a popular cooking show back in Spain, before hitting TV screens back in the USA. Before long, he renegotiated terms with Wilder to essentially take over the business and began expanding, initially across the Washington, D.C., area and then beyond, offering ever-different variations on the tapas theme. Today, his ThinkFoodGroup includes 16 restaurants in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami and Puerto Rico, ranging from fine dining to a food truck, employing more than 1,000 people and generating revenues of about $100m (£62.3m).

Each of his restaurants tells a different story and through its design, atmosphere and food they offer a part of history that connects his native Spain with the rest of the world. There is Jaleo, a traditional tapas bar that is about life in Spain and José’s childhood; Zaytinya, which by serving small plates inspired by the Eastern Mediterranean, taps into the ancient history that links Spain with the Middle East; Oyamel, which specialises in antojitos, the Mexican version of tapas; and China Poblano, which showcases José’s take on Chinese and Mexican cuisines.

Meanwhile The Bazaar by José Andrés at the luxury SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills—arguably his most ambitious project—combines five venues in one: Bar Centro, with cocktails and raw bar and caviar offerings; the Patisserie with exquisite sweets under glass cloches giving a sense of a grown-up candy shop; Saam, an intimate room serving a 22-course tasting menu; and Rojo y Blanca, two separate dining spaces, one comprising a vibrant traditional tapas bar, the other a minimalist contemporary restaurant.

With such a diverse portfolio of restaurants, is there one that stands out or represents José better than others? “That’s like asking me to choose among my children,” the chef rebuffs. “But if you ask me where I go to be inspired, I’d say that’s Minibar, which is my creative nerve centre, the heart that keeps my team and me moving forward.”

This article was first published by FOUR – The World’s Best Food Magazine. You can read the full version by visiting

Michelin launches guide to Brazil

Michelin is set to launch a new guide to Brazil next year as the company continues to expand its portfolio of international restaurant and hotel guides.

The inaugural Michelin guide to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo will be published in March 2015 marking the French tyre group’s 25th international guide book and the first in South America.

In a statement Michelin said the guide will explore “Brazil’s subtle, diverse gastronomy, which is rooted in a rich culinary heritage based on a wide range of local products of outstanding quality”.

“We are especially delighted to launch this new edition, which is unmatched in the history of the Michelin guide,” said Michael Ellis, International Director, Michelin guides. “The Brazilian gourmet dining scene has been developing steadily in recent years, led by particularly creative chefs. The country has also become a very attractive destination for foreign chefs who are curious to discover products, traditions and cooking styles unlike any other in the world.”

Although the new guide will be too late for football fans visiting this year’s World Cup in Brazil, it will launch in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro.

Michelin’s move to launch into South America comes after S. Pellegrino announced its inaugural Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list last September. Two Brazilian restaurants featured in the top five: Alex Atala’s D.O.M. and Helena Rizzo’s restaurant Maní, both in Sao Paulo. But whether they’ll make the elite list of three Michelin stars remains to be seen.



Massimo Bottura opens Ristorante Italia in Istanbul

Picture by Oliviero Toscani

Picture by Oliviero Toscani

Three-Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena today opens his first restaurant outside of Italy: Ristorante Italia in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul.

The new restaurant, located in the residential Besiktas neighbourhood on the top floor of Eataly, brings together traditional Italian flavours and contemporary cooking techniques.  Bottura has reworked 100 classic Italian recipes from across the country, recreating iconic Italian dishes such as Mozzarella in Carrozza, Spaghetti Cetarese, Bollito Misto and Tiramisu.

Ristorante Italia will not use top imported Italian products but also source many of its ingredients from Turkey and take advantage of Eataly’s in-house dairy production.

Interiors of the restaurant feature lighting by Davide Groppi, leather upholstered chairs by Poltrona Frau and lounge furniture from Bottega Veneta’s exclusive home collection. To complete the Italian experience, an outdoor cocktail and gelato bar is found on the landscaped dining terrace with furniture and carpeting by designer Paola Lenti. Overlooking the Zorlu center gardens, the terrace looks back to the walk-in cellar and dining room, its walls adorned with a selection of contemporary art curated by Massimo Bottura.

Ristorante Italia di Massimo Bottura
EATALY Istanbul
Zorlu Center
Levazým Mahellesi Koru Sokak no.2
34340 Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 336 66 66

This summer’s hottest cookbooks

 It’s almost summer time when according to a weird internet family’s music video everything is great. So if you’re looking for some foodie reads for your holidays, here are this summer’s hottest cookery books.

The Third PlateThe Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber
Publisher: Penguin Press
Price: $29.99/£17.81
Blue Hill chef Dan Barber’s first book isn’t a glossy cookbook of beautiful recipes. Instead The Third Plate is his extraordinary vision for a new future of sustainable eating in America. After more than a decade spent investigating farming communities around the world in pursuit of singular flavour, he concluded that the country’s cuisine needs a radical transformation. He calls for a “third plate” way of eating rooted in cooking with and celebrating the whole farm, an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production.


Le CinqLe Cinq by Éric Briffard and Chihiro Masui
Publisher: Antique Collectors Club
Price: $60/£35
Le Cinq is the famous two-Michelin-starred restaurant housed in Paris’ luxury hotel the Four Seasons George V. The book pays tribute to the very best recipes and celebrates the talent, creativity and technical mastery of its chef Éric Briffard. It contains photography from Richard Haughton and was co-written by Chihiro Masui, who is also the co-author of the L’Astrance book.


Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen by Martin Morales
Publisher: W&N
Price: $30/£30
In his first book, Martin Morales, who owns popular Peruvian restaurant Ceviche in London, explores all cuisines of Peru, including Japanese influences, street food, seafood dishes, desserts, ceviches and of course the famous pisco cocktails. From sizzling barbecued anticuchos, quinoa salads, giant corn choclos, juicy saltados and lucuma ice, the book brings the unique and delicious dishes from Peru to the home kitchen. The book has won the Sunday Times’ cookbook of the year title.


Displaying Revolutionary French Cooking.jpgRevolutionary French Cooking by Daniel Galmiche
Publisher: Duncan Baird
Price: $29.95/£20
This is French chef Daniel Galmiche’s take on the new wave of modern French cooking. Divided into three chapters, Liberté, the battle cry of the French Revolution. The first gives a makeover to traditional recipes, replacing beef with venison in beef bourguignon for instance; while the second elevates humble ingredients such as rabbit, mackerel and potatoes to new heights; and the final section brings together old ingredient pairings in innovative ways. The book features a foreword by Heston Blumenthal.

______________________________________________________________________________, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker by Justin Gellatly
Publisher: Penguin Press
Price: £25
Justin Gellatly was the head baker and pastry chef at St John in London for 12 years, launched the St John bakery and created the restaurant’s famous sourdough bread and doughnuts. He now owns Bread Ahead bakery, also in London and in this book explores both traditional and modern baked goods. Over 150 recipes range from the traditional classics like madeleines and croquembouche to classics with a twist such as salted caramel custard doughnuts or deep fried jam sandwiches and the uniquely original like fennel blossom ice cream or courgette and carrot garden cake.


J'Aime LondonJ’aime London: 100 Culinary Destinations for Food Lovers by Alain Ducasse
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books
Price: $39.99/£35
Following on from his J’aime Paris and J’aime New York books, French superchef Alain Ducasse has compiled a list of his top restaurants, cafés, bars, markets, hotels and food specialists in London. From Keith McNally’s Balthazar to Gordon Ramsay’s York and Albany, Maltby Street Market, the St. John Bakery and La Fromagerie, Ducasse lists his 100 favourite foodie gems in the English capital.


The Chef SaysThe Chef Says
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Price: $14.95/£9
This compendium features 150 quotes from an international roster of chefs, including the likes of Ferran Adrià, Mario Batali, James Beard, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Julia Child, Elizabeth David, Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, Charlie Trotter, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alice Waters, and many more. The Chef Says sees cooks from ancient Greece rub shoulders and talk shop with today’s rising stars discussing childhood and training, taste preferences and trends, the quest for perfection, and the gruelling but exhilarating business of opening a restaurant

Beneath the Whites: Dominique Crenn

dominique crennDominique Crenn is the chef-patron of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Growing up in France, she moved to the USA in 1988 to work at a number of restaurants in California before making history in 1997 by becoming the first female executive chef in Indonesia. She returned to the USA and eventually opened Atelier Crenn in 2011, where she has become synonymous with her innovative and deeply personal style of modernist cuisine, which has not only won her numerous accolades, including Iron Chef USA and Esquire and Eater’s Chef of the Year, but has also seen her become the first and only woman in the USA to be awarded two Michelin stars.

What’s your earliest food memory?
Eating tomatoes in my aunt’s garden in Brittany when I was four. It was the best thing that God ever created.

What’s your favourite smell?

What’s your idea of comfort food?
My mum’s roasted chicken.

What’s your favourite cookbook?
The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

What do you never cook without?
Fish sauce.

What’s the worst thing people can do to food?
Being careless. Not knowing or caring where their food comes from and not respecting the cooking process.

What’s the worst thing that’s ever gone wrong during service?
We by mistake double-charged a customer and then found out via Twitter that it was a Michelin inspector!

Have you ever kicked someone out of your restaurant?
Yes. They came into the restaurant with an attitude right from the start. They had brought this big bottle of bad Cabernet Sauvignon and were rude to my staff so I asked them to leave. They wrote a very bad review on TripAdvisor but I didn’t care. I am very protective of my team and there has to be respect.

When are you happiest?
In my dreams.

What makes you sad?

What do you most dislike about yourself?
My impulsiveness sometimes gets me into trouble.

What would your superpower be?
Save the world! I would fly around and stop bad people from doing bad things, like Superman and Superwoman in one.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?

What’s the most disgusting or weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? And would you eat it again?
Sea cucumber. And no, I will never eat that again.

How do you like your eggs in the morning?
Sunny side up or en cocotte.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Vladimir Putin – I would have a lot of questions for him.

Where did you have your best meal this year?
Atera in New York.

If there was one restaurant you wish you’d opened, which would it be?
Quique Dacosta in Dénia, Spain. I admire his mind, his knowledge, his thoughtfulness and his genius. He has created something that is unique and personal.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?
To the 1940s when everything was going on – all the writing, the music, the cars and the war, which changed people.

Follow Dominique and the restaurant on Twitter @dominiquecrenn and @ateliercrenn

LA’s food truck scene

This is an extract from a posting in my monthly series of LA-focused food articles for The Staff Canteen website.

food trucks in Venice BeachFood trucks have never been more fashionable in America. Nearly three million of them roam US streets today, and their popularity has grown so big, the Government recently announced it is to use food trucks as a key feature of the US pavilion at Expo Milano, an international food-themed exhibition set to take place in Italy next year.

In an age when finances remain unstable yet restaurant sites are unaffordable for many operators, and when consumers are growing weary of the big chains but still demand quality food that is inventive, inexpensive and fast, food trucks have become the new trailblazers of culinary innovation.

And this is true nowhere more so than in Los Angeles.

While the modern food truck movement started in Texas in the 19th century, Mexican immigrants brought the taco truck culture to LA, where over the past five years the food truck scene has evolved into something of a cult. Today, food trucks define the landscape in LA: drive around any part of the city and you’re guaranteed to see them parked on the side of the road next to office blocks, museums, university halls or in parking lots of shopping malls.

It may have been Roy Choi’s now iconic Korean barbecue truck, Kogi, which kick started the food truck craze in 2008, but inspired by his success, fleets of trucks have since taken to the streets of LA. The variety is astounding and you can get anything from German sausages to Texan barbecue or gourmet burgers, from sushi to Vietnamese banh mi and Thai fusion dishes, and from cupcakes and waffles to Italian ice cream. But it’s not just the food that draws in the crowds: funky, colourful designs and trademark uniforms are all part of the show, not to mention the obligatory Twitter account and social media onslaught.

Tracking down your favourite truck can be somewhat of a treasure hunt but every first Friday of the month, more than two dozen of LA’s most popular trucks gather on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach. For one night, a trendy and upmarket street of independent restaurants, bars and boutiques turns into a lively block party, with hundreds of people wandering around, checking out the scene and queuing up in front of their chosen trucks before tucking into the food while sitting on the sidewalk. And who can blame them – there isn’t a more fun and inexpensive way to spend a foodie night out in LA.

But the selection can be overwhelming: with nearly 30 different trucks and almost as many different cuisines on offer, it can be tough to know where to begin. Armed with a camera and five hungry friends in tow, I attacked First Friday head on.

To read the full version of this article and check out my top five food trucks, please visit The Staff Canteen.