By Amy Tarr and Antoinette Bruno
Since launching our Rising Stars awards in 2002, we’ve recognized
the hottest up-and-coming chefs in cities across the country, including
New York, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Philadelphia,
Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Chicago. In 2003 we hosted our
first Rising Stars gala and awards ceremony in Boston, and this
year marks our return to that city, with a new class of Rising Stars.
Rising Stars are up-and-coming chefs and culinary professionals
who represent the vanguard of the contemporary dining scene in America.
They are able to see beyond the four walls of their own restaurant
and are committed to fostering a culinary community by sharing their
knowledge with fellow chefs. Ultimately creativity, ambition, exquisite
presentation, and, most importantly, delicious food, win each chef
the StarChefs Rising Star Award.
So what makes each honored chef in Boston shine?
2006 Boston Rising Stars
here for more information about
the Boston Rising Stars Revue on April 5 at the Seaport Hotel.
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Sporting a red-haired ponytail,
Gabriel reminds us of a young Wylie Dufresne, without the chemical
experimentation. His food pushes envelopes by taking familiar ingredients
and using them in unexpected ways. For example, a ubiquitous beet
and goat cheese salad is made thoroughly memorable by a lighter-than-air
goat cheese foam and a garnish of beet paper – an impossibly
thin and brilliantly hued wafer – the result of pureeing beets
in a Vitaprep, spreading the liquid onto a Silpat in a super-thin
layer, and baking it at a low temperature. Gabriel is humble beyond
words and lets his familiar yet creative food speak for itself.
GABRIEL’S GALA DISHES:
- Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Foam, Orange Dust, Beet Paper
Soup with Olive Oil Foam and Dried Olives
Husbands, Tremont 647
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Andy’s food at Tremont
647 is fun, eclectic American with tons of Asian influences,
including Thai and Vietnamese. Lemongrass, star anise, coriander,
and banana leaves are some of the ingredients that find their way
into many of his preparations. He also veers into true American
classics and down-home comfort fare (a nod to his training under
grill-master Chris Schlesinger) as in his award-winning BBQ ribs
– a combination of dry rub and wet mop techniques that delivers
maximum flavor and saucy satisfaction. Andy also represents an aspect
of cheffing that is often overlooked or forgotten – the importance
of a chef as a leader, not just in his own kitchen or restaurant
but in the larger culinary community. His leadership in rallying
his fellow chefs around industry-related charities like Share Our
Strength is powerful. When Andy calls, his colleagues listen.
ANDY’S GALA DISHES:
- Andy’s Award Winning Ribs and Corn Bread
- Wood Grilled Steak with New Orleans Sauce and Creamed Spinach
Maws, Craigie Street Bistrot
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Tony relinquished his top
kitchen position at Clio with Ken Oringer to explore France’s
culinary scene. When he returned to open Craigie Street
– off the beaten path in Cambridge – his lean finances
required him to forego the fancy bells and whistles and hi-tech
equipment he came to rely on for his Clio preparations
in favor of simple, market driven French-American cuisine. The most
important thing for him is to cook the best that he possibly can.
He’s not necessarily interested in owning multiple restaurants,
but rather in making the best food possible for each and every guest.
His Sunday Suppers offer a chef’s choice menu and is a real
treat – when Tony is behind the stove, there is a feeling
of total freedom and excitement for diners to put their faith in
this young master and let him cook straight from the heart.
TONY’S GALA DISHES:
- Crispy Fried Pork Jowls
en Cocotte with Crabmeat and Green Garlic Sauce
MAKES THESE RISING STARS SHINE: Gabriel and Amanda were
selected as individual Rising Stars in their own right – Gabriel
was identified as a Rising Star for his work at Spire and
Amanda for her contributions to Upstairs on the Square
last spring. Gabriel’s cooking is creative and cutting edge.
He experiments with unexpected forms but doesn’t sacrifice
flavor for creativity. Gabriel doesn’t have to think outside
the box because he doesn’t even know what the box is. Amanda’s
food mirrors her own image— quiet and understated. Her fairly
traditional New England cuisine is artfully composed and always
delicious. The romantically linked duo – who first met up
in the kitchen on Chez Henri some years ago - has announced their
plans to be co-chefs at Straight Wharf Restaurant in Nantucket.
They plan to open Memorial Day weekend.
GABRIEL’S & AMANDA’S GALA DISHES:
Carrot Gnocchi, Braised Rabbit, Pickled Ramps and Pecorino
Financier, Tarragon Ice Cream and Apricot
Gardner, Sel de La Terre
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Geoff has a delicate sensibility
when it comes to flavor. His understated cooking is ingredient-driven
and marked by the expert use of herbs and salt (appropriate for
the restaurant name). His food is in the New French manner, light
and never overly sauced. After eight years of working with Frank
McClelland at Boston’s acclaimed restaurant L’Espalier,
Geoff Gardner opened Sel de la Terre, which he co-owns
with his mentor chef. His rustic French menu reflects his extensive
travels in France and the diversity of the country’s regional
cuisine and ingredients. It’s no surprise that Geoff is an
avid home gardener, who grows a variety of herbs, vegetables and
edible flowers that inspire his menu at Sel de la Terre. He is also
an expert in the lost art of butchering and meat fabrication.
GEOFF’S GALA DISHES:
- Pancetta-Wrapped Trout with Arugula and Roasted Red Grapes
Tenderloin with Fava Beans, Dates and Smoked Bacon
Maffeo, Restaurant L
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: A Boston native, Pino is
very into stretching your imagination at the dining table. His clean,
simple and inventive cuisine at Restaurant L in Back Bay’s
Louis Boston shop shimmers with Southeast Asian and Japanese influences,
a reflection of his time spent with Patricia Yeo at AZ
and Pazo in New York. While experimenting in the kitchen,
Pino enjoys tinkering with concentrated oils and perfumes that he
uses to intensify the aromatic quality of both savory and sweet
dishes. The technique is quite simple, but its effect is transformative.
Pino is charming, sexy, and dynamic – a naturally charismatic
chef who makes everyone feel at ease.
PINO’S GALA DISHES:
Foie gras with Barbecued Japanese Eel and Balsamic Reduction
- Scallop, Pork Belly and Asparagus
Reynoso, The Butcher Shop
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: We thought Tony Maws’
kitchen at Craigie Street was minuscule and minimally equipped –
but David’s kitchen downstairs at The Butcher Shop
(Barbara Lynch’s ode to charcuterie) is virtually non-existent.
It wasn’t until well after David wowed us with his Mexican-inflected
dishes that we discovered that he executes these knock-out dishes
on four induction burners and a Combi-oven. Holy cow! As a chef,
David is quiet and humble, but there’s a twinkle in his eye
that reflects his fiery passion to create food that is simply delicious.
He embraces his traditional roots from Mexico, but still falls within
the scope of Lynch’s critically acclaimed approach to Mediterranean
DAVID’S GALA DISHES:
Venison Loin with Passilla Sauce, Tamale stuffed with Shitake mushrooms
- Slow Braised Short Ribs, Pickled Raisins, Pearl Onions and Stewed
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Rick Billings is the next
in line to wear the rock-star pastry chef crown atop his jet black
mousse-spiked hair – the thought did cross our minds that
his stiffening agent of choice is an Italian meringue base rather
than Paul Mitchell. Lest you think Rick’s all about image,
one glance at a Billings dessert is enough to know that there’s
substance behind this fellow. With gigantic shoes to fill as the
pastry chef succeeding Alex Stupak at Clio, Rick, a No.
9 Park alum, is more than capable of rising to the challenge.
His creations embrace the envelope-pushing mantra of chef/owner
Ken Oringer. Witness a brilliantly hued frozen blood orange capsule
that breaks with the gentle nudge of your spoon and a dramatic pool
of amaretto cream oozes out. At the tender age of 25, Rick is a
force to be reckoned with on the New American dessert scene.
RICK’S GALA DISHES:
Blood Orange and Amaretto Capsule with Bitter Almond Cream, and
- Salted Caramel Foam with Freeze-Dried Raspberries and Thyme
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Unlike most pastry chefs,
Lynn’s approach to pastry begins with all things sour –
tart berries, tangy yogurt and biting citrus are some of her favorite
ingredients. From there she builds richness, sweetness and texture.
Her approach results in desserts that are supremely balanced and
never cloyingly sweet. Lynn’s desserts are cleanly plated,
colorful and fun. Though several of her desserts include multiple
components – as in the Coriander Madeleines, Jasmine-infused
Pots de Crème with a shot of Amaretto Milk – there
are no rules or fussy instructions to eating them. With a background
in literature, Lynn is intellectual in her approach to work. This
Sapphire Group alum first worked at blu under Amber Renberg
when the restaurant opened. From there she became the pastry chef
of Rialto before heading off to France to find new inspiration
for her work. Elle est arrivée!
LYNN’S GALA DISHES:
Tart with Orange Flower Cream and Fresh Citrus
- Chocolate Pots de Crème with Coriander Madeleines and Amaretto
DeWinter, Grill 23 and Bar
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: A lot of sommeliers over-intellectualize
wine, but Alex’s approach is much more visceral and accessible.
He is a master of a mega-list who stepped into his post when former
Grill 23 & Bar Wine Director Nathalie Vaché
left to join Darioush Wineries. Alex understands how to please big
wine customers and give them the wines they want. He also enjoys
guiding diners who are open to wine education, offering them tasting
experiences that are fun and engaging, but not overly pretentious.
His affable nature and sense of humor puts guests at ease with wine.
In addition to pouring wines you’ve come to associate with
top steakhouses, Alex also enjoys finding rare and distinctive wines
that marry well with some of Chef Jay Murray’s less traditional
ALEX’S GALA WINES:
Alex will be pairing premium wines with each chef’s signature
Gertsen, No. 9 Park
MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: John’s a consummate
bar chef with a deep knowledge and appreciation for the golden era
of cocktails, the period from 1890 to1910 in America. His drinks
at No. 9 Park are riffs on the classic cocktails of a bygone
era, updated to appeal to the modern palate with a sensibility for
quality liquors and homemade garnishes – as in the house-made
maraschino cherry in his Red Hook, a variation on the Brooklyn,
which is in turn, a variation on the Manhattan. Unlike most bar
chefs who are experimenting with today’s ingredients with
a superficial awareness of cocktail history, John thoroughly researches
each cocktail he undertakes to create and tries countless variations
until he nails it.
JOHN’S GALA COCKTAIL:
Merrill, Aura at the Seaport Hotel
MAKES THIS HOST CHEF SHINE: John is such a seafood fanatic,
you’d think he was a native New Englander. In actuality, he
hails from Long Island, and grew up fishing every day in the summer
– catching bluefish and crabs and anything else the Long Island
Sound had to offer up to his reel and tackle. Throughout his career,
he’s demonstrated an aptitude for juggling the challenges
and controlling the chaos of 24-hour hotel dining operations, always
with an appreciation for making his guests happy and giving them
what they want and need. (An unexpected room service order of flapjacks
in the midst of dinner service at Aura is no sweat for
Merrill!) His seafood-centric menu highlights local purveyors and
daily catches as much as possible. We’re privileged to work
with this dedicated professional who has graciously agreed to share
his kitchen with his fellow Boston Chefs for the Rising Stars Revue.
JOHN’S GALA DISHES:
Confit and Exotic Mushroom Wellington, Vanilla Bean Game Reduction
- Alaskan King Crab with Smoked Tomato-Basil Butter and Focaccia