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Behind the Scenes Look at our Selection of Los Angeles Rising Stars 2006

By Antoinette Bruno

This year StarChefs returned to Los Angeles for our second culinary tour of the city, in search of the latest Rising Stars. But even after our first round of awards two years ago, many people asked us, “Why LA? Isn’t Los Angeles a culinary wasteland that serves the Hollywood scenesters? The answer is a resounding “No!” If you haven’t been to LA in recent years, then you are missing out.

The chefs we chose this year in general reflect a move away from the destination fine-dining that was popular in years past. Diners are shying away from LA traffic when going for their daily meals out. Chefs are opening up restaurants where they live, offering grown-up food and service in neighborhood-y settings.

Another trend we noticed is a return to simplicity, whether the food was haute cuisine or bistro-style fare. Dishes tend to be comprised of a limited number of components made from the freshest ingredients. Techniques are less showy on the plate, although their delicious results are evident. The chefs we selected are driving these trends and creating new ones as you read this. They are leaders in the culinary vanguard of Los Angeles dining, and all are well worth the trip.

2006 Los Angeles Rising Stars

2006 Los Angeles Rising Stars on StarChefs.com
Click here
for more information about the Los Angeles Rising Stars Revue on May 16 at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

 

CHEF: Jill Davie, Josie Restaurant
CHEF: Jill Davie, Josie Restaurant on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Jill is young, fun and bubbly. Her food is far from conventional. She delights in unusual combinations, using unexpected ingredients and touches to create her straightforward, American dishes. Like many of the chefs we considered for Rising Stars, her weekly trips to the farmers’ market are what really drive her dishes.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Short Rib Tagine over Toasted Couscous
- Grilled Sepia with Merguez Sausage and Beluga Lentils

 

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CHEF: Lee Gross, M Cafe de Chaya
CHEF: Lee Gross, M Cafe de Chaya on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Lee is totally passionate about modern macrobiotic cuisine. At M Café de Chaya he applies the core principles of macrobiotics to mainstream casual dining. Lee is a vocal advocate of social responsibility among chefs, especially when it comes to putting forth menus that promote healthy eating habits for the 21st century. Lee believes that macrobiotic cuisine has techniques and principles that every chef can apply to their menus such as using ingredients that are easily digested. Not only are his dishes healthy, they are imaginative and delicious!

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Wild Smoked Salmon Benedict
- Crispy Tempe with Coconut Cream

 


CHEF: Mohammad Islam, Chateau Marmont
CHEF: Mohammad Islam, Chateau Marmont on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Mohammad is a late-life career changer, leaving computer engineering for fine-dining after a long soul-searching fishing trip in Montana. He has a sense of spice that could only come from someone familiar with Indian cooking techniques, and uses this familiarity to perfection in his dishes. His closet-sized kitchen with six electric burners might have limited his menu to nothing more than average hotel fare, yet Mohammad elevates his dishes with elegance and sophistication.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Ahi Tuna with Crushed Pepper and Crystallized Ginger Mascarpone
- Manchego Ravioli with Asparagus, Chanterelle Crudo and Roasted Tomato

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CHEF: Ludovic Lefebvre, Bastide
CHEF: Ludovic Lefebvre, Bastide on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Ludovic is a mad professor in passion, appearance and demeanor; working in his kitchen/laboratory he is pushing food into the next phase of evolution. His experiments in design, presentation and taste are expanding our perception of food and how it is consumed. Although some may find his dishes challenging, his risk-taking and contributions to the future of food can not be denied.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Deconstruction of Bloody Mary, Celery Mousse, Tomato Sorbet, Flambé Vodka Gelée
- Fried Vermicelli with Cinnamon Butter and Manila Clams, Lobster Glaze, Langoustine and Cinnamon Dust

 

CHEF: David LeFevre, Water Grill
CHEF: David LeFevre, Water Grill on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: When 2004 Rising Star Chef Michael Cimarusti departed Water Grill to open his own restaurant, we were skeptical that anyone could measure up as his replacement, but David proved us wrong. Hands down, David is the most cosmopolitan chef working in Los Angeles right now. His food is sophisticated, beautiful and tastes delicious. Each element on the plate is a standout, yet together the flavors are married to perfection in a harmonious presentation inspired by nature.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Slow Poached Columbia River Sturgeon, Roasted and Pureed Red Beets, Creamed Spinach
- Wasabi Marinated Tuna with Red Radish Puree and Shiso

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CHEF: David Lentz, Hungry Cat
CHEF: David Lentz, Hungry Cat on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Inspired by his youth spent along the Maryland coast, David specializes in unusual fish, but his food is infinitely approachable and easy. Though the setting is casual chic, his dishes are reminiscent of the comfort food of seaside fish shacks, with creative twists on traditional dishes. There is no pomp or unnecessary complexity in his food, and the flavors and textures are fresh and simply divine.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Hawaiian Marlin, Salsa Verde, Cranberry Beans, House-cut Pappardelle Noodles and Braised Leeks
- Baked Maine Oysters, Black Kale, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Clarified Butter

 

CHEF: Sean Hardy, The Belvedere at the Peninsula Beverly Hills
CHEF: Sean Hardy, The Belvedere at the Peninsula Beverly Hills on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Sean starts with the idea that there should never be more than three prevailing elements in a course. This approach keeps everything on the plate uncomplicated. His food is elegant and streamlined, attempting to showcase the flavors of the freshest ingredients in their best light. And there's nothing extraneous on the plate.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Foie Gras Lollipop with Cherry Vinaigrette
- Santa Barbara Spicy Lobster, Truffle Emulsion and White Corn Pudding

 

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CHEF: James Richardson, Nook
CHEF: James Richardson, Nook on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: At this neighborhood bistro Richardson serves simple American fare that is bursting at the seams with flavor. James has a masterful sense of texture and color, employing a variety of unusual grains and produce on the plate. James’ food reflects his immense passion for cooking.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Jumbo Shrimp with Sweet Corn Succotash
- Kurabata Pork Belly with Black Eyed Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms

 

 

CHEF: Jason Travi, La Terza
CHEF: Jason Travi, La Terza on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: While other chefs might be trying to invent new dishes, Jason is perfecting the classics. His Italian dishes pack no surprises but are indescribably delicious. Instead of reinterpreting the flavors or form of osso buco, Jason renders it textbook perfect in taste and presentation. With his light touch and completely unfussy approach, Jason elevates common cuisine to uncommon levels.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Smoked Eel Salad, Orange Segment, Radish, Arugula
- Chestnut Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter

 

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PASTRY CHEF: Elizabeth Belkind, Grace
PASTRY CHEF: Elizabeth Belkind, Grace on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Elizabeth’s sophisticated and comforting desserts are as lovely and sophisticated as this pastry chef herself. Composed, soft-spoken and powerfully articulate – her desserts are pure pleasure on the plate. Each creation beckons you to indulge in every morsel.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Maple-glazed Doughnuts with Roasted Heirloom Apples, and Apple Cider Ice Cream
- Sweet Corn Crème Caramel with Corn Ice Cream

 

 

PASTRY CHEF: Kristy Choo, Jin Patisserie
PASTRY CHEF: Kristy Choo, Jin Patisserie on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Growing up in Singapore, Kristy's horizons stretch far beyond the famous Raffles Hotel where she cut her teeth. She is sophisticated and delicate, as are her creations, but underneath it all lies a strong individual that excels in the business side of baking. On top of running Jin Patisserie, Kristy prepares an additional 500 desserts each week for the lucky first- and business-class passengers of Singapore Airlines.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Meringue with Passion Fruit, Mango and Strawberry
- Mascarpone with Banana and Pistachios

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PASTRY CHEF: Ron Mendoza, Sona Restaurant
PASTRY CHEF: Ron Mendoza, Sona Restaurant on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Ron is on the cutting edge of pastry right now, pushing the envelope in presentation with architecture-inspired pieces. But the real focus of all those pretty plates is texture and flavor, which he combines in novel ways. Herbs blend with fruit, sweet balances with savory, and hot melts into cold in dishes inspired by designs from around the city.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Milk Confit Cake, Grapefruit Sorbet, Pistachio Ice Cream and Pomegranate
- Smoked White Chocolate Mousse with Meyer lemon Saffron Granita

 

SOMMELIER: Matthew Straus, Wilshire
SOMMELIER: Matthew Straus, Wilshire on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Matthew’s wine selections reflect his background in the kitchen before he discovered the allure of the caves. Don’t look for a resume spouting fancy MS or MW certifications. He's staunchly anti-establishment, refusing to get a piece of paper to prove what is already in his head and palate. Matthew is immensely amiable and business savvy, believing that restaurants should quit committing “wine genocide” and let their younger wines appreciate in their cellars for a few years.

THE PAIRING THAT CLINCHED IT:
- La Pialade, Cotes du Rhone, Chateau des Tours (Rayas), 2002, with Duck Confit Salad, Satsuma Tangerines, Arugula and Pistachios

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BAR CHEF: Vincenzo Marianella, Providence
BAR CHEF: Vincenzo Marianella, Providence on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Working behind the bar, Vincenzo operates more like a kitchen chef, making use of the walk-in and blending his own fruit purees. His drinks defy the sickly sweet standards of cocktails that are popular these days and are perfectly balanced in flavor, sweetness and perfume. He is deeply interested in the mixology behind bartending and creating great drinks, helping to begin a memorable dining experience at Providence.

THE DRINKS THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Golden Pomme: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Amaretto, Passionfruit Puree and Apple Juice
- Rhode Island Red: Herradura Silver Tequila, Chambord, Raspberries, Agave Nectar and Ginger Beer


HOST CHEF: Gregg Wangard, Ocean + Vine at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
HOST CHEF: Gregg Wangard, Ocean + Vine at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STARS HOST CHEF SHINE: Gregg brings a Midwest sensibility to his dishes at Ocean + Vine. He grew up and worked in Wisconsin, where he frequented the local dairy farms. His extensive cheese knowledge shines through in his dishes. Fresh ingredients are what keep him inspired, so he spends his time off foraging for mushrooms in the nearby mountains and scouring the local farmers’ markets.

THE DISHES THAT CLINCHED IT:
- Salad Lyonnaise
- Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine with Beets and Salsify

 

 

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  • 2006 Los Angeles Rising Stars Revue

  •    Published: March 2006
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