Rising Stars Rationales:
  Dallas (2007)
  Washington DC (2006)
  New York (2006)
  Los Angeles (2006)
  Boston (2006)
  Pictures from a Recent Editorial Trip through Dallas:

  Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana
  Dragonfly at Hotel Zaza
  Central 214
  The 2006 Salary Survey
  Soups On
  Recently Tasted
  Ask the Sommelier
  A Sustainable Kitchen vol.2


Letter From the Editor Vol.13

What Makes a Rising Star Shine?

March 2007

Readers were surprised when they heard we were taking our Rising Stars awards to Dallas. They expected we’d find a foodservice chain-land – devoid of exciting, inspired cuisine that could stand up to what we’d celebrated in other award cities across the country. But as I mentioned in my last letter, Dallas proved them wrong, and in the process reminded us that preconceptions are often incorrect.

We’ve done 16 Rising Stars in 11 cities, each researched extensively and planned down to the minute. We come prepared, but each city inevitably holds surprises as we spend three weeks tasting and interviewing nearly 100 chefs across town. At the end of the day, it’s not age that makes a Rising Star, or a particular style of cuisine, or even a specific position, but rather a cogent, compelling, personal philosophy that speaks as clearly from the plate as from the chef’s mouth. Be it unexpected flavor or textural combinations that challenge and excite the palate, well-conceived dish ideas or perfectly-executed techniques, it’s ultimately the creativity and perspective that a chef brings to their craft that earns them the award. Not to mention, obviously, damn good food.

A sense of community, openness and leadership factor heavily as well. We look for leaders, like Dallas Sommelier James Tidwell, co-founder of the Texas Sommelier Association, and for teachers, like Will Goldfarb, who sells his own line of stabilizers and emulsifiers with detailed instructions and recipes attached. For activists, like Franklin Becker, author of a diabetic’s cookbook, and Barton Seaver, who works closely with DC Central Kitchen and Share Our Strength. We look for passionate artisans, like Iacopo Falai, whose complexly-flavored homemade breads and pastas are highlights at his three Lower East Side restaurants, and for the relentlessly creative, who are day-by-day shaping the future of food – today in their local markets, tomorrow on a national scale.

In 2006 we began publishing the rationale behind our Rising Star selections. These features are designed to give a sense of what makes our Rising Stars shine, so to speak, but I’m afraid they’ve been a bit hidden in the depths of the site. I’m calling attention to them now, hoping you will learn more about these individuals who we feel are shaping American cuisine not only in their city, but on a national level. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to look them up when you’re in their town, or even call them and talk shop, as one chef to another, thereby continuing to foster the community of openness, creativity, and exchange of ideas that is ultimately the goal of StarChefs.com, our magazine, and our Rising Stars Awards.

Next time you’re in Dallas, for example, go see Tre Wilcox, the self-confident chef running the kitchen at Abacus who’s not afraid to discuss how corporate training for a national food chain shaped his skills as a leader. Or Lanny Lancarte’s self-titled Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, where alta cocina is no overstatement. From humble roots in his parents’ casual Mexican eateries in Fortworth, Lanny has emerged as one of the nation’s top Mexican chefs. But chances are you’ve never heard of him. Same with Anthony Bombaci of Nana, whose beautiful, precise, creative dishes are sophisticated and worldly, reflecting his nine years spent cooking in Barcelona with some of Spain’s most innovative chefs, including Ferran Adrià, Sergi Arola and Joan Roca.

In other news, we’ve published the results of our 2006 salary survey. Our third annual survey of the national restaurant industry examines worker wages and benefits by city, position and age, and is based on data collected from over 3,000 chefs across the country. Where do you stand? Find out now.

Antoinette Bruno




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