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Rising Stars Boston 2006:
What Makes Them Shine

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

Click here for more information about
the Boston Rising Stars Revue on April 5 at the Seaport Hotel.

CHEF: Gabriel Bremer, Salts
WHAT 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.

- Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Foam, Orange Dust, Beet Paper - Sunchoke Soup with Olive Oil Foam and Dried Olives


CHEF: Andy Husbands, Tremont 647
WHAT 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 Award Winning Ribs and Corn Bread
- Wood Grilled Steak with New Orleans Sauce and Creamed Spinach


CHEF: Tony Maws, Craigie Street Bistrot
WHAT 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.

- Crispy Fried Pork Jowls
- Eggs en Cocotte with Crabmeat and Green Garlic Sauce

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CHEFS: Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon, Straight Wharf Restaurant
WHAT 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.

- Chantenay Carrot Gnocchi, Braised Rabbit, Pickled Ramps and Pecorino
- Pistachio Financier, Tarragon Ice Cream and Apricot


CHEF: Geoff Gardner, Sel de La Terre
WHAT 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.

- Pancetta-Wrapped Trout with Arugula and Roasted Red Grapes
- Lamb Tenderloin with Fava Beans, Dates and Smoked Bacon


CHEF: Pino Maffeo, Restaurant L
WHAT 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.

- Bruleed Foie gras with Barbecued Japanese Eel and Balsamic Reduction
- Scallop, Pork Belly and Asparagus

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CHEF: David Reynoso, The Butcher Shop
WHAT 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 cuisine.

- Roasted Venison Loin with Passilla Sauce, Tamale stuffed with Shitake mushrooms
- Slow Braised Short Ribs, Pickled Raisins, Pearl Onions and Stewed Lentils


PASTRY CHEF: Rick Billings, Clio
WHAT 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.

- Frozen Blood Orange and Amaretto Capsule with Bitter Almond Cream, and Coffee Streusel
- Salted Caramel Foam with Freeze-Dried Raspberries and Thyme

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PASTRY CHEF: Lynn Moulton, blu
WHAT 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!

- Lemon Tart with Orange Flower Cream and Fresh Citrus
- Chocolate Pots de Crème with Coriander Madeleines and Amaretto Milk


SOMMELIER: Alex DeWinter, Grill 23 and Bar
WHAT 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 steakhouse fare.

Alex will be pairing premium wines with each chef’s signature dish

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BAR CHEF: John Gertsen, No. 9 Park
WHAT 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.

- Spiced Cider Brulée


HOST CHEF: John Merrill, Aura at the Seaport Hotel
WHAT 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.

- Duck Confit and Exotic Mushroom Wellington, Vanilla Bean Game Reduction Sauce
- Alaskan King Crab with Smoked Tomato-Basil Butter and Focaccia Crisps


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   Published: February 2006