Features 2009 StarChefs.com Boston Rising Stars
The Boston Rising Stars Award Winners & Why They Shine
October 2009

We tasted food, pastry, cocktails, and wine pairings from over 75 talented chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers across Boston, and only 14 of them earned the title of Rising Star. So what makes them shine? Creativity, ambition, exquisite presentation, and, most importantly, a stellar dish win each up-and-coming culinary star the Rising Star Award. What's more, each Rising Star has attributes that make us believe they will be the future leaders of the country's culinary scene. Here's an introduction to the 2009 Boston award winners: who they are, why they shine, and how they're shaping the future of American food.

Jamie Bissonnette, Toro


CHEF: Jamie Bissonnette, Toro

Jamie Bissonnette is a chef’s chef who cooks straightforward food with incredible depth of flavor. Toro is a neighborhood tapas bar with a devoted following—including a serious chef clientele. Bissonnette offers expertly prepared house-made charcuterie that bursts with flavor and has all the right textures. He draws heavily on his arsenal of Spanish techniques, exemplified in simple dishes like Navajas a la Plancha and elegant ones like Ostras en Escabeche composed of four oysters each with a slightly different presentation and taste. Bissonnette’s next project with partner Ken Oringer, Coppa, will have an Italian slant with more salumi, Italian small plates, wood-oven pizza, and house-made pasta.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Ostras en Escabeche
- Tablito de Charcuteria with Petite Bayon, Guanciale, Jamon de Pato, Pâté Campagna, Pig Ear Terrine, and Carrot and Mustard Seed Marmalade

CHEF: Chris Chung, Uni
Chris Chung grew up in the restaurant and hotel business in Hawaii and Macao and can’t imagine doing anything else. At Ken Oringer’s tiny Back Bay sashimi bar, Uni, Chung prepares classic Japanese sashimi dishes that are elegant in presentation and execution with flavors that are consistently well-balanced with wonderful acidity. Although Chung serves sashimi in a traditional style, he is all about unusual ingredients and adventurous flavor combinations. One example: Spicy Tuna Tataki with Foie Gras, Aji Amarillo, Spiced Strawberries, and Cumin Cilantro, a dish that twists Spanish and Japanese flavors and techniques with foie gras. We don’t often think about the use of spice in sashimi, but Chung has mastered the delicate balance of flavors through the careful combination of ingredients, like kalamansi, garlic, ginger, and onion with scallop. Chung is planning on opening his own sashimi bar in the suburbs of Boston in the very near future.

Chris Chung, Uni


The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Live Scallop with Kalamansi Ceviche, Lily Whites, and Fresh Lychee
- Abalone and Porcini with Aka Curry and Pickled Ramps

Will Gilson, Garden at the Cellar


CHEF: Will Gilson, Garden at the Cellar
Having been raised on an herb farm with a working restaurant outside of Boston, it’s no surprise that the focus of Will Gilson’s cuisine is local and seasonal produce. Garden at the Cellar is an unassuming restaurant in Cambridge, and Gilson’s dishes are deceivingly homey in presentation but out-of-this-world in taste. Each dish is based on a simple and classic concept, like tomato salad, foie gras and rhubarb, arctic char, schnitzel, but refined and brought to the next level by unusual techniques or flavor combinations that marry exceptionally well. Seared foie gras is served with spiced doughnuts, rhubarb jam, rhubarb syrup, rhubarb foam, pickled cherries and strawberries, and is garnished with edible violets and thyme flowers from his father’s herb farm. Plans for another restaurant are on the way, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Seared Foie Gras and Doughnuts
- Arctic Char with Fava Beans, Sunchoke Rösti, and Charmoula


CHEF: Andres Grundy, Clio
A native of Queens, NY, when Andres Grundy was in high school he participated in a program that connected inner-city kids with fine dining restaurants. The aspiring chef was placed at Restaurant DANIEL, and he’s never looked back. Now at Ken Oringer’s French contemporary restaurant, Clio, Grundy’s food is as fun to look at as it is to eat. His amuse bouche are innovative bites that act as conversation starters, like a crudités dish that looks like a potted plant, or a futuristically presented take on fish and chips (with fried sardines and vinegar foam). Grundy’s presentations range from space-age to woodsy, and although most of his dishes involve playful molecular techniques, he is grounded in classic techniques. Grundy hopes to one day open his own restaurant, perhaps in his hometown of New York.

Andres Grundy, Clio


The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Vegetable Crudités with Green Goddess Dressing and Avocado
- Sweet Butter-Poached Lobster with Fennel Powder, Vadouvan Spice, Lily Whites, Wild Thistle, Fava Leaves, Fava Beans, and Sea Urchin Emulsion

Chris Parsons, Catch


CHEF: Chris Parsons, Catch
Catch is all about New England seafood, and Chris Parsons is all about understated elegance and preparing the freshest fish with seasonal, local, farm fresh produce. The seemingly simple dishes have layers of complex flavor and textural contrasts. Each of Parsons’ dishes are bright, clean, and refreshing. He focuses on forging relationships with his local fishermen and farmers so he can ensure the best product for his guests—he can tell you where each piece of fish came from, when and where it was caught, and who caught it. Parsons has visions of expanding Catch beyond its current 48 seats and small kitchen staff, but for now he’s happy to focus on making the restaurant the best it can be.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Cape Cod Sea Scallop in its Shell with Fava Beans, Baby Arugula, and Smoked Red Pepper Puree
- Fried Island Creek Oysters with Sugar Snap Pea Salad, Yellow Curry Oil, and Pea Leaves


CHEF: Mike Pagliarini, Via Matta
Hailing from a family of Umbrian lentil farmers, Mike Pagliarini’s food is as unassuming as his character. As chef de cuisine at Michael Schlow’s Via Matta, Pagliarini serves refined rustic Italian cuisine with personal touches. Scottish Salmon crudo is served with Umbrian lentils, offering a direct link to his heritage. Other dishes, like the Grilled Branzino alla Ligure, are the result of meticulous research into Ligurian ingredients—and, in this case, a search for Ligurian celery leaves, which turned out to be lovage. Pagliarini has been with Schlow’s restaurant group for six years and is very happy in his current position. Looking to the future, though, Pagliarini sees himself and his wife as proprietors of a small neighborhood restaurant in the Boston area.

Mike Pagliarini, Via Matta


The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Grilled Branzino alla Ligure with Local Potatoes, Tomatoes, Oregano, Olives, Pine Nuts, and Ligurian Celery
- Muscovy Hen Breast with Turnips, Rhubarb, Swiss Chard, and Spiced Pistachios

Rachel Klein, Aura at The Seaport Hotel


HOTEL CHEF: Rachel Klein, Aura at The Seaport Hotel
Melding a variety of international influences, Rachel Klein of Aura at The Seaport Hotel cooks highly sophisticated food that defies any expectations of a hotel chef. Although this is her first hotel gig, Klein takes it all in stride and won’t be boxed in. She channels her Eastern European heritage in a creative and modern rendition of borscht that is thickened with agar and xanthan gum and served with smoked sable, pickled beets and onions, vinegar-braised potatoes, and sour cream. Right now her family is her five year plan, but down the line, Klein hopes to open her own restaurant.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Scarlet Borscht with Smoked Sable, Beets, Potato, and Sour Cream
- Georges Bank Scallop with Parsnip, Chamomile Beurre Blanc, Grapefruit, and Radish


SUSTAINABILITY AWARD: Richard Garcia, Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro
We weren’t expecting to find the winner of our sustainability award in a wine bar sitting in the shadow of Gillette Stadium. But Chef Richard Garcia surprised us at every turn, not only with his Spanish-inflected food (his family owns restaurants in Rioja, Spain) and commitment to sustainability, but also with his sensual plating presentation. The former Marine started learning about sustainability when he was living in the Virgin Islands. Now, it’s engrained in his philosophy—not just because it’s good for the environment, but because it tastes better and supports the local economy. Ninety five percent of the products in their kitchen are local, sustainable, and/or organic; all the equipment is energy efficient; all the water is recycled; they don’t use linens (to cut down on water usage); the take out containers are biodegradable; their biodynamic wine list is growing; and the cocktail list is focused on fresh, local produce. And that’s only a few of the steps Garcia has taken. He hopes to ultimately open more restaurants so he can spread his passion for food and sustainability.

Richard Garcia, Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro


The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Shaved Asparagus Salad with Caper Vinaigrette
- White Vanilla Gazpacho with Almonds, Roasted Garlic, Grapes, Chanterelles, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra


As the pastry chef at Ana Sortun’s restaurant Oleana, Maura Kilpatrick has mastered the application of spice and seamless integration of Middle Eastern ingredients into her desserts. Now, as co-owner of Sofra, Kilpatrick has taken her skills and creativity to new heights. The casual neighborhood bakery serves breakfast (think soft boiled egg that is breaded in shredded phyllo dough and deep fried), lunch (the best lamb schwarma we’ve ever had), and baked goods (ranging from Syrian shortbread to kunefe), and offers their own line of spice blends. Kilpatrick, along with partners Gary Griffin and Ana Sortun, have plans to expand; we’re begging them to bring one to New York!

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Turkish Breakfast
- Kunefe


COMMUNITY AWARD: Louis DiBiccari, Sel de la Terre
Louis DiBiccari, the talented young chef de cuisine at the Boylston Street location of Sel de la Terre (home of 2004 Rising Star Geoff Gardener), seems to be everywhere in Boston. But whenever he is not on his home turf, he can usually be spotted in a kitchen elsewhere, whether it be cooking for a sommelier smackdown, hosting one of his popular “Chef Louis” nights, travelling to New York to help a buddy cook at the Beard House, or supporting his fellow chefs at their restaurants. He and co-Rising Star Will Gilson have dreams of starting a chef organization that will bring the Boston culinary community together through a website and casual seminars. DiBiccari’s enthusiasm and involvement are infectious—and it doesn’t hurt that his rustic French country cooking (not to mention a highly acclaimed burger) is brilliantly executed.

Louis DiBiccari, Sel de la Terre


The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Baby Octopus with Charred Pepper Vinaigrette, English Peas, Radish, and Croutons
- Long Island Duck Breast with Pommes Robuchon and Local Green Beans
- Bluefin Pâté, Foie Gras Torchon, House-Made Potato Chips with Z'atar Spices, and Pickled Cherries

Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery, Myers + Chang


RESTAURATEUR: Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery, Myers + Chang
Bakeries are new on our Rising Star hit list, especially for the Restaurateur award. But Joanne Chang not only has three outposts of Flour Bakery, she is also the co-owner (with husband Christopher Myers) of Myers + Chang, a hip, modern Asian restaurant. She is the mastermind behind the savory and the pastry at both concepts, and the food isn’t just good, it’s addictive. At Myers + Chang Asian-braised short ribs are served in tacos and Taiwanese Shaved Ice is a grown-up, sophisticated snow cone. Flour offers divine baked goods as well as breakfast items, like a sandwich with egg custard, portabello mushrooms, and greens. Chang has plans for a fourth Flour (and more as the opportunities arise) plus a cookbook in the works.

The Desserts that Clinched It:
- Asian Braised Short Ribs Soft Tacos with Pear, Radish, and Chili-Sesame Salsa
-Taiwanese Shaved Ice


PASTRY CHEF: Jiho Kim, L’Espalier
A native of Seoul, Korea, Pastry Chef Jiho Kim is the creative mind behind the playful desserts at Boston fine dining mecca L’Espalier. Amidst the formal setting and white glove service, Kim’s imaginative desserts are a refreshing palate cleanser. At times he re-imagines classic American desserts, as in classic Oreo cookies that are presented as a Chocolate Milk Tart with Oreo Cookie and Milk Sorbet. In other instances, Kim exhibits restrained creativity, as in raspberry Greek yogurt with sophisticated muscat gelee and a luxurious coconut sorbet. Kim is one of the most imaginative young pastry chefs in Boston, and he is sure to go far.

Jiho Kim, L’Espalier


The Desserts that Clinched It:
- Raspberry Greek Yogurt with Muscat Gelee and Coconut Sorbet
- Chocolate and Milk Tart with Oreo Cookie and Milk Sorbet

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, Craigie on Main


MIXOLOGIST: Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, Craigie on Main
As the home of 2006 Rising Star Chef Tony Maws, we have been longtime fans of Craigie on Main. Much of the popularity of the bar is thanks to enthusiastic young mixologist Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli whose interest and knowledge of classic cocktails drives all of his traditional and modern concoctions. Schlesinger has been making artisanal house-made vermouth for over a year and it’s worth the trip alone. He uses Craigie Ambre Vermouth in the Camino Cocktail alongside Rittenhouse rye and a highly unusual myrtle berry liquor from Sardignia called Mirto. The result is a masculine and incredibly well balanced libation that is ideal for sipping on a crisp, cool day.

The Cocktails that Cinched It:
- Camino Cocktail
- Northern Lights


SOMMELIER: Theresa Paopao, Oleana
Past Rising Star Chef Ana Sortun's Middle Eastern restaurant Oleana has long been one of our favorite Boston restaurants, so we were thrilled to find the talented young sommelier Theresa Paopao there pouring wines. Paopao is knowledgeable and enthusiastic with a laid back tableside manner. Middle Eastern food—chock full of bold spices and intense, varying flavors—is notoriously hard to pair with wine, but this presents no challenge to Paopao. She selected impeccable, slightly left of center wines that not only went well with the food, but added to each dish. Paopao and Sortun are in such sync that their food and wine are total yin and yang—whatever one is missing the other adds. Paopao paired an unusual Lebanese Cabernet Sauvignon blend with Sortun’s Lamb with Turkish Spices and Fava Bean Moussaka; the fruit-forward wine brought out fruit flavors in the dish that were not there otherwise, changing the flavor profile for the better. Paopao often takes her passion for wine to the streets and into the community. Local sommeliers often gather at Oleana for informal gatherings and tastings, and Paopao is currently the reigning champ in the local Sommelier Smackdown series hosted by Gordon's Fine Wine and Culinary Center in Waltham.

Theresa Paopao, Oleana