Features 2009 StarChefs.com New York Rising Stars
The New York Rising Stars Award Winners & Why They Shine
September 2009

We tasted food, pastry, cocktails, and wine pairings from over 75 talented chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers across New York, and only 15 of them earned the title of Rising Star. So what makes them shine? Creativity, ambition, exquisite presentation, and, most importantly, a delicious product 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 New York award winners: who they are, why they shine, and how they're shaping the future of American food.

Jamison Blankenship, Morimoto

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CHEF: Jamison Blankenship, Morimoto
Even if you don’t know Jamison Blankenship by name, you may recognize him as Masaharu Morimoto’s sous chef on the Food Network television show “Iron Chef America.” Blankenship became a line cook at Morimoto with only six years of professional cooking experience under his belt; just two years later he became chef de cuisine and Morimoto’s right hand man. The only explanation is a natural ability and culinary instinct—one that comes through in each of his intricate dishes. We didn’t expect an air force vet and native of New Orleans with no formal training to pull off such authentic Japanese food; but not only does Blankenship pull it off, he prepares some of the best we’ve had. The foundation of his Japanese Bouillabaisse is a riff on traditional Japanese lobster stock that forms a simple base with layers of flavor. Blankenship is a master of marrying simple, traditional techniques with modern presentations and flavors; the result: timeless dishes that we could eat again and again. 

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Morimoto Bouillabaisse
- Foie Gras Chawan Mushi

CHEF: Patrick Connolly, Bobo
When we first met Patrick Connolly in 2007, he had excelled from garde manger to chef de cuisine at Boston restaurant, Radius. He was a Boston highlight and we knew he was going places. Now, in a West Village restaurant called Bobo, Connolly has closed the deal for a Rising Star Award with his bohemian French-inspired cuisine. His meticulous attention to texture and layering of flavors sets him apart. He has penchant for Middle Eastern flavors and beautifully incorporates them into his technique for coating proteins, as in his Duo of Pork, with Spiced Spaetzle, Cauliflower, and Persimmon. The paprika-spiced pork is coated in whole fennel and mustard seeds and crystals of Turbinado sugar for a crunchy, spicy-sweet exterior. It's a classic technique updated with innovative flavors and ingredients—and definitely Rising Stars material.

Patrick Connolly, Bobo

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The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Muscovy Duck, Date Puree, Hazelnut, Parsnips, and Chorizo
- Duo of Pork, Spiced Spaetzle, Cauliflower, and Persimmon

George Mendes, Aldea

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CHEF: George Mendes, Aldea
We’ve been longtime watchers of George Mendes’ career in New York and couldn’t wait for our tasting at Aldea, his new, sleekly designed restaurant. Mendes' menu is a tribute to Portuguese cooking, and features a mix of rustic cuisine and sophisticated haute dishes made modern with the occasional help of hydrocolloids. His sea urchin toast is a mosaic of pleasing textures. The cauliflower cream is a subtle complement to the flavors of the uni; the wild mushroom consommé is a Michel Bras-inspired collection of carefully placed leaves and flowers interspersed with delicate spheres of mushroom consommé, peas, morels, and chorizo. Getting a Manhattan restaurant off the ground in this dicey economic climate is hard enough, but Mendes serves spectacular food on top of that.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Sea Urchin Toast with Cauliflower Cream, Sea Lettuce, and Lime
- Wild Mushroom Consommé and Mushroom “Ravioli” with Peas, Morels, and Chorizo


CHEF: Jason Neroni, 10 Downing
With experience in some of the world’s best kitchens, including Chez Panisse, Spago, Mugaritz, el Bulli, Le Cirque, Tabla, Blue Hill, and Alain Ducasse Essex House, Chef Jason Neroni boasts a serious culinary arsenal. As executive chef of 10 Downing, Neroni applies his notable skill to a greenmarket-driven menu that is all about fresh, local (as in within 90 miles) ingredients. In his talented hands, even something as simple as sweet corn agnolotti is taken to new heights with an elegant, colorful presentation and impeccable execution: the pasta is cooked just right, the corn puree bursts with flavor, and the vegetables are tender but firm. With a New York Times two-star review in his pocket, Neroni has plans to open his own restaurant in the future; we can't wait to see what new heights he reaches.

Jason Neroni, 10 Downing

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The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Porchetta with Cannellini Beans and Salsa Verde
- Sweet Corn Agnolotti with Basil, Peekytoe Crab, Sopressata Chips, and Lemon Butter

Damian Sansonetti, Bar Boulud

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CHEF: Damian Sansonetti, Bar Boulud
Damian Sansonetti was brought up in a food-focused Italian household outside of Pittsburgh, PA, making pasta with his grandmothers, curing meats with his grandfather, and helping his father cook. It may seem strange, then, to see Sansonetti at the helm of Bar Boulud, Chef Daniel Boulud’s seasonal restaurant known for its French country cooking. But Sansonetti has taken his Italian sensibility and love for simple preparations with complex flavors and expertly applied it to French cuisine. While the chicken in his house Coq au Vin is as Gallic as it gets (wine and stock reductions are deeply rich and unctuous), he brings an Italian twist with pillowy gnocchi that are ethereal in texture, and amplified in flavor by flecks of sea urchin that melt into the sauce, upping the umami quotient of the dish.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- House-Made Potato Gnocchi with Sea Urchin, Citrus Coriander Cream, and Fresh Peas
- Coq au Vin: Red Wine Braised Amish Chicken, Hand-Rolled Penne, Button Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Lardons


CHEF: Isao Yamada, Upstairs at Bouley
Isao Yamada is trained in kaiseki, one of the most classic forms of Japanese cooking. After years of running his own restaurant, he was lured to New York by Chef David Bouley in 2006. Since Yamada's arrival he has adapted his Japanese cuisine to the American landscape, effortlessly blending local American ingredients with specialty items from his homeland. The end result is something that lies between food and art. Yamada finds a way to balance innovation and traditionalism in each dish—something that so many chefs aspire to. His Abalone and Dungeness Crab with Tomato Water and Dashi Vinaigrette-Jelly is an exploration in textures and flavors, from the meaty abalone to the meltingly soft and lightly acidic vinaigrette jelly.

Isao Yamada, Upstairs at Bouley

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The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Steamed Abalone and Dungeness Crab with Tomato Water and Dashi Vinaigrette-Jelly
- Duck Breast and Duck-Raisin-Walnut Pâté with Pickled Turnip, Kumquat Jus, and Orange Powder

Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy

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SUSTAINABILITY AWARD: Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy
When Amanda Cohen opened her 18-seat vegetarian restaurant in the East Village, she decided to build it green from the ground up. She found that it wasn’t that much more expensive to green things up in her build out, so she purchased sustainable building materials; made sure that all her equipment is LEED-certified; and brought in an induction range for her tiny kitchen; low-energy lights and green cleaners keep the space light and clean. Sustainability is even built into her menu, which features Cohen's high-concept meat-free cuisine, like her cube of portobello mousse—it leaves old school vegetarian food in the dust.

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Portobello Mousse and Fennel-Pear Compote
- Carrot Risotto with Japanese Carrot Dumplings and Carrot Curls


The Asian sandwich joint is a growing trend in New York right now, but what happens when a Jean Georges-bred chef decides to try his hand at it? After proving his mastery in cooking with spices, Chef Angelo Sosa switched from fine dining to fast casual. Earlier this year, he opened Xie Xie, an ultra-modern sandwich shop with Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences—think sweet glazed pork in a puffy Chinese bao bun, yuzu cream-filled fortune cookies, and Champagne in cans. With Xie Xie’s combination of wood floors, purple walls, and Jetson’s-style furnishings—not to mention killer sandwiches—it’s hard not to imagine this concept spreading like wildfire. And sure enough, Sosa has his sights set on 11 more locations in the next two years.

Angelo Sosa, Xie Xie

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The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Fish Chaca la Vong
- Sweet Glazed Pork in Chinese Bao Bun with Pickled Shallots

Harold Dieterle, Perilla

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COMMUNITY AWARD: Harold Dieterle, Perilla
Harold Dieterle isn't your average New York City chef. He takes pride in his role as executive chef and owner of the West Village restaurant, Perilla, and for him that means more than serving great food and running a successful business. Teaching has always been close to his heart, and so he always has a stage under his wing and often finds himself leading classes at The James Beard House, The De Gustibus Cooking School at Macy’s, and at his high school in Long Island. Dieterle goes above and beyond, donating his time—and his food—to organizations like The Food Bank of New York, City Harvest, The Libby Ross Foundation, Children of Bellvue, and The Leary Firefighters Foundation. For a chef that’s so busy outside the restaurant, it’s a wonder that he turns out food as good as it is—but that’s exactly what impressed us about him.  

The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Peekytoe Crab and Sea Urchin Parfait with Avocado Mousse, Caviar, and Crispy Rice Pearls
- Coriander-Crusted Triggerfish, Cauliflower, and Sweet and Sour Basil-Eggplant Sauce


RESTAURATEUR: Colin Devlin, Dressler, DuMont, DuMont Burger
After years working with famed Manhattan restaurateur Keith McNally, Colin Devlin decided to take what he had learned from his mentor and branch out on his own. Eight years later, Devlin is a budding Brooklyn restaurateur himself and responsible for helping to shape Brooklyn into a culinary destination. His first restaurant, DuMont, serves upscale comfort food in a casual environment. The house DuMont Burger became so popular that Devlin opened his second outpost, DuMont Burger, to accommodate the high demand. Devlin’s third restaurant, Dressler, is more upscale—and boasts a Michelin star—to showcase seasonal cuisine and the creativity of his talented chef, Polo Dobkin. With three successful restaurants, Devlin says that his fourth project is to make sure all three restaurants (and his family) run smoothly at the same time. After that, who knows? But there's talk of a hotel on the horizon.

Colin Devlin, Dressler, DuMont, DuMont Burger

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The Dishes that Clinched It:
- Warm Artichoke Heart, White Beans, Arugula, Parmigiano, and Garlic Dressing
- Pan Roasted Diver Scallops with Wild Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Salsify, Frisee, and Truffled Sherry Vinaigrette

Brooks Headley, Del Posto

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PASTRY CHEF: Brooks Headley, Del Posto
By the way Brooks Headley painstakingly hand rolls his miniature version of sfogliatelle to a paper-thin consistency, you’d think he was trained at a top-notch Italian cooking school, or at least by an exacting Italian mama. But Headley’s intricate, push-the-envelope Italian adaptations, like his Vestri Chocolate Bucato, are primarily self-taught; skills learned from years of immersing himself in cookbooks and vigilant observation and practice during his first gig at Galileo da Roberto Donna, in DC. Headley’s delicate desserts are fruit and vegetable-focused (a tribute to produce-lover and Del Posto co-owner Lidia Bastianich). Headley’s drive to share his sweet wisdom and espouse his “local, seasonal Italian dolci” philosophy outside of the restaurant is just as impressive as his dishes. He has taught a class at a community kitchen supply shop, and also spent time teaching Italian dessert technique in Osaka, Japan.

The Desserts that Clinched It:
- Lidia's Sweet Pea Sformato with Tri-Star Strawberries and Strawberry Gelato
- Sfera di Caprino with Celery-Fig Agrodolce and Celery Sorbetto


PASTRY CHEF: Robert Truitt, Corton
Since Corton is one of our favorite restaurants in New York, we had high hopes for Pastry Chef Robert Truitt, and he didn’t disappoint. Truitt combines his classic French training and influences from time spent at el Bulli to create playful, innovative desserts that combine traditional techniques with intriguing flavor profiles. His favorite combination—black sesame, coconut, raspberry, and wasabi—is indicative of the unusual arrangements he puts on the plate. In his cashew fruit tart, for example, Truitt finds multiple uses for cashew fruit (as a custard base, meringue, and ice cream) and combines them with avocado and lavender for a subtle, elegant confection. Truitt is one of the most inventive young pastry minds we’ve come across recently. He’s sure to go far.

Robert Truitt, Corton

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The Desserts that Clinched It:
- Cashew Fruit Tart with Lavender, Muscovado Sugar, and Cashews
- Brioche with Passionfruit, Coffee, and Banana

Maxwell Britten, Freemans

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MIXOLOGIST: Maxwell Britten, Freemans
When we met Maxwell Britten, he was just finishing up a three year residency at Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn. Britten’s enthusiasm for mixology is hard to top. His cocktails are sophisticated and lean heavily on obscure old school techniques taken straight from classic bar manuals. Britten plied us with four treatments of whiskey, mescal, gin, and tequila, in four creative and technically impressive preparations. His use of pyrotechnics (the drink requires two flambees) to make the Blistered Grape and Grain cocktail was an exciting bit of cocktail theater. And the texture, depth and layers of flavor—not to mention the sheer showmanship—of the cocktail helped secure his placement as the dark horse winner of our New York Rising Stars Mixologist nominee herd.

The Cocktails that Cinched It:
- Zorrito Dorrado
- Blistered Grape and Grain


MIXOLOGIST: Orson Salicetti, Apothéke
The Venezuelan-born Salicetti began his career working in his mother’s restaurant kitchen, after which he trained as a chef and sommelier. The result is a mixologist whose mise en place starts in the kitchen and ends in cocktails with unexpected flavor combinations. Salicetti draws on his mastery of extracting ingredients’ flavors into infusions, bitters, elixirs, and tinctures and combining them with fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. His talent especially flowers in the highly creative environment of Apothéke, where Albert Trummer stocks a veritable flavor laboratory. We tasted cocktails using everything from black cardamom tinctures, rims dusted with chilis, smoked salts, and teas, but what captivated us was the simple muddling of a few cherry tomatoes with basil, house-made hibiscus bitters, Lillet, and gin. Salicetti’s clear Tomato Basil Martini tasted like the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever had, but with no vodka or tomato juice in sight.

Orson Salicetti, Apothéke

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The Cocktails that Cinched It:
- Tomato Basil Martini
- Rum Pine Manhattan

Claire Paparazzo, Blue Hill

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SOMMELIER: Claire Paparazzo, Blue Hill
Claire Paparazzo embodies all the elements that make an exceptional modern sommelier. First and foremost, she loves wine—adores it even. Each and every wine on her carefully edited wine list is hand-picked, and one (the Blue Hill Special Cuvee 2007) she even blended herself. Paparazzo has a story to tell about each bottle, which she is eager to share with her customers—from the spumante brut producer who loves Miles Davis so much that he named his wine after him (but backwards as “Selim”) to the reclusive wine maker who lives in a trailor on his vineyard. She spends all of her time off in pursuit of excellent and obscure wines to add to the Blue Hill collection. (She hasn't had a non-wine centered vacation in years, but she isn't complaining.) But what really sets Paparazzo apart is her refreshingly honest and down-to-earth demeanor and her ever-evolving wine philosophy. Never one to think she already knows it all, Paparazzo describes her philosophy as changing with the seasons and always being open to learning new things.