I ate dinner from Burch in Uptown the other night and really loved it. I was on dad duty and my wife brought me take-out that was phenomenal. She and her pals loved the dine-in experience. Aged beef, marrow ‘dumpling’ meatballs, insanely tender and peppery lemon-kissed kale . . . Isaac Becker has another winner on his hands. I can't wait to get there and eat a proper meal.
Just as awesome is the ridiculously good food that Erik Harcey is cooking up at Rustica Bakery. There is a small vibrant menu at Rustica, and I have eaten there three times with spectacular results. Potted chicken liver mousse, cured salmon sandwich, mortadella, and robbiolia sandwich . . . everything I try there is just pitch perfect.
Huge congrats to Jamie Malone of Sea Change. Earlier this week my other boss, Dana Cowin, made the announcement of Food & Wine magazine's 10 Best New Chefs, which I think is right up there alongside the James Beard designations as the standard for recognizing excellence in our industry. For 25 years, this prestigious award has gone to the best of the best, chefs such as Daniel Boulud ('88), Tom Colicchio ('91), and David Chang ('06). The official selection is explained as follows by the F&W team:
Food & Wine's editors choose the Best New Chefs after a months-long selection process. The editors solicit nominations from restaurant critics, food writers and other trusted experts around the country, then travel incognito to taste the food themselves. Chefs who have been in charge of a kitchen for five years or fewer are eligible.
Well, I don’t travel incognito but my relationship with this magazine is public knowledge, and as someone who is on the ‘inside’ of six different culinary awards programs, I can tell you without hesitation that the F&W Best New Chefs award is painstakingly thorough and consistently recognizes our top chefs. "I am thrilled to announce this year's Best New Chefs," Cowin said. "With a 25-year perspective on the awards, it's clear that these talented cooks have a brilliant future ahead of them. I can't wait to see where they'll go and what they'll cook."
2013 F&W Best New Chefs Danny Bowien Mission Chinese Food New York, NY Justin Cogley Aubergine Carmel, CA José Enrique José Enrique San Juan, PR Matthew Gaudet West Bridge Boston, MA Jamie Malone Sea Change Minneapolis, MN Chris Shepherd Underbelly Houston, TX Alex Stupak Empellón Cocina New York, NY Andy Ticer & Michael Hudman Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen Memphis, TN Jason Vincent Nightwood Chicago, IL Michael Voltaggio Ink Los Angeles, CA
I am fascinated that Sea Change, a restaurant with superb food/service/ambiance, hasn’t gotten as much local mojo going for it, and I hope this changes that. Erik Anderson was the first chef there, he left Sea Change a few years ago, went to Nashville, and with his partner Josh Habiger, opened the stupendous Cat Bird Seat—they won a F&W 10 Best New Chefs last year! Point being, Sea Change is a major-league restaurant and has produced two designees in the last two years. No other restaurant or chef(s) on the list in 25 years can say that.
For chefs looking to make a big impact, you need to first and foremost cook great food, consistently but you also need a digital business card. A home base online that works for you as you build your brand. I found a cool new restaurant website company called Dining Image that lets chefs and restaurateurs build easy and affordable websites online. When I am making appearances or talking to chefs and resto owners, I am always asked about websites, are they worth it, can it be done and managed effectively, and will it yield results. The return on investment is key with marketing restaurants because an operator needs to focus 1,000,000 percent of their attention on the food. If you want to see just how it easy it is to build, watch my pal Josh Capon construct a website in the time it takes him to eat a burger! This isn’t a gimmick. I think access to easy options like this for busy chefs will revolutionize the way food service is marketed. Check it out.
Not a lot of folks read Gourmet Retailer. In case you missed it, check out this story on my family over at Cooks of Crocus Hill. And . . . here is the back story on a local business that is a WORLD LEADER despite its tiny local footprint. On March 3, 400 people from around the world were in Chicago to celebrate 23 companies from 20 countries who had been selected as GIA winners for 2013. The GIA is the Global Innovator's Award. It's the houseware industry award for organizations exhibiting the finest in retail innovation and merchandising. It's the James Beard Award for retail. Recently, huge companies such as Crate and Barrel and Bloomingdale's have represented the United States. Each year the selection committee receives more than 200 applications for the United States alone! That Cooks of Crocus Hill was even selected is a fantastic honor. But they won the 2013 retailer of the year in America! Anyway, the 23 international winners for their countries convened in Chicago to celebrate the five companies selected for the highest honor of Global Innovator. In the past six years, the winner from the U.S. has not won one of the super-coveted international Global Innovator Awards. HUGE crazy props to Karl, Marie, Martha, and the whole Cooks of Crocus Hill family . . . wow, couldn’t happen to nicer, smarter people.