At first glance, Food & Wine's list of Best New Chefs features many of the country's hottest culinary trends: Latin and Middle Eastern, local and foraged, scrappy start-ups and refined Michelin potential. But it's a silent star that may really be stealing the show: vegetables.
Yes, there's a sexy new steak house and a 12-seater sushi restaurant on the list, but explore the menus (and Instagram accounts) for each of these up-and-coming chefs and restaurants, and you'll find something we've been saying all year: plants rule.
At Portland's Han Oak, the menu is quite heavily focused on vegetables—with a Korean twist. The Banchan options are all four vegetable dishes: kimchi, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, or sweet potatoes. Likewise, the Korean Fried Cauliflower is offered alongside Pork & Chive Dumpling Soup.
Sushi isn't just about the fish, as shown below in a photo from Austin's Otoko.
Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymason at Los Angeles' Kismet are proving that Middle Eastern food is about more than kebabs and koftas. Their dinner options read like a Who's Who of vegetable stars: Persian cucumbers, shaved kohlrabi salad, roasted radicchio. Their smashed potatoes main features cured scallop as an accent, not the featured item, and their snacks are equally planned around plants: harissa olives, fried cauliflower, freekeh fritters.
The Pacific Northwest is ripe with fish and game, which makes cooking with local ingredients rich with opportunity. But Jay Blackinton takes "local" to a new level, raising his own pigs, digging his own clams, and growing his own vegetables. Despite the bounty of animal food sources, Blackinton still manages to highlight the local island's plants: fava beans with shrimp, shalltos, and a nasturtium vinaigrette. With sea urchin, he serves celeriac and sorrel.