2014 Trailblazing Chef Awards
Trailblazing Chef Awards
This year we forged some Golden Cleavers to honor seven innovative chefs. Among the 2014 awards: making plants sexy, and partying like it's 1491.
The Night Owl Eating Award
The Produce Innovation Award
The New Global Cooking Award
The Culinary Preservation Award
The Healthy Omnivore Award
Taking Service to the Next Level
In Gunshow, chef-owner Kevin Gillespie has created a space governed by controlled — and charming — chaos. Inspired by dim sum and churrascaria models of service, the restaurant aims to forge a connection between guests and chefs. So instead of the traditional front-of-the-house service-staff setup, it's the chefs who deliver the food to the tables. This means that delectable and sometimes quirky dishes, such as Foie Gras with Figs and Coca-Cola or a Salmon Tartare BLT, come with a side of à la minute commentary from the über-talented cooks who conceived and prepared them.
Taking away the paper menu descriptions and replacing them with conversation makes for a bit of a boisterous atmosphere, but, Gillespie says, it also "creates a very genuine moment between our guests and staff."
Gunshow — Atlanta, GA
Kicking Up the Kids' Menu
You know most kids' menus by heart: battered, deep-deep-fried chicken fingers, spaghetti and meatballs, burgers and fries, most of it prefrozen. The uniformity is by design — it is assumed that all children are finicky eaters and will only eat the same few dishes wherever they go. Which is what makes the ingeniously crafted kids' menu at The Bird & The Bread so refreshing.
The menu, executed by chef Jim Leonardo, was developed by owner Kristin Jonna, mother of two. "We didn't feel there were a lot of places with healthy options to take your kids in Birmingham," she says. The dishes are familiar enough to appeal to less-adventurous kids but scratch-made and healthy enough to win over parents: Cashew Butter and Housemade Jelly Sandwich; Radiatore Pasta and Hidden Veggie Tomato Sauce; Baked Rotisserie Chicken Kabobs; Beef Brisket Not-So-Sloppy Joes.
"The kids seem to love it," says Jonna. "We've even had adults ordering off the kids' menu." This is what we hope the future of family-friendly restaurants looks like.
The Bird & The Bread — Birmingham, MI
Paying Servers Better Wages
Restaurant servers traditionally earn minuscule hourly wages, forcing them to rely on the kindness of strangers' tips. Acclaimed midtown Japanese restaurant Sushi Yasuda last year eliminated tipping so that it could increase pay for its servers. In European restaurants, where large tips are not common or expected, restaurant servers are typically paid more than their American counterparts. But in the U.S., Sushi Yasuda is now one of a small handful of restaurants not accepting tips at all.
Those numbers may grow, though, as the benefits of the system become evident: Despite conservative menu-price hikes, it's been reported that the average guest at Sushi Yasuda pays no more—and maybe a little less—now that the tip is no longer part of the equation.
Sushi Yasuda — New York, NY
Cooking Healthy Lunch for School Kids
Three-quarters of the children in New York City public schools qualify for a free lunch, which may be their only hot meal each day. Chef Bill Telepan — best known for his lauded Upper West Side restaurant, Telepan — wanted to make that meal not only healthy but also delicious.
After talks with Nancy Easton, cofounder of Wellness in the Schools (WITS), Telepan signed on as the WITS executive chef in 2008. He helped implement the organization's Cook for Kids program, for which he develops recipes and designs cooking classes. He also trains cooks, who partner with school cafeteria staff to prepare healthy student meals from scratch. Today, WITS serves more than 30,000 students in impoverished public schools in New York, Florida, and Kentucky.
"Because of Wellness in the Schools," Telepan says, "NYC public school children are having a healthy lunch, active recess, and returning back to class with the energy and focus they need to learn and excel."
Bill Telepan — New York, NY
Rebuilding the City
This smoked-meat mecca has come to symbolize the power of good food and goodwill. Slows' success since opening in 2005 has helped to revitalize the neighborhood, drawing hordes of customers and inspiring others to open new businesses in the area.
Owner Phillip Cooley works overtime to help new business owners thrive. He has developed several commercial and residential properties around the city and helped open a sprawling warehouse that provides cheap workspace for artists and entrepreneurs.
Cooley lives by the motto "You're doing great by doing good." Seems like he's doing great for Detroit.
Slows BBQ — Detroit, MI
Feeding Guests Nutrition Wisdom
Nourish owner Kirstin Carey and chef Dan Santos craft their menu with care: Every dish is gluten-, soy-, and peanut-free, and most are also dairy-free. Open for three meals a day, Nourish has vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, and raw options as well. Carey and Santos want guests to eat healthfully not just when they visit but also when they cook for themselves: Nourish offers weekly cooking classes and nutrition workshops on topics like finding healthy proteins on a plant-based diet and determining the right diet for your individual needs.
"We believe you shouldn't have to exchange taste for health," Carey says.
Nourish Restaurant and Nutrition Center — Gilbert, AZ