The James Beard Awards may be considered the Oscars of the food world, but when it comes to the honor that anoints chefdom's Next Big Thangs, it's hard to argue with the track record of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in America. Past winners include such restaurant gods as Thomas Keller (1988), Nobu Matsuhisha (1989), Wylie Dufresne (2001), David Chang (2006), and April Bloomfield (2007).
And this year, the honorees include Top Chef winner Stephanie Izzard of Chicago restaurant Girl & the Goat, New York City's George Mendes of Aldea, and Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica, a Peruvian restaurant located in a food court in L.A.
"We're celebrating a pair of chefs who are creating ingenious modernist food in Salt Lake City [Bowman Brown and Viet Pham of Forage], a chef in Birmingham who is so committed to his farmers that he invites them to cook in his restaurant [James Lewis of Bottola], and an enterprising chef in Brooklyn whose restaurant also houses a radio station [Carlo Mirachi of Roberta's]," Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin said at the annual awards ceremony. "And for the first time ever, we're honoring a winner of TV's Top Chef."
The winners, each of whom have been in charge of a kitchen for five years or fewer, are chosen after a months-long selection process conducted by F&W editors, restaurant critics, food writers, and other experts. Click here to see the full list of 2011's winners, www.foodandwine.com/best_new_chefs, as well as honorees from previous years. Are there any surprises? Is there anyone that you feel was left out?