On an early summer evening, the Los Angeles restaurant community gathered to honor the generation ready to take on the masters, the “Rising Stars.” Like a graduation, their mentors and head chefs stood beside them like proud parents, glowing as much as the honorees themselves. Michael Cimarusti of Providence was surprised at being chosen by popular vote as “Mentor Chef.”
Restaurant professionals never seem to rest, so the winners still had to work, providing tastes for the crowd – or rather, they had the opportunity to showcase their signature dishes. The lucky crowd was wowed by some of the most innovative and delicious cuisine in LA, from the homey egg sandwich of Eggslut to the exotic jellyfish salad from the Spice Table.
Usually it is hard to choose a favorite at these events, but I was completely blown away by the Pig-tail and Shrimp-tail dumplings from Atsushi Takatsuki of MB Post, a rich and complex interpretation of siu mai. The Fried Rabbit from Jonathan Whitener of Animal was also an extremely impressive dish, blanketed with a thick sour cream gravy. The rabbit is a spin on his family’s fried chicken recipe, which has been passed down for generations. Niki Nakamaya’s Diver Scallop and Strawberry dish for n/naka was the polar opposite of the rich plates, clean, refreshing and delicate on the palate.
Lighter dishes like Jessica Koslow’s Sorrel Bowl, a composed plate anchored by flavorful rice, was a nice break from the intensity, and more likely something where I could sit down to a huge helping. I will have to get to Sqirl soon. The Gnocchetti with Wood Pigeon Ragu from Miles Thompson made us even more disappointed about the upcoming closing of Allumette. Jeff Mahin’s Parmesan Cream White Pizza loaded with greens for Stella Barra Pizzeria had an addictive crust.
Among the more exotic dishes, Cole Dickenson of Ink’s Mediterranean Octopus was tender and flavorful as well as a cute play on “Ink.” Bryant Ng of Spice Table turned me on to jellyfish, adding shredded chicken and a sesame dressing to bolster the salad and help make the dish less daunting to tentative diners. He explains that he uses bell jellyfish. Only the body can be used as the tentacles sting. And we are not that adventurous, not even Eddie Lin. If I had to liken jellyfish to any other ingredient I would have to say calamari.
Patina’s desserts from Carlos Enriquez were addictive, especially a layered tapioca in an adorable little jar. Kei Hasegawa of Matsuhisa presented the lightest shaved ice I have ever experienced, even compared to a New Orleans snowball, and green tea is one of my favorite flavors. But he really trippy part of the dessert course came from David Rodriguez of Providence in the form of Sunchoke Candied, Fried, and even made into ice cream along with a spiced genoise cake. I took my first bite unawares and thought I was eating artichoke heart ice cream. Savory has finally completely infiltrated the dessert world. Lemon-thyme cookies? Ha! Sunchoke ice cream laughs in your face.
I am not much of a wine drinker, but I have to say the sake, which I only took to be polite, was the only sake I have ever liked. If you know the name of it, (pictured above) I will split my bottle with you. The Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial and Henriot Brut Soverain champagnes were also light and biscuity. Devon Tarby of Honeycut mixed up and extremely strong . On the other side of the room, Kiowa Bryan took on the heroic task of making the egg-white based Bols on Parade for a crowd.
I can see why Vibiana is a much sought-after event location. The large, airy patio combined with the dramatic lighting of the interior made for an elegant and comfortable evening. Cheers to www.risingchefs.com for making the difficult choices and coming up with a list that could not be improved upon as well as some fantastic food writing in their magazine. It may be an industry journal, but it is not just for insiders. It is an all-around good read. Congratulations to all of the honorees, and I’m certain I will be seeing you very soon.
For more on why the winners were chosen, check out the Rising Stars website. Rising Stars Award Winners:
Cole Dickinson Ink Brian Dunsmoor & Kris Tominaga The Hart and the Hunter Ori Menashe Bestia Niki Nakayama n/naka Bryant Ng The Spice Table Atsushi Takatsuki MB Post Ari Taymor Alma Jonathan Whitener Animal
Jessica Koslow Sqirl
Alvin Cailan Eggslut
Miles Thompson Allumette
Nicole Rucker Gjelina Take Away