The western states of America proudly boast culinary royalty such as Giada De Laurentiis, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller and Alice Waters. Rather than celebrity chefs however, these individuals are unsung heroes creating gastronomic delights for the sheer love of the craft. Enjoy our guide to the 10 best chefs in the American west, showcasing award winning professionals who are attracting international attention for their innovative creations.
As the savvy sweetheart of the Denver food scene, Jennifer Jasinski has received praise from the James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine, American Culinary Federation and more. Chef Jasinski grew up in Santa Barbara and first learnt to cook at home, acquiring an impressive work ethic from her mother. She has certainly proved that she can work expertly and professionally at an impressive rate. Her first three restaurants have been dominating the Denver culinary scene since 2004 and in July of this year she opened her fourth concept, Stoic & Genuine. The restaurant serves the absolute freshest seafood in town, prepared in clean and imaginative ways. Earlier in 2014, Jasinski was excited to unveil the granita bar at Stoic & Genuine, which offers a daily dose of sweet, fresh icy flavour to cleanse the palate.
Before attending culinary school, Chef Jeff Drew had been working in a hectic professional kitchen environment from the tender of age of 13. Drew loves the west and gains inspiration from its landscape and culture for his food at the Snake River Grill. His menu is heavily influenced by the rural surroundings of the resort, offering dishes such as Applewood smoked Idaho trout and roasted elk chops. His flawless execution reflects his training at The Culinary Institute of America, but his skills and innate creativity are more reflective of time spent labouring in kitchens and garnering priceless knowledge and experience.
With awards from Food & Wine, San Francisco Magazine, the James Beard Foundation, and the Michelin Guide, it is especially impressive that Chef Daniel Patterson is self taught. He opened his first restaurant at the tender age of 25 and hasn’t looked back since. Born in Massachusetts, he moved to Sonoma in the late 1980s and has set about making his mark on the California culinary scene. His fine dining restaurant Coi, combines upscale gourmet food with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Chef Patterson has also published two cookbooks and often contributes food writing pieces to the New York Times, Food & Wine, and San Francisco Magazines. With his growing enterprise and increasing celebrity, it seems as though this self-made man isn’t about to lose momentum.
With an impressive resume that includes time spent at Savoy Grill, Per Se, and French Laundry, Chef Corey Lee had his fair share of exposure to culinary excellence. Lee was born in Korea and raised in New York City and thus has a unique attitude to flavour and fusion. His Korean roots influence his cooking style in creative ways. At his restaurant Benu in San Francisco, Lee serves playful dishes such as a thousand-year-old quail’s egg, shark fin soup, and green apple sorbet with yuzu. His newest restaurant Monsieur Benjamin, opened in summer 2014 and immediately achieved acclaim for its whimsy, modernity and its anything-but-stuffy approach to classic French bistro cuisine. It is clear that Chef Lee’s ability to combine classic French technique with fresh ingredients and Asian inspiration results in him standing head and shoulder above the crowd.
Chef Gary Kucy is not native to Idaho but has made a comfortable place for himself and his family in this beautiful north-western state. Raised in Phoenix, Kucy was led to McCall after receiving an apprenticeship at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, before starting work at the prestigious Coyote Café in Santa Fe followed by the Snake River Grill in Jackson. He is now the head chef at Rupert’s at the Hotel McCall, an upscale resort in remote west-central Idaho. Chef Kucy is passionate about locally-sourced produce, often shopping at farmers markets himself for the best daily selection, relying on wild game ranches in the area for sustainable and delicious meats. His food has been described as having an authentic, home-cooked feel in a rustic, romantic setting.
This two-person team – both talented chefs in their own right – have been inseparable since attending culinary school together. They worked as team at restaurants in Florida, Colorado and California before opening up their own catering company. Their venture was successful and they soon found themselves publishing a cookbook and making regular television appearances with the Food Network. Eventually, the pair established themselves on the Los Angeles food scene with Animal and Son of a Gun. During summer 2014, they opened their second restaurant with Ludovic Lefebvre – the already popular Petit Trois. Chefs Shook and Dotolo have an unapologetic approach to cooking that is unpretentious and incredibly popular.
Chef Michael Cimarusti’s restaurant Providence, has been one of the top Los Angeles spots to see and be seen in since its opening in 2005. His newest concept Connie & Ted’s, pays homage to his English-born grandparents who settled in New England to begin a new life. Chef Cimarusti grew up in this New England environment, fishing and enjoying the plentiful fresh seafood. After graduating from culinary school, he gained his now carefully honed experience by beginning his working life in New York. He worked at Puck’s original Spago location and at Water Grill before opening his own ventures. His food is fresh and upmarket yet the dishes are always approachable and never too highbrow. He is renowned for executing the preparation very precisely, evidence of his classical technique and training.
Napa-native chef Nick Ritchie has worked in New York, California, the Pacific northwest and Italy, has won an Emmy award for back kitchen production and received a nod from food royalty, Thomas Keller – all by his early thirties. Chef Ritchie gleaned invaluable inspiration and experience whilst learning from Chef Michael Chiarello. After working in Chiarello’s popular and fast-paced restaurant Bodega, Chef Ritchie was looking for a smaller, more intimate setting. The result was Alex Italian Restaurant; a cosy Italian joint where everything is sourced from local producers, with Ritchie often bringing in his own home-grown herbs to add extra special flavour.
Chef Rick Moonen has been impressing the culinary world for decades. After receiving his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America, he gained experience working in some of the most respected restaurants in New York. Chef Moonen eventually made his way westward, moving his popular restaurant, rm seafood, from the Big Apple to Sin City. Since then, his restaurant has flourished – he has landed TV appearances and published a cookbook. In recent years, his efforts to educate consumers about sustainable seafood have become a hallmark of his restaurant and style, establishing him a sterling reputation in the industry.
It would be impossible to separate chef Stuart Brioza and chef Nicole Krasinski, as the two come as a perfectly matched pair. The dynamic married duo opened their restaurant State Bird Provisions in 2012 and have been receiving awards for it ever since, winning attention from the likes of James Beard, Food & Wine, Zagat, and Bon Appetit. Chef Brioza’s creative and unique flavour combinations results in guests being uncharacteristically yet thoroughly willing to wait sometimes hours for an available table, while pastry chef Krasinski delights guests with sweet treats such as an unusual olive oil ice cream sandwich. Together they focus on simple, authentic food carefully crafted from local and seasonal ingredients.