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Top 10 List: World's Best Chefs
Chefs provide a valuable service to our modern daily lives, influencing the way we cook our food, eat, and even the way we talk about our dining experience. A good meal at a premier restaurant headed by some well-known chef can, indeed, have a lasting impression on many diners. The purveyors of some of America's premier eateries have gone on to achieve epicurean fame, creating tasty recipes that have placed them into the forefront of the American mainstream media. Still yet, among the hundreds of such notable chefs in the world, which 10 are the best in the business? The following list below doesn't necessarily highlights 10 of the world's most accomplished chefs, rather it seeks to give kudos to 10 of the very best chefs at what they do:
#10 Jamie Oliver
Coming in at the number 10th slot is one of London’s finest in Chef Jaime Oliver. When I first caught an episode of The Naked Chef series, which has already been pulled from production, I, like everyone else, assumed some “whacky British guy” would be attempting to cook in the nude. Unbeknownst to many at the time, the title of the series actually referred to Chef Oliver’s trademark cuisine: hearty, simple unmasked dishes made with natural ingredients, and, of course, ending with a kind of laid back ambiance comprised mainly of a close circle of friends. Part of what makes a good Chef “great” has nothing to do with food preparation; rather it has more to do with his or her passion for food. After viewing just one episode of The Naked Chef, you’ll immediately sense this passion in Chef Oliver.
#9 Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef, is definitely a young vibrant chef on the rise. Whether or not he makes your list as one of the top 10 chefs on the planet is based in pure conjecture. Nonetheless, what isn’t predisposed to speculation is the fact that the guy can really cook. At the tender age of 24, Marcus became executive chef of Aquavit, a premier Scandinavian restaurant in NYC. Immediately following that remarkable feat, the young chef received a three-star restaurant review from The New York Times. Great things would soon follow, receiving the dubious distinction of being named "Best Chef: New York City" by the James Beard Foundation. On November 24, 2009, Samuelsson served as guest chef for the first state dinner of the Barack Obama presidency. The dinner in honor of Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh and the country of India, primarily a Hindu nation, was served on the South Lawn and largely vegetarian. Despite being one of the very few top chefs of African dissent, Samuelsson looks to have a very bright future in the culinary arts; that is, course of, he continues to serve up delicious meals.
#8 David Chang
In 2007, Chef Chang was named Bon Appetit’s Chef of the Year. Along with many other accolades, including a Food & Wine award and a James Beard nomination, this Trinity College religious studies major, appear to have been bestowed a divine gift in the culinary arts, approaching each new dish with a kind of religious zeal that seems unmatched in the industry. Perhaps unsatisfied with the way traditional Japanese restaurants served its patrons Chang, in quite the bold move at the time, decided to do away with his wait staff—to be precise, his collection of quality chefs prepare meals right in front of customers, explaining both its preparation and ingredients. His specialty: ramen noodles. That’s right, if there ever was a chef that has done more with a single product than Chang, the cooking world wants to know, as this guy has single-handedly elevated Japanese street food to one of NYC’s haute cuisines.
#7 Jacques Torres & Sarah Molten
Sharing the number seventh slot are two very well-known chefs that should come as no surprise to the many diners that have already sampled some of their savoring dishes. Known by many in the pastry world simply as Mr. Chocolate, Torres epitomizes what it means for a chef to dominate his or her specialty. Perhaps imbuing a sense of sweet entrepreneurial zeal of his own, Jacque Torres opened a chocolate factory (i.e., Willy Wonka style) in NYC, which now totals eight, including Madame Chocolat, in Beverly Hills, California. Simply put, when comes to making some of the world’s best desserts, Torres appears to be in a league of his own.
#5 Rocco DiSpirito & Mario Batali
Choosing the top five slots is where it really gets tough, especially when you factor in a chef’s outright dominance over his or her cooking specialty. In that same vein, whenever reputable food enthusiasts compile a list of their favorite Italian chefs, both Rocco DiSpirito & Mario Batali names are always mentioned. In fact, they both come with innumerable food preparation accolades and celebrity chef star power. As mention earlier, this is neither a list about celebrity chef guess appearances on some cooking reality T.V. series nor is it a list about how many books a chef has written. This is simply a list, from a subjective viewpoint of course, about 10 of the world’s best chefs (namely, 10 of the world's most proven chefs).
One of the main criterias of a great chef, indeed, is his or her ability to serve up delectable dishes. In the case of Chef DiSpirito (better known as Rocco), the guy has been doing just that—to be exact, from the tender age of 11, Rocco knew he wanted to not only be a world-renowned chef, but that it would be his love affair with creating fine Italian cuisine that catapulted him to chef stardom—and it indeed has. At just 16, Rocco enrolled at the very prestigious Culinary Institute of America; by age 18, he was already on his way to reaching his goal, working alongside some of the best chefs around the world, which should corroborate anyone’s claim of making him one of the world’s best chefs. In 1999, Rocco was honored as one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs, and would be the first chef to appear on the cover of Gourmet magazine as America’s Most Exciting Young Chef.
Specializing in Home-Style cooking, Chef Sarah, the Renaissance woman she is, found herself at the Culinary Institute of America after graduating from college in 1974—a bold move, especially given the food industry’s propensity, at that particular time, to choose men over women. Nevertheless, Chef Sarah didn’t allow barriers to the industry to impede her natural zest for preparing great meals, in particular Home-Style cooking, which has become her trademark cooking style and her claim to fame. Since then, the chef has gone on to wear many hats, including her role as a defining personality on the Food Network when it debuted in 1993. She has hosted Cooking Live, Cooking Live Primetime, and Sara's Secrets.
#6 Ming Tsai
What else could be said about Chef Ming Tsai, other than the fact that this Ivy League graduate comes from a cooking dynasty: born into a culinary family Ming spent his childhood cooking with his parents in their restaurant Mandarin Kitchen. This notion of “cooking dynasty” becomes more transparent when you factor in Ming’s virtual hegemony over the “East- Meets- West” cooking specialty. In fact, holding Ming’s stellar academic background at a constant, this world renowned chef has blithely gone on to reach the acme of the food preparation world simply by sticking to the basics principles of the world’s diverse cooking styles. Tsai opened Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, building on the varied cooking styles he learned during his travels. Chef Tsai’s East-West cuisine was immediately well-received and considered innovative by diners and the food media. Blue Ginger has justly received many accolades over the years, earning Best New Restaurant by Boston Magazine, followed by a James Beard award for Best Chef Northeast in 2002.
Perhaps many of you might be thinking, “Why isn’t Chef Mario in a slot of his own?” When you take into account the sheer magnitude of what this guy represents in the realm of just Italian cooking alone, with pizzerias on virtually every continent, it could be concluded that he deserves to be placed into the cooking hall of fame. Nonetheless, here’s the million dollar question you have to ask yourself when choosing a top chef: “What have you been doing lately?” And although Chef Mario cooking resume spans close to three decades, going back to a time when aspiring chefs, like an apprenticeship, earned their dues by putting in hard labor, the Italian American chef has lost some of his luster due to a lawsuit brought on by his former employees. Controversy aside, Batali in his quest to be the very best Italian cook on the planet, indeed, has made quite the name for himself which, when combined with his all-around restaurateur business acumen, the guy really deserves the title as one of the world’s best chefs.
#4 Chef John Besh & John Folse
Although not as well-known, from a global perspective at least, as their cooking counterparts, both Chef Besh and Chef Folse, respectively, have made respectable names for themselves in the Southeast regions of the United States, the state of Louisiana to be exact. Many of you might be wondering: “How do two provincial chefs make the list as two of the world’s best chef? It’s simple: it’s called Cajun & Creole cuisine, which happens to be one of America’s premier food styles. Cajun & Creole cuisine, simply known as Louisiana-Style Cuisine is cooked all over America by many very distinguished chefs and cooks, but what has made “The Two Johns” stand above the rest, indeed, has been their flair for the unusual—that is, to say, these two local bayou boys have dedicated their lives to preparing food fare straight from the Louisiana bayou (i.e., crawfish, bullfrogs, snapper turtles, etc.), whereas in other parts of the world most chefs don’t have the same luxury.
#3 Wolfgang Puck
On the west-coast of the United States, as headed by the city of L.A., the name Wolfgang Puck is analogous to a culinary rock star. Perhaps on your next business or pleasure trip to L.A., if your budget allows, you might want to sample a dish from Spago, one of Chef Puck’s oldest and premier eateries, serving up such tasty delights such as gourmet pizzas topped with smoked salmon and caviar, which has justly earned the chef a degree of notoriety. Fame aside, when it comes to preparing great food in a fine dining setting, Chef Puck really appears to be in a league of his own, changing the way both American and global chefs, alike, approach the art of cooking food.
#2 Emeril Lagasse
If you mention Chef Emeril’s name anywhere within the 300 mile periphery of the Earth’s troposphere, you’ll probably get the ubiquitous respond of “bad to the bone.” Simply put, in the world of culinary arts, Emeril Lagasse is a self-professed “badass”: his trademark “bam” says it all. Aside from the 13 restaurants he now owns in a number of different U.S. cities; aside from the number of television appearances and books signings; aside from all that, the guy continues to bring a kind of kindred spirit to the art of food making that very few chefs have been able to match. Chef Emeril comes from good cooking pedigree: his mother. In historical review, Emeril honed his craft of Creole cooking from arguably the best in the business: Lured to New Orleans from New England by Dick and Ella Brennan, the owners of the world famous Commander’s Palace, where Emeril was given the honor of being executive chef.
#1 Ferran Adrià
Ask any food connoisseur, “What’s the best restaurant in the world?” and he or she will probably say, “El Bulli”; again, ask any food connoisseur, “Who’s the best chef in the world?” and he or she will unequivocally say, “Ferran Adria!” The fact that Ferran Adria is head chef at one of the world’s best restaurant, surely, doesn’t automatically qualify him as being “The Best Chef on The Planet.” Needless to say, Chef Adrià appears to have earned this title solely on merit—namely, the manner in which Chef Adrià has approached the art of food making is akin to a kind of mad scientist on the quest to solving food’s complex equation: Adrià is often associated with "molecular gastronomy," despite is scientific category, the Catalan chef considers his cuisine to be more in line with this notion of deconstuctivist. Known as the Salvador Dali of the cooking world, Chef Adrià defines the term simply as “Taking a dish that is well known and transforming all its ingredients, or part of them; then modifying the dish's texture, form and/or its temperature.”
The definition of a great chef can be defined in many ways; but for the most part, a great chef should be “great” at what he or she does: whether it’s desserts, Italian cuisine, Cajun or Sci-Food cooking, the essence of a great chef should resonate with its diners through his or her ability to make mouthwatering and tantalizing dishes.