Watch Master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten introduce his nominee, Alex Stupak of Empellon Cocina in New York City, then scroll down to see Stupak's creative take on classic mole poblano.

Though Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the world's most famous chefs, his skills extend far beyond the kitchen. A savvy businessman and restaurateur, he is responsible for the operation and success of a constellation of three- and four- star restaurants worldwide.

Born and raised on the outskirts of Strasbourg in Alsace, France, Vongerichten's earliest family memories are of food. He began his training in a work-study program at Auberge de l'Ill as an apprentice to chef Paul Haeberlin, then went on to work under Paul Bocuse and the master chef Louis Outhier at L'Oasis in southern France. With this impressive Michelin three-star background, Vongerichten traveled to Asia and continued his training at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, the Meridien Hotel in Singapore, and the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong.

It was during this time spent working and traveling that Vongerichten developed his love for the aromatic flavors of Asia. His signature cuisine abandons the traditional use of meat stocks and creams and instead features the intense flavors and textures of vegetable juices, fruit essences, light broths, and herbal vinaigrettes. Vongerichten's culinary vision has redefined industry standards.

Vongerichten has published several cookbooks reflecting his influential style of cooking, including Simple Cuisine (1990), Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef (1998)—for which he won the Best Cookbook Award from the James Beard Foundation—and Simple to Spectacular (2000). In 2007 he released Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges, featuring beloved recipes from his restaurants Spice Market, Vong, and 66. Most recently, he released Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes (2011). In this book, Vongerichten shares his family's favorite recipes for easy, quick, and seasonal meals, including crab toasts with sriracha mayonnaise, watermelon-and-blue-cheese salad, herbed sea bass and potatoes in broth, lamb chops with smoked-chile glaze and warm fava beans, tarte tatin, and buttermilk pancakes with warm berry syrup.

Vongerichten is involved in every aspect of his restaurants—concept, menu, architectural design, staff selection and training—in an ongoing effort to create restaurants that are both timely and enduring. Inspired by his travels, he is constantly developing fresh concepts and evolving as a chef and restaurateur, both adapting to and changing the global culinary landscape.

Most recently, Vongerichten has opened a number of new restaurants, including the Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges (located inside the Mark Hotel), ABC Kitchen, ABC Cocina, Simply Chicken at Madison Square Garden, the Pump Room in the Public Chicago, and Eden Rock in St. Barts. ABC Kitchen was named Best New Restaurant of 2011 by the James Beard Foundation.

Vongerichten has appeared on Live! With Regis and Kelly, Today, Good Morning America, Martha, The Early Show on CBS, Top Chef, the Food Network, the Sundance Channel's Iconoclasts (with Hugh Jackman), NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Good Day NY's “Good Day Cafe” segment. He also appeared in the 1995 PBS series In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs and cohosted his wife Marja's PBS series Kimchi Chronicles.

Vongerichten has made culinary history and developed a reputation as remarkable as his food by tapping his deep understanding of the restaurant world and pairing it with his forward-thinking vision. Yet, after years of success, his favorite retreat is still the kitchen, and his favorite meals dished from a street cart in Thailand.

Roasted Carrots, Mole Poblano, Yogurt, Watercress
Serves 4

When we blankly refer to something as "mole," this is usually the dish we are thinking of. This is Pueblan mole and it is Mexico's most famous iteration. Mole is not convenient to make, but it's one of those things you should try just once. It keeps well and, beyond being delicious, it will give you a great feeling of pride after you've made it. Once the mole paste is complete, try diluting it with water and use it to simmer chicken or turkey. Things don't get much more authentic. —Alex Stupak

Pickled Carrots
4 baby carrots, scrubbed but not peeled
¾ extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup onion, sliced
2 whole garlic cloves
2 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Pinch ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Mole Poblano
1 white onion
1½ pounds whole plum tomatoes
1 pound dried ancho chilies, seeded and deveined
¼ pound dried pasilla chilies, seeded and deveined
4 tablespoons lard, divided
½ cup almonds
½ cup raisins
½ cup sesame seeds
½ tablespoon coriander seeds
20 garlic cloves
2 cups brioche cut into cubes
3 tortillas, toasted
2 whole cloves
½ tablespoon freshly ground
black pepper
1 teaspoon anise seed
1-inch cinnamon stick
2 ounces Mexican chocolate

Roasted Carrots
40 baby carrots
1 cup Mole Poblano (above)

Mole Poblano Tuile
1 cup Mole Poblano (above)
½ teaspoon gellan gum
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup dextrose

To Finish
Mole Poblano (above)
8 ounces Greek yogurt
40 Roasted Baby Carrots (above)
4 teaspoons sesame seeds
24 sprigs watercress
Pickled Carrots (above)
Mole Poblano Tuile (above)

Alex Stupak made his first appearance in a professional kitchen as a prep cook at the age of 12, having convinced the restaurant's owner he was of legal age. Stupak took full advantage of his high school's unique culinary-arts program and joined VICA, the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. He soon started to participate in culinary competitions, finally competing at the national level during his senior year. He swept the competition and won a full scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America, eventually securing a culinary degree and an externship at Boston's prestigious Clio Restaurant. It was there that Stupak was given an opportunity to work the pastry station, part of a mandatory rotation for all cooks—and to his surprise, he enjoyed the work, although at the time he had no intention of pursuing it further.

After graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, Stupak moved to Chicago, where he became the tournant at Tru. Within 14 months he was offered the position of sous-chef at the Federalist in Boston, but once there, he quickly found himself dissatisfied with the lack of creative control the position gave him, and he began to plan an alternate path. In a twist of fate, a freshly fired pastry chef gave Stupak the opportunity he needed to take control of his own department.

Fascinated by innovation and technique, and seeking an environment that supported his vision, Stupak returned to Clio to become the restaurant's first pastry chef. Boston magazine awarded him the title of Best Pastry Chef in 2003, and the following year, Food & Wine magazine hailed him as a visionary.

In 2005, chef Grant Achatz asked Stupak to be the pastry chef at Alinea. The restaurant's opening was a highly anticipated event in the restaurant industry, galvanizing Stupak to excel with his menu. He was asked to re-create his magic on-air, making appearances on Today and the Discovery Channel. The Alinea cookbook includes several of his recipes.

An invitation from Wylie Dufresne to take on the mantle of pastry chef at WD-50 fulfilled Stupak's combined ambitions to cook in New York and to work in an environment that fostered his creative vision; he joined the team there in August 2007. Stupak was victorious on Iron Chef America in 2008. Pastry Art & Design named Stupak one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America in both 2008 and 2009, and shortly thereafter, Vogue's food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten, deemed him "an unstoppable front of new ideas."

During the entire time that Stupak worked at Alinea and WD-50, he questioned the future of modernism in cuisine and his place within the movement. He came to the realization that what was once a new way of thinking had become another format to be mimicked. He decided the only logical progression for him was to push in a new direction by answering a simple question: "What do you love to eat the most?" After answering that question: Stupak spent the majority of his four years in New York City working to create the restaurant he was dreaming of rather than the one he was groomed for. In March 2010 he opened Empellón Taqueria to force himself out of what had become a comfortable situation and embrace the Mexican system of cooking. Not a year later, he opened Empellón Cocina, a second Mexican venture, where he continues to utilize the cuisine as an inspiration for creativity. Standing behind the philosophy that both defines and is defined by Empellón, Stupak's will keep pushing himself and his team.

In addition to Stupak's being named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, in 2013 the James Beard Foundation nominated Empellón Cocina as a finalist for Best New Restaurant.


For the Pickled Carrots: Using a mandoline, carefully slice the baby carrots 1/16 inch thick and place in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and sauté the onions until lightly browned. Add the garlic cloves, vinegar, black peppercorns, cumin, coriander seeds, bay leaf, salt, and sugar, and stir. Allow the mixture to simmer 5 minutes. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the sliced carrots and let cool.

For the Mole Poblano: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil. Cut the onion in half and place on the prepared baking sheet, cut-side down, along with the whole tomatoes. Roast about 30 minutes, rotating the vegetables every 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked through and browned.

In a dry pan over medium-high heat, carefully toast the chilies and transfer to a bowl filled with warm water. Soak the chilies for 30 minutes to an hour, until they are soft.

In a sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of the lard and, in separate batches, fry the almonds followed by the raisins. Set aside.

Remove the chilies from the water, and gently squeeze out some of the water. Place the chilies in a blender with 2 tablespoons water and purée until smooth.

Transfer the puréed chilies to a Dutch oven with the remaining lard and start cooking over medium heat.

In the blender, place the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, fried almonds, fried raisins, roasted white onion, garlic, brioche, tortillas, roasted tomatoes, whole cloves, freshly ground black pepper, anise seed, cinnamon stick, and 4 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth. Add more water if necessary, but just enough to get the blades to move. Add the mixture to the Dutch oven with the chilies and cook down to a paste. Cook the mixture until reduced by about half, or until thick. Add the chocolate and season with salt and sugar. Cook for another 10 minutes and serve.

For the Roasted Carrots: Season the carrots with salt and toss in 1 cup mole. Place on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove carrots from the oven and let them cool.

For the Mole Poblano Tuile: In a small saucepan, combine the Mole Poblano with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Let the mixture cool slightly. Transfer to a blender, add the gellan gum, and blend on high speed. Add the sugar, dextrose, and a pinch of salt and blend until the mixture forms a gel. Continue blending until the gel becomes a smooth paste. Pass the paste through a fine-mesh sieve and spread thinly onto a silicone-mat-lined baking sheet. Place it in a dehydrator (or, alternatively, in the oven with only the pilot light on) and leave overnight to dry to a solid, thin sheet.

To Finish: Use a pastry brush to paint the inside of 4 deep bowls with Mole Poblano. To each bowl, add 2 ounces of Greek yogurt. Arrange 10 roasted carrots and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sesame seeds followed by 6 sprigs of watercress. Arrange several slices of pickled carrots in each bowl and garnish with several artfully broken pieces of Mole Poblano Tuile.

Watch Alex Stupak prepare a dish from his Culinary Masters Competition menu: Roasted Carrots, Mole Poblano, Yogurt, Watercress