For four years, Robb Report has asked the most celebrated chefs in the world a single question: Who is the up-and-coming chef you admire most? Their answers become the nominees in our annual Culinary Masters Competition, and you can read about this year’s contest in “Robb Report’s New Culinary Master for 2016” (page 126). But those answers also provide some glimpses into the future. In the short time since their nominations, the groundbreaking chefs chosen by the likes of Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, and Nancy Silverton have indeed gone on to great things: Some of the most exciting new restaurants in the country are run by Culinary Masters nominees.
In New York City, Justin Smillie opened his first restaurant, Upland (uplandnyc.com; nominated by Nancy Silverton), where his seasonal, bold-flavored cooking won instant acclaim and full reservation books. George Mendes expanded upon his elegant Portuguese menu at Aldea with a new restaurant featuring rustic Portuguese fare, Lupulu (lupulunyc.com; Daniel Boulud).
On the West Coast, two nominees earned a Michelin star last fall: Mourad Lahlou was recognized for his modern Moroccan cuisine at Mourad (mouradsf.com; Michael Mina), and Nicolas Delaroque for his subtle French fare at Nico (nicosf.com; Nancy Oakes). In Los Angeles, Josef Centeno added a classic American venue, Ledlow (ledlowla.com; Wolfgang Puck), to his downtown L.A. empire.
Gavin Kaysen’s departure from Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group (and New York City) inspired a New York Times feature on promising chefs striking out for new territory. In Kaysen’s case, that was Minneapolis, where he opened Spoon and Stable (spoonandstable.com; Eric Ripert). Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville, N.C.—the winner of the inaugural competition—opened a small-plates restaurant called Nightbell (thenightbell.com; José Andrés). And in Dallas, last year’s winner, Nick Badovinus, earned raves for a new burger spot, Off Site Kitchen (oskdallas.com; Dean Fearing), while working on a highly anticipated seafood restaurant, Montlake Cut.