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WINNER REVEALED: Robb Report’s New Culinary Master Is…

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Watch Josef Centeno make Satsuki rice with uni, a dish from his Culinary Masters Competition dinner.

 Dream for Future Africa Foundation: A Fresh Course

“My wife started an orphanage in Africa before I really met her,” Wolfgang Puck says. “They started with 21 kids. Now there are 700 kids, and it’s a school, plus a vocational school. And I’m almost crazy enough to build a cooking school.”

Puck is speaking with obvious pride about the Dream for Future Africa Foundation, which he has chosen as his beneficiary for this year’s Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition. His wife, Gelila Assefa Puck, began working with children’s groups in her native Ethiopia in 1998, when she helped start a school for orphans with the Ethiopian Children’s Fund. In 2010 she established Dream for Future Africa Foundation, a charity that assists orphans in Ethiopia by providing a diverse variety of vocational training programs.

In 2011, Gelila, Wolfgang, and their two sons attended the ground breaking for the vocational school, which was funded by a $500,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation and by contributions from the Steve Tisch Foundation and General Motors. Two years later, the DFFAF Vocational Training Center opened in the village of Aleltu, 55 miles from Addis Ababa, offering one- to three-year diploma and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines ranging from information technology to traditional Ethiopian textiles and weaving. The school also offers hospitality and tourism programs, a nursing curriculum, and an entrepreneurship program that introduces students to the fashion world, which connects to Assefa Puck’s background as a fashion designer. As Dream for Future Africa expands, the hope is that it will be replicated across Ethiopia and the rest of Africa.

“It’s really an amazing thing,” Puck says. And now that Puck has opened a restaurant a short flight away in Dubai, he expects the family will visit the school every year. —M.B.




Watch Yoshiaki Takazawa prepare a dish from his competition menu.


 Tribeca Native: The Culinary Apprentice

In the 1970s, the masters of the nouvelle cuisine—Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon, Gaston Lenôtre, and Frédy Girardet—welcomed the young David Bouley into their kitchens as a stage, or apprentice. The practice has a long tradition in Europe, and, like many chefs, Bouley learned much as a stage that later set the course of his career.

Today, the tradition permeates the U.S. culinary world as well; Bouley, however, wants to take it a step further. While most stages work for little or no pay, Bouley is creating a scholarship that will not only grant the recipient a two-week stint in one of his kitchens but also provide a stipend to enable the recipient to gain experience in a leading kitchen

overseas and engage in additional culinary exploration. The Tribeca Native Artisan scholarship will be administered by Tribeca Native, a New York City nonprofit group that Bouley has chosen as his beneficiary for the Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition. The first scholarship will be awarded in 2015.

Tribeca Native was founded in 2003 by Nicole Bartelme, who later married Bouley. The purpose of the new scholarship, she says, is to celebrate the roots of the Tribeca neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. “Tribeca was built on butter and eggs, and many of the country’s first staples were brought off ships and collected here,” she says. While the first scholarship will recognize an early-career chef, Bartelme says future honorees will also come from other disciplines with connections to the area, including the arts, film, media, and technology.

Applications for the inaugural scholarship will be available online (www.tribecanative.org) starting April 1. A scholarship committee will review candidates, but the final selection will be made by Bouley, who will also help select a prominent restaurant in Asia or Europe as the location of the second staging. The scholarship will cover room, board, and travel expenses during the apprenticeship, as well as the cost of any necessary tools—such as the artisanal knives produced only in Kyoto—and scouting trips for ingredients. “We want the winner to have the flexibility to do this and to learn,” Bartelme says, “and then to bring it back.” The scholarship winner will also be required to perform a measure of social philanthropy in the host country.

In addition to managing this scholarship program, Tribeca Native raises funds for other Manhattan nonprofit groups. Bartelme, who also helped found the Tribeca Film Festival, runs Tribeca Native with the help of three volunteers. Last year, her small group raised $20,000, 92 percent of which went directly to the Manhattan nonprofits. The organization’s fundraising goal for 2014 is $60,000 to $100,000, which will be enough to support both a chef’s apprenticeship and several social-welfare projects. —Sonoko Sakai

Watch Nicolas Delaroque prepare halibut crudo, a dish from his Culinary Masters Competition menu.


Family House: A Roof and Refuge

Nancy Oakes chose a San Francisco charity as the benefactor for the Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition: Family House, an organization that provides shelter for families with children who have life-threatening illnesses. This organization was a surprising choice for Oakes, who for more than a decade has been chairwoman of the Meals On Wheels of San Francisco gala. This year, the gala raised $2.6 million thanks to an auction, dinner, and tasting that featured more than 90 chefs Oakes wooed into cooking. But Oakes decided on Family House because of another personal connection.

Last year, her friends Ari and Dawnelise Rosen were jolted out of their daily routine when their 3-year-old daughter, Serafina, was diagnosed with leukemia. The Rosens, who own the popular Scopa and Campo Fina restaurants in Healdsburg, Calif., made weekly 70-mile trips to San Francisco for treatments. Dawnelise had to give up her position in the restaurant, creating yet another financial burden for the family. The Rosens were able to stay with family in San Francisco during those nine months, but they saw many others who were not as fortunate. “With everything we went through, I became interested in working with Family House,” Ari says. He held a charity dinner for the organization and enlisted the help of Oakes’s husband, Bruce Aidells, the guru of meat and sausage. Through this association and by talking to the Rosens, Oakes came to see how financially and emotionally crippling childhood illnesses can be.

“Making it possible for people to have a place to stay lifts a major burden,” she says. Most children in treatment at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital are there for bone-marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and radiation, and they stay anywhere from one night to several months.

Family House, which opened in 1981 and is privately funded, currently operates two facilities close to the campus of the University of California, San Francisco. The 34 rooms can accommodate 107 people a night, and the facilities are usually full. Over the course of a year, Family House serves up to 2,000 families. Early next year, the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital will close its original site and relocate to a new facility in San Francisco’s Mission Bay area, so Family House is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $40 million dollars to build an 80-room facility that will accommodate 250 people and provide not only shelter but also food and, in some cases, financial assistance. The new Family House facility is scheduled to open in 2016.

“Talking to the Rosens, I realized this could happen to any one of us,” Oakes says. “Family House provides a safe foundation for families when their entire world is turned upside down. It is their rock.” —Michael Bauer



 Watch Jean-Marc Boyer prepare peach soup with a lemon meringue tart, a dish from his Culinary Masters Competition menu.


Charity for Pierre Gagnaire


Three Square: Local Heroes


High rollers and pleasure-seekers around the globe may be drawn to Las Vegas for its magnificent casinos and extraordinary gastronomy, but Southern Nevada is also a place where 340,000 people—including more than 130,000 children—are not sure where their next meal will come from.

The financial collapse of 2008 dealt a devastating blow to the city, where the construction boom came to an immediate halt. By late 2010, Las Vegas possessed America’s highest unemployment rate at 14.7 percent and the highest foreclosure rate, with more than 70 percent of homeowners with mortgages owing more than the value of their homes. At that point, 13 percent of Nevada children and their families had been evicted from their homes. For these reasons, Pierre Gagnaire chose Three Square, a food bank founded in December 2007, as his beneficiary for the Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition.

The organization’s mission is to feed the hungry in four Southern Nevada counties through its food bank, food-rescue program, and ready-to-eat meals. “One out of six people in the state is food insecure,” says Brian Burton, Three Square’s president and CEO. “We started in the economic downturn, which this city felt very harshly in the great recession. We’re doing better, but we still have a long way to go.”


Every month, more than 100,000 people receive food through Three Square and the non-profit associations, religious groups, and schools that make up its 600 partners. At more

than 1,300 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and after-school programs throughout Southern Nevada, the organization distributed more than 30 million pounds of food in 2013, the equivalent of 25 million meals. Two hundred and seventy-five schools in the Clark County School District participate through a backpack program, in which students are given food for the weekends.

Gagnaire is among the more than 50 chefs on Three Square’s Culinary Council, whose distinguished members also include Paul Bartolotta, Hubert Keller, Rick Moonen, Charlie Palmer, and many others. Overseeing annual fund-raising events, volunteer efforts, and donations of food and funds, the Council is an essential part of Three Square. “They hired our first executive chef, John Hilton,” says Burton, “and they remain involved in really cool ways. A lot of them do special events and tastings at their restaurants. They also designed Three Square’s kitchen, which prepares and packs between 6,000 and 9,000 meals per day. I call it a logistical miracle.”

The Council chefs also participate in Restaurant Week, which is held twice a year in Las Vegas and Twist, Gagnaire’s restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, has donated a portion of its sales to Three Square. About 150 restaurants name Three Square as their beneficiary, says Burton, and the event raises almost $200,000 per year, which is the equivalent of about 600,000 meals.

“Pierre is not just an extraordinary, innovative chef,” Burton says, “but also someone who doesn’t forget the people who can’t afford to come in and have those experiences and meals. He’s very compassionate.” —Leslie Brenner



 Watch Nick Badovinus prepare steak Diane, a dish from his Culinary Masters Competition menu.


Charity for Dean Fearing


MusiCares: Full-Chord Press


Dean Fearing strides through his restaurant in his hand-tooled Lucchese cowboy boots as if he has just stepped off the stage at Billy Bob’s Texas in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and he keeps a vintage Fender Stratocaster at the restaurant as a reminder of the road not taken. “I almost went into the music business,” he says, recalling the choice he made in his teens. “But my dad suggested that playing the circuit might get a little old. It really was a fork in the road, and I decided that I wanted to cook. I can always play.”


In fact, he does play with the Barbwires, an all-chef band he fronts with Robert Del Grande of RDG and Bar Annie in Houston. “Being a musician and being really good—that’s something I can only aspire to,” says Fearing, who is well aware of the difficulties musicians often face. “You think our life is hard? If something happens, like the car breaks down, you need dental work, you have to go to the hospital, it sure is nice to have something there for you.”


That is why Fearing chose MusiCares as his beneficiary for the Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences—the organization behind the Grammy Awards and the Grammy Foundation—established MusiCares more than 20 years ago, after the legendary bandleader Woody Herman died broke and nearly homeless. Debbie Carroll, MusiCares’s executive director, says that this incident was a wake-up call for others in the industry,

who got together to create a safety net for musicians in need.


MusiCares provides direct and confidential assistance to musicians “when they hit a bump in the road,” Carroll says. “That can mean a variety of things. It can mean medical care, dental care, substance-abuse treatment, basic living needs, car payments, rent, utilities, equipment replacement during natural disasters or when equipment is stolen.”


The foundation also coordinates the MusiCares Medical Network. Scott Powell, a board member and orthopedic surgeon who was one of the founding members of the 1950s-style band Sha Na Na, encourages medical specialists to offer health and dental clinics and provide low-cost services.


MusiCares is funded mainly by benefit concerts and charity events, through which it provides about $3.5 million in aid each year to about 3,500 people in the music business. Fearing cooks for the annual grill-and-barn-dance benefit at the Nashville home of his longtime friend, the singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell. “Not only did I find a world-class chef, but also a vintage guitar collector,” Crowell says. “His enthusiasm for playing music rivals his passion for food. Dean’s lust for life is highly contagious.”

Fearing relishes the chance to pitch in. “Rodney asked me to help out with the cooking, and he lets me jump on stage with him,” he says. “We all love music—we love when someone plays something. But musicians live from week to week, depending on how many gigs they get. It’s not an easy life.” —David Lyon




 Nick Badovinus


Born in 1970 in Bellevue, Wash., Nick Badovinus credits dinners and gatherings of his large extended family for pointing him to his calling as a chef and restaurateur. After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Washington in 1993, he enrolled at what was then the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. As he neared the end of his studies three years later, his father—then the CEO of Acme Boots—contacted a friend at the Lucchese Boot Company in Texas. That friend landed Badovinus an interview with the chef and Lucchese aficionado Dean Fearing, who gave Badovinus an externship at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas.


Badovinus has been a Dallas sensation ever since. He worked under Fearing for several years before leaving to become the corporate chef for Consilient Restaurants. Over a six-year tenure, he helped the restaurateur Phil Romano open Nick and Sam’s Steakhouse. He also worked closely with Consilient’s founder, Tristan Simon, to launch a series of popular restaurants, including Cuba Libre, Hibiscus, the Porch, and Fireside Pies. In a few short years, Badovinus branded the Dallas dining scene with his personal take on taste and hospitality.


Badovinus gave up his Consilient position in January 2008 to form a restaurant development and management business, FlavorHook, with just a single investor: his father, Wayne “Pops” Badovinus. On Halloween 2008, Badovinus opened his first restaurant, Neighborhood Services, in a residential quarter of Dallas. The original West Lovers Lane site proved so popular that in 2010 he opened Neighborhood Services Tavern and Neighborhood Services Bar and Grill—both of which were immediately ranked by D Magazine among the top five new restaurants in the metro region.


Badovinus opened a burger and sandwich shack called Off-Site Kitchen in 2012, featuring such choices as a sandwich of slow-braised brisket with chipotle mayonnaise. In 2013, D Magazine listed the original Neighborhood Services as No. 1 in its survey of the 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas. In 2014, Badovinus received his second James Beard Award nomination as Outstanding Restaurateur and launched a third Neighborhood Services and a second Off-Site Kitchen. He also signed a contract to consult nationally with Omni Hotels and Resorts.


Badovinus’s next project is his most ambitious: a destination restaurant called Town Heart. The custom-built triangular building in the Design District will specialize in open-fire cookery and is scheduled to open in March 2015. 



David Bouley


Born and raised near Storrs, Connecticut, David Bouley was strongly influenced by life on his grandparents’ farm. Drawing upon their French heritage that instilled a love of the land, he embraced an appreciation for fresh foods, care in their preparation, and the inspiration to create and enjoy healthful meals.


Bouley studied at the Sorbonne and worked with some of Europe’s most acclaimed chefs, including Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon, Gaston Lenôtre, and Frédy Girardet. Upon his return to New York, he worked in the leading restaurants of the time: Le Cirque, Le Périgord, and La Côte Basque. In 1985 he became chef at Montrachet, and two years later, opened the first of what would become a constellation of ambitious dining establishments in Tribeca. Called simply Bouley, it quickly became known as one of the most exceptional dining experiences in New York. Among the many accolades Bouley has earned is a four-star review in the New York Times, and the James Beard Foundation awards for best restaurant and best chef.


In 1997, Bouley Bakery opened as a wholesale and retail bakery as well as a café and restaurant. It enjoyed enormous popularity and earned a four-star review in the New York Times. In September 1999, Bouley’s Viennese-inspired restaurant, Danube, opened on Hudson Street, and he authored his first book, East of Paris: The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube.


Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Bouley Bakery served as the base of operations to prepare more than 1 million meals for Ground Zero relief workers in conjunction with the American Red Cross. It reopened as Bouley Restaurant in 2002, and Bouley Bakery and Market opened in a new location on West Broadway in Tribeca. About this time the Bouley Test Kitchen opened at 88 W. Broadway, where cooking classes are held, visiting chefs collaborate on new techniques, and Bouley and his team develop new recipes for the restaurants. Dedicated to the joy and satisfaction of his guests, Bouley is one of the only U.S. chefs who personalizes each meal to his customers’ likes and desires in the use of unique seasonal products.


In 2011 he opened Brushstroke, a Japanese restaurant owned in collaboration with the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka and housed in the former Danube space at 30 Hudson St. Brushstroke adheres to the traditions of kaiseki dining, which started as a tea ceremony in Kyoto. In Japan, kaiseki chefs are trained to present intensely seasonal ingredients in small, intricate courses, taking health and well-being into consideration along with flavor and presentation. Brushstroke then gave birth to Ichimura at Brushstroke, an intimate eight-seat sushi bar that is one of the most coveted reservations in town.


Bouley’s latest project is Bouley Botanical, an event space, learning center and commissary kitchen at 281 Church St., where guests are surrounded by more than 400 edible plants and herbs that are used in his restaurants. His wish to inspire customers to grow a living pantry in their own homes exemplifies his dedication to the art of dining, which is unsurpassed.




Bouley Restaurant


Bouley Test Kitchen

Bouley Botanical




Yoshiaki Takazawa



Tribeca Native



Jean Marc Boyer


After 20 years of working at Michelin-starred establishments in Paris, Jean Marc Boyer returned to his native Corbières, in the south of France, to open Le Puits du Trésor. Four years later, in 2007, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own.


Boyer discovered his passion for cooking at age 11. His grandmother and aunt were excellent cooks, and his grandfather an avid gardener who instilled in him a reverence for fruits and vegetables and their treatment in the kitchen. But the pivotal moment came at a family wedding in Tours, where the young Boyer was impressed by the “methodology of the work” in preparing the feast, and was inexorably drawn to the cooks’ “desire to give pleasure and love.”


Boyer began his career at Le Réverbère, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Narbonne, then moved to Paris to work at Dodin-Bouffant with Jacques Menière, the celebrated champion of cuisine à la vapeur, a technique of cooking with steam that emphasizes freshness and simplicity. He went on to work at L’Ambroisie, the Michelin three-star establishment on Place des Vosges, where he spent 12 years alongside chef Bernard Pacaud as second de cuisine. Boyer also performed stages with Pierre Gagnaire, Bernard Loiseau, and René Lasserre. Today the 46-year-old chef, an ardent nature lover, is devoted to a well-balanced life punctuated by the seasons and aims to create for his customers a “haven of peace.”


For the site of Le Puits du Trésor, which translates as “the well of the treasure,” Boyer chose an old textile factory overlooking the Orbiel River in the shadows of four Cathar castles in Lastours, a medieval village of about 160 inhabitants. The intimate, tranquil restaurant has just six or seven tables and serves only 25 guests per day. There is no printed menu; instead, diners are offered a choice of three meals that Boyer creates based on the local produce, fish, poultry, meat, and game available each day. With a focus on keeping things “simple, good, and surprising,” the chef takes ample time touching, tasting, and smelling his ingredients. In his plates, Boyer hopes his guests find a sense of “tenderness and sensitivity.”


In addition to Le Puits, the three-level building on the Orbiel also houses Boyer’s bistro, L’Auberge du Diable au Thym, whose name is a pun on diablotin, which means “little devil.” In 2010, Boyer was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City, at the recommendation of French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. More recently, he was stunned when the director of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group called to tell him Gagnaire had nominated him as best up-and-coming chef for Robb Report’s 2014 Culinary Masters Competition. He thought it was a prank perpetrated by friends who work at a radio station.




Le Puits du Trésor



 Josef Centeno



Josef Centeno grew up in San Antonio as part of an extended family of mixed heritage: French, German, Irish, Mexican, Polish, and Spanish. His father was a butcher whose grandparents had started a grocery business, and the men in his family were legendary barbecuers. Otherwise, no one really cooked except for Amá—Centeno’s great-grandmother—who, according to family lore, could make a delicious meal with just tomatoes, water, and a clove of garlic.


It was during his college years in Austin, while working as a cook at a vegetarian restaurant, that Centeno came across a book titled Becoming a Chef. He was struck by the passion and wisdom of chefs like Fernand Point of La Pyramide in France, who said: “As far as cuisine is concerned, one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain in the end, just a little bit.” Centeno read it cover to cover, and marked it up so thoroughly, that the book eventually fell apart and he had to buy a second copy. He decided to attend culinary school in New York.


When he graduated, his aunt and uncle took him to his first fine-dining French restaurant, Les Célébrités. “To this day I’ve never had a veal chop as good,” Centeno says. He worked in Manhattan for no pay in the kitchens of Daniel and Vong, then at two of the last remaining temples of haute cuisine: La Côte Basque and, coming full circle, Les Célébrités. As a transplant from Texas—where a plastic flag that says “medium rare” planted in your steak meant you were at a nice restaurant—he was awestruck. He has never wanted to do anything but cook.


The career advice that has always resonated with him came from Xavier Mayonove, a Corsican chef who was the keel of La Côte Basque: Work with as many great chefs as possible and develop your own style. After cooking with Jean-Jacques Rachou at La Côte Basque and Christian Delouvrier at Les Célébrités, Centeno moved to San Francisco to work at Charles Nob Hill. He later became the opening chef de cuisine at Manresa, David Kinch’s Michelin two-star restaurant in nearby Los Gatos.


After heading south to Los Angeles, Centeno was executive chef at Opus and Lazy Ox Canteen before opening his own restaurant, the Mediterranean-inflected Bäco Mercat, in the city’s Old Bank District downtown. He has since opened two more restaurants: Bar Amá, an homage to the Tex-Mex cooking of his home state, and Orsa & Winston, a fine-dining restaurant influenced by Italian and Japanese cuisines. Bon Appétit magazine has called Centeno the “culinary mayor” of downtown Los Angeles,” and the Los Angeles Times has declared him “ the prime mover behind what we’ve come to think of as modern Los Angeles cooking.”


Bäco Mercat was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the United States

by Bon Appétit, and Centeno has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award. He and his restaurants have also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Food & Wine.



Bäco Mercat

Bar Amá

Orsa & Winston





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