New York City's 17 Greatest Chefs
The re-Africanized fried chicken at Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster
This highly idiosyncratic list is based entirely on my own dining predilections, and only includes chefs whose work I'm reasonably familiar with. Certain figures have been excluded from consideration -- Thomas Keller, for example -- since they really belong to other parts of the country. Tom Colicchio is not in the running because he's now much more television leading man (and a good one) than chef. Without further ado, here are my choices.
17. Harold Dieterle -- Anyone who says Top Chef is incapable of producing a chef worth shit has Harold Dieterle to contend with. This first-season winner has opened two substantial restaurants in Greenwich Village since the show -- Perilla and Kin Shop. Both are conscientiously small-scale and hands-on on Dieterle's part, with a very high success rate among dishes, and just the right balance of careful conservative cooking and wild experimentation. At Kin Shop, he's added recipes to the menu that might be mistaken for authentic Thai, which is high praise.
16. Jean-Georges Vongerichten -- Our most gilt-edged chef is nothing if not peripatetic when it comes to the focus of his cooking. His first bistro in town, JoJo, and his casual-dining spot on the Hudson River, Perry St, remain my favorite restaurants of his, while Vong, 66, and Spice Market represent his failed fascination with Asian food. The eponymous Jean Georges is the most ambitious (and expensive) restaurant the city has yet seen from this Alsatian-born chef, raising high the banner of French gastronomy.
15. Zak Pelaccio -- The gustatory bad boy of Gotham helped define the Brooklyn dining scene early on at Chickenbone, glorifying the city's dark corners and proving that you don't have to go to cooking school to have an impact. His path has been a strange one since then, consulting and also opening his own places, some of which have turned out duds. Pelaccio's obsession with Malaysian food has elevated that cuisine in the popular imagination, and the idea of mixing Texas barbecue and Malay flavors is perhaps one of the weirdest notions in the annals of culinary endeavor. Somehow, it totally works.
14. Wylie Dufresne -- Our most famous molecular gastronaut may be no Grant Achatz, but his temple of science chefdom, wd~50, has become a bona fide landmark on the restaurant scene, worth dropping in on from time to time to see what the mutton-chopped mad scientist is concocting. Some of the dishes tank, while others are entirely successful, but it's the sense of constant experimentation and a menu always in flux that make his establishment exciting.
Sunday night's magical barbecued pig head at Fatty 'Cue, Brooklyn