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The restaurant industry is a wild arena. With high turnover rates, high-risk investments, and in an ultra competitive market, owners need to go above and beyond to make themselves standout among the rest. And what's the main ingredient that makes a restaurant's food, influence, ambience and culture different from their competitors? The chefs, of course! And in such a fast paced market, what better way to hear about the best up and coming chefs than for us to make a list for you.
In conjunction with the Huffington Post's Gamechangers program, and Chase Sapphire Preferred(SM), which allows you to earn 2x points on travel and dining, we look at the best new chefs of 2011 (and their restaurants, of course!).
Gabriel Rucker (Portland, OR)
Winner of this years' James Beard Rising Star Award, Le Pigeon chef Gabriel Rucker is THE force to be reckoned with in the Pacific Northwest.
George Mendes (New York, NY)
Spawning from the the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, George Mendes practiced under elite chefs' Roger Vergé, Alain Ducasse and Basque chef Martin Berasategui before starting his own restaurant venture, Aldea, in New York City.
Sean Brock (Charleston, SC)
Born and raised in rural Virginia, Brock now satisfies the palates of millions of people in the southern city of Charleston, SC. A four-time James Beard nominee, Brock continues his reign on southern cuisine with both McCrady's and Husk restaurants.
Donald Link (New Orleans, LA)
Author of the critically acclaimed cook book, <em>Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana </em>, Donald Link is one of the premier New Orleans chefs around today. Owner of Herbsaint, Cochon and Bucher -- to name a few -- Link holds the heart of New Orleans in every restaurant and promises to continue this trend throughout all his ventures.
Christina Tosi (New York, NY)
The founding chef of Momofuku Milk Bar, Tosi has an eclectic style and abstract creativity make her one of the premier (if not, THE premier) pastry chefs in New York City.
Bryce Gilmore (Austin, TX)
Chef Bryce Gilmore is the founder of the famous Odd Duck Farm to Trailer and Barley Swine. Both of these excellent eateries source their ingredients from local resources, featuring not only food from local farms, but breweries and vineyards as well.
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Los Angeles, CA)
Owner of LA's Animal and Son of a Gun, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are two mammoths on the restaurant scene. Winners of <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/best-new-chefs-2009-vinny-dotolo-jon-shook" target="_hplink">Food & Wine Best New Chefs of 2009</a>, the duo have been on a tear, featuring eclectic dishes that excite the palates of local and visiting patrons worldwide.
Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA)
You can find Blaine Wetzel, 25, at the <a href="http://www.willows-inn.com/" target="_hplink">Willows Inn</a> mixing up dishes at one of the finest bed and breakfast's in the United States. At 25, Blaine has already established himself as a top chef.
Sue Zemanick (New Orleans, LA)
Sue Zemanick of New Orlean's staple Gautreau's, is a chef to be reckoned with. Featuring "<a href="http://www.gautreausrestaurant.com/index.php" target="_hplink">modern American</a>" cuisine, Gautreau's features modern American cuisine and Zemanick's background can be seen throughout the menu as she dips successfully into both French and American classics.
Johnny Monis (Washington, D.C.)
Monis is the chef behind the Washington, D.C. hotspot, Komi. A prix-fixe only establishment, this restaurant is a must-visit when in the capital where it is truly <a href="http://komirestaurant.com/images/capitolfile_0511.jpg" target="_hplink">the place to see and be seen</a>.
Mathieu Palombino (Brooklyn, NY)
Palombino is chef/owner of the NYC staple, <a href="http://motorinopizza.com/" target="_hplink">Motorino</a>, known for "the city's best pizza" by the New York Times. With locations in the East Village, Palombino is extending his empire in the food business, opening up a new restaurant, Bowery Diner.
Hugue Dufour (Long Island City, NY)
Dufour takes his eclectic skills to Queens and opened one of the most popular diners this side of the Atlantic with his wife, Sarah Obraitis. Referred to as "Quebeco-American cuisine", <a href="http://mwellsdiner.com/" target="_hplink">M. Wells'</a> patrons are sure to enjoy the posh and diverse menu featuring eats like frog legs, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza and more!
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred is a card of a different color, because you always get two times the points on travel - from taxis to trains, airfare to hotels. And two times the points on all kinds of dining - from fast food to fine dining. See for yourself at <a href="http://chasesapphire.com/preferred" target="_hplink">ChaseSapphire.com/Preferred</a>.