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Empire Builders 2012

Posted: 12/05/2012 8:03 am

By Salma Abdelnour, Daniel Gritzer, Gina Hamadey, Kate Krader, Megan Krigbaum, Chelsea Morse, M. Elizabeth Sheldon, Food & Wine

Today, some of the country's busiest and best food entrepreneurs are also chefs. Here, Food & Wine names 10 extraordinary and prolific chef-restaurateur empire builders.

More from Food & Wine:

Best Top Chef Restaurants
Best Hotel Restaurants
America's Best Bars
Best Pizza Places in the U.S.
Ultimate Holiday Recipes

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  • Bryan Voltaggio

    <strong>Restaurants: </strong>Volt, Family Meal, Lunchbox, <em>Frederick, MD</em>; Range, <em>Washington, DC</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> Because the modernist-cuisine-loving chef isn’t satisfied just cooking high-end food for a rarefied crowd. He wants to bring the same focus on ingredients and technique to takeout spots and family-friendly restaurants. <strong>The Empire:</strong> Colonial-era Frederick, Maryland, is Voltaggio’s base. The flagship is Volt, an elegant restaurant in a historic mansion; at Lunchbox, he serves casual meals; and in June, he debuted Family Meal, a modern diner in a renovated 1960s car dealership. Next up: Range, a giant Washington, DC, restaurant focused on simply cooked meat and seafood. <strong>Plus:</strong> <a href="">Best Top Chef Restaurants</a>

  • Andrew Carmellini

    <strong>Restaurants</strong>: Locanda Verde, The Dutch, The Library at the Public Theater, Lafayette, <em>New York City</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> Because the French-trained chef turns rustic, humble dishes—whether it’s pappardelle with lamb Bolognese or fried oyster sliders—into their platonic ideals. <strong>The Empire: </strong>The New York City chef started with peasant-style Italian at Locanda Verde, branched out into multiculti American food at The Dutch and is going back to his roots with the French brasserie Lafayette. He’s also created a menu for the Library at The Public Theater, a new lounge in the iconic downtown venue. <strong>Plus: </strong><a href="">Best Hotel Restaurants</a>

  • Paul Qui

    <strong>Restaurants:</strong> East Side King, Qui, <em>Austin</em> <strong>Why He Won</strong>: The Austin chef (and "Top Chef" champ) has mastered both ends—high and low—of the restaurant world, weaving together Korean, Japanese, Filipino and Thai food that’s suited to both tasting menus and late-night bar crawls. <strong>The Empire</strong>: Three East Side King trailers, with two new locations coming soon—one just opened and the next in 2013. On the horizon: A high-end spot called Qui, which will fuse French techniques and Asian ingredients. <strong>Plus:</strong> <a href="">Best Sandwiches in the U.S.</a>

  • Gerard Craft

    <strong>Restaurants: </strong>Brasserie, Niche, Taste, Pastaria, <em>St. Louis</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> Because he’s giving St. Louis culinary credibility, with everything from a modern American restaurant to a French brasserie and a cocktail bar. <strong>The Empire: </strong>Brasserie offers terrific steak frites; Niche, which just moved to a new location, is his most formal spot; Taste has cool cocktails; and the just-opened Pastaria focuses on handmade pasta and dishes from Abruzzo. <strong>Plus:</strong> <a href="">America’s Best Bacon Burgers</a>

  • Casey Lane

    <strong>Restaurants: </strong>The Tasting Kitchen, The Parish, Itri, <em>Los Angeles</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> Because the 29-year-old chef has a talent for tweaking old-world traditions that can’t be satisfied by a single restaurant. <strong>The Empire: </strong>At his Venice Beach flagship, The Tasting Kitchen, Lane improvises a new menu of French-Italian small plates every single night; at Downtown L.A.’s The Parish, he’s updating brawny UK gastropub dishes with incredible California ingredients; and at the upcoming Itri in West Hollywood, he’s going deep into pasta, making up to 15 different shapes each day. <strong>Plus: </strong><a href="">America’s Best Beer Bars</a>

  • Thomas McNaughton

    <strong>Restaurants:</strong> Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, Salumeria, <em>San Francisco</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> After making the Mission District a destination for outstanding pizza and pasta, he has broadened his reach to include elevated Cal-Med cooking and incredible sandwiches. <strong>The Empire: </strong>Flour + Water is renowned for the carb-loving crowds it draws (and its fantastic pasta-making classes). At Central Kitchen, he’s sourcing four to five types of wood to prepare elegant dishes in his hearth, while at the adjoining Salumeria, he’s making sandwiches and selling the key components, like the house-made charcuterie and imported cheeses. <strong>Plus:</strong> <a href="">America’s Best Taco Spots</a>

  • Ford Fry

    <strong>Restaurants: </strong>JCT. Kitchen and Bar, No. 246, The Optimist,<em> Atlanta</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> Because of his ability to open diverse restaurants that offer the kind of brilliant homestyle cooking that Atlanta is craving. He already has three places; he has plans for five more. <strong>The Empire:</strong> At JCT. Kitchen and Bar, Fry highlights his version of southern classics; No. 246 offers a mash-up of Italian and American southern cooking; and The Optimist is his ode to oyster bars and lakeside fish camps. <strong>Plus:</strong> <a href="">Best Southern Food in the U.S.</a>

  • Vitaly Paley

    <strong>Restaurants: </strong>Paley’s Place, Imperial, Portland Penny Diner, <em>Portland, OR</em> <strong>Why He Won:</strong> Because 17 years after establishing himself as a pioneer of refined Pacific Northwest cooking, the Russian-born local-hero chef has introduced two fantastic new spots that further explore the cuisine of his adopted region. <strong>The Empire: </strong>His inaugural spot, Paley’s Place, showcases his exceptional version of Northwest cuisine; at Imperial he features hearty dishes from his six-foot wood-fired grill; and at Portland Penny Diner, to open by the end of 2012, he’s creating a casual spot that will feature the city’s diverse ethnic traditions. <strong>Plus: </strong><a href="">America’s Best Pizza Places</a>

  • Renee Erickson

    <strong>Restaurants: </strong>Boat Street Café, The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, <em>Seattle</em> <strong>Why She Won</strong>: Because she translates her obsession with just about everything from the ocean into unfussy, delicious dishes. <strong>The Empire:</strong> Erickson offers French-grandmother cooking at Boat Street Café; superfresh oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter; and at the newly opened The Whale Wins, ingredients cooked in a giant wood-fired Mugnaini oven. Up next: Narwhal, a roving seafood truck. <strong>Plus: </strong><a href="">Best Steak in the U.S.</a>

  • Michael Solomonov

    <strong>Restaurants</strong>: Zahav, Federal Donuts, Percy Street Barbecue, Citron and Rose, <em>Philadelphia</em> <strong>Why He Won</strong>: Because Solomonov is devoted to reinventing overlooked cuisines (Israeli, Eastern European) and making American classics, like fried chicken and doughnuts, even better with exotic spices and chef-y techniques. <strong>The Empire:</strong> At Zahav, he tweaks Israeli food with American style; at the always-packed Federal Donuts, he spices fried chicken with coconut curry and flavors doughnuts with pomegranate-Nutella; and at Percy Street Barbecue, he creates awesome Texas-style brisket. Up next: the Eastern European Citron and Rose. <strong>Plus:</strong> <a href="">Best Top Chef Restaurants</a>


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