Chefs of the Year: A Preface

Dine editor Lesley Bargar Suter on why now is the perfect time to applaud the people behind L.A.’s finest dishes and why our list of 20 stand out chefs will raise eyebrows

It just made sense. We’ve put together countless (honestly, I can’t even count anymore) lists outlining the city’s best dishes, restaurants, and drinks, but although we’ve kicked the idea around for years, we’ve never dedicated an issue to the people behind L.A.’s finest food. It was time.

This isn’t about “best new chefs,” and this isn’t about the best chefs of all-time, either. These are the chefs of the year. What does that mean? The 20 recipients of our Chefs of the Year awards did something in the last 12 months that particularly impressed us. Sure, in many cases that “thing” was opening a new restaurant, but others earned our kudos for launching a side business importing obscure international ingredients. Or maybe they had a particularly loud voice in the foie gras debate. Or maybe they honored the work of local farmers. Or maybe they just cooked us a mean pizza. Either way, these chefs are deserving of special recognition because of how they spent the last year, both in and outside of the kitchen. For that, they should be proud.

But any time you put a list together, that means leaving some people out. I’ve gotten pretty used to the emails and phone calls protesting the absence of such-and-such a sandwich/burger/pizza/chef/sushi roll/wine shop/pie/etc. That, I’m prepared for. My biggest concern with this cover story was and still is excluding a few of L.A.’s very finest chefs simply because this year didn’t stand out particularly in the scope of their long, esteemed careers. Wolfgang Puck? Not on our list. (I’ll wait for you all to finish gasping.) Michael Cimarusti, chef-owner at Providence, which many, including me, believe is likely L.A.’s best restaurant—period? Nope, not on our list either.

Are we punishing consistency? I hope not. At least, it’s not the aim. Meryl Streep can’t win the Oscar every year (or can she?) even though we all know she’s one of the world’s greatest actors. Sometimes a 23-year-old Hilary Swank is going to come out of nowhere and beat the pants off her for cutting off all her hair and playing a transgendered adolescent murder victim. But I digress…

The “Chefs of the Year” package looks at the last 12 months as a snapshot, and honors those culinary talents who stood out—rising stars and veterans alike. It’s as simple as that. Try their food for yourself—heck, applaud after dessert if you’re so inspired. These chefs deserve it. 

To read “Chefs of the Year,” pick up a copy of the September issue on newsstands or subscribe NOW.