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Aug 12, 2009 08:09 PM

Who are the top 10 chefs who are actually working most days in their restaurants?

I'm visiting soon and know that many places are defined by chefs who no longer are involved much in the day to day. That's understandable... businesses grow and expand.

That said, I'd be interested to know where the talented owner/chef is still dishing it out most nights.
They need not be celebrity or running high end places... maybe it's a divey Chinese place, curry shop or corner pizza purveyor. Maybe it's a Thai mom who hasn't yet learned to pull back on the spices for westerners!

In fact I like the person who wants to make the best sandwich every invented versus the most swank night out. Know what I mean? Bold and different. Any recs? Thanks!

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    1. In no particular order:

      Wylie Dufresne @ WD-50
      Michael Anthony @ Gramercy Tavern
      Gabrielle Hamilton @ Prune
      Iacopo Falai @ Falai
      April Bloomfield @ The Spotted Pig
      Scott Conant @ Scarpetta
      Daniel Humm @ EMP
      Gavin Kaysen @ Cafe Boulud
      Gabriel Kreuther @ The Modern
      Ryan Skeen @ Allen & Delancey
      Chris Lee @ Aureole

      etc etc etc... there's a pretty long list of 'em. And while they may not ALL be "owners" in whole (or even in part) they're all the guiding forces behind their individual restaurants, even when (as in Kaysen's case) someone else's name is on the marquee.

      7 Replies
      1. re: sgordon

        Gabriel Hamilton isn't at Prune that much. She was only cooking lunches for a while and the last few trips I was there I didn't her. I pass by pretty often as well and do not see her in the kitchen but the rest of your list is pretty good.

        I'll add one more, Scott Bryant at Apiary.

          1. re: sgordon

            Eric Ripert is probably the most prominent chef in NYC that is still in the kitchen of his restaurant most nights.

            1. re: hcbk0702

              Jean Georges is also often on site at JG. Probably not working in the kitchen as much as Ripert, but he's at least there and visible to the dining room.

              1. re: kathryn

                Sure, JG was there on our last visit. He was visible. He marched out, chatted with some VIPs and didn't even look at anyone else. Our meal was nowhere near the restaurant's ratings.

            2. re: sgordon

              Chef Humm is indeed at Eleven Madison Park quite often. I know RGR can back me up on that for sure!

              1. re: steakrules85

                Two more,
                Bill Telepan @ Telepan
                Tom Valenti @ Ouest

            3. Wesley Genovart @ degustation

              1. You ask for 10 and get more, of course. Eventually, you will have half of the restaurants in town named. 15 named so far. The best way would be to take the top 10 eateries(or 20 if there is disagreement) and name whomever is running the kitchen daily. Afterall, you are not asking for the 10 biggest names who are ALSO in the kitchen everyday, are you?

                Dufresne has talent, his restaurant is not a disappointment. If you have a time machine go to 71 Clinton.
                Michael Anthony, I am not sure.
                Hamilton said not to be in that much.
                Falai, no comment.
                Bloomfield, top 10? Really?
                Conant, have not been to Scarpetta. Are people sure he is there all the time nowadays? Opening many places.
                Humm, sure.
                Kaysen, sure.
                Kreuther, sure.
                Skeen, no.
                Lee, cannot say.
                Ripert has left much more to his underlings in the kitchen. This is a relatively recent turn of events. Not to say he is or isn't there almost every day, not sure but he is not involved as before. Not a bad thing.
                Genovart, sure.
                Valenti and Telepan, well, I will not say they cannot cook the socks off anyone else but their restaurants are not tops.

                An example of how I think this question is being misread or answered by either myself and/or others, J Benno, Per Se. A top restaurant's(certainly top 10)man in charge.

                You will probably not receive many if any names of random cooks in Thai spots, pizza joints, etc. You asked for top 10, they do not make the cut, that is how it is. Also, the majority of the best of those things are in the outer boroughs.

                Again, take top 20 restaurants for food(not faves, purely on food)and name those doing the job.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dietndesire

                  I didn't include Benno @ Per Se for one reason: PQR. Price-Quality-Ratio. The fact that the menu has nearly doubled in price in the last few years without any noticeable change in what they're serving is a bit shocking. I can understand that perhaps they underpriced slightly when they first opened, to get people through the door, to get word of mouth going. But the increase - like I said, without any increase in what's on your plate - is simply unexplainable. At $150 it was a great meal. At $175, still so, probably priced about right. At $200, it was a little overpriced. Now it's $275, and will probably increase more soon enough. For the same meal. Sorry, but the cost of the raw materials and staffing didn't double in that time. They simply realize that anyone who was willing to pay $150 for a meal was probably willing to pay pretty much anything for a meal. Now, for the same price as the original - $150 - you can get tasting menus just as good or better at any number of restos around town. Yeah, they throw a lot of expensive ingredients at you, but to paraphrase Rick Bayless: expensive ingredients don't make something good, they just make it expensive.

                  I agree re: Telepan. Very talented chef, but both meals I've had there - while being perfectly nice - just haven't really "clicked" on that higher level. I'd only recommend Telepan if someone happened to be staying in that area, I guess. But even then, I'd say go to Picholine first.

                  I didn't include Ripert on my original list because, frankly, I had no idea if he's still working the kitchen or not.

                  No to Skeen? Have you tried the new menu at Allen & Delancey since he took over? Still in the early stages, sure, but I wouldn't be surprised to see their ratings increase. If he sticks around, that is. They seem to have a problem keeping chefs.

                  A couple others I forgot:

                  I've seen Marcus Samuelsson wandering around every time I've been to Aquavit - with the caveat that it's been over a year since I was there last, so who knows what he's doing nowadays.

                  Peter Serpico @ Momofuku Ko. If you can get in, of course.

                  I think Aaron Sanchez is in the kitchen at Paladar, but it's not visible so I'm not entirely sure. I live in the neighborhood and I always see him around, though - shopping at the Essex market, getting coffee a couple times at Falai Panetteria. Just based on that I suspect he's more hands-on at Paladar than his other joint, Centrico. Maybe that's why Paladar is better (at least IMHO...)

                  Is Paladar "Top 10" though? Maybe not overall - they're not gonna compete with Le Bernardin or GT - but at their price point, maybe. Sure.

                  And speaking of the LES - how could we forget Kenny Shopsin @ Shopsin's? Depending how irascible he's feeling, it could be one of the Top 10 NYC eating "experiences," certainly...

                2. Some may not think he belongs on a top 10 list, but he does in my book: Harold Dieterle, Perilla. There nearly every night. Be forewarned, he "hides" there so don't expect him coming out to explain dishes. But he is there, and it shows.