April 4, 2012 / 2:58 PM / 7 years ago

Magazine picks rising U.S. chefs from unexpected places

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some of the best up-and-coming American chefs do not work in fancy restaurants in big cities. They work in less flashy settings, even on a tiny island, according to a top U.S. food magazine.

On Tuesday, Food & Wine Magazine released its 24th annual list of best new chefs and, as in past years, many of them work in big cities including New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

But the magazine also gave nods to Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger of The Catbird Seat in Nashville, Tennessee which is better known for traditional Southern cooking than experimental cuisine. Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, which is located off the coast of Seattle, also made the list.

These and nine other American chefs on the list earned praises for their creative menus using local products.

Wetzel’s dishes often feature wild flowers and blossoms foraged on the island, as well as seafood caught near the inn.

“People are doing simpler but delicious food that is very well thought-out,” Food & Wine’s editor-in-chief Dana Cowin said.

An example of Anderson’s and Habiger’s inventiveness is a yogurt they make that is smoked with sweet grass hay, Cowin said.

This year’s eclectic list of chefs include three from New York — Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen and Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi of Torrisi Italian Specialties.

West Coast chefs are well-presented with Cormac Mahoney of Madison Park Conservatory in Seattle and Bryant Ng of The Spice Table in Los Angeles, which Cowin says offers “the most amazing experience of Singaporean food.”

Two women are featured on the list: Jenn Louis of Lincoln Restaurant in Portland, Oregon and Karen Nicolas of Equinox in Washington D.C.

Despite a sluggish economy and the current trend of casual dining, Cowin said there is still appetite for high-end dining, exemplified by Danny Grant of RIA in Chicago and Corey Lee of Benu in San Francisco.

RIA and Benu are each rated two stars by the widely-followed Michelin restaurant guide, its second highest rating.

RIA’s and Benu’s current tasting menus cost $185 and $180 per person, respectively, compared with the one at Torrisi, albeit much smaller, which costs $125. All the dishes at Spice Table are under $20.

“People will pay a lot of money to go out for a fantastic meal,” Cowin said. “You also have chefs with food at a more accessible price point, partly because of the economy and partly because of the trend of the food world.”

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

This story corrects the spelling from Corwin to Cowin throughout

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