More Democracy in Action: Food & Wine's Best New Chef Now Chosen By You"/>
These days it seems like democracy is just breaking out all over. I mean, there's Egypt first, of course. Then right here on Voracious we've turned to you, the readers, to tell us which restaurants rule with our new Versus polls. And now even Food & Wine magazine is getting into the spirit of things by launching their new "People's Best New Chef" program.
OK, so Egypt is the big one, but still . . . All democracy is good democracy, right?
So here's how the F&W award works: The magazine will still name their 10 Best New Chefs every year, just as they've always done. But this year, in addition to the 10, they will crown one extra chef as "The People's Best New Chef" for 2011. There are 10 chefs nominated in each of 10 regions, but only the one who gets the most votes overall will get this final slot. Curious about who got picked for the Northwest region?
Yeah, so were we . . .
Portland got a big bump, with 5 of the 10 nominations (plus an extra for Justin Wills of Restaurant Beck in Depoe Bay, Ore.). That left just three slots for Seattle and one for Lummi Island. And our local nominees are:
Jason Franey of Canlis, who got the nom because "he has somehow kept his restrained and subtle style of cooking while maintaining Canlis's famed lavishness," according to F&W. Not only that, but he was able to inject a few notes of modernity into a house that's 60 years old, and will, if asked, serve customers shots of butter if they ask nicely.
Brian McCracken and Dana Tough from Spur, who are really on a roll this year. Just yesterday, their other restaurant, Tavern Law, got a nod for its other-other bar, Needle and Thread, from Worth magazine, which named it one of the 10 Best Secret Hot-Spots in the world. And that's just the most recent kudo the boys have scored. F&W liked them because "they are shaking up the naturalist Seattle dining scene with molecular-gastronomy techniques and novel flavor combinations." I like 'em because they're crazy, because they open brilliant restaurants, make some of the best fried chicken ever (at Tavern Law), and can pull off all that molecular-gastronomy stuff while still making actual food, not just science experiments.
Shaun McCrain from Book Bindery. F&W likes him because "his illustrious training and limitless imagination produce food that's polished and exhilarating," but that's too highfalutin' for me. I'm in his corner simply because he and his kitchen made me what was perhaps the best meal I've eaten in a year and the best, most surprising single plate I've had in even longer. McCrain has elevated the game for everyone, even if most people in Seattle don't know it yet.
Blaine Wetzel from The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Honestly, I knew almost nothing about this guy but what Food & Wine said about him until I read this week's Sexy Feast, which just happens to take place entirely in Wetzel's dining room. But still, dig this quote from F&W: "He's amazing because he's taking René Redzepi's Nordic philosophy and applying it to the produce and food of the Pacific Northwest." Not only that, but Wetzel actually worked at Noma (Redzepi's restaurant, recently named as the best in the world) for a time before washing up on (or at least near) our shores. That alone makes him worth checking out. And now that I know where Lummi Island is . . .
So that's our team, folks. And what happens now is, you go online, get to the Food & Wine People's Chef page, Northwest region, and vote for your favorite. Sound complicated? I'll make it really easy for you.
Step 1: Click here.
Step 2: Vote.
And that's that. Pick your pony and ride it. And with any luck, one of these deserving chefs will soon be able to stand up proudly as the people's choice for the best chef in the nation.