Want to find the best chefs to watch? Here are our top chefs in the world, with chef interviews from our favourite cooks – from great British chefs in the UK to world chefs who are turning heads on the international scene. We’ve found top female chefs with Michelin stars, young chefs who are already causing a stir at the start of their careers and British chefs bringing flavours of the world to the UK.Here’s our list of the most influential UK chefs to watch our for, too.
The Copenhagen taqueria Hija (pronounced ‘ee-kah’) de Sanchez is the creation of Rosio Sanchez, the 31-year-old Noma alumnus from the south side of Chicago and one of the most exciting young chefs in Europe. It’s hard to think of a better version of Mexican street food anywhere on the continent. Its brilliance is the result of Sanchez’s pedigree as a chef and the importance she and her team place on importing Mexican ingredients – including the chillies and the corn, from Oaxaca, which they cook and stone-grind on-site to make fresh tortillas every day.
Career: Brennan’s of Houston, Triniti, Underbelly, Pujol
Chef Dani most admires: Massimo Bottura
For many people, 2016 will be a year to forget. But for a young chef in New York City it was a one to savour. Daniela (Dani) Soto-Innes, 25-year-old chef de cuisine of modern Mexican restaurant Cosme, in the Flatiron district, was given the prestigious James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year just eighteen months after opening with her longtime mentor and collaborator Enrique Olvera. The restaurant, which fuses Mexican dry ingredients – corn, beans and chillies – and great local products, also entered the world’s top 100 for the first time.
Ben Chapman’s career trajectory is of the kind not normally associated with a chef who opens a restaurant that has a fair claim to being the best of the year – but it’s 2017, and things don’t tend to happen like they used to. For more than 40 years, a good barometer of restaurant class has been the number of stars issued by London Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay Maschler, who famously reserves the maximum score only for something truly special. She gave Kiln – a Thai restaurant in Soho that uses only charcoal as a means of cooking – full marks. Ben, previously an art gallerist, DJ and designer, only started cooking three years ago.
Chef Sam most admires: Fergus Henderson, Massimo Bottura and Tanja Grandits
For Sam Buckley, professional cooking has always been an on-off thing. The 34-year-old Stockport chef may have worked in some stellar kitchens – Gary Rhodes in Manchester, Paul Kitching’s Juniper, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume – but he’s interspersed the stints with other stuff: college, backpacking, a journalism degree, going on tour (he plays bass), writing, more travelling. Right now, however, following a perfect 10 from Guardian reviewer Marina O’Loughlin in May for his now year-old restaurant Where the Light Gets In, his cooking career is undeniably, irrefutably, unequivocally on.
Chef Amanda most admires: All my cooks who have to work for me day in, day out. They have a lot of fortitude.
Amanda Cohen’s five-year-old self, as seen on the pages of her genre-bending graphic-novel-slash-cookbook, screws up her face and says: “I hate vegetables.” Poor little Amanda. She’d be shocked to see how things turned out, for fast-forward to 2017 and she’s grown up to become New York’s reigning queen of vegetarian cuisine.
She came to the attention of New York diners – vegan, vegetarian and omnivore alike – soon after opening her pioneering ‘vegetable-forward’ restaurant Dirt Candy in its original, pocket-sized form in New York’s East Village in 2008. Amanda puts the early raves down to her signature dish: a rich, decadent, foie gras-esque portobello mousse that is the antithesis of the hair shirt and Birkenstocks School of veggie cooking. But to ascribe her fame entirely to her cooking would be to underestimate the myriad other ways in which Amanda is, frankly, rad: she was the first vegetarian chef on Iron Chef America; hers was the first NYC restaurant to eliminate tipping and to share profits with employees; and she’s a prolific writer and speaker unafraid to tell it how she sees it.
The less said about currywurst the better. Suffice to say that Micha Schäfer, the 30-year-old chef of white-hot Berlin restaurant Nobelhart und Schmutzig, finds little to recommend the ketchup-slathered street-food staple of his adopted city. “Don’t come to Berlin for currywurst,” he says. “Go to Berghain.”
The world’s most notorious techno club is certainly one reason to visit the German capital, but for those olive readers whose tastes don’t extend to hypnotic techno and eye-popping hedonism, and who’d rather discover the city through its gastronomy, a seat at Nobelhart und Schmutzig’s kitchen counter is the best place to start.
Nobelhart und Schmutzig – the fabulous name fabricated from a cluster of adjectives in a newspaper headline: ‘noble’, ‘hard’ and ‘dirty’ – is the brainchild of Billy Wagner, Germany’s original hipster-sommelier, a.k.a. “the popstar of wine experts” (Die Zeit). At the time of the restaurant’s conception, Berlin, so dynamic in every other way, still lagged inexplicably behind other European capitals, having neither a destination-dining scene nor a regional cuisine to call its own.
Billy set about changing this, bringing in Micha, a rising star schooled in the pioneering kitchen of Matthias Schmidt, then at Villa Merton in Frankfurt. Billy and Micha opened Nobelhart und Schmutzig in February 2015. Nine months later, it had a Michelin star.
A year after that, it was declared Restaurant of the Year in influential German food title, Der Feinschmecker. Now, along with like-minded restaurants Horváth and Einsunternull, it’s in the vanguard of Berlin’s pulsating restaurant scene.
Chef Simone most admires: Pierre Gagnaire and Massimo Bottura
When Sardinian chef Simone Tondo left home at only 14 to pursue his culinary calling in Alghero; when his father spent a small fortune on the El Bulli cookbook for his 15th birthday; when he uprooted himself at 21 for yet another new city – none of this was with a view to a career spent slinging pizzas and rolling pasta.
Career: Blueprint Café, River Café, Rochelle Canteen
Chef Dani most admires: Elizabeth David
A few years ago London underwent a culinary renaissance that had something in common with the Parisian ‘bistronomie’ movement: food remained high quality but was served in more informal, relaxed environments.
James Lowe, Lyle’s head chef, claimed, though, that there were only three British chefs who could be truly compared to those in France adhering to the principles of ‘bistronomie’. He was one. Tom Adams – then of Pitt Cue Co. and now Coombeshead Farm –another. And Anna Tobias. Above all, it had to do, he said, with the respect shown to ingredients.
Anna’s career offers a clear picture of why she belongs in this select group, since, for nearly 10 years, she’s been under the stewardship of four icons of the ingredient-led tradition: Jeremy Lee at the Blueprint Café; Ruth Rogers of The River Café; and most recently she’s been head chef under Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold at Rochelle Canteen. With long periods of time spent at each, her culinary education has had a purism to it.
Three days before his new restaurant Igni was due to open in January 2016, Australian chef Aaron Turner had a crisis of confidence. He was, to put it mildly, in a state of existential anguish. His previous restaurant, Loam, had closed in 2013 following a devastating split from his wife, who was also his business partner. He’d sold the business, sold the house, and spent the past two years licking his wounds in Nashville, Tennessee. Cooking had become tainted.
“I tried to pick up where I left off,” Aaron recalls. “I went out to where I used to forage in the Loam days. It just felt hollow. It just wasn’t making sense on the plate. I thought, ‘we’re going to sink here because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing any more’.”
And so, at the 11th hour, he ditched the dishes he’d made his name with – the complex, pretty, multi-layered creations inspired by the land around the old place – and let the wood fire smouldering away in the heart of his new kitchen take the lead. The fact that he’d never cooked over direct flame before (save the odd barbie) didn’t faze him. “I sort of walked away from cooking after Loam. I didn’t really want to return to it, so I built this kitchen with stuff that I’d never used as this kind of subliminal sabotage. Turns out it sort of woke me up and sparked off a whole new adventure.”
Chef: Tim Spedding
Restaurant: Project in Cornwall
Career: The Clove Club, The Ledbury, The Headland Hotel in Newquay, Michael Caines’ Gidleigh Park
Chef Tim most admires: Brett Graham
In February this year, Tim Spedding and his girlfriend, Louise Rødkjær Jørgensen, spent four days in Cornwall. It’s something they’ve made a habit of over the last 12 months. Sometimes it’s for pleasure; on this occasion it was for business.
During the visit they viewed 16 different properties – the first stage of their planned relocation to the Southwest this spring. The pair have an acute appreciation of hospitality – their chef and front-of-house partnership is just one pillar of the memorable experience they provide.