John Rivera Sedlar
Owner: Playa, Los Angeles, CA
Competing for: American Diabetes Association
Considered “the father of modern Southwest cuisine” by Gourmet Magazine, John Rivera Sedlar has embraced the Southwest from the very start. Raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sedlar combined the traditional foods of his childhood with the classic French techniques he learned under legendary chef Jean Bertranou. He went on to open two more acclaimed restaurants in the Los Angeles area -- Bikini in 1991 and then Abiquiu in 1994. In 1994 Sedler sold his restaurants to pursue his lifelong dream of building a food company to supply the home cook with dishes and ingredients from the Southwest. In 1999 he established Abiquiu Foods, LLC, which operates Sedlar's Modern Southwest Kitchen, a collection of contemporary tamales, chile rellenos, taco shells and condiments. He just opened his newest anticipated restaurant Playa in Los Angeles in February of 2011.
Executive Chef: Gautreau’s, New Orleans, LA
Competing for the Louisiana SPCA
Sue Zemanick was a 2008 Food & Wine “Top 10 Best New Chef,” named 2008 “Chef of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine, one of “5 Chefs to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine and a Finalist for James Beard’s “Rising Star Chef” Award in 2009 and 2010 among other honors. Born and raised in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, she attended a summer program at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New Hyde Park, New York. At the age of 15, she was immediately hooked on the culinary profession and in 2001 graduated from the CIA. She began working at New Orleans’ famed Commander’s Palace before moving to Gautreau’s in 2004. She was named executive chef in 2005 where she is still bringing culinary wonders to the Uptown area. Gautreau’s was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina and closed for a year and a half to go under repair and renovation. Once it reopened in February 2007, Zemanick was able to put her mark on the new Gautreau’s.
Chef/Owner: JULIAN Restaurant, Kansas City, MO
Competing for: Harvesters
Tio obtained her degree from Drexel University in hotel and restaurant management and by age 23 she was given the opportunity to lead the Grill Room at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton. Yearning for a broader challenge and audience for her cooking, Tio ventured to Orlando Florida, to help open three specialty restaurants for Walt Disney World; Spoodles, which focused on Mediterranean cuisine, Citricos, which served Southern French dishes and Palo, an upscale Italian experience. She then accepted an invitation to move to Kansas City, Missouri to become the well-known head chef of one of the city’s finest restaurants, The American Restaurant. Tio now channels her diverse experience into her own restaurant, JULIAN, where she creates chef-driven twists on American comfort food she calls, "feel-good food." Her accomplishments have earned her local and national accolades, including 2005 "Chef of the Year" by Chef Magazine, the James Beard Foundation's 2007 "Best Chef: Midwest" and most recently named Kansas City Magazine's Chef of the Year.
Executive Chef: Stratta, Las Vegas, NV
Competing for: Milken Prostate Cancer Foundation
Alex Stratta is the award-winning chef of Stratta at Wynn Las Vegas, where he demonstrates his mastery of classic Italian American cuisine in a casual, yet vibrant setting. Stratta came to Wynn Las Vegas from Renoir at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, where he received national acclaim for his marriage of regional French and Italian ingredients. In just four months, Renoir received Mobil's highest five-star rating. During his six-year tenure at Renoir, the restaurant maintained its Mobil five-star stature, as well as garnering AAA's five-diamond award and Las Vegas’ top culinary rating in the Zagat Guide. He comes from a long line of restaurateurs and hoteliers. After several years working in hotel kitchens, Stratta decided to pursue his dreams by enrolling in the prestigious California Culinary Academy. During this time he was given the opportunity to work in one of San Francisco’s finest hotels, the Stanford Court Hotel. Under the guidance of Pastry Chef Jim Dodge, Stratta refined his skills in the art of baking and pastry. After graduating with high honors, he decided to pursue his passion and strive to reach the top of his profession.
Executive Chef: Dévi, New York, NY
Competing for Agricultural Stewardship Association
An accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator, and farmer, Chef Suvir Saran views the kitchen as both a culinary and spiritual haven. Born in New Delhi, India, Saran has nurtured a lifelong passion for the traditional flavors of Indian cooking. As Executive Chef of Dévi, Saran's is the only Indian restaurant in the U.S. to have earned a Michelin star. A respected culinary authority, Saran is Chairman of Asian Culinary Studies for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He is a contributor to Food Arts Magazine and has penned several cookbooks including Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes (Clarkson Potter, 2004) with Stephanie Lyness and American Masala: 125 New Classics From My Home Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2007) with Raquel Pelzel. Saran is the only U.S.-based contributor to the largest Indian cookbook ever published, India Cookbook, featuring 1,000 recipes (Phaidon Press, 2010). Saran and partner Charlie Burd live and care for American Masala Farm, a nineteenth century farm in upstate New York.
Owner: Beast in Portland, OR
Competing for: Seed Savers Exchange
Naomi Pomeroy and her sous chef Mika Paredes first welcomed customers to Beast on September 27, 2007. Since then, the restaurant has received features in Gourmet and Elle magazine. Additionally, Bon Appètit named Pomeroy as one of the top 6 of a new generation of female chefs in September 2008 and Food & Wine magazine recognized her as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America in 2009. Born and raised in Corvallis, Oregon, Pomeroy spent her childhood hanging around the stove and in backyard gardens with her and with Grandmother Vivian from New Orleans. Before opening Beast, Pomeroy, and Michael Hebb started up Ripe Catering in 1999 and soon after launched an underground supper club called Family Supper. In rapid succession they opened the Gotham Coffee Shop, ClarkLewis Restaurant, and the Gotham Tavern. In the summer of 2007, after Gotham Coffee Shop and Tavern closed and ClarkLewis was sold, Pomeroy started to cook small family-style suppers again. The intimacy of these suppers is preserved at Beast, a 24-seat restaurant where people chat freely with each other at communal tables.