The Top 25 Hottest Chefs in America
Michael Chernow, New York
The Meatball Shop has slowly but surely taken over New York City, having just opened its fifth location and still growing. Chernow, who runs the front of house operations, not only has a background in modeling (can't you tell?!), but is also changing the game in the restaurant industry. Along with his Le Bernardin-trained partner, Chef Daniel Holzman, Chernow seems to be unstoppable, as their Meatball empire expands across Manhattan and maybe soon to a neighborhood near you.
Date-night dinner: I keep it real simple. I love cooking whole fish on the grill. I season with nothing more than salt and olive oil. I stuff the fish with fresh herbs and crushed garlic. As an accompaniment, I typically roast some squash (summer or winter), sometimes I’ll toss it with arugula or kale, a squeeze of lemon, toasted walnuts, and some mint—tasty, healthy, and pretty sexy.
Favorite way to sweat: I've been training in Muay Thai kickboxing for years. It’s the best way to sweat and take out some aggression.
Food splurge: A burger from Spotted Pig and a creamy Abita Root Beer on tap.
Akhtar Nawab, New York
This sexy chef has a spicy menu and a saucy smile to match. His undeniable talent with Mexican cuisine will shine once again when he opens La Cenita in New York City this fall. Nawab previously served up some of the city’s best tacos at La Esquina and prior to that, he was the executive chef at CraftBar. We can't wait to dig in to what's sure to be an inventive and creative small-plates menu as soon as La Cenita opens its doors.
Date-night dinner: It depends what’s available at the green market. At this time of year, maybe an heirloom tomato and ricotta cheese crostini with a little balsamic vinegar and a roasted local fish, like black sea bass with tomatillos, avocado, and olive oil.
Favorite way to sweat: Running in Central Park around the Reservoir or chasing my daughter, Ela, around.
Food splurge: Salt and pepper BBQ beef brisket and a Basil Hayden.
Michael Voltaggio, Los Angeles
Earning the honor as the most-tattooed chef on our lineup, Voltaggio is best known for his Top Chef win and is currently chef and owner of Los Angeles hotspots ink. and ink.sack. Voltaggio, the former executive chef of The Bazaar by José Andrés, has also earned numerous awards and a Michelin Star, proving that true artistry in the kitchen comes hand-in-hand with beautiful ink. (Coincidence? We think not.)
Date-night dinner: A trick is to buy Trader Joe's Pizza Dough and make pizzas together. Imagine the scene from Ghost…
Favorite way to sweat: Bowling.
Food splurge: Dessert: ice cream, cookies, cake. Anything sweet.
Michael Schulson, Philadelphia
After his stint as chef of Buddakan in New York City, the sexy Schulson went on to open two successful Asian-inspired restaurants: Izakaya in Atlantic City, NJ, and Sampan in Philadelphia. To hone his skills and deep passion for cooking Asian food, Schulson went straight to the source and formally trained across the continent. The only thing as hot as his delicious Asian cuisine? His personal style outside of the kitchen!
Date-night dinner: Since I'm in restaurants most of the time and always eating complex food, I try and keep it simple when cooking for my girlfriend at home. I'm all about healthy, simple, and flavorful food. I'll marinate fish and do a simple broil or sear, then serve it with a fresh seasonal salad and some steamed vegetables. Pair it with a glass of Rosé or a bottle of wine and you've got a perfect date night.
Favorite way to sweat: I love cross-training workouts. My workout usually consists of 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio intervals followed by 30 minutes of cross-training with weights—lots of legs and core work. I tend to work out for 60 to 90 minutes, five to six days a week.
Food splurge: I'm a big fried chicken guy! I usually treat myself about once every three months or so.
Gavin Kaysen, New York
This James Beard Award-winning and Michelin-starred chef has cooked with some of the best culinary talent in the world. As the executive chef of Café Boulud, Kaysen's creative and exquisite menus are made even more appealing (if possible) by his charming presence. Add his restaurant to your bucket list to see his incredible talent all plated up. Plus, we love his menu for “cooking together” on date night… mmm, wild mushroom risotto, anyone?
Date-night dinner: I'd start with a velvety squash soup with toasted walnuts and apples. For an entrée, I would make her (my wife) what we made the first time we cooked together: wild mushroom risotto. It takes patience, precision, and perfect ingredients to make something so simple yet so delectable.
Favorite way to sweat: I played hockey growing up, and the only way I can feel that rush now is rollerblading through Central Park.
Food splurge: A bottle of Champagne with a seafood platter.
Jeff McInnis, Miami
This blonde, blue-eyed chef had a successful run at Yardbird in Miami Beach and is now onto a new concept opening this winter (His lips are sealed for now!). The Southern boy, who also knows how to surf, received James Beard nominations for his past restaurants and is a huge proponent of local, sustainable, and organic cuisine. Stay tuned for more on McInnis’ new endeavors.
Date-night dinner: I tend to go for a light, simple, Mediterranean-style meal and choose a fresh fish. Something like a pan-roasted local snapper over orange-blossom scented Basmati rice, lemon-poached artichoke hearts, and cispy, stuffed squash blossoms. For dessert, something chocolate, like a chocolate and rosemary tart with almond milk ice cream and candied rose petals.
Favorite way to sweat: I like to surf. If the waves aren't up, I swim or skateboard.
Food splurge: Jerky (any kind—beef, venison, or pork) and bourbon.
Harold Dieterle, New York
Since winning the first season of Top Chef, Dieterle set a gold standard for all future winners. The smoldering chef has successfully opened Perilla, Kin Shop, and most recently, The Marrow in New York City—all of which have received numerous accolades.
Date-night dinner: Lasagna with Bolognese sauce.
Favorite way to sweat: Muay Thai kickboxing and tennis.
Food splurge: Gin and soda, and grilled cheese with ham and mozzarella cheese.
Ed Kenney, Oahu, HI
This Hawaiian surfer, who can be found on the island of Oahu, is not only an incredibly talented, award-winning chef, he's also a huge proponent of eating local and organic food. Kenney works to improve his community and sustain his local culture and roots daily. When you visit his restaurant, Town, you can taste this passion for the environment in every bite. A philanthropist at heart, Kenney serves as director for various Hawaiian foundations such as MA'O Organic Farms, Kokua Hawaii Foundation, and Sustain Hawaii.
Date-night dinner: Her favorite meal starts with ceviche and popcorn on our deck at sunset with Don Julio Blanco on the rocks with Tahitian limes. Then, it’s followed by Cantonese steamed ppakapaka (pink snapper) with heaps of veggies from the garden and ends with mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert.
Favorite way to sweat: Surfing with my son, running the 4.6-mile loop around Diamond Head (an extinct volcano), and playing Ultimate Frisbee with friends on Sundays.
Food splurge: Pizza and beer, which is a rare treat because I've been controlling my blood sugar by limiting consumption of starchy carbs.
Seamus Mullen, New York
Craving Spanish tapas in New York City? Check out Mullen’s hot new restaurant Tertulia, which was awarded two stars from The New York Times, three stars from New York Magazine, and was a finalist for one of the industry’s highest honors, the James Beard Foundation Award for best new restaurant. Mullen is currently developing El Colmado, a new tapas and wine bar in the forthcoming Gotham West Market in New York's Hell's Kitchen, scheduled to open this fall. He was also the former executive chef at Boqueria, one of the city's most beloved tapas spots.
Date-night dinner: My favorite home date-night meal is to cook summer seafood paella over hardwood on the grill on our terrace. People often think of grilling as just "man food," but I love to use our grill in all sorts of unusual ways.
Favorite way to sweat: I love going on an intense mountain bike ride. I used to race competitively and recently picked it up again—I forgot how much I love it and what a great workout it is. I don't even need to go far to do it: I discovered an awesome park for mountain biking in Queens of all places.
Food splurge: Going for the decadent Omakase menu at Neta, one of the best sushi restaurants in the city right now. Everything is impeccable quality, creative, and perfectly executed.
Marc Forgione, New York
If you love fauxhawks, great food, and Iron Chefs, you've met your match in Forgione. With his successful flagship restaurant Marc Forgione, Khe-Yo, a Southeast Asia-inspired spot, and American Cut, a steakhouse opening in New York City this fall, we’d say this is quite an auspicious start for the enticing restauranteur. There’s just something deliciously decadent about Forgione’s food. Whether it’s his classic American dishes or the comfortable yet elegant ambiance at his restaurants, you’ll keep coming back for more. P.S. Ask him about his “sauce proposal” next time you spot him outside the kitchen.
Date-night dinner: I cook a light meal, something grilled if possible. I don’t want to put her in a food coma. Then I'll concentrate on making a killer brunch the next day with scrambled eggs, champagne, and caviar.
Favorite way to sweat: I love snowboarding, but because of time constraints, I created a 45-minute workout for myself that involves weights and cardio.
Food splurge: When I'm vacation in the Caribbean, the local crayfish go down like butta.
Evan Hanczor, Brooklyn, NY
You can catch Hanczor cooking up a storm at Parish Hall in the hip Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. The hunky chef decided to change his career from publishing to focus on cooking full-time in 2009, when he began to hone his craft at the famed Locanda Verde in NYC and then as head chef of Parish Hall’s sister restaurant Egg, a popular Brooklyn brunch spot. Hanczor, who was named the 2013 New York Rising Star Sustainability Chef, prides himself on sourcing local cuisine and pairs his amazing menu at Parish Hall with undeniable charm and a smile that's contagious.
Date-night dinner: Usually something easy such as a big salad, fish tacos, or pasta—anything that lets me spend less time cooking and more time enjoying.
Favorite way to sweat: Playing basketball on the outdoor courts at Houston and Chrystie in the Lower East Side, or on Grand Street in Williamsburg. I love playing when it's a little too hot outside and you really get in a good workout.
Food splurge: Nice wine, bourbon, or a bunch of good oysters.
Thiago Silva, New York and Miami
If you have a sweet tooth and/or an affection for Brazilians, you’ll find pastry chef Silva to be the new “catch” of New York's restaurant scene. Silva is the talent, along with executive chef Hung Huynh, behind EMM Group's successful group of restaurants: Catch, The General, La Cenita, and Lexington Brass in New York, and Catch Miami. Check out this Brazilian hottie's enticing, exotic, and beautifully plated dessert creations next time you’re in the area.
Date-night dinner: My wife loves pasta—made from scratch of course. I usually take my time making the tomato sauce to allow for the flavors to develop. That's really the secret—take your time, guys. My wife's favorite is penne pomodoro, topped off with grilled shrimp. Simple and delicious.
Favorite way to sweat: Well, besides what happens after the pasta, I would have to say sports. Just getting out there and playing basketball and soccer is the best way to get a sweat going to me. Time flies, you have fun, and you don't even realize how many calories you just burned off.
Food splurge: Churrasco, a.k.a. barbecue, Brazilian-style, of course. There's nothing I like to splurge on more than that, usually paired with a Brazilian drink like a Guarana or sometimes a Caipirinha.
Michael Symon, Cleveland, OH
America’s favorite heartthrob chef on daytime television just happens to reign as a badass Iron Chef as well. Symon is the owner and executive chef of Lola and Lolita in Cleveland, OH, B Spot Burgers, with various locations in Ohio, and Roast in Detroit, MI. Plus, he recently won the first ever Iron Chef Tournament of Champions, making him—literally—the top chef of them all. With a laugh that’s contagious, delicious eats, and a big heart, this chef is definitely one to keep watching.
Date-night dinner: Grilled brick chicken with salsa verde and a shaved vegetable salad.
Favorite way to sweat: On the elliptical machine.
Food splurge: B Spot Burgers' Fat Doug Burger and Apple Bacon Milkshake.
Marco Canora, New York
If you love wine bars, small bites, and comforting Italian food, it doesn’t get better than Canora. This Italian—dare we say, stallion—runs one of the most authentic Italian restaurants in New York, Hearth, along with a slew of Terroir wine bars around the city. The James Beard Award-winning chef has worked under some of the biggest names in New York's food scene, including Tom Colicchio, and consistently travels to Italy to keep honing his culinary roots. (Check out his favorite way to burn off those Italian meals—it's one of our favorites too.)
Date-night dinner: Linguine and clams, definitely.
Favorite way to sweat: Yoga!
Food splurge: The spicy soppressata pizza at Motorino. I go by myself and inhale the whole thing.
Sean Baker, Berkeley, Calif
Baker runs Gather, located in beautiful Berkley, Calif. and is developing a new establishment in San Francisco called Verbena. Gather has been described as the "Omnivore's Solution" by San Francisco Magazine and a "Michael Pollan book come to life” by The New York Times. In his cooking, Baker is all about sustainable ingredients and heirloom varietals, working with local producers to source whole, sustainable foods. So it's obvious why this 2013 Rising Star Chef Award winner had to be included on our list!
Date-night dinner: My wife Renée loves simple dinners like "beans and greens." We have an abundance of shelling beans right now that go really well with beautiful greens such as Treviso, mustards, and escarole. Often I will slow roast a piece of fish such as salmon, sea bass, or halibut, finished with a bit of olive oil and citrus.
Favorite way to sweat: I really enjoy long urban hikes. For example, I'll hike to the top of Twin Peaks, then down to Ocean Beach and go swimming in the Yuba River. That was my favorite way to sweat this summer.
Food splurge: Pliny the Elder at Toronado with a chicken habanero sausage.
Louis Maldonado, San Francisco
We caught Maldonado just before things really took off: He's currently lined up to be on the upcoming season of Top Chef, New Orleans (Season 11). Known for his eats at the Healdsburg, Calif. establishment Spoonbar, Maldonado has also cooked in the kitchens of Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry and Café Majestic. He recently worked as the chef de cuisine of the Michelin-starred Aziza in San Francisco. With such haute-cuisine accolades, this hunky chef's undying love for cheeseburgers (see below!) is even more endearing to us.
Date-night dinner: To be honest, I really love to go out and eat when I take a day off. Not to check out a hot new restaurant or see what people are doing, but I just love eating out and the whole experience that comes with it—it’s intimate, there's so much conversation, people watching, and just being on the same level with somebody in that sort of environment. But f I had to cook at home, then I really love cooking a beautiful piece of meat or a large bird of some sort.
Favorite way to sweat: I love to sweat! Three to four days a week, I run five to nine miles, and then I mix in clean and jerks, squats, pull-ups, dips, and a lot of burpees. I make it a huge priority to work out in the mornings. It takes my mind off of life and helps me focus on being healthier and feeling younger.
Food splurge: I love cheeseburgers and fries. Love, love, love. They're the best vehicle of flavor and everything works so well.
Stephen Collucci, New York
As executive pastry chef of Colicchio & Sons in New York City, Collucci’s desserts are elegantly refined yet comforting. As a self-proclaimed “chocolate freak,” Collucci loves indulging in invigorating ingredients and in-season fruit. He also just released his first cookbook, Glazed, Filled, Sugared & Dipped: Easy Doughnut Recipes to Fry or Bake at Home. A pastry chef who's finally bringing home the secrets to the perfect American doughnut? That’s our kind of man.
Date-night dinner: Trying to replicate mom’s chicken cutlets is always entertaining and appreciated. Lately my wife and I have been making sushi at home, which has been fun. Fortunately my wife has a sweet tooth and is a big fan of my pecan buttercrunch, so I break that out on special occasions.
Favorite way to sweat: When I’m at the gym, I like to get in some cardio on a treadmill or elliptical. Weather permitting, I like jogging around my neighborhood with Afrojack blasting in my ears to get my heart rate up.
Food splurge: When I really feel like indulging and calorie counts go out the window, I can house an entire Brownie Earthquake Sundae from Dairy Queen in a matter of minutes. Grape soda is also a secret (or not so secret) obsession of mine.
Chris Kostow, Napa Valley, Calif
With an impressive three Michelin Stars and a breathtaking backdrop in California wine country, it doesn’t get much better than Kostow’s modern, local cuisine at Meadowood. Kostow, who describes his cuisine as “thoughtful,” is a natural talent, but honed his technique by cooking at the Michelin-starred Le Jardin des Sens in Provence. If you're planning a wine-tasting trip to Napa any time soon, Meadowood is a spot that can't be missed.
Date-night dinner: Slow-cooked salmon with vegetables from our garden at St. Helena Montessori School.
Favorite way to sweat: Working out with Mitch, a trainer at Health Spa Napa Valley.
Food splurge: Pre-made cookie dough cookies hot from the oven.
Takashi Inoue, New York
This handsome and talented chef was born in Osaka, the food capital of Japan. His impressive culinary background includes cooking at establishments in Tokyo and Kyoto. Inoue’s authentic New York City restaurant, Takashi, which opened in April 2010, specializes in delicious, traditional, Japanese cuisine to be enjoyed raw or grilled tableside. And how adorable is this: He uses his grandmother’s barbecue sauces and spicy miso paste as the base to his exotic eats. Although Inoue is known for his exquisite Japanese cuisine (as well as his incredible smile!), check out his totally candid, surprising splurge below.
Date-night dinner: I like to turn my kitchen counter into a chef's table and cook a multi-course meal (in Japan we call it kaiseki) for my date in real time. There's nothing more alluring than watching a chef delicately assemble sashimi, so I usually have an assortment of the freshest fish I can find, as well as soup, a main course, and then the dessert.
Favorite way to sweat: I go to the gym almost daily and lift weights in fast rotation. I also burn a lot of calories dancing at the club, which is a lot more fun than going the gym!
Food splurge: McDonald's is my guilty pleasure. It doesn't happen often, but when I get the craving, I really go for it. I order a Double Fillet-o-Fish, one Big Mac, one Triple Cheese Burger, and an order of Chicken McNuggets. That's why I can't go there regularly!
Marcus Samuelsson, New York
A pioneer in empowering his local neighborhood of Harlem, Samuelsson is an incredibly talented, award-winning chef with a background even more exotic than his food. Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised, Samuelsson is a pivotal name in organic, sustainable cuisine. His restaurant, Red Rooster, is a must-visit next time you're in Manhattan. Don't miss the fried-green tomatoes—there are no words to describe the incredible flavor!
Date-night dinner: You don't want to plan an elaborate meal for date night because you'll end up spending all your time in the kitchen. Choose a simple but elegant pasta dish that you can serve from the table, or why not go casual and grill up a perfect burger? The key is to do something low maintenance that you can prepare together.
Favorite way to sweat: I run at least three miles every day. It;s a great way to stay energized and focused with a busy schedule. I also play in a soccer league in New York. We play in tournaments and weekend games; I've been playing all my life and hoped to go pro when I was growing up in Sweden, before I discovered my passion for cooking.
Food splurge: I know it's seems counterintuitive, but there's nothing better than a burger and beer after a workout with my soccer buddies. Since we play on a field near the Lower East Side, we usually end up at DBGB's for said meal. And it's always fantastic.
Zach Pollack, Los Angeles
Pollack is the executive chef and owner of the trendy Sotto restaurant in Los Angeles, a southern Italian restaurant that specializes in Neapolitan cuisine. Along with chef and partner Steve Samson, Pollack was awarded a Rising Star Chef Award in 2010. He's a fierce talent in all things Italian, including blistered Neapolitan pies, braised meats, pasta dishes, and other treats that will make your heart skip a beat—his good looks are just the cherry on top.
Date-night dinner: I'm a big fan of spackcock chicken cooked under a brick in a hot cast iron pan. I'll season the bird the day before (assuming I'm thinking that far in advance) and dry out the skin with my lady's hairdryer 20 minutes before I plan to cook it. The crispy skin and juicy meat never fail to get lots of oohs and ahhs.
Favorite way to sweat: I love distance running. There's something cathartic about running long distances that you don't get on shorter runs. It's like a vacation for the mind, because there's really nothing else you can accomplish during a run. You can't check emails, place orders, return phone calls. It's just you and the road.
Food splurge: I don't have a huge sweet tooth when it comes to dessert, but I love a sweet brunch—yeasted waffles, pancakes, French toast. There's a place by my house in Silver Lake that has, unequivocally, the greatest French toast I've ever had, perhaps that has ever existed. It's crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the middle, and comes atop a scoop of creamy mascarpone and marinated figs. It is the definition of irresistible. Period.
Brandon Sharp, Calistoga, Calif
This cute chef is known for his elegant cuisine at Solbar in captivating Calistoga, Calif. Prior to Solbar, Sharp cooked at some of Northern California’s finest restaurants, serving as sous chef at the five-star Gary Danko in San Francisco and as chef de cuisine at Restaurant August, a New Orleans culinary institution. He also worked alongside Thomas Keller at Napa Valley’s world-renowned French Laundry. If you’re planning a Cali getaway anytime soon, be sure to check out his gorgeous, Michelin-starred restaurant.
Date-night dinner: A good steak seared perfectly, a crisp fresh salad with seasonal produce, some warm bread, cheese, and a bottle of red Burgundy. Simple and elegant—the perfect dinner to woo any lady.
Favorite way to sweat: Training for a triathlon. I’m on my feet all day in the kitchen so variety is necessary. What better way to achieve that than swimming, running, and cycling in one session?
Food splurge: Bloody Mary and a French dip at Rutherford Grill. Napa is synonymous with wines but never underestimate the power of a Bloody Mary.
Scott Conant, New York
Raised in an Italian-American household, Conant’s love of cooking started at an early age. He opened Scarpetta in New York City in 2008, which immediately received numerous awards and high praise from The New York Times. Conant has since opened additional locations in Miami, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, and Toronto, all while being a fixture on top-rated shows like Food Network’s Chopped. His new cookbook, The Scarpetta Cookbook, will be released in October 2013. Be sure to grab a copy when it hits shelves so you can take a little slice of his delicious Italian cooking home with you.
Date-night dinner: My wife and I seem to always be dieting, so if I’m cooking at home, I make curried vegetables with coconut milk, kale, and quinoa.
Favorite way to sweat: I love to swim. One of my favorite ways to relax is a long swim followed by the steam room.
Food splurge: The classic combination of popcorn and Champagne. Popcorn popped in extra-virgin olive oil and flaked sea-salt with a glass of Champagne is just delicious.
Ludo Lefebvre, Los Angeles
Growing up in Auxerre, France, award-winning chef Lefebvre was originally inspired to cook by his grandmother. The chef at Trois Mec in Los Angeles later learned to hone his skills from culinary giants like Marc Meneau at the legendary restaurant L’Esperance in Burgundy, as well as Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Passard in Paris. With a killer workout routine that involves boxing, surfing, cycling, and even karate, Lefeb proves you can be a culinary great (and even indulge in the occasional In-N-Out burger!) and still rock a fit physique.
Date-night dinner: My wife's favorite dish is Steak au Poivre, so that is definitely a “date night" meal for her. It’s about making the wife happy, right? Although sometimes I skip the cooking and we'll just have smoked salmon, Créme fraîche, caviar, and toast and butter. It’s pretty perfect, and I don't have to stress about cooking or cleaning.
Favorite way to sweat: My exercise routine goes through phases. Right now it's boxing and biking. Before that it was running and surfing. I also love martial arts and have a blue belt in karate. I ran the LA Marathon twice and definitely hope I can do it again.
Food splurge: Double Double from In-N-Out Burger with a milkshake, fries, and a cold beer on the side (if I am eating it at home).
Ryan Angulo, New York
As the executive chef of Buttermilk Channel, a homey American spot in Brooklyn, NY, Angulo serves up his delicious, farm-to-table creations to a perpetually pleased local crowd. Formerly at Aqua in San Francisco and Picholine, David Burke & Donatella, and Stanton Social in New York City, we find this culinary talent's great sense of humor to be the most charming item on his menu. Check out his—shall we say, unusual—splurges below.
Date-night dinner: My favorite date-night meal to cook is a grilled whole fish, with a bunch of vegetable sides. I usually just make up a few side dishes from whatever's in the fridge and pantry. It's great to share, a little messy, and a lot of fun.
Favorite way to sweat: My favorite way to sweat is standing in my non-air-conditioned kitchen at Buttermilk Channel for 12 hours during a summer heat wave. I also like to take the occasional yoga class at the gym or at the Bikram yoga studio in my neighborhood.
Food splurge: As much pimento cheese as I can get my hands on, a box of saltine crackers, and some Miller High Life.