Per Se

10 Most Influential Chefs Part 2.

This is a ranking of the chefs I feel have had the greatest influence on the American culinary scene.  When the idea of ranking the 10 most influential chefs originally came to me the first thing I had to do was set out a criteria for my ranking.  Here’s what I asked myself:

  • Have they influenced younger chefs?
  • Have they had an influence on the American table?
  • Have they influenced the US dining scene?
  • Have they influenced home cooks?
  • Have they influenced me?

As with any of these types of lists debate will rage.  I invite, nay!  I implore you to use the comments section to offer your own critiques and substitutions.  Let’s start with a review of Chefs 10 – 6:

10. Michael Symon
9. James Beard
8. Graham Kerr
7. Bobby Flay
6. Emeril Legasse

If you are interested in reading my justifications or reasons for ranking who I did, where I did then read Part 1 HERE.  Now let’s proceed with the top 5:

Julia Child5. Julia Child (author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and a dozen more cookbooks and host of The French Chef and numerous other TV series).  Ah Julia.  You can find people who dislike Emeril and Bobby and Graham and even those who hate on Jacques Pepin, but everyone loves Julia.  Thankfully those who did not grow up watching her cooking on TV got a chance to know her in last year’s hit film Julie & Julia.  Julia left us in 2004 but her influence on the way home cooks cook is apparent even today.  Sure Beard was first and Kerr the most famous but Julia transcends time.  She taught Americans that not only is it good to dream big but also to fail big.  She made great food accessible to the everyday person and removed the bourgeoisie tethers from French cuisine.  She returned it to the commoner.  I am lucky enough to own a first edition copy of Julia’s second book, the companion to her hit series, The French Chef. It was a gift from one of my own chef groupies and it is the star of my cookbook collection.  I do not cook from it, I cherish it.  Just as we all cherished Chef Julia Child.

Thomas Keller4. Thomas Keller (The French Laundry and ad hoc in Yountville, California, Bouchon in Yountville, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, Bouchon Bakery in Las Vegas, Yountville and New York City, Per Se in New York City).  Do you know why you have heard of Yountville, California?  Because of Thomas Keller.  Before Keller opened his first eatery, The French Laundry, Yountville was just another spot on the map.  Now it is the heart of the Napa Vally wine country.  Many have proclaimed Chef Thomas Keller the best chef in the world.  Of course there is no way to quantify such an accolade.  The kicker for me of Keller’s genius was on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s short-lived Food Network series, A Cook’s Tour where Bourdain and some friends were treated to a Keller tasting menu at The French Laundry and midway through the six hour eat-a-thon Keller had made a course specifically for the chain-smoking Bourdain – a Marlboro Red infused custard.  According to Anthony, “this is like driving a Rolls Royce naked in mink underpants.”  You can watch the entire French Laundry Experience HERE.

Daniel Boulud3. Daniel Boulud (Daniel, Bar Boulud, Cafe Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, DBGB Kitchen & Bar and Bar Pleiades in New York, DB Bistro Moderne in Miami, Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach, DB Bistro Moderne and Lumiere in Vancouver, Bar Boulud in London and Maison Boulud in Beijing).  Boulud is very talented.  He has a devotion to wowing diners and has maintained that reputation for going on three decades.  His restaurants can be found all over the globe ( four countries on three continents) but with Daniel it’s all about disciples.  Boulud has mentored more big name chefs than anyone since Escoffier.  The list of names is ridiculous.  Boulud also starred as the host of a show about the truly extravagant side of dinner parties on the now-defunct HD network MOJO called After Hours with Daniel Boulud.  It was unequivocally the best food porn I have ever seen.  You can watch every episode for free at  You can’t really call yourself a foodie if you don’t.

Ferran Adrià2. Ferran Adrià (El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, Spain).  You had to see this one coming.  I mean this guy is on everyone’s list and for good reason he created a cuisine.  Although Adrià balks at such talk and even declines to call what he does molecular gastronomy but that is a good description.  Adrià’s unique vision and creativity have produced the bulk of the world’s food trends for the past four or five years – foams, caviars and all manners of deceptive looking morsels.  He has made a small Catalonia village over looking the Atlantic ocean one of the must-see locals on earth.  They flock there for a meal at the current best restaurant on earth.  And they have a sense of urgency about it.  El Bulli is closing its doors in 2014 so that Chef Ferran can work on other projects.  It’s a shame really because if you don’t have reservations already then chances are you may never get to try it.   Chef Gordan Ramsay describes Adrià’s cooking as, “. . .  cooking 20 years ahead of its time.”  Adrià’s disciples are as numerous as his accolades and they spread from Barcelona to LA and beyond.  You could easily make the case for Adrià to be #1 and get few arguments, after all the guy did invent a whole new cuisine.  How do you top that?

With one spot left to go I’m sure people are already making a list of chefs they think belong on this list more than others.  You’d be hard pressed to find fault with any top 10 chef’s list that included the likes of David Chang, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Laurent Tourondel, Larry Forgione, Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa or Alice Waters.  If fact if you asked me to do this again in six months chances are you’d find one or more of them on that list.  By mentioning that I have just given you a clue that none of them are my #1 most influential chef.  That goes to . . .

Wolfgang Puck1. Wolfgang Puck (Spago in LA, Chinois in Santa Monica, Postrio in LA and Las Vegas, CUT in LA and Las Vegas, Trattoria del Lupo and Springs Preserve Café in Las Vegas, Five-Sixty in Dallas, The Source in Washington DC, Wolfgang Puck B&G and WP24 in LA, Wolfgang Puck in Orlando, Wolfgang Puck Grille in Detroit, 20.21 in Minneapolis, countless cookbooks and official caterer for the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball).  Puck’s career has been ridiculous.  Many consider him the first rock star/chef because he was the first chef (sans TV) that people actually knew about.  He was the first chef to have people show up at his restaurant just to get a glimpse of him.  His gig catering the Governor’s Ball at the Oscars was the catalyst to it all and it is something he still does to this day.  He was really the first chef to build an empire of multiple restaurants.  Puck is responsible for introducing two cooking styles – Fusion and California Cuisine.  He has an impressive list of disciples.  He pioneered branding for chefs and has also done a number of hit TV shows.  Most importantly, if you ask many of the other great chefs discussed here they’ll tell you that their number one influence is Puck.  To any who have read much of my writing you may have noticed that I usually refer to him as “the incomparable  Wolfgang Puck.”  From where I sit that is the best way to describe him, incomparable.  Though numbers ten through two may change for me depending on the barometric pressure or what color socks I’m wearing Puck will always be #1.

Alright there’s my list.  Rip me apart in the comments if you like.  It’s all good.

El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, Spain.

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An Interview with Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller, chef extraordinaire, owner of Per Se (New York City) & the French Laundry (Yountville, CA) and the author of Ad Hoc at Home discusses the film Ratatouille and some signature dishes with Charlie Rose in this roughly two minute excerpt.

Watch the full interview HERE.

The French Culinary Institute’s New York Culinary Experience

The New York Culinary Experience offers food-lovers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside, learn from, and eat with the most renowned chefs in the city. Students of the culinary arts are welcome, but no prior experience is necessary for this event—the only requirement is a desire to learn from and interact with the best in the business.For two days, you’ll participate in hands-on master classes with acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, and industry insiders. You’ll learn techniques and creative approaches to preparing dishes, then create and eat the dishes you have learned. In addition, you will enjoy in-depth, intimate tasting workshops featuring limited-edition and rare wines, as well as specialty, hard-to-find foods.Breakfast, lunch, and a Champagne toast at the conclusion of each day will be provided to all attendees.


dan barber Donatella Arpaia
Anthos, David Burke & Donatella and Mia Dona

An influential force in the NYC dining scene, Donatella Arpaia is the co-owner of Davidburke & Donatella with Chef David Burke. She is also the co-owner with Chef Michael Psilakis of Mia Dona and Anthos Restaurant which was awarded a coveted Michelin® star and which Esquire magazine named best new restaurant. Named “40 under 40? by Crain’s she will star in a new reality show for Bravo this fall.
dan barber Dan Barber
Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Dan Barber is Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill, and a James Beard Award recipient, among other honors. Focusing on pleasure, taste, and regional bounty, Barber is an activist in bringing consciousness to everyday food choices. He is featured frequently in Gourmet, Food & Wine, New York magazine, and other publications.
dan barber Joe Bastianich
Award-winning restaurateur and winemaker

Joe Bastianich is a prominent restaurateur and winemaker who co-owns numerous restaurants across the country with Chef Mario Batali, including the legendary Babbo Ristorante, as well as several more with his mother, Chef Lidia Bastianich. The author of Vino Italiano and a frequent contributor on the TODAY Show, Bastianich co-owns wineries in Italy and Argentina, and has received a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.
ron ben-israel Ron Ben-Israel
Ron Ben-Israel Cakes

Ron Ben-Israel’s elegant cakes are a favorite with celebrities and socialites. This award-winning “King of Cakes” makes regular appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, Food Network, and in national magazines. Ben-Israel’s masterpiece replica of The Plaza Hotel served 1,500 guests. Since 1999, he has been imparting his techniques at The French Culinary Institute.
Karen Bornarth & Roger Gural
of The French Culinary Institute (The FCI)Karen Bornarth is an instructor and instructional coordinator at The FCI. She has studied, practiced, and taught the craft of bread baking for 10 years. Roger Gural, an FCI alumni and instructor, has baked professionally for almost ten years, at renowned bakeries such as Bouchon Bakery, Bouley Bakery, and Amy’s Bread.
David Bouley
Bouley Bakery and DanubeTrained at Sorbonne and by some of Europe’s most acclaimed chefs including Roger Verge and Fredy Giradet, David Bouley is the Chef-Owner of Bouley, Bouley Bakery and Danube. He has twice received a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef; his restaurants, Bouley and Danube, have both received Best Restaurant awards by the James Beard Foundation. Bouley is also the owner of Bouley Cooking Demonstrations and Bouley Test Kitchens.
Terrance Brennan
Picholine and ArtisanalTerrance Brennan is Chef-Proprietor of Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar, and Picholine Restaurant, which was awarded two stars by the esteemed Michelin® Guide in 2008. A five-time James Beard Award nominee, Brennan is a familiar face on national television appearing on The Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and more.
cesare casella Cesare Casella
Dean of The Italian Culinary AcademyCesare Casella is the Dean of The Italian Culinary Academy (sister school of The French Culinary Institute). A frequent traveler between NYC and Italy, Casella has authored three books and designed a comprehensive training program on Italian cuisine for The Italian Culinary Academy. He appears frequently on national television including Food Network and Molto Mario.
karen demasco Karen DeMasco
Craft and CraftbarPastry Chef at Craft and Craftbar since 2001, Karen DeMasco’s refined yet simple creations reflect years of classical training. Recipient of the James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, DeMasco has appeared in publications including New York magazine, The New York Times, Chocolatier, and Pastry Art and Design.
wylie dufresne Wylie Dufresne
wd~50Wylie Dufresne is the Owner and Chef of wd~50. The James Beard Foundation has nominated Dufresne as Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: NYC, and nominated wd~50 as Best New Restaurant. wd~50 has also been recognized by Restaurant Magazine (UK), New York magazine, the Michelin® Guide’s inaugural American edition, and The New York Times.
Peter Endriss
Per Se and Bouchon BakeryPeter Endriss is the Head Baker of Per Se Restaurant and Bouchon Bakery New York, where he manages a 24-hour baking operation producing breads for both the restaurant and bakery. Endriss gained his experience in retail pastry production at Payard Patisserie and in large-scale bread production and management at Amy’s Bread.
Johnny Iuzzini
Jean GeorgesExecutive Pastry Chef of Jean Georges, Nougatine, and Perry Street, Johnny Iuzzini is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year and winner of New York magazines Best New Pastry Chef Award. Iuzzini has appeared on the Food Network, The Martha Stewart Show, The Today Show, and more.
Daniel Johnnes
Wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex GroupConsidered one of the top sommeliers in the country, Daniel Johnnes is the Wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, including Restaurant Daniel, DB Bistro, and Café Boulud. He was recently awarded the James Beard Foundation Wine and Spirit Professional of the Year, among many other honors.
Elizabeth Karmel
Hill CountryElizabeth Karmel is a nationally known grilling expert, creator of, and the Grill Friends™ and Kitchen Friends™ outdoor cooking and kitchen tools.  She is the Executive Chef of Hill Country, a Texas barbeque restaurant in New York City and the author of several cookbooks.
Jim Lahey
Sullivan Street BakeryJim Lahey is the Owner and Executive Baker of Sullivan Street Bakery. Lahey incorporates his passion for art and study of Italian techniques into his craft. Committed to redefining and elevating the standard for artisan bread, Lahey was the subject of a piece in The New York Times that sparked a worldwide home-baking revolution.
Anita Lo
Annisa and Bar QAnita Lo is Chef-Owner of Annisa and Bar Q, and Chef Consultant at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar.  Food & Wine Magazine voted Lo one of the Best New Chefs and Crain’s New York Business lists her as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in NYC Business. In 2004 she defeated Mario Batali in Iron Chef America.
Jean-Luc Le Dû
Le Dû’s WinesJean-Luc Le Dû is the Owner of Le Dû’s Wines, and recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine Service.  Le Dû served as the Head Sommelier at Restaurant Daniel for 10 years, establishing a 2,000-longbottle wine list that was awarded Wine Spectator magazine’s Grand Award.
daisy marinez Daisy Martinez
Daisy Cooks!Daisy Martinez is the host of the popular PBS series, Daisy Cooks! and a regular contributor to Every Day with Rachael Ray, Siempre Mujer, and Reader’s Digest’s Selecciones (May 2008) magazines. Martinez is currently working on her second book and a new show.
mac mccalman Max McCalman, Mâitre Fromager
Picholine and ArtisanalMax McCalman is the Mâitre Fromager at Picholine and Artisanal, known for their critically acclaimed cheese programs. Renowned as one of the cheese world’s living legends, McCalman serves as a consultant, lecturer, and teacher. His second book won the 2006 James Beard Award and he is frequently featured on television.
Danny Meyer
Union Square Hospitality Group Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. His restaurants including Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, and their chefs have earned an unprecedented seventeen James Beard Awards. He has received numerous awards including the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award and is the coauthor of The Union Square Cafe Cookbook and Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe.
Drew Nieporent
Myriad Restaurant GroupFounder of the Myriad Restaurant Group, Drew Nieporent is one of America’s most respected restaurateurs. Among the international restaurants Myriad operates are the multiple-award winning Nobu and Tribeca Grill. Nieporent has been inducted into “Who’s Who in Food & Beverage in America” and awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.
Masaharu Morimoto
MorimotoMasaharu Morimoto is renowned worldwide as star of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America. He is Chef-Owner of restaurants around the world, including Morimoto in NYC. The restaurant is a James Beard Award nominee and has appeared on “best of” lists from publications such as Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and New York magazine.
Nils Norén and Dave Arnold
of The French Culinary Institute (The FCI)Nils Norén is the VP of Culinary Arts at The FCI and The Italian Culinary Academy. Previously he served as Executive Chef for Aquavit, where he combined his classic sensibilities and immense creativity. Dave Arnold is the Director of Culinary Technology at The FCI where he explores and teaches about the future of cooking. He and his work are frequently featured in national publications such as Food & Wine.
jim peterson James Peterson
Award-Winning Cookbook AuthorJames Peterson is an award-winning cookbook author and teacher of the culinary arts.  Has been nominated and awarded several times by the James Beard Foundation and International Association of Culinary Professionals for his books. His most recent books include What’s a Cook to Do?, a collection of kitchen tips and a full-color general cookbook.
François Payard
Payard Patisserie & BistroFrançois Payard is a third-generation Pastry Chef who honed his skills in France before moving to New York City where he opened Payard Patisserie & Bistro in NYC, now also open in Brazil, Japan, and Las Vegas. A recipient of the James Beard Foundation Pastry Chef of the Year Award, Payard is also an author of several popular cookbooks.
michael psilakis Michael Psilakis
Anthos, Kefi, and Mia DonaMichael Psilakis is the Chef and Co-Owner of Anthos, Kefi, and Mia Dona, restaurants known for their inspired reinterpretation of traditional Greek menus. Each restaurant has been recognized in national publications such as Food & Wine and The New York Times, and Anthos was awarded a coveted Michelin® Star, one of only two Greek restaurants in the world to be honored.
eric ripert Eric Ripert
Le BernardinEric Ripert is Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Le Bernardin, a three-star Michelin® restaurant. Among numerous accolades, Ripert and Le Bernardin have been awarded Outstanding Restaurant and Outstanding Chef in the U.S. by the James Beard Foundation and voted Best Food in New York City for the last seven years in The Zagat® Guide.
marcus samuelsson Marcus Samuelsson
Aquavit and Merkato 55Marcus Samuelsson is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director of New York City’s Aquavit and Merkato 55. Samuelsson received the James Beard Foundation Awards for Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: New York City and placed on Crain’s New York Business annual 40 under 40. Author of several cookbooks, Samuelsson also hosts The Discovery Home program Inner Chef with Marcus Samuelsson.
andre soltner André Soltner
Former Chef/Owner of Lutèce André Soltner shares his artistry with students of The French Culinary Institute as Dean of Classic Studies. Recognized as America’s “first superstar chef,” Soltner is best known as the former Chef-Owner of the four-star Lutèce, considered the paragon of classic French cuisine. He has received dozens of distinctions including the Officier du Mérite National and the Légion d’Honneur from the French government.
jacque torres Jacques Torres
Jacques Torres ChocolateKnown as “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres spent eleven years as Executive Pastry Chef at Le Cirque 2000 before creating his world-renowned chocolate company, Jacques Torres Chocolate. The Dean of Pastry Arts at The French Culinary Institute, Torres has received several distinctions including the James Beard Foundation Best Pastry Chef of the Year.
Tom Valenti
OuestTom Valenti is the Chef and Co-Owner of Ouest. Recognized as “The Flavor King of New York” in New York Eats, and one of 10 Best New Chefs by Food & Wine, Valenti is the author of three cookbooks. In 2001, he established Windows of Hope, raising over $23 million to benefit 9/11 families.
Kevin Zraly
Windows on the World Wine SchoolKevin Zraly is the founder of Windows on the World Wine School. His book, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, is the largest selling wine book in the U.S. His distinctions include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Wine Council and Society of Wine Educators, and a James Beard Award for Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year.

Participate in your choice of four exciting classes throughout the two-day event. You’ll cook,
eat and learn alongside acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, and industry insiders in The FCI’s
professional facilities, the same kitchens that train the school’s career students. You will pick
up new techniques, skills, and recipes that you will be able to apply and recreate at home.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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