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Hot chefs honored at Food & Wine magazine awards

The country’s top chefs gathered Tuesday night in New York City to recognize Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs, an award in its 24th year that frequently mints culinary superstars.

The Best New Chefs awards have highlighted top chefs like Daniel Boulud of New York City’s Daniel, who was named in 1988; Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., who was named in the same year; and Tom Colicchio of Craft restaurants, who was named in 1991.

RELATED: NRN Fine Dining Legend: Thomas Keller

The 2012 Food & Wine Best New Chefs are:

Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger of The Catbird Seat in Nashville

Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi of Torrisi Italian Specialties in New York

Danny Grant of RIA in Chicago

Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen in New York

Corey Lee of Benu in San Francisco

Jenn Louis of Lincoln Restaurant in Portland, Ore.

Cormac Mahoney of Madison Park Conservatory in Seattle

Bryant Ng of The Spice Table in Los Angeles

Karen Nicolas of Equinox in Washington, D. C.

Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn in Lummi Island, Wash.

The winning chefs each said they recognized the importance of the distinction for their personal careers, as well as their restaurants’ future success.

“It’s super important,” Anderson of The Catbird Seat said. “When I was a kid growing up, I used to read this issue every year.”

The Catbird Seat features Southern-inspired food with modern, global twists centered around a chef’s table that offers a rotating seven-course menu nightly.

RELATED: Cool Plates: The Catbird Seat’s octopus with kimchee purée, turnip, pickled daikon and shiitakes

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Some of the winners named other chefs who inspire them.

Anderson noted Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson and American chef Doug Flicker of Piccolo in Minneapolis, saying of Flicker, “He’s the first chef who taught me to love food.”

Grant of RIA named Grant Achatz as a culinary inspiration. Achatz’s restaurants include the avant-garde Alinea and Next, which transforms its menu periodically based on themes that have included Thai cuisine, the shuttered Spanish restaurant El Bulli and childhood.

RELATED: NRN Fine Dining Hall of Fame: Alinea

“What Grant Achatz has been able to do for Chicago has made all of our jobs easier and expanded diners’ minds,” Grant said.

RIA, which has two Michelin stars and is located in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Chicago, serves modern, seasonally driven French food.

Louis of Lincoln Restaurant was one of only two female chefs named among the total of 12 Best New Chefs, but she downplayed that fact.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female,” she said. “It matters what goes on the plate.”

She added: “It’s the most flattering award I can be given right now in my career.”

Lincoln Restaurant serves modern, seasonal cuisine, with recent dishes ranging from ricotta-sage fritters to hanger steak with blue cheese butter.

Chefs also talked favorite menu items. Grant described a fish dish he is serving this season at RIA.

“As of recently, [we’ve been serving] wild turbot,” he said. “[We cook it by] gently poaching it and searing it lightly.”

Although it has a high price point, as the fish is flown to the United States from Brittany, France, he said people love the recently added menu item.

Contact Marcella Veneziale at [email protected].

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