Bay Area Rising Star Chefs Shine the Night Away

The stars were out in force on Wednesday night at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.

That would be the glittering roster of Rising Star Chefs, as chosen by, the online culinary magazine. chooses only four cities each year in which to pick its rising star chefs. Of course, I’m biased, but there’s no way the magazine could ever leave San Francisco off that list, right?

The walk-around tasting event featured gourmet eats with wine and cocktail pairings.

Chef Joshua Skenes and Sommelier Mark Bright of Saison were on hand to be lauded for “best concept” for their San Francisco restaurant, despite the fact that they were re-opening it the very next night after a major renovation that includes a pricey new stove and kitchen, an outdoor oven large enough to cook a couple of whole pigs, and an expansion and enclosure of the garden patio dining area.

Also in attendance to mingle with colleagues were Chef Stuart Brioza and his wife, Pastry Chef Nicole Krasinski, both formerly of the shuttered-Rubicon in San Francisco, who are expecting their first child in three months — a baby boy.

Here’s what this year’s Rising Stars cooked up:


Matthew Accarrino, SPQR — Bone Marrow Sformatino, Smoked Bacon, and Onions

John Paul Carmona, Manresa — Boudin Blanc, Dates, and Wild Watercress

Maximilian DiMare, Wood Tavern — Crispy Pork Belly with Bacon, Red Lentil Ragout, and Poached Egg

Louis Maldonado, Aziza — Marinated Striped Bass, Petrossian Caviar, Green Strawberries, and Brown Rice

Thomas McNaughton, Flour + Water — Ravioli Doppio of Pork and Pea

Scott Nishiyama, Chez TJ — Moulard Duck Foie Gras “Neige,” Blackberry, Cashew, and House-Made Mustard Toast

Pastry Chefs:

Melissa Chou, Aziza — Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Plum Soup

Catherine Schimenti, Michael Mina — Apricot Mousse, Cherry Sorbet, and Lemon Verbena


Erick Castro, Rickhouse — “Statesman” (the Lusty Maritime Punch, featuring Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky)
Brian MacGregor, Jardinière — “Tippler’s Delight”


Sarah Valor, Commis — Wine Pairings with Each Chef’s Dish


Joshua Skenes, Saison — Little Roots Braised with Bonito, Caramelized Shoots, Flowers, and Leaves


Shelley Lindgren, A16 and SPQR — Roasted Sardines and Minted Pea Bruschetta with Pickled Onions

Hotel Chef:

Josh Thomsen,  Claremont Hotel Club & Spa — Laura Chenel Goat Cheese-Potato Terrine with Slow-Roasted Baby Beets and Aged Balsamic Syrup

Host Chef:

Martin Book, Gary Danko — Cured New Zealand King Salmon with Jicama, Lotus Root Chips, and Curry Remoulade

VIP Host Chef:

JW Foster, the Fairmont San Francisco — Petrossian White Sturgeon Caviar with Champagne-Poached Red Torpedo Onion Relish, Butterball Pomme Chip, Charred Citrus, and Crème Fraîch; and House Cold Smoked New Zealand Greenshellâ„¢ Mussel with Parsnip Frites, Santa Cruz Heirloom Tomato and Sonoma Riesling Consommé, and Asian Pear and Fennel Salad

Attendees got to vote for their favorite dish. At the end of the night, whose dish reigned supreme?

That honor went to Scott Nishiyama of Chez TJ for his David Chang-Momofuku Ko-inspired dish that featured frozen, shaved foie gras that had the lightness and chill of snow.

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  • Those dishes are so beautiful! A wonderful event!



  • I agree, it would be sacrilegious to leave out SF, since it IS one of the best foodie cities in the world! And I think all the amazing dishes by your rising chefs proved the point!

  • Your photos look so lovely! I wanted to go and was debating it, but I have to say their online signing up process looked suspicious. So I chickened out. But then again I can just eat through your eyes! 😉 A16’s sardine looks soooo good right now!

  • Single Guy Ben: Oh, you should have gone! Would have been fun to see ya. We could have caught up over sardines. 😉

  • Looks like foams were in this year. I guess it time to stop doing them now.

  • Everything looks so beautiful, almost too cute to eat!

  • It’s interesting to see such seemingly heavy food with the recent spike in temperature. And with all the beautiful abundance of spring vegetables and early summer treats, it seems odd to do dishes like Boudin Blanc (an alsascian winter warmer), bone marrow and pork belly on multiple dishes. Perhaps it was a cold day in SF. That being said, the food looks great! And I think that “David Chang inspired recipe” was originally a Wylie Dufresne recipe. Not that I care much about the weirdo, but you have to give credit where credit is due. And when are Bay Area chefs going to stop with the Beet and goat cheese pairing? That’s like the quintessential California dish…if it were 1994.

  • Sounds like a terrific event, so many gorgeous delicious dishes!

  • great re-cap! lovely photos! 🙂

  • Just when you think there are no new ingredients with which to create new concepts, someone dreams up a use for green strawberries!

  • Otis: I stand corrected then. Mr. Chang always gets the hype no matter what he does, while Mr. Dufresne toils creating masterful dishes that diners don’t always appreciate.

    As for the weather in SF yesterday, it was still sunny and nice when the event got started, but then the wind kicked up and the night definitely turned chilly. I could have really gone for an ENTIRE bowl of Saison’s broth at that time. 😉

  • Did you get to taste all of the dishes? So many amazing things in one night. The winning dish sounds spectacular.

  • I told The Guy, why take photos? Carolyn’s here, taking photos and will put them on (And you did. Thank you!)

    I was telling someone about Scott Nishiyama’s foie gras neige today. What a brilliant dish that was… the little shreds of frozen foie gras melting in your mouth. Yum. (I sent them a link to so they could see what I was trying to describe.)

  • Gorgeous photos and outstanding dishes on this event – I don’t know which of them I want more – yum yum 🙂

    All the best,


  • I have to say these Rising Star Chefs are all stellar! The dishes all looked very creative… I thought I saw Daikons (radish) in a few dishes…

  • What beautifully plated dishes Carolyn! 😮 I can see why they would be considered as rising chefs! 😀

  • this just goes to show how little i know about properly-presented food. those platings are gorgeous.

  • wonderful reliving those dishes through your photos! wasn’t that foie neige just unreal?!

  • Oh my goodness, what an incredible assortment. Did you sample everything? I’m not sure I could stop myself.

  • man i love when you do these posts. amazing. the culinary talent out there is amazing. did you get to eat these too? did i miss that part? do you need an intern this fall?

  • What an amazing event. I wish I could have been there (happy to eat bone marrow during any season)!

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