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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 StarChefs.com, the online culinary magazine. StarChefs.com 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 Greenshell™ 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.