San Francisco's 50 Finest Chefs

The San Francisco Bay Area is renowned the world over for its varied, fresh and sumptuous cuisine. Home of a celebrated seafood and Italian food heritage, the area today hosts a fare as inventive and diverse as any dining scene in the nation. Fusion, Continental, French, Asian and Latin America influences flavor the Bay Area cuisine with exceptional variety while fresh vegetables and free-range meats also lead the bill.

Peruse this list of the 50 Bay Area chefs that bring the most excitement to the profession of culinary arts, and the restaurants they helped make famous. From James Beard Foundation award winners to restaurateurs praised by Michelin, these are the chefs whose cuisine and charm are not to be missed:

  • David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos. Contemporary American and French cuisine. Kinch has received the Pacific region Best Chef in America award from the James Beard Foundation.
  • Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko, San Francisco. Mediterranean/French. Danko is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation "Best Chef - California" award.
  • Charles Phan from Slanted Door, San Francisco. Mick Jagger and Quentin Tarantino are among the many devotees of Phan's nouveau-Vietnamese cuisine.
  • Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco. Chinese-nouveau. In just two years, Bowlen has created a sensation so huge, it's going bi-coastal.
  • Thomas McNaughton of flour + water, San Francisco. Pasta and occasional pizza. McNaughton graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park -- one of the top chef schools -and studied pasta in Bologna.
  • Preston Clark, El Paseo in Mill Valley. El Paseo is known as "The House of Chops", because the term appealed to owner Sammy Hagar. Clark comes from a heralded culinary background as son of Tavern on the Green chef Patrick Clark.
  • Aaron London, who recently left Ubuntu in Napa. Vegetarian. Another legendary talent from the culinary schools, London attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y.
  • Daniel Patterson from Coi in San Francisco. Fish and shellfish. Coi is ranked #75 on the 2011 San Pelligrino World's Best Restaurants List.
  • Michael Chiarello from Bottega, Yountville. Meat, fish and pasta. A culinary school grad from the Culinary Institute of America, Chiarello is a world-renowned chef and Emmy-winning host on the Food Network and Cooking Channel.
  • Richard Reddington of Redd, Yountville. Asian and Californian. Reddington worked in New York restaurants before studying in France at the Michelin three-star Arpege.
  • Christopher Kostow from St. Helena's The Restaurant at Meadowood. Kostow was a Michelin-starred chef before he was 30. The restaurant recently re-opened for dinner after a full kitchen remodel and cosmetic improvements to the dining room and bar.
  • Matthew Accarrino from SPQR, San Francisco. Modern Italian. Another top culinary schools graduate, Accarrino learned Italian cooking at the Michelin-starred Antonello Colonn near Rome.
  • Chris Cosentino from Incanto, San Francisco. Italian-Californian cuisine. Cosentino has worked at prestigious restaurants, including Red Sage in Washington, D.C. and Rubicon, Chez Panisse, Belon, and Redwood Park in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Loretta Keller from COCO500, San Francisco. Italian-Californian cuisine. Owner/Chef Keller originally opened Bizou to raves in 1993 and transformed it into COCO500 in 2005.
  • Mourad Lahlou from Aziza, San Francisco. Moroccan/Californian cuisine. Lahlou came from Morroco to study economics and ended up creating a restaurant, a stir, a book and television show.
  • Corey Lee from Benu, San Francisco. Pasta and seafood. Lee is a James Beard Award-winning chef with experience at seven 3-star Michelin restaurants in England, France and the U.S.
  • Melissa Chou from Aziza, San Francisco. Mediterranean. Culinary schools and Vassar graduate Chou studied pastry at Tante Marie Cooking School in San Francisco.
  • Jean-Pierre Moullé from Chez Panisse, Berkeley. French bistro. Moullé graduated from Hotel School of Toulouse and trained in Germany and France.
  • Matt Greco from The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Livermore. California and Continental. Executive Chef Greco graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
  • Jason Buckley from Blackhawk Grill, Danville. Grilled seafood and steaks. Graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Buckley won a Bronze Medal in the 5-course menu category from the American Culinary Federation.
  • Rodney Worth from The Peasant & The Pear, Danville. Mediterranean. Worth's restaurant earned "Best New Restaurant of 2006" from Diablo Magazine.
  • Shane McAnelly from Va de Vi, Walnut Creek. Italian/Mediterranean. For seven years running, the Va de Vi has been listed in the Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants by the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Mark Dommen from One Market, San Francisco. Fresh grille. Dommen's leadership earned One Market a Michelin star for the fourth year in a row in the 2011 Guide.
  • Miriam Russell Wadleigh from Piacere, San Carlos. Italian and Seafood. Fourth generation San Franciscan, Wadleigh previously spent three years as Executive Chef at Central Park Bistro.
  • Jon Nguyen from First Crush, San Francisco. Californian/Italian. Nguyen's resume includes celebrated stints at Fifth Floor, Betelnut, Gary Danko, French Laundry, and Masa's.
  • Ian Begg at Naked Lunch, San Francisco. Exotic soups, salads and sandwiches. Begg is a James Beard Foundation honoree as "Rising Star Chef".
  • Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman at Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, San Francisco. Delicatessen. Bloom and Beckerman began by smoking their own meat in the East Bay, then opened Wise Sons to raves from The New York Times.
  • Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn, San Francisco. French. Crenn earned a Michelin star two years in a row and winning the coveted Chef of the Year title from Esquire magazine in 2008.
  • Joey Elenterio, of Chez TJ, San Jose. French. Elenterio started at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Chez TJ as Sous Chef in 2009.
  • Perry Hoffman, étoile, Yountville. French. Under Hoffman's guidance, étoile has received a Michelin Star for the last three years.
  • Randy Lutz, Ame, San Francisco. Asian/Californian. Lutz visits the farmer's market first before creating his fresh menus.
  • Justin Simoneaux of The Boxing Room, San Francisco. Louisiana Seafood. In 2007, before his rise to the Boxing Room, Simoneaux joined Coco500 as sous-chef, working with Chef Loretta Keller.
  • Fred Tang at the Spice Kit, San Francisco. Asian. Tang, classically trained in French cuisine, uses sustainably-farmed produce in his Vietnamese and Korean dishes.
  • Desmond Echavarrie of The French Laundry, Yountville. French/Continental. Sommelier Echavarrie has won "Top New Somm (under 30 years old)" by The Guild of Sommeliers.
  • Juan Contreras of Atelier Crenn, San Francisco. French. Contreras is one of this year's nominees for Food & Wine's "The People's Best New Pastry Chef".
  • Johnny Salmon at Alexander's Steakhouse, San Francisco. American/Japanese. Formerly of the Fifth Floor, Certified Sommelier Salmon became Alexander's wine director in 2011.
  • Sharon Ardiana of Ragazza, San Francisco. Pizza and pasta. Before opening Ragazza, Ardiana enjoyed success at Gialina, a Top 100 Restaurant in Glen Park.
  • Michael Mina of MICHAEL MINA, San Francisco. Vietnamese. MICHAEL MINA was named "Restaurant of the Year 2011" by Esquire Magazine.
  • Charlie Parker of Plum, Oakland. California cuisine. Parker is the fifth Manresa restaurant veteran in five years to be named a San Francisco Chronicle "Rising Star Chef".
  • Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu of Plow, San Francisco. California cuisine. Ten years after opening Ruby Wine, Bleskacek and Siu opened this award winning brunch and breakfast spot.
  • Douglass Keane of Cyrus, Healdsburg. California cuisine. Keane's kitchen leadership brought Cyrus the 15th slot on Esquire Magazine's list of the top 100 American Restaurants and earned him "Chef of the Year" honors.
  • Roland Passot of La Folie, San Francisco. French contemporary. For chef to stars and royalty, Passot opened La Folie in 1988. He previously worked at Chez Michel.
  • Jim Wimborough of Evvia Estiatorio, Palo Alto. Greek and Mediterranean. Wimborough specializes in selecting and cooking traditional goat recipes.
  • Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café, San Francisco. Regional French and Italian cuisine. Rodgers went to culinary school at Les Frères Troisgros in Roanne, France.
  • Rajko Marin of Tadich Grill, San Francisco. Seafood. Marin has worked with the grill for 25 years and is one of seven head chefs at Tadich since the 1920s.
  • Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill, Yountville. California cuisine. Pawlcyn went to top chef schools including Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, beginning her career at the Pump Room in Chicago.
  • Antonio Flores Lopez of Cascal, Mountain View. Pan-Latin cuisine. Lopez helped owner Don Durante to create 25 Tapa-style dishes as well as paellas and ceviche.
  • Annie Somerville of Greens, San Francisco. Vegetarian. Somerville is the author of "Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Celebrated Greens Restaurant" and "Everyday Greens".
  • David Taylor of A16, San Francisco. Pizza and pasta. Taylor previously worked at Prague's four-star Gargoyles Restaurant as chef de cuisine and as executive sous chef at XYZ in San Francisco.
  • Adam Keough at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar, San Francisco. French and California cuisine. Keogh is a two-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for national "Rising-Star Chef of the Year". He worked in the kitchens of Chez TJ and Michael Mina.

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