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The James Beard Awards Rising Star Chef Nominees Answer Burning Food Questions

The James Beard Awards, considered to be the Oscars of the food world, took place on Monday night during a star-studded gala hosted by Carla Hall. The prestigious awards include a category known as Rising Star Chef, which aims to honor a chef under 30 who “displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”

Camille Cogswell took home the award presented by S.Pellegrino (she’s only the second pastry chef to claim the title!)—but all of the nominees are likely to become household names in the restaurant business. Read on to meet the new faces in food.

Robin Marchant/Getty

Camille Cogswell (Zahav, Philadelphia)

What’s your go-to fast food order?
I really love all kinds of fast food, but, whenever I make it back down south, because I’m from North Carolina, I go to Bojangles’ and get the spicy Cajun chicken on a biscuit, with bo-berry biscuits and a three-piece.

When was the last time you were starstruck?
The last time I was starstruck was when I met Sean Brock, which was incredible, because he is a huge influence and a huge celebrity, and just an incredible chef. He is on that pedestal of chefs that I have watched for a long time and looked up to. So that was really cool. At the time, I had nothing to say. I was like just nervously, awkwardly laughing at anything he said, and just had nothing interesting to add to the conversation. And he’s not particularly a chatty person, so I was just standing there, hoping I looked cool.

As a pastry chef, how do you feel about the trendy, over-the-top desserts?
We’re in the business of serving people what they want to eat, and everybody’s take on that is different. I don’t necessarily want to do those things, that’s not my style—but I’m not going to hate on people for eating it if that’s what they think is cool and they want to eat it. It’s excessive and I don’t want to make that stuff or eat it, but more power to you if you do.

Who’s your celebrity chef crush?
Dominique Crenn. Her food is beautiful. She’s so thoughtful. She is beautiful and just seems so sweet and vibrant and fun. [Editor’s note: Crenn presented Cogswell with her award on Monday when she won!]

Clare de Boer (King, NYC)

The menu at your restaurant changes daily, but do you have a favorite dish you cook often?
I absolutely adore fish stew, in all of it’s myriad forms. Throughout the seasons I really love a beautiful fumet with whatever’s been caught that day. When we first opened we had that on the menu every night for the first two weeks as we found our footing, and it definitely helped get us off the ground.

When you’re home, what do you cook for dinner?
I never cook. I’m at the restaurant most of the time, and when I am not there I do not cook. Cooking at home isn’t particularly pleasurable in New York City. I have a crap stove, and the only thing I have in my fridge is Coleman’s mustard. I basically exclusively eat Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean food when I’m not at King. I really think some of the best food here is Asian. There’s such incredible, incredible stuff in Flushing and in Chinatown, and I really just enjoy eating something that tastes totally different.

Is there one food you can’t stand?
Raw bell peppers are on my never-ever list. I think bell peppers are so extraordinary when they’re cooked properly, but raw, I find them entirely inedible.

What’s the one kitchen tool you can’t live without?
A pestle and mortar. I use it for absolutely everything, from sauces to purees. The only piece of equipment I would need is that.

Kevin Tien (Himitsu, Washington, D.C.)

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with?
I like all vegetables. It’s not one particular ingredient, but I really like going with what’s special each season, because growing up I never appreciated vegetables like any kid probably should appreciate it. I’m really taking the time to appreciate it now. Growing up, we always ate a lot of McDonald’s. I still kind of eat a lot of McDonald’s actually. It’s almost kind of disgusting how much McDonald’s I eat for a week.

What’s your McDonald’s order?
I always get a chicken sandwich. I always get some sort of burger that has multiple patties, a large fries, and I always get a minimum of 10 to 20 chicken nuggets. As a chef, after a long day of work, I think most of us just want something quick. It’s something that’s very comforting.

What’s your favorite cooking show?

When I do have time, I like to watch a lot of Iron Chef because the first cooking show I was ever really interested in was the old school Japanese Iron Chef. Then up growing up in Louisiana I also watched a lot of Emeril Lagasse. I think he’s one of the coolest guys ever.

Are there any food trends that you’d like to see end?
Oh man there’s so many. Any form of trying to turn sushi into something that’s not sushi, like a sushi burger, or sushi pizza. I think really bad poke can die too.


Jeff Marini

Sarah Rinkavage (Marisol, Chicago)

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring chefs?
I would tell them to really find a place that you love and a path that you want to take and really stick with it. Don’t give up. I think I spent seven years at one restaurant, which sounds like a lot for people in our industry, but had I veered off that path, I wouldn’t be where I was today. I think just to really stick with it for a while when you know it’s the right thing. Don’t question it.

What’s your favorite cookbook?
The cookbook that I always go back to is Relae. It’s a restaurant in Copenhagen. I actually lived out there two years ago for a month. I just really like their style and what they do with ingredients. The pictures are beautiful and half the book is about inspiration and technique. Then the other half shows the recipes. I always go back to that one.

What do you eat if you’re indulging?
A good grilled cheese is definitely something I would always go for and still do if I’m out for lunch. And tomato soup. Anything that’s bready—bready, cheesy things are definitely an indulgence. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?
No. I just feel like anything on a bun—like I wouldn’t call a lobster roll a sandwich or a hot dog a sandwich. I don’t know if it’s just because the two sides of the bread are not on top and bottom.

Rachel Jacobson

Miles Thompson (Michael’s, Santa Monica)

What’s the one cooking tip you give to novice cooks?
Well if it comes to cooking meat on the grill, I’d say to rub it in kewpie mayonnaise before you grill it and brush it with fish sauce after it comes off. It brings out a lot of the robustness and dimensionality of the meat while making it extra savory and interesting. And if it comes to cooking vegetables, then I typically say treat it as little as possible but shop for the best thing that you possibly can find and afford.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Los Angeles besides Michael’s?
That’s very hard. Can I give you like 10? If I have to give one, it’s really the one that I like go to most, called Ruen Pair. It’s a Thai restaurant in Thai Town in Hollywood. I love it because it’s unbelievably consistent. It’s open until 3:00 am and it’s incredibly delicious. My go-to order is Chinese sausage fried rice with pineapple. Recently I’ve been getting a spicy pork salad and then the sausage, turnip, and egg bake, which is basically an overcooked omelet that’s delicious.

What’s you favorite flavor of ice cream?
Coffee, hands down.

What is your stance on airplane food?
I will always eat food on an airplane because I’m always hungry. That’s my real answer. I’m not a snob about it. I think that it’s gotten better. I’ve had some like actually really good airplane meals on Chinese airlines flying to Canada. So there’s hope yet.

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