New Orleans knows tragedy and destruction. She’s seen flood waters, racial tensions, oil spills, and corruption. But through it all, New Orleans’ chefs keep cooking, bartenders mixing, and sommeliers pouring. This city’s food culture has at times been the bedrock of its survival, and the culinary community we met this year isn’t just resilient, it’s brilliant.
In this post-Katrina landscape, New Orleans offers much more than traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine. Chefs are exploring the avant-garde, celebrating international flavors, and changing the paradigm of regional cuisines. At the same time, they’re digging deep into the city’s culinary history as a road map for the future. New Orleans’ charcuterie scene is on par with the best in the nation, thanks in large part to Cajun sausage traditions, and chefs are fully embracing Americana—diners, hot dog stands, and burger joints are popping up all over town. The city’s cocktails, too, share this dual new- and old-guard approach, with mixologists using New Orleans’ storied drinking past as inspiration for a thoroughly cosmopolitan cocktail movement.
This year we tasted savory dishes, desserts, cocktails, and wine pairings from more than 80 talented chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers in New Orleans. Only 17 earned the title of Rising Star. So what makes them shine?
Rising Stars have attributes that make us believe they will be the future leaders of the country’s culinary scene. Put simply, they’re not just surviving the New Orleans restaurant industry, they’re defining it with exciting cuisine, pours, and culinary concepts. So without further ado, our 2012 New Orleans Rising Stars: who they are, why they shine, and how they're shaping the future of American cuisine.