Top Chefs

Six culinary greats take the fine dining experience to the next level

skills reflect a number of influences: his roots in Ethiopia, where he was orphaned at age 3 in 1973; his upbringing in Sweden, where he attended the Culinary Institute at Göteborg; apprenticeships in European kitchens; and an eight-month internship in 1991 at the Swedish restaurant Aquavit, which he would bring to worldwide fame. He was named executive chef in 1995 at age 25.

His latest venue for cultural interpretation is Riingo, a Japanese restaurant, which opened in New York City in 2004. Samuelsson, 35, has also garnered more accolades than most chefs will see in a lifetime, including two James Beard Awards, for Rising Star Chef in 1999 and for Best Chef New York City in 2003. But he continues to challenge himself. “I want to be a better chef than I was last month,” he says. “Those are the goals I always have professionally. I want to work with food forever.”

Samuelsson’s The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa (Wiley; $40) is due this fall. Inspiring people, especially African Americans, to think about African foods is also on his agenda. “We have to inspire parents to take young kids out to learn to taste and make a habit of that. Experiencing different things through food would break so many other barriers, too.”

TIMOTHY DEAN Executive Chef & Owner, Timothy Dean Bistro, Baltimore
It was 1988 when 18-year-old Timothy Dean, whose career started in a pizza parlor with the goal of buying a pair of Air Jordans, learned that Jean-Louis Palladin was one of the country’s hottest chefs. “I was determined to just meet him and ask him ‘How did you become France’s youngest two-star Michelin chef?'” And so Dean called him, was granted two meetings, and within a year became sous-chef at Palladin’s groundbreaking restaurant, Jean-Louis At The Watergate. He received a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, but at Palladin’s urging, Dean skipped culinary school to learn the old-fashioned way-on the job.

Over the next 12 years Dean worked with Palladin and others, including Washington’s Patrick Clark and France’s Alain Ducasse. But Dean’s goal for culinary and financial success was to own a restaurant. His last gig was chef de cuisine at Palladin’s New York restaurant before opening Timothy Dean Restaurant & Bar in 2000. Located in the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., the restaurant was a magnet for K Street power types until it closed in 2002. Dean knew he’d be back, but on his own terms. “I think the key is not to go knocking on doors to look for a job, but to start your own business. I would have a hot dog stand before I would go to work for another chef.”

His latest venture, Timothy Dean Bistro, opened in 2005, and is no hot dog stand. Pulsing with the excitement of Baltimore’s redeveloped Fells Point district, the bistro showcases Dean’s classical French training in dishes like seafood bouillabaisse and braised beef short rib with potato mousseline. Upscale, elegant, and inviting,

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