Every year, Food & Wine magazine picks their Top 10 up-and-coming chefs. Now they are polling Americans on who they think is the most talented new chef in America. That’s good move, since Bravo’s “Top Chef” reality show seems to have usurped most of the magazine’s clout.
Among the 10 California Chefs in the running is Ari Weisswasser of the Glen Ellen Star, who grew up in the Philadelphia area and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He is the only Wine Country chef in the running, so that’s a big feather in his chef’s toque.
The young chef, who married Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser of Sonoma Valley’s fun-loving Benziger family, cut his culinary teeth in several top New York restaurants as well as the French Laundry of Yountville. But this down-to-earth chef truly belongs in Sonoma County, where he’s won fans for his simple and delicious Mediterranean cuisine, including his family-style Leg of Lamb with Salsa Verde (see recipe below).
On why he is amazing, the magazine wrote: “After years of cooking in vaunted, mainly big city kitchens, he’s highlighting the simple beauty of garden- and pasture-grown food in a town of 784 people.” Yes, and since it’s Sonoma, let’s also give a shout out to the farmers working in the pioneering wine family’s impressive, organic gardens.
Voting continues through March 31 online at foodandwine.com. There are 100 chefs participating in the competition, from 10 regions across the U.S. Bay Area chefs also in the running include Matthew Accarrino of SPQR in SF, Kim Alter of Plum in Oakland, Brett Cooper of Outerlands in SF and Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco.
This wood-oven dish from Ari has been adapted for the home cook who has a regular oven and grill. Serve with roasted asparagus or other spring vegetables such as spring onions, green garlic, leeks and artichoke hearts.
Roast Leg of lamb with Caramelized Potatoes and Salsa Verde 1 bone in leg of lamb, seasoned with salt & pepper, rubbbed with olive oil
4 pounds medium Yukon gold potatoes (cut into 8 pieces each)
For salsa verde:
4 bunches basil (leaves only)
2 bunches parsley (leaves only)
1 bunch cilantro (leaves only)
1 bunch mint (leaves only)
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons anchovy paste
Salt to taste
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
For salsa verde: Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and blend until well incorporated. Drizzle in olive oil until well emulsified. Set aside.
For lamb: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a grill or wood oven to about 650 degrees . Center leg of lamb on a roasting pan with a rack, place seasoned and oiled potatoes underneath. Roast about 45 minutes in the oven or until meat reads 125 degrees with a thermometer, and the potatoes are cooked through. Transfer lamb only to the grill or wood oven and remove after deeply caramelized.
Let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Slice thinly, arrange along with potatoes on a platter and spoon salsa verde around.