Last March, Food & Wine magazine introduced a "People's Best New Chef" competition to go along with its own yearly listage of the top ten best new chefs in the country, all of whom are introduced at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic in June. Max MacKissock, chef of the Squeaky Bean, was nominated as the the Southwest region's "People's Best New Chef" last year (he didn't win, but he should have), and this year, two more chefs from Colorado have been nominated: Lon Symensma, chef of ChoLon and Will Nolan, who spearheads the kitchen at Eight K, in Snowmass.
Readers vote online for their favorite chefs, of which there are 100 -- ten nominees from ten regions -- and the nominees, all of whom have run a kitchen for five years or less, will compete for the opportunity to appear at the Classic in Aspen.
And Symensma wants votes! The chef is holding a contest on the ChoLon Facebook page, offering dinner for ten to whomever gets the the most "likes." And if that's not incentive, I don't know what it.
"I've been reading Food & Wine for as long as I can remember, and it's a huge honor to be recognized by them. Winning the Southwest region would help me and ChoLon, but it would also bring more recognition to Colorado's amazing food scene," says Symensma, adding, "This means so much to me now that I'm settled in Denver and feel really at home here. Please vote and tell your friends, family and neighbors. Let's win this, Denver."
Here's how you can walk away with the prize: * Change your Facebook status to "Like my status if you voted for @Chef Lon Symensma." * Attach this link: bit.ly/votelon. * The person with the most "likes" by March 11 wins dinner for ten.
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Online voting on the Food & Wine magazine site begins today and continues through March 11 at www.foodandwine.com/peoples-best-new-chef.
And according to Food & Wine, here's why Symensma and Nolan got nods.
LOCATION Denver, CO
WHY HE'S AMAZING Because he combines his Michelin-starred experience and yen for Asian street food to make Vietnamese dishes that are tasty and beautiful.
CULINARY SCHOOL The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)
BACKGROUND Buddakan, Spice Market, Nougatine (New York City); Jean Georges (Shanghai); internship at Arzak (San Sebastian, Spain)
MUST-TRY DISH Stir-fried Brussels sprouts with mint and pork.
BEST MEAL Green papaya salad, curry, pad thai and pork satay from street vendors just off Khaosan Road in Bangkok.
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE Mr. Pibb soda.
CHEF TRAVEL AGENT "Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] gave me very good traveling notes from Asia, so I played Survivor for a year following them. He was very specific: 'Eat at this place. Eat these fried chile frog legs.'"
RESTAURANT Eight K
LOCATION Snowmass Village, CO
WHY HE'S AMAZING Because he's honoring his Louisiana heritage by creating refined Creole comfort food at a prestigious Aspen ski resort.
CULINARY SCHOOL Western Culinary Institute, now Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts (Portland, OR)
BACKGROUND The Palace Restaurant (Durango, CO), Paillard's, now known as Roux on Orleans, The Grill Room (New Orleans, LA)
MUST-TRY DISH Seared diver scallops with pork belly and shishito peppers.
FIRST JOB Working at a barbecue joint throughout high school in his native New Orleans.
WORLD TRAVELER Before moving to Colorado, Nolan spent a summer on Singapore's Sentosa Island helping a friend open Big Easy Cajun Jazz Bar & Restaurant.
ECO-FRIENDLY Viceroy Snowmass, the 173 room ski-in ski-out resort where Eight K is located, is LEED-certified.