It has been a banner year for Latin cuisine around the world: Peru is still turning out fresh new culinary talent in droves; Mexico is at the forefront of cutting-edge flavors and technique; and the US is seeing a dramatic rise in chefs dedicated to authentic cooking in cities across the country. Our prediction: Latin cuisine, thanks to a handful of up-and-coming chefs, will continue to pick up steam, especially in North America. Here are six chefs we think will make a difference in 2014.
The Chef: Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC
How’s this for an Iberian-influenced restaurant resume: after working as a server at Jose Andres’s Café Altantico and minibar in Washington, DC, Button joined the front-of-the-house team at el bulli—as the first American in its history—before moving on to cook at Bazaar by Jose Andres in Los Angeles. In 2011, she took her immense experience and opened the tapas bar Cúrate with her parents.
Why We’re Watching: As a recent semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef Award and a finalist for the Food & Wine People’s Choice for Best New Chef in the Southeast, we feel the accolades are just getting started for this 30 year-old up-and-comer.
The Chef: Kevin Roth (right), La Estacion, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
After spending years in some of mainland U.S.’s best kitchens and working with legends such as Wolfgang Puck, Bradley Ogden and Katy Sparks, Roth left his New York City home behind six years ago after falling in love with Puerto Rico. He now helms one of the island’s most popular restaurants.
Why We’re Watching: This summer, locals were stunned when in a blind tasting, the gringo took first prize in the lechon category at the Cattleman’s BBQ Caribbean BBQ competition. Most fascinating: Roth cooks his lechon in a Ford Bronco, repurposed as a pig oven. His ingenious methods and endless improvements to the restaurant, a former gas station, have us excited for what he’ll do next year. We wouldn’t be surprised if there were some expansion plans afoot.
Next, more chefs to watch from New York to Puerto Rico to Chicago...