The chefs we celebrate on these pages are hot from toque to toe. Sure, some of them play the part: they strut around in cool clothes, throw fits, attract groupies, pen books and preach their food gospel on TV. But they didn't make our top-10 list simply for their swagger on the culinary catwalk. With postmodern vision and breathtaking technique, these mavericks are paving the way to the next millennium. They're so much in demand that we were lucky to catch up with them at all, and when we finally managed to get their attention, well, they boasted, they joked, they sulked, they sighed and they flared like steaks on a grill. The next time you travel, check out their food--your meal is guaranteed to be hot.
Restaurant Jean Georges in Manhattan is his flagship. Buzz With a restaurant empire that embraces three continents--including Vong restaurants in New York, London and Hong Kong and Prime, a steak house, in Vegas--Vongerichten manages to keep his creative edge as sharp as a sushi knife. Background Born in Alsace, he trained at the celebrated Auberge de l'Ille there and worked at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Cooking style Vongerichten has an uncanny ability to match ingredients, giving French haute cuisine an Asian flair. Signature dishes Young garlic soup with sautéed frog's legs and parsley; sea scallops with cauliflower and caper-raisin emulsion; sweetbreads en cocotte with baby carrots, ginger and licorice. How he feels about being hot "It's lonely. You have to fight, fight, fight all by yourself. Maybe I'd be happier running an eight-seat counter where I'd cook, serve and wash dishes." Favorite gadget "I can't live without my Champion juicer." Favorite restaurants Arpège in Paris, The Oak Room in London, Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. Fashion statement Helmut Lang with Prada shoes. "In another life I'd be a fashion designer." His view on the ratings game "Last year was the best of my life; then I woke up one Monday and discovered that my Zagat ranking had dropped. I felt like the world had collapsed." Details Jean Georges, Trump International Hotel,1 Central Park W., New York City;212-299-3900.
Elena Arzak Espina
Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastián, Spain. Buzz For a 29-year-old woman to run a Michelin three-star kitchen is nothing short of a miracle. At the century-old Arzak, Espina is an equal partner with her father, Juan Mari Arzak: he brings experience, she pursues new ideas. Background After attending hotel school in Switzerland, she apprenticed with Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire and Ferran Adrià. Cooking style Espina finds fresh potential in traditional Basque ingredients. Signature dishes Crayfish with rice noodles, corn cake and foie gras mayonnaise; crab granita with pumpkin mousse. How she feels about being hot "The only thing that matters is to see customers loving my food." Details Arzak, 21 Alto de Miracruz, San Sebastián; 011-34-943-28-55-93.