Chef’s Poll: Pittsburgh Chefs Speak Up

To determine who’s who and what’s what in Pittsburgh dining, we went straight to the source: We asked the chefs what they think.





 

This year we sent a list of seven questions to the chefs who appear on our Best Restaurants list, and we received responses from 25 chefs. In a reprise of our findings from last year’s poll, opinions varied widely on what matters to each chef.

Justin Severino once again landed atop the poll for Chef of the Year with four votes, but Trevett Hooper was right at his heels with three. Richard DeShantz of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group and Curtis Gamble of Station each received two votes; 13 other chefs got one vote each. With seven votes, Hooper’s Legume restaurant was the chefs’ choice for the restaurant they’d most like to work in for a day; Everyday Noodles drew three votes, Umi received two votes, and 14 restaurants each received one vote.

Once again, non-American cuisine such as high-quality sushi, dim sum, better Indian food and Korean BBQ topped the list of what chefs would like to see more of next year in Pittsburgh. The chefs also issued a call for vegetable-forward food, street food and customers who are open to trying new things. On the flip side, chefs say they’re eager to do away with artistic smears and splatters on plates, as well as bacon, microgreens and — as one chef put it — “Egos. Let’s just be cool with one another.” They’d also like to see more staff in their kitchens. 

We asked the chefs about their favorite farmers and produce suppliers. In their responses, Tara Rockacy’s Churchview Farm stood out among the 17 favorites, with seven votes; Who Cooks For You? Farm (3) and Jamison Farm (2) also received multiple votes. The chefs say they are eager to pair that produce with their favorite ingredients of the year, which include gluten, lamb shoulders, n'duja, black garlic and sunchokes. Every chef polled this year chose a unique ingredient.
 

Who is your choice for chef's chef of the year?

  • Justin Severino (4)
  • Trevett Hooper (3)
  • Richard DeShantz (2)
  • Curtis Gamble (2)
  • Michele Savoia
  • Joey Hilty
  • Sonia Finn
  • Keith Fuller
  • Dave Anoia
  • Toni Pais
  • Csilla Thackray
  • Chad Townsend
  • Brian Pekarcik 
  • Anthony Falcon
  • Rafael Vencino
  • Ben Sloan
  • Too many chefs in Pittsburgh deserve this honor
     

In what restaurant (not your own) would you most like to spend a day working?

  • Legume (7)
  • Everyday Noodles (3)
  • Umi (2)
  • Szechuan Gourmet
  • Chengdu Gourmet
  • Butcher and the Rye
  • Della Terra
  • Saison
  • Dinette (Pittsburgh) /
  • White Rabbit (Moscow)
  • Zahav
  • Union Standard
  • Aubergine Bistro
  • Duquesne Club 
  • Morcilla
  • Dinette
  • Cure
  • Chaya Japanese Cuisine
     

What other city do you most want to visit for culinary inspiration?

  • New York (3)
  • Montreal (3)
  • Chicago (3)
  • San Francisco (2)
  • Baton Rouge
  • Istanbul
  • Modena, Italy
  • Buenos Aires
  • Portland, ME
  • Tokyo
  • Mexico City
  • Bologna
  • Austin
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Paris
  • San Sebastian 
  • Los Angeles
  • Charleston, S.C.
  • New Orleans
     

What was your favorite ingredient to work with?

  • Anything fermented
  • Fresh-milled polenta from Weatherbury Farm
  • Lamb
  • Gluten
  • Jicama
  • Foie gras
  • ​N’duja
  • Hungarian peppers
  • Iota
  • Kefir
  • Red palm oil
  • Trinidad perfumes
  • Black garlic
  • Chilies
  • Agave nectar
  • Lobster
  • Island Creek Oysters
  • Rock shrimp
  • Lamb shoulders
  • Sunchokes
  • Fresh turmeric
  • Eggs
  • Rapini
  • Suckling pigs
  • Whatever is coming back into season at the moment
  • Peppers 
     

Who is your favorite farmer or produce supplier?

  • Churchview Farm (7)
  • Who Cooks For You? Farm (3)
  • Jamison Farm (2)
  • Anthony’s Original Produce
  • Marshall from Braddock Farm
  • Chef’s Garden
  • Tom the Tomato Man
  • Pete from Heritage Farms
  • Jen from Root & Heart Farm
  • Weatherbury Farm
  • McConnell’s Farm
  • Brian Wiltrout
  • Jubilee Hilltop Ranch
  • Footprints Farm
  • Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance 
  • Nywp Enterprise LLC.
  • Garfield Farms
     

What culinary trend should we do away with?

  • Microgreens (2)
  • Bacon (2)
  • Smearing dish components on the rim of a plate (2)
  • Over-complication
  • Over-composed dishes
  • Small portions / high prices
  • Sous vide
  • Pea shoots on everything
  • Chicken and waffles
  • Gastropubbery
  • Expensive burgers
  • Toast
  • Egos. Let’s just be cool with one another
  • Eggs everywhere
  • The gluten-free obsession
  • All of them! stop following trends and cook from the heart
  • Without trends we don’t evolve in the kitchen so I say to each their own
     

What would you like to see in pittsburgh food next year?

  • More culinary staffing (3)
  • Veggie-forward foods (2)
  • Street food (2)
  • High-quality sushi (2)
  • “Ethnic” (2)
  • Better Indian food
  • Korean BBQ
  • Dim sum
  • Emphasis on whole, fresh foods during production
  • A food-truck court
  • More French food
  • More chefs involved with school food programs
  • “I want to see more tasting menus and femininity. I think we are suffering from a certain level of heavy-handiness and male-driven concepts that the city is ready to grow out of.”
  • Openness to try new things
  • French bistro
  • “I’d like to see the City Council pass a resolution in favor of requiring [genetically modified organism] labeling. Pittsburgh was one of the first cities to pass a resolution against the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in 2014. Pittsburgh should lead the way with GMO labeling, too.”
  • Chef-driven diner
  • Sunday suppers/communities connecting over food to create harmony among one another
  • The standard raised
  • “Increased quality of restaurants not just quantity. The rapid growth is starting to worry me that there is a ‘bubble’ in [Pittsburgh] that is going to burst. Or at least rapidly deflate.”
  • More upscale places. Fine dining is a dying breed. 
     

RESPONDENTS:

Chris Bonfili, Avenue B; Domenic Branduzzi, Piccolo Forno; Kristin Butterworth, Lautrec; Shawn Carlson, Senti; Richard DeShantz, Butcher & the Rye/Meat and Potatoes/tako; David DeVoss, Cocothe; Anthony Falcon, Gaucho Parrilla Argentina; Stephen Felder, Stagioni; Bill Fuller, big Burrito Restaurant Group; Keith Fuller, Root 174; Curtis Gamble, Station; Andrew Garbarino, Twisted Frenchman; Dustin Gardner, Soba (and currently Casbah); Nate Hobart, Morcilla; Trevett Hooper, Legume; Jessica Lewis, Carota Cafe/Smallman Galley; Brian Pekarcik, Spoon; Kate Romane, e2; Justin Severino, Cure/Morcilla; Derek Stevens, formerly of Eleven (slated to open Union Standard later this year); Csilla Thackray, The Vandal; Rafael Vencino, Aubergine Bistro/Smallman Galley; Jacqueline Wardle, Josephine’s Toast/Smallman Galley; Wei Zhu, Chengdu Gourmet
 

 

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