Chef's Poll 2017: Pittsburgh Chefs Speak Up

This year we asked the chefs who appear on Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Restaurants lists to answer seven questions; we received responses from 24 chefs. As was the case for our chefs’ polls in the previous two years, responses varied widely.

photo by laura petrilla


This year, we asked chefs to name their choice for Pittsburgh’s Rising Star chef. It’s fair to say that there’s a bright future for the city: Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski of Apteka received the most votes, with three. Nate Hobart, Bethany Zozula, Dave Anoia and Danielle Felix each received two votes, while nine other chefs (plus “a big wave of chefs”) each received one vote. Chengdu Gourmet is the kitchen in which most of the chefs said they wanted to work in for a day; Cure, Chaya, Pizza Taglio, Apteka and Gaucho Parrilla Argentina each have fans in two chefs who would like to visit their kitchens.

With another year, we have another round of chefs calling for expanded offerings of international cuisine and vegetable-driven food. Our chefs also say they need more … chefs.

They love working with a variety of ingredients (aside from two who mentioned tomatoes, there was no overlap in their favorite ingredient of the year). they are done with “tweezer” food, over-complicated dishes and plates with large hunks of meat in the center. 

Although one chef called for the end of the “local/sustainable” food movement, the vast majority of Pittsburgh chefs are enthusiastic in their support for the region’s farmers and ranchers. Who Cooks For You? Farm was the runaway star, with six votes; Churchview Farm received three votes, Root & Heart Farm, John Jameson and Tiny Seeds Farm each received two votes, and 14 purveyors each got one vote.

Who is your choice for rising star chef?

✔ Kate Lasky & Tomasz Skowronski (3)
✔ Nate Hobart (2)
✔ Bethany Zozula (2)
✔ Dave Anoia (2)
✔ Danielle Felix (2)
✔ Neil Blazin
✔ Andrew Garbarino
✔ Mr. Cenup (Ephesus Pizza)
✔ Onion Maiden chefs
✔ Jamilka Borges
✔ Curtis Gamble
✔ Brent Peyton
✔ Dustin Gardner
✔ Casey Renee
✔ Justin Lubecki
✔ there is a big wave of chefs putting their stamp on the city

In what restaurant (not your own) would you most like to work in for a day?

✔ Chengdu Gourmet (3)
✔ Cure (2)
✔ Chaya (2)
✔ Pizza Taglio (2)
✔ Apteka (2)
✔ Gaucho Parrilla Argentina (2)
✔ Union Standard
✔ Burgh’ers
✔ Vivo
✔ Nicky’s Thai Kitchen
✔ Capital Grill
✔ Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
✔ La Gourmandine
✔ Station
✔ Hyeholde
✔ Dinette
✔ pastry kitchen at Ace Hotel

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

✔ Mexico City (2)
✔ Los Angeles (2)
✔ San Francisco
✔ Portland, Oregon
✔ Portland, Maine
✔ Istanbul    
✔ Naples
✔ Ho Chi Minh City
✔ Montreal
✔ San Gimignano
✔ Reykjavik
✔ Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)
✔ Washington, D.C.
✔ Lima    
✔ Asheville, N.C.
✔ Pakistan    
✔ India
✔ Dubai    
✔ Buenos Aires
✔ Barcelona    
✔ Tokyo
✔ Paris    
✔ Bilbao
✔ Raleigh  
✔  Chicago

What was your favorite ingredient to work with this year?

✔ Heirloom hot peppers
✔ Jerusalem artichokes
✔ Gustarosso San Marzano tomatoes
✔ Sun Noodle products
✔ Anson Mills flours and grains
✔ pork    
✔ ramps
✔ Weatherbury Farm flours and grains
✔ foraged puffball mushrooms
✔ rice    
✔ cumin
✔ high-fat butter
✔ fresh Greek mint
✔ fermented chilies
✔ chicken
✔ Kaffir lime leaves
✔ Who Cooks For You? Farm tomatoes
✔ Osetra caviar    
✔ carrots
✔ tomato (Best season in a long time)
✔ sweet potatoes
✔ foie gras    
✔ dijon mustard
✔ kefir cultures

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

✔ more casual dining with good food (2)
✔ more cooks (2)
✔ Small butcher shops
✔ a great Italian bakery focused on the breads and pastries of Italy
✔ even more adventurous eaters
✔ more high-quality sushi
✔ more tacos
✔ more restaurants with a “true identity”
✔ more vegetable-driven food that makes you feel good after eating it
✔ more food spots from our immigrant populations
✔ more diversity in cuisine
✔ Chinese barbeque
✔ more camaraderie in the chef community
✔ more halal and kosher items
✔ late-night lounge
✔ non-dairy as a viable option
✔ more pastry chefs
✔ hardcore vegan-east Asian cuisine with a bar
✔ consistency
✔ more non-Western dining options
✔ Chengdu Gourmet gets a Michelin star
✔ restaurants using good-quality ingredients across the menu

Who is your favorite farmer or produce supplier? 

✔ Who Cooks For You? Farm (6)
✔ Churchview Farm (3)
✔ Root & Heart Farm (2)
✔ John Jameson (2)
✔ Todd Wilson (Tiny Seeds Farm) (2)
✔ John Scott (Clarion Beef Farm)
✔ Restaurant Depot
✔ Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance
✔ Three River Food Company
✔ Serenity Hill Farm
✔ George Weary (lamb farmer)
✔ “Farmer John”
✔ Anthony’s Original
✔ Paragon
✔ McConnell’s
✔ Jubilee Hilltop Ranch
✔ Footprints Farm
✔ The Chef’s Garden
✔ Wild Purveyors 

What culinary trend should we do away with?

✔ Smearing sauces onto plate edges
✔ “tweezer” food
✔ [The idea that] more is better — sometimes more is just gross
✔ truffle oil    
✔ foam
✔ Negroni variations
✔ local/sustainable
✔ using fat as flavor
✔ meat-centric food
✔ meat    
✔ hotdogs
✔ over-complication of dishes
✔ squid ink    
✔ mason jars
✔ micro anything on everything
✔ oysters in Pittsburgh
✔ tapas    
✔ bone marrow
✔ fusion everything
✔ long beards in the kitchen
✔ desserts that get things poured over them and melt
✔ not everyone has their own twist on what they envision 


Eli Wahl (Eleven)
Chris Bonfili (Avenue B)
Sonja Finn (Dinette)
Ron Molinaro (Il Pizzaiolo)
Lily Tran (Soba)
Justin Steel (Bar Marco)
Justin Severino (Cure/Morcilla)
Joseph Tambellini (Joseph Tambellini)
Stephen Felder (Stagioni)
Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski (Apteka)
Jamilka Borges (Spoon)
Wei Zhu (Chengdu Gourmet)
Patrick Kaderka (Bruneaux)
Abdullah Salem (Salem’s)
Sam DiBattista (Vivo)
Anthony Falcon (Gaucho)
Casey Renee (Whitfield)
Omar Abuhejlah (B52)
Dave DeVoss (Cocothé)
Brent Young (Whitfield)
Bill Fuller (big Burrito)
Kristin A. Butterworth (Lautrec)
Andrew Garbarino (Twisted Frenchman)
Trevett Hooper (Legume)

Categories: Best Restaurants