2014: Jacques PepinSun, Dec 19 4AM EST
Chef Jacques Pepin is an icon in the food world. Along with his beloved contemporary Julia Child, he has brought the art of cooking into the hearts and minds of generations around the world. He was personal chef to three French heads of state (including Charles de Gaulle) and has been the inspiration for hundreds of chefs that followed him “ from Daniel Boulud to Sara Moulton. At age 72, Pepin is still at the top of his game: producing tv shows, writing cookbooks (he has a whopping 25 to his credit) and teaching to throngs of wannabe chefs who may want fame and celebrity -- but still turn to Jacques to learn. Also a painter and a writer, Jacques Pepin is the true Renaissance man.
2015: Vikram VijMon, Dec 20 2:30AM EST
Vikram Vij's parents had two goals for their son when they immigrated to Canada: buy him a restaurant, and get him a wife. Both were achieved “ and today, Vikram Vij and his wife Meeru clearly have a marriage made in culinary heaven. They have transformed "Vij's Restaurant into a Vancouver landmark “ a far cry from its 14-seat opening in 1994 when Vikram's parents helped out by transporting prepared dishes on the local bus. For their collaboration "Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine, Vikram and Meeru won Best Cookbook at the Canadian Culinary Awards. Their modern take on traditional Indian cuisine has impressed both gourmands and newcomers to Indian food.
2016: Norma ShirleyMon, Dec 20 3AM EST
Norma Shirley has been called the "Julia Child of the Caribbean. With her generosity of spirit (and decidedly feisty nature in the kitchen) Norma has introduced legions of fans to the world of Jamaican cuisine. Born in Jamaica, and trained as a nurse, Norma didn't develop a love of food until her mid-twenties, when she had to learn to cook for her American husband. (She literally couldn't boil an egg until she met him.) Her homeland eventually drew her back to the island in the 1980s, and there she combined her Jamaican roots with her growing passion in the kitchen. Now "Norma's restaurants in Jamaica are must-stops for celebrities and politicians who equate Norma's flavourful cooking with the breezy essence of the Caribbean itself.
2017: Roy YamaguchiMon, Dec 20 3:30AM EST
Roy Yamaguchi first took up cooking as a teenager to get dates with girls in Home Economics class. Now with 35 restaurants throughout North America, a hit TV series seen in more than sixty countries, and three best-selling cookbooks, Roy has taken that humble ambition to new heights. Born and raised in Tokyo, Roy trained at the American Culinary Institute in New York. He worked his way into some of the best restaurants in California, but longed to fuse his French training with his Asian roots. The solution was relocating to Hawaii where he created a new kind of Hawaiian fusion cuisine, and has never looked back. He opened his first "Roy's in Honolulu in 1988 and is still expanding his massive restaurant empire today.
2018: John HigginsMon, Dec 20 4AM EST
Chef John Higgins has cooked for the Queen at Buckingham Palace, on the Royal Yacht Britannia, for heads of state in Washington and for celebrities around the world. But now, he says, he has his dream job: he's director of one of North America's best cooking schools, George Brown Chef School in Toronto. Since arriving in 2002, John has steered the school through a massive expansion due to an explosive demand in enrolment. With his Scottish brogue, keen wit, and passion for teaching, John is leading the way for the next generation of talented chefs. And he's giving them all a wakeup call: in this era of celebrity chefs, he's reminding his students that being a chef is hard work that requires passion and dedication. Only then can you relax and have fun on the job: "They pay me every two weeks for doing my hobby. What could be better than that?
2019: Michael SmithWed, Dec 1 1AM EST
One of the most popular television celebrity chefs, Michael Smith is the kind of cook you'd want in your kitchen: affable, creative, no-nonsense. Based in Prince Edward Island, his down-home appeal has resulted in four wildly successful TV series, seen in close to 30 countries. Born in the US and trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Michael chose the cozy environment of a Canadian country inn to make his culinary mark. Since then he has won the hearts of thousands of amateur cooks who identify with his unpretentious but elegant recipes. In fact Michael celebrates cooking without a recipe: His series "Chef at Home (and subsequent cookbook) encourages amateur cooks to experiment, be brave, and add a little of this and a little of that. It's certainly worked for him.
2020: Dave PasternackWed, Dec 1 1:30AM EST
"I love the sea, it's in my blood says Chef Dave Pasternack. And he's not kidding: Dave's been fishing since the age of five, and forty years later, now runs Esca “ what many consider to be the best seafood restaurant in New York City. Dave brought the crudo craze to Manhattan -- an Italian preparation of lightly cured raw, fresh fish with olive oils, sea salts, crushed nuts and/or citrus juices. Given the unadorned nature of his cuisine, Dave's ingredients are paramount and he has more than 50 purveyors of seafood from around the world. Still an avid fisherman himself, Dave still supplies some items on the menu from his own fishing trips. Frank Brunni of the New York Times says, "He's an honest-to-God fisherman, in love with the ocean, and Esca is his ongoing ode to it." So is Pasternack's new cookbook, "The Young Man and the Sea which chronicles his love of fishing, cooking and offers readers some of the most coveted Esca staples- including the Italian Frito Misto Amalfitano.
2021: Grant AchatzWed, Dec 1 2AM EST
Grant Achatz grew up in the family restaurant business in Michigan but now, as a world-famous chef, his food goes way beyond traditional. A molecular gastronomist, Grant is a bold experimenter with food ingredients and their form. He's renowned for his exquisite 25-course tasting menu at his restaurant Alinea in Chicago which Gourmet Magazine has hailed as the "Best Restaurant in America. Grant knew as a teenager he wanted to become a chef and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He credits his mentor Thomas Keller (and a two-year stint at the renowned French Laundry) for giving him both the guidance and the freedom to pursue a truly original cuisine. Grant also recently recovered from the scare of his life: he was recently diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, which could have ended his career. But an innovative cancer treatment saved his precious sense of taste, and Grant is back where he belongs: in the kitchen of Alinea, creating more of the innovative dishes that have made him famous.
2022: Chris CosentinoWed, Dec 1 2:30AM EST
At first glance, with his Mohawk haircut, crazy glasses and rolled up pants, Chris Cosentino seems like a madman of the culinary arts. A dedicated proponent of "head to tail dining - in which you literally feast on every part of the animal “ his food may seem a little crazy too, at first. But his Grilled Beef Heart, Fried Cow Testicles and Chocolate Blood Pudding are delectable treats for the palate. And his Incanto Restaurant in San Francisco has caught the attention of many celebrated peers of the culinary world “ like Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain. Chris credits his admitted ADD/ADHD for his vivid imagination. And when he's not in the kitchen, creating another delicious variation on offal, Chris can often be seen mountain-biking in the hills surrounding San Francisco, appreciating the call of the wild on another level entirely.
2023: Gale GandWed, Dec 1 3AM EST
Gale Gand got an early start as a baker: by age six she caught the eye of a Life magazine photographer who was impressed by her beautiful mud pies. Forty years later, Gale is now one of the best pastry chefs in America. She's always had an artistic flare: she studied jewellery design in college, but soon realized she could combine that with her love of cooking, and voila: she's been creating culinary works of art ever since. She is executive pastry chef at the world-renowned Tru Restaurant in Chicago, has authored several cookbooks and hosted her own tv series Sweet Dreams since 2000. Her desserts have been called poetic and luscious and she's been credited with "elevating quintessential childhood flavours to a high-wire act. All this, and Gale has also managed to raise three children herself.
2024: Jacques TorresWed, Dec 1 3:30AM EST
No one craves chocolate like Jacques Torres. In fact he's known as Mr. Chocolate in the culinary world. Jacques Torres has wanted to be a baker since age 15, and growing up in France, he had some of the best mentors in the business. He brought his talents to the famed Le Cirque Restaurant in New York where he created masterful desserts for presidents, kings and celebrities. Jacques is now Dean of Pastry Studies at the French Culinary Institute and has created his own line of chocolate delights called Jacques Torres Chocolate. His factory in Brooklyn goes through a hundred tons of chocolate a year “ but it is no way an assembly line: As Jacques says, "I'm an artisan. I wanted people to put a face on chocolate.
2025: Cat CoraWed, Dec 1 4AM EST
Cat Cora grew up in Mississippi “ the daughter of Greek immigrants. Her grandfather ran diners in the delta where Cat first caught the restaurant bug. She eventually trained at The Culinary Institute of America and at one of her first gigs in California, the legendary Jacques Pepin happened to dine at her restaurant. He was so impressed he immediately wrote The James Beard House and declared Cat a chef to watch. She soon was asked to be the first female Iron Chef “ and she leaped at the chance. (Having played softball as a young girl, she loved competition.) Cat also founded "Chefs for Humanity and during Hurricane Katrina she and fellow chefs like Ming Tsai were feeding between three and five thousand people a day. Cat has a certain affinity for helping others “ in part, because as a lesbian chef in a world dominated by men, surviving is what she's good at.
2026: Rick BaylessWed, Dec 1 4:30AM EST
Chef Rick Bayless was first drawn to Mexican culture as an anthropologist but it was the cuisine that eventually stole his heart. With six cookbooks and a highly successful tv series to his credit, Rick has done more than any chef to raise awareness of the richness and variety of Mexican food. The New York Times has called him "the greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable. He is chef/owner of one of Chicago's hottest restaurants The Frontera Grill. Rick also conducts guided culinary tours to Mexico, has started his own Mexican food line, and even has brought his daughter into the fold, co-writing a cookbook with her on their Mexican adventures. (To top it all off, he's one hot salsa dancer.)