When word came in last night that Ethan Stowell would be appearing live on the Today Show this morning, there was no mention of exactly what he was doing on the show. Turns out he was teaming up with chefs Michael Psilakis (of Anthos, in NYC) and Sue Zemanick (from Gautreau’s, in New Orleans), cooking burgers to kick off the announcement that he’s been voted one of Food & Wine magazine’s “2008 Best New Chefs in America.”
Couple that with his recent nomination for a James Beard “Best Chef Northwest” award for his work at Union, plus a world of good yak about his two newest restaurants Tavolata and How to Cook a Wolf, and you’d think the guy’s head must be in the clouds. Actually, when I got a hold of him a few minutes ago, his head — along with the rest of him — was hanging out in a fancy fete-ing hall in NYC, where he and other “Best New Chefs” will rub elbows with past winners like Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Wylie Dufresne and Dan Barber.
“The Today Show was a lot of fun,” he told me, “It was a burger contest to see who could make the best burger. I, personally, thought we won, but the judges didn’t see eye-to-eye with me.” (Now there’s the Ethan we know and love!) Ethan knew he’d won a coveted slot as F&W “Best New Chef” since early March, and had to keep mum about the honor (though he of course confided in his wife and his parents). He had to spill the beans to a few of his key chefs, he says, because “I had to go out of town for five days.” So, how does he feel about all of this excitement?
“I think it’s just one of those things you’d like to achieve. You see these guys on the cover of the magazine, and you see the history of all this, and you want to be part of that group. I’m just glad they picked me.” As for the Beard nomination, “As a young cook, you just want to get that [award]. I think it’s Holly Smith’s turn this year and she’ll win it, and hopefully I’ll get nominated again.” Last night, he and a bunch of chefs hit Momofuku Saam Bar. Tomorrow, chef Dan Barber’s cooking him dinner out at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. And as we said goodbye, with the music tuning up in the background, the chef who came to aclaim at his flagship restaurant Union said, “I feel great. But it’s all in perspective. I’ve got to come back to Seattle and go back to work.