This week we’re focusing on the 16 innovative chefs who are battling their way down to eight by the end of the week in our bracket-vote contest. Have you started voting already? (Get started NOW! Seriously, it’s fun.)

And as I’m sure you know, but I’m happy to tell you again: If you vote in all the battles, you can enter for a chance to win a trip, with a guest, to the victorious chef’s restaurant. That’s a trip worth $3,500, people! And you can come back once a day to vote, which means once a day to enter the sweepstakes.

Now let’s take a look at our New York battlers, Anita Lo and John Fraser.

Anita Lo: Must we invoke the legendary phoenix? We must. Because Anita Lo’s restaurant, Annisa, burst into an electricity-fueled conflagration in 2009 and the place was gutted. Did Lo rise again? She did. “And the food Ms. Lo is cooking there is as good as any she has made in her career,” said Sam Sifton in his two-star review of Annisa a year later. Lo has flirted with other businesses, like a dumpling house and a barbecue place; she has made the almost-requisite appearances on television (and on CHOW video). But Annisa remains her touchstone, and her Asian and African flavors, combined with pitch-perfect technique, consistently draw raves.

John Fraser: Last month, he was cooking a menu based on France in the 1880s at his Manhattan pop-up sensation, What Happens When. The month before that, it was inspired by the idea of “a whimsical romp through our fantastical forest.” The theme, décor, and menu change every single month, until Fraser’s lease on the space is up (for a total of nine months). Meanwhile, he’s still directing his Michelin-starred food over at fancy-pants Dovetail, including a Monday-night vegetarian/vegetable-focused menu that shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is, but it is, because there are so few high-end chefs cooking meatless. So here he is, pushing those boundaries for people with the big bucks, and playing around with ideas and whimsy for people with the fewer bucks (and the big patience for getting a reservation). And you cannot—I repeat, cannot—look at any of his menus without feeling a little bit of awe (for example, and again).


See more articles