Personal Best Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2004 - Johnny V
Hometown: St. Louis
Claim to Fame: One of South Florida's most sought-after and most restless chefs
What he's done for us lately: He kicked off the year by opening Johnny V Restaurant/Lounge on Las Olas Boulevard. This after hopping around South Beach and Delray Beach for a decade or so, experimenting with Caribbean and Southwest cuisines, making his name among comfort-food-loving diners. The new place is getting raves. There's something familiar but subtly different about dishes like sage-scented Florida dolphin (with rock shrimp-flecked plantain stuffing) or the lobster shepherd's pie. This is American home cooking with attitude.
What it takes: "At certain levels, either you have it or you don't. You can learn your cooking skills. But the creative end? That's a gift."