While chefs across the country are getting recognition from culinary bigwigs like the James Beard Foundation, reality TV series on the Food Network, and cooking magazines galore, just like the ever-growing farm-to-table movement, we like to keep it local.
We think we have some pretty damned good talent in these here parts. From Asian to new American to traditional French technique and everything in between, here are our picks for this year's ten best chefs in Palm Beach County:
10. Aaron Black
Chef de cuisine at PB Catch in Palm Beach
PB Catch chef de cuisine Aaron Black can do things to local seafood that most chefs only dream of. A former mechanical engineer, he dreamed of being in the kitchen and graduated from Florida Culinary Institute. From there, it was off to Park City, Utah, to spend a season working for Goldener Hirsch Inn, a posh, alpine-style ski-in/ski-out hotel beside Deer Valley Resort, and later for chef Zane Holmquist, who leads the talented food and beverage team at the Stein Eriksen Lodge while overseeing its biannual menu. Black also worked with James Dumas, an Austrian chef, during which time he learned the importance of refinement and balance. Today, however, he's best-known as the sustainable seafood superhero and creator of PB Catch's seacuterie offerings, something he's since officially trademarked. From salmon pastrami to octopus torchon, there's a reason this establishment received New Times' pick for Best Seafood Restaurant in 2013. Black has a way of coaxing out the ideal combination of flavors from the sea, and we can't imagine the South Florida food scene without him.
9. Matthew Byrne
Chef-owner at Kitchen in West Palm Beach
There is eating, and there is dining: At Kitchen in West Palm Beach, husband-and-wife team Aliza and Matthew Byrne aim to show you the difference. Here, executive chef-owner Matthew Byrne creates refined takes on comfort classics while his wife and business partner acts as the ultimate manager and hostess. Here, Byrne works under the mantra K-I-S-S, short for "keep it simple, stupid." That means buy the freshest ingredients, and do as little to them as possible. This philosophy has been with Pennsylvania-born Byrne for a long time, including the period he spent working in some of Philadelphia's most lauded fine dining establishments, like French landmark Le Bec Fin. Fourteen years later and after a number of gigs as a private chef — most recently for Tiger Woods — Byrne decided to make good on his lifelong vision of opening his own establishment in a quiet neighborhood space just north of the Southern Boulevard bridge in West Palm Beach. The chef named the restaurant Kitchen in hopes that the experience would be akin to sharing a home-cooked meal with him and his wife. The menu is seasonally inspired, but mainstays include fan favorites like the chicken schnitzel, Maple Leaf Farm duck, and a from-scratch lemon coconut cake. For all the sophistication of his current menu, Byrne is still not afraid to admit his first job was at a local deli, and the first dish he learned to make was onion rings.
8. Jordan Lerman
Chef-owner at Jardin in West Palm Beach
What happens when you pair a former Momofuku master with a protégé of Dominique Ansel Bakery? You get Jardin, the West Palm Beach restaurant from newlywed chefs Jordan Lerman and Stephanie Cohen. The couple met at the Culinary Institute of America before garnering experience in some of New York’s most notable restaurants and bakeries, including establishments like Eleven Madison Park, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Ai Fiori, and Dominque Ansel Bakery. Here in South Florida, the couple honed their skills at Boca Raton’s Rebel House (Lerman as sous chef and bar manager, Cohen as executive pastry chef). Today, 27-year-old Lerman is using his experience at many of the city's finest upscale dining establishments to usher in a new era of casual fine dining at Jardin where you'll find a seasonal menu representing the melting pot that is modern American cuisine, with international influences and flavors that also celebrate South Florida’s seasonal bounty. That means an inventive crispy fried hummus starter served with a vibrant lemon aioli; braised gator grits accented with bourbon pickled peppers; and an excellent selection of house charcuterie. Taking one step out of the kitchen and into the bar, Lerman has offered an innovative cocktail menu that's able to match the flavors coming from his kitchen to create the ultimate pairing experience (the homemade aquavit is a favorite). Here, the young chef also offers inspiring touches to each meal, from the complimentary bread service in the form of Stephanie's fresh-baked Madeleines at the start of your meal to the closing mignardises, a small desert served at the end of the meal along with your check.
7. Julien Gremaud
Chef-owner at Avocado Grill in West Palm Beach
Chef Julien Gremaud grew up under the glittery culinary backdrop of Saint-Tropez, France, where he dreamed of becoming a professional chef for as long as he can remember. He credits his mother for inspiring him to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant. As a child, he spent countless hours learning the basics of French cooking under her patient instruction in the family’s kitchen. She equipped her son with the confidence and skills to become a professional pantry chef at just 14 years of age. Shortly afterward, he honed his skills at several of the finest restaurants in the UK, including London’s Le Colombier and Goolies. In 2000, he arrived in the U.S. at 20 years old to hold consecutive positions at two of Chicago’s leading French restaurants: Le Francais and Le Vichyssoise. In 2002, he relocated to South Florida and accepted the position of personal chef for notable celebrities on Jupiter Island and Palm Beach Island. Gremaud later joined Pistache French Bistro in 2009 as a consultant, moving up to executive chef in just a few weeks. His innovative approach to French cuisine quickly transitioned the restaurant into a food critic favorite, garnering numerous accolades. Two years later, he was promoted to partner and co-opened Palm Beach’s famed seafood eatery, PB Catch. Finally, in fall 2014, Gremaud opened the doors of Avocado Grill in downtown West Palm Beach. In spite of a nonstop schedule, Gremaud has been a frequent participant at a large number of local charity events that mark the Palm Beach social calendar, making him one-part local superhero as well.
6. Tim Lipman
Chef-owner at Coolinary Café in Jupiter
Tim Lipman and his wife Jenny are the cool kids behind Coolinary Café, Jupiter's 47-seat eatery that is often so packed, reservations are recommended for the nightly seatings. What's most impressive, however, is that Lipman changes his specials menu twice daily. Implementing such frequent menu changes is a habit Lipman learned as the original executive chef for well-known Jupiter establishments Little Moir's Leftovers Café and Little Moir's Food Shack, where he was known for putting out 10 to 15 new dishes twice daily. The New Times 2013 pick for Best Restaurant in Palm Beach County, today Lipman's Coolinary Café offers some of the county's most interesting and delectable dishes. You've obviously had tacos before, but rabbit tacos? Unless you've been here, we doubt it. There's rabbit sausage on the menu now, too. Love chicken and waffles? Lipman's innovative take will have you begging for more with a jalapeño-cheddar waffle served alongside preserved lemon and stellar Southern-style fried bird. A Florida native, Limpan is also steadfast about product sourcing, buying as much as he can close to home. This means produce from The Peddler in Juno Beach; milk from Daikin Dairy in Myakka; honey from McCoy's in Loxahatchee; and eggs from Lake Meadow in Ocoee. And what he can't buy local, he grows himself in community gardens his team has established nearby. It's all part of his personal motto: Serve food that is honest, fresh, simple, and refined.