Best of Broward / Palm Beach

Ten Best Chefs in Palm Beach County 2016

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5. Lindsay Autry
Chef-owner at Regional Kitchen + Public House
Much of Palm Beach County is looking forward to chef Lindsay Autry's newest culinary adventure alongside business partner and area restaurateur Thierry Beaud. Dubbed The Regional Kitchen + Public House and slated to open in West Palm Beach's CityPlace this September, the restaurant is the next step in this young chef's whirlwind career. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Autry first made headlines as a finalist on Bravo's ninth season of Top Chef. From there, Autry's skills in the kitchen earned her the reputation of one of America’s best chefs and provided her with the opportunity to work alongside some of the best in the world, including Michelle Bernstein at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami. More recently, many will remember Autry's delicacies at Delray Beach's Sundy House, perhaps the best example of this native North Carolinian's soulful cuisine and what she describes as a perfect melding of Mediterranean flavors with her Southern roots. In the past several years, the chef has spent her time preparing for her own establishment, but she's never far from the spotlight. In Spring 2015, Autry and a handpicked team of area chefs competed in the Miami leg of the traveling culinary battle Cochon 555, where they beat out more than five other teams of highly skilled competitors. The win crowned Autry the "Princess of Porc." 

4. Jason Binder
Chef de cuisine at Brulé Bistro in Delray Beach
At Brulé Bistro in Delray Beach, it's the little things that count: finishing sauces with 20-plus ingredients that take two days to create; artfully designed plates that arrive at your table like tiny, colorful art sculptures; and uncommon flavor pairings that deliver the coveted wow factor. It's all thanks to Jason Binder, a chef with a 15-year career that's culminated in his current position as chef de cuisine at this beloved Pineapple Grove haunt. A New Jersey native, he attended the Culinary Institute of America before moving on to work with Miriam Wood at the Washington Inn in Cape May in 2005. It was there, serving guests who dined at the hotel's upscale American restaurant, that Binder learned the fundamentals. Those basics would lay the groundwork for skills he'd later acquire working in Philadelphia under well-known talks of the town Martin Hamann, David Jansen, and William DiStefano while they helmed the kitchen at Four Seasons restaurant The Fountain. Binder has since taken all that knowledge to create his own signature style and today is best known for the bold and daring fare he's been serving at Brulé since 2012. Armed with a bounty of local produce and high-end meats and fish, he applies the tenants of a classic French technique — blended with a little bit of mad scientist crazy — to perform mouthwatering culinary feats. You can sample items from the main menu that changes several times a year, or try something off the specials menu, which includes half a dozen dishes that present the best of the chef's most recent concoctions. New dishes are added daily, and often feature one of his specialties: housemade gnudi, gnocchi-like ricotta dumplings that appear in a rainbow of flavors. Favorite dishes here have stood the test of time, including permanent fixtures like ginger chicken meatballs served in a chili-oil-spiked coconut broth; seared ahi tuna poke with cilantro, Serrano chiles, basil oil, and toasted macadamia nuts; and Duroc pork belly plated with whipped sweet potato puree, lemongrass-game reduction, pistachio crumbs, and the chef's signature fried quail egg.

3. Rick Mace
Executive chef at Café Boulud in Palm Beach
Café Boulud executive chef Rick Mace's childhood was spent on his family's hundred-acre farm in Ohio, where he was surrounded by gardening, hunting, fishing, and farming. These experiences inspired the chef's youthful culinary interests, which later blossomed into a full-fledged passion thanks to worldly adventures gained thanks to his father’s globetrotting military career. During those formative years, he gained an innate knowledge of many world cuisines, which solidified his aspirations to pursue cooking professionally at the New England Culinary Institute. Once he graduated, Mace accepted various positions in culinary institutions across the U.S., including at the award-winning Butler’s Restaurant at The Inn at Essex in Vermont and San Diego’s Barona Valley Resort. In 2007, Mace joined world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group as executive sous chef at Daniel Boulud Brasserie at The Wynn Resort Las Vegas. In his three years there, Mace worked collaboratively with Boulud to develop the brasserie’s menu. This set the stage for his next move in 2013, when he took the position of executive chef of Café Boulud Palm Beach, where he's best-known for his stellar in-house charcuterie program and use of local Florida products and ingredients.

2. Laurent Godbout
Chef-owner at Chez L'épicier in Palm Beach
Splitting his time between his home base in Montreal, Quebec, and Palm Beach, this world-famous chef offers the best of the best when it comes to French-Canadian fare. The Canadian-based chef has competed in one of the world's most prestigious culinary competitions, representing his country in France's Bocuse d'Or, what some dub the "culinary Olympics." Today, however, he competes for a chance to win over your taste buds with his Palm Beach restaurant Chez l’Épicier, a second location for the original establishment he opened in 2000 alongside wife and business partner, Veronique, in Montreal. It was in this same city, under the tutelage of chef Nicolas Jongleux, where Godbout says he first discovered a passion for sophisticated and creative cuisine, the same you'll find at his Palm Beach Chez l’Épicier, which means “from the grocer” in French. In Palm Beach, he uses Quebec-sourced products married with local ingredients to craft dishes like his signature starter of crémeux de foie gras, a pudding-like version of the decadent goose liver; a divine salmon smothered in a mint-mustard sauce; and — of course — his own take on the Montreal classic dish poutine. 

1. Clay Conley
Chef-owner at Grato, Buccan, and Imoto in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach
Had you asked Palm Beach chef and restaurateur Clay Conley several years ago if he planned to open three Palm Beach County establishments, he might have laughed in your face. That's almost the reaction you get when you ask him this question now, on the heels of his most recent restaurant opening, Grato, in West Palm Beach. Today, Conley says much of his appreciation of fresh ingredients and seasonality is born of his rural Maine upbringing. But his mastery of technique and flavor are from decades of experience in kitchens around the world. A Todd English protégé, he served as the celebrity chef's director of culinary operations for the Olives Group, overseeing 17 restaurants, including the opening of Olives in Tokyo, a lengthy stint that lasted eight years. Conley would eventually partner with South Florida's Piper Quinn to open a restaurant of his own. After searching Miami for the right location, the pair decided to take a trip to Palm Beach Island, an adventure that yielded the two-time James Beard nominee's popular haunts Buccan and Imoto. Today, not only has Conley racked up the numerous nods from the culinary elite, but he's received ours as well: He was named New Times' Best Chef 2013, and he made number one on our list of "Tastemakers" in Broward and Palm Beach several years ago. If that's not enough to prove his worthiness, try his food for yourself; dishes like Conley's handmade pastas — especially the popular squid ink orecchiette — will most certainly speak for themselves. 

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna