Online magazine highlights rising star chefs 

They might be relatively new to the food business, but they’re already ensuring that the Bay Area’s lustrous restaurant scene will not soon lose its epic status.

A new class of rising stars who prepare our amazing meals, mix our fabulous drinks and make our dining experience one we will never forget has been selected by the national online magazine,

The StarChefs team — which chooses four cities each year to pass out awards — scoured the Bay Area for the best
up-and-coming chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, sommeliers and restaurateurs that prove why the region continues to be among the world’s best places to eat and drink.

The 90-plus candidates boiled down to 14 winners — nine of whom work in The City. The judges’ criteria included creativity, ambition, exquisite presentation, and, most importantly, stellar food.

“The Bay Area continues to be one of the centers of farm-to-table cuisine in America,” said Antoinette Bruno, CEO and editor-in-chief of “We’re seeing a lot of chefs not only establishing connections with their local farmers but starting gardens and farms themselves and foraging for the ingredients they use in the restaurant.”

These days, Bay Area chefs are not just creating delicious cuisine by tapping the region’s quality, sustainable sources. They’re becoming more creative with their products, Bruno said.

“Taking risks and experimenting has finally come to San Francisco and is being accepted by the culinary and the dining community,” she said.’s 2010 Bay Area Rising Star Award winners, chefs

Maximilian DiMare
Wood Tavern, Oakland

Said to be central to the greatness of Wood Tavern, this chef doesn’t mince words when revealing the main ingredient to his success — “Hard work,” DiMare says simply.

The Boston-born star worked in various San Francisco kitchens before becoming executive chef at Frascati in 2004. He has been at Wood Tavern since its opening in 2007, where he “develops straight-forward, delicious, rich dishes from the heart,” the restaurant said. DiMare said location is the reason so many culinary talents ply their trade in the Bay Area. “Easy access to a bounty of sustainable produce, meat and seafood,” he said.

Matthew Accarrino
SPQR, San Francisco

Like most top chefs, Accarrino paid his dues, washing plenty of dishes and prepping ingredients at kitchens in his native New Jersey before rising to culinary stardom. But he’s not the type to brag about success.

“You have to have a sense of humility, but still maintain a balance of confidence,” he said. “Just about everything is about balance. You can never stop learning, never stop trying to do the things you do every day better.”

He has worked in Italy, New York and Los Angeles before becoming executive chef at The City’s SPQR. “I have always wanted to cook in San Francisco,” he said, citing the area’s “amazing produce, cheese, local meat and people.”

Louis Maldonado
Aziza, San Francisco

When he was young, this chef had a career choice: join his family’s karate business, or cook. The City is thankful he pursued the latter.

Maldonado grew up in Ukiah, graduated from the California Culinary Academy then began a steep ascent that included stints at One Market, Cortez and The French Laundry. Now he says he feels at home at Aziza, where he fuses Moroccan and American cuisine.

In the Bay Area, “I have grown accustomed to working with really nice product, just like somebody who has always driven a Porsche,” he said. “That person is accustomed to driving a really nice car.”

John Paul Carmona
Manresa, Los Gatos

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but this chef said it’s what helped contribute to “this small amount of success I have experienced lately.”

“I always wanted to know why and how things were made, especially food,” he said. “This curiosity drives you to have life experiences that feed your imagination, that make you want to be better.”

The El Salvador-born chef, who grew up helping his father on a farm and learned to cook by watching his grandmother, has traveled the world due to his talent and has appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

His love for the Bay Area includes “the weather, the availability of great produce and the rolling hills around my mother’s house in Sonoma County.”

Thomas McNaughton
Flour+Water, San Francisco

This chef credits people — not just great ingredients — for his dreamy meals.

“You learn from the chefs you work for, but at times you learn just as much from the people you are surrounded by,” he said.

McNaughton has worked at eateries in France, Germany and Italy. He began his career working for top San Francisco restaurants Gary Danko and Quince. Before the opening of Flour+Water, he spent time in a pasta factory in Bologna, Italy, where he honed his hand-rolling skills. “I chose San Francisco at a very young age and was planning to originally move back to the East Coast,” he said. “Working in amazing kitchens here, I somehow found the Bay Area bug.”

Scott Nishiyama
Chez TJ, Mountain View

Before this Hawaii native chef became a top-of-the-line chef, he studied chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But he ended up having more chemistry in the kitchen.

Nishiyama worked as a cook at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles before enrolling in culinary school. After school, he worked with star chef Daniel Boulud in New York City, opened a Boulud eatery in Las Vegas, and then landed in the Bay Area for stints at French Laundry in Napa Valley and Yoshi’s in The City. “My success has had a lot to do with my association with great chefs,” he said. “Hard work, perseverance and commitment are all traits that these great chefs share and are ones that I strive for each day in the kitchen.”

Other award winners

Pastry chefs

Melissa Chou
Aziza, San Francisco

Catherine Schimenti
Michael Mina, San Francisco


Erick Castro
Rickhouse, San Francisco

Brian MacGregor
Jardiniere, San Francisco

Sarah Valor
Commis, Oakland


Joshua Skenes
San Francisco


Shelley Lindgren
A16 and SPQR,
San Francisco

Hotel chef

Josh Thomsen
The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, Berkeley


Get a taste


Guests can sample the winners' food, drinks and other creations at the StarChefs Rising Star awards ceremony and gala on Wednesday, June 16, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Ghirardelli Square.

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