Look no further than our back yard to find one of the nation’s best chefs.
Bradford Thompson, chef de cuisine at Mary Elaine’s at the Phoenician, is on Food & Wine magazine’s list of the top 10 best new chefs in the country. He’ll be featured in the July issue with the others.
This comes on the heels of another big coup for Mary Elaine’s. This year, though several other Valley hopefuls were in the running for James Beard award nominations, it was the only local establishment to receive a place on a short list. It’s up for a Smithfield Foods outstanding service award.
Thompson, 35, took the helm at Mary Elaine’s in November 2002. He got his start in upstate New York, then studied under Vincent Guerithault of Vincent’s on Camelback, where he learned classic French techniques with a
He’s also worked as sous chef with Alessandro Stratta, former chef de cuisine of Mary Elaine’s, and then trained under Daniel Boulud in New York City. He worked at Daniel, helped open DB Bistro Moderne and collaborated with Boulud on two cookbooks.
Thompson and the other chefs, who come from such far-flung places as Savona in Gulph Mills, Pa., and Park Kitchen in Portland, Ore., will cook together June 18-20 at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, Colo.
We caught up with him on a rare break from his busy kitchen Friday afternoon.
Tribune: You’ve been cooking a long time. Why are you suddenly considered "new?"
Thompson: (To be on the Food & Wine list,) it’s got to be someone who’s been the chef or executive chef of a restaurant for less than three years. (Mary Elaine’s) is my first head chef job.
Tribune: Do you know what other criteria was used for choosing the 10 of you?
Thompson: No, not really. I know they start out with a list of 200 to 300. They have people who go eat anonymously at these restaurants and whittle the list down.
Tribune: What and/or who were your inspirations in deciding to be a chef?
Thompson: I started working in kitchens to pay for student loans. I didn’t go to culinary school. I didn’t even start cooking — it was prepping, peeling potatoes, washing dishes. I worked for some great, passionate chefs. I kind of fell into it and I was fortunate that I found this is what I was supposed to do.
Tribune: What did you study in college?
Thompson: Political science.
Tribune: What are some of your favorite dishes to cook? To eat?
Thompson: Pork belly, to cook and eat. During the winter we braise it and it’s a little heavier. This time of year we poach it and crisp up the skin so it’s a little lighter.