Esquire's Best New Restaurants 2011
Chef of the Year: John Sedlar, Playa, Los Angeles
By John Mariani
Dear Young Chef:
Congratulations on your graduation from culinary school! Unless you're busy competing on a TV show to become a celebrity chef, the smart move would be to apprentice yourself to a master like John Sedlar. He's twice your age, but he cooks with more verve and a deeper understanding of ingredients than any ten cooks you went to school with. He was born in Santa Fe and always married Mexican and South American food with a southern-California swagger — cutting edge neo-Latino cuisine. At Playa, his thrilling new restaurant, he presents reflexiones (his translation: "windows into memories"), thematic dishes that reflect his favorite chefs or movies — A Clockwork Orange was a recent theme. After you get your pig tattoo, order a mess of tortillas he calls "maize cakes" — one is made with wild mushrooms, black garlic, olives crushed to look like soil, L'Explorateur cheese, and mushroom foam. Try to assess the delicacy of a dish like corn custard with Cotija, black quinoa, and squash-blossom sauce, and learn how he builds flavor into piquillos relleños with Gruyère, golden raisins, and chorizo. Then beg him for a job peeling vegetables.
Best of luck, John Mariani (Esquire Magazine)