THE SUPER STARS
The very top of the food chain.
Daniel, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne
Born into the French discipline, schooled by Michelin masters, toasted in the hot seat of ambition, he could, until recently, navigate his fiefdom by taxi. But now he's taking his Midas touch to pan for gold in Palm Beach.
Gotham Bar and Grill
A perfectionist who actually cooks, he bonded French technique to skyscraper design and changed America's way of plating dinner.
The French pedigree tells: Dropped into deep water at 29 after the sudden death of legend Gilbert Le Coze, Ripert had the passion, talent, and charisma to emerge his own man.
Nobu, Next Door Nobu
The shimmer and shock of Japanese purity embracing Peruvian and Italian flavors didn't exist until Nobu dared. Now he rides the jet stream to riches, and stand-ins sliver the kompachi.
THE GREAT CHEFS
The best of the rest.
He's not a player in the star-chef follies, so it's easy to overlook his impeccable work at stern Veritas, where he plays second fiddle to the stellar wine list.
He has the skills, the résumé, and the artistry, but Daniel keeps him on a short leash. Could he go off on his own?
This seasoned pro, tortured by insecurity, was good enough at Les Célébrités. He's surprised everyone (even himself) by leaping up a notch in Gray Kunz's abandoned St. Regis kitchen.
Nish high-steps to his own celestial music, but you must be in the mood for the daunting dance of his tasting menu.
Voted the chef most likely to be spotted out on the town at dinnertime, but his complex, intricately layered food can thrill.
The founding fathers and mothers of inventions.
This unassuming son of St. Remy still celebrates his heritage in a Provençal cottage on East 59th.
This Roman conqueror has reprised his winners here and there over the years, often exiting with a tantrum.
The godfather of American cookery may move An American Place yet again.
He nurtured dozens of our town's chefs in embryo at the Academy of La Côte Basque.
She set a mark for women with Arcadia's three stars; now opts for a simpler life with a partner at Inside.
Still lives above his old stove at Lutèce and shares his wisdom at the French Culinary Institute.
Jacques Torres Chocolate
He could do anything Rodin did in sugar. Now he has the chocolate factory of his dreams.