Read more about the importance of a hook for talent here.

The James Beard Awards were given out yesterday. Congrats to all the nominees and winners, especially to Rising Star Chef winner Christina Tosi.

We often guide talented content creators toward discovering their natural hook. It needs to be simple yet definitive. “Oh that’s the guy who blends everything. Including the iPhone.” “That’s the guy who does six-course meals in the subway and other crazy places.”

James Beard Rising Star Chefs

Since we work with a lot of different chefs, and since the celebrity chef trend is an intriguing model of people transcending one medium to another with the power of their hook, I thought it would be fun to look at the new James Beard nominees in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category. This is just a thought experiment, so don’t take it too seriously.

Do these chefs have clear hooks? Are they poised to grow their businesses into media opportunities?

In some cases it’s hard to separate these young chefs from their restaurants, so I’ll blend the two as well as possible and give it a go.

Dave Beran, Next, Chicago

Next Restaurant offers intense thematic menus based in historical periods or interesting concepts. Perusing through interviews and Dave’s Twitter feed, I suggest the hook is:
Chef Dave Beran is a culinary history detective. He tracks down and re-envisions flavors of days gone by and makes them relevant today.

Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC

Christina’s Momofuku Milk Bar is like a playground for deserts. Her approach is deceptively simple:
Chef Christina Tosi uses ingredients that people already love, to make refined yet approachable desserts that people crave. Butter + sugar + anything = delicious.

Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans

Sue Zemanick is understated, kind, and seems to put others before herself, as her early exit from Top Chef All Stars would indicate. A hook doesn’t always have to be loudly assertive. An “anti-hook” can be just as differentiating in the marketplace:
Chef Sue Zemanick builds relationships with food with the gustatory intensity of a long conversation. She got booted from Top Chef for being too helpful.

Daniel Bowien, Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco

Mission Chinese is a cult favorite. It’s intriguing. I read somewhere that American Chinese food is our national cuisine. There are more Chinese restaurants than any other type. So it makes a lot of sense for someone to finally use a beat up old Chinese Restaurant to launch a whole new approach to food:
Chef Danny Bowien is the guy who turned Chinese food on its head with an infusion of new ingredients and approaches. He’s the Joe Strummer of Chinese food.

Thomas McNaughton, Flour + Water, San Francisco

Flour + Water is a homemade pasta and pizza restaurant that showcases the authentic regional variety of classic Italian cuisine. Chef McNaughton crafts every dish with a wealth of insider’s knowledge garnered from his time learning at a salumeria in Bologna.
Chef Thomas McNaughton is eight old Italian ladies trapped in a 28-year-old man’s body. He makes pasta the way pasta wants to be made.

What do you think?

Have you eaten at any of these restaurants? How would you state or refine the hooks I’ve written?