When a foreign cuisine first wowed you in a restaurant, was it in a storefront run by a recent immigrant, or did it happen in a fancier place created by an American chef or restaurateur passionate about a cuisine that at one point was just as foreign to him or her as it was to you?
Some of the best-known practitioners in the U.S. of Thai, Mexican, Chinese and other “foreign” cuisines are Americans with no familial ties to the cultures in question. Andy Ricker recently opened branches in New York of Pok Pok, his hyper-successful Portland, Ore., Thai restaurant. Ed Schoenfeld of RedFarm, a stylized Chinese restaurant, and Alex Stupak of Empellón Cocina, a Mexican restaurant, have also wowed New York critics and customers. Rick Bayless of Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo is acknowledged to be America’s master of Mexican cooking. All of them were referenced recently in a New York Times story, which asked who should best represent ethnic cuisines in the public’s mind.
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