Owner: Playa, Los Angeles, CA
Competing for: American Diabetes Association
Considered “the father of modern Southwest cuisine” by Gourmet Magazine, John Rivera Sedlar has embraced the Southwest from the very start. Raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sedlar combined the traditional foods of his childhood with the classic French techniques he learned under legendary chef Jean Bertranou. His ingenuity and innovation of Southwestern cuisine made him the youngest chef to ever receive the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts Magazine. Sedlar’s take on Southwestern foods was seen in his first restaurant, Saint Estephe, which Bon Appétit Magazine named "among the very best in California, or even the West." He went on to open two more acclaimed restaurants in the Los Angeles area -- Bikini in 1991 and then Abiquiu in 1994. In 1994 Sedler sold his restaurants to pursue his lifelong dream of building a food company to supply the home cook with dishes and ingredients from the Southwest. In 1999 he established Abiquiu Foods, LLC, which operates Sedlar's Modern Southwest Kitchen, a collection of contemporary tamales, chile rellenos, taco shells and condiments. Sedlar is also a top-notch restaurant consultant for organizations including the James Beard Foundation and California Culinary Academy. In addition to his many accomplishments, Sedlar is the author of Modern Southwest Cuisine (Ten Speed Press, 1994), The Great Chile Relleno Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2000), the Tamale Poster (Ten Speed Press), and co-author of Tamales (Macmillan, 1998). His awards and recognition include a listing on The Cook's Magazine “Top 50 Who's Who of Cooking in America;” a place on Food & Wine magazine's “Honor Roll of American Chefs .” In September 1995, he received the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts Magazine, becoming the youngest chef ever to garner that distinction. Most recently, Sedlar has been nominated for The James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Pacific. He just opened his newest anticipated restaurant Playa in Los Angeles in February of 2011.