Reader: My vote is for Arthur Cavaliere at In Riva. Every time I dine there I try something new and it just keeps getting better.
C.L.: I think Cavaliere's In Riva has come a long way since opening this year in East Falls. The pizzeria's menu, though, is a bit more limited in scope and difficulty than what [others] have been turning out (and yes, I know there are some other things on the menu - great fried artichokes, for example).
Reader: For Breakout Chef of the Year, I vote for Greg Vernick at Vernick Food+Drink. The food is fantastic!
C.L.: He would be a good choice, Danielle - don't forget to vote!!
Reader: There is no question that the breakout chef in 2012 is George Sabatino of Stateside. As for La Panarda [at Le Virtù], I attended and cleaned every plate. It was an Epic Eating Experience. Joe Cicala was a master, creating countless varied dishes and all with top-tier delivery and preparation.
C.L.: I love Joe's food - Le Virtù is surely one of the city's best Italians.
Reader: I'd have to vote for George Sabatino. In a city full of and rich with gastropubs already, George Sabatino has been able to make Stateside uniquely different and memorable. George has managed to couple a focused, carefully selected craft beer selection and a wide whiskey selection (one of two bars to have Pappy) with approachable, refined gastropub fare.
C.L.: I think Sabatino is certainly one of my favorite newcomers. My last meal there was memorable.
Reader: I'm gonna have to say Nicholas Elmi due to his going his own way after Le Bec-Fin's meltdown. He took on a cursed spot and made it his personal statement.
C.L.: I definitely think Nicholas belongs in the conversation ... except that his years at the helm of the old Le Bec sort of disqualified him as a newcomer. Certainly earns my Comeback Chef of the Year.
Reader: Based on some great meals at Pumpkin, I'd have to vote for Chris Kearse.
C.L.: Kearse certainly caught my attention at Pumpkin. Running your own place, though, brings both freedom and added challenges. I'm a fan of his cooking, but look forward to seeing where Christopher is in another year or so. Easily some of the most interesting, thoughtful food in town.
Reader: Jason Cichonski is killing it at Ela. By far the best meal I've had in a while.
C.L.: Really enjoyed my meals at Ela, too. Jason C's been one of our great young talents for so many years - this is the first peek, though, that we've been able to get of this chef challenged outside the comfort of a cozy luxury hotel kitchen. And it's been impressive.
On that note, I'm going to call this chat to a close. Thanks to everyone who came today, and to all the chats in 2012. This was almost as great a year for online dish as it was for actually eating out! Congrats to Gregory Vernick, who won our quick chat-room poll for Philly Breakout Chef of 2012. It's a sentiment I'm apt to agree with, though close follower George Sabatino is also a worthy candidate.
Who Was Philadelphia's Breakout Young Chef of 2012?
Gregory Vernick 37%
George Sabatino 26%
Kevin Sbraga 22%
Jason Cichonski 7%
Walter Abrams 4%
Christopher Kearse 4%