Why he killed it in 2015: After a few years of focusing on his New York restaurants, Thai cooking master (and champion) Andy Ricker slingshotted back to the West Coast this year to open an outpost of his acclaimed Pok Pok, as well as another location of his noodle shop, Pok Pok Phat Thai, which have both been busy since opening. Ricker's dedication to Thailand and its dishes that go far beyond pad Thai have helped change how we think about the country's food.
How would you describe your food? "Specific regional food of Thailand and Southeast Asia."
What's your signature dish? "For better or for worse, Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings. I personally disagree that this is the defining dish of Pok Pok, but you don't get to choose what other people like best, and it is a good dish."
What are the best and worst pieces of advice you've gotten from a mentor? "Best: Bring a sharp knife to work, meant literally and figuratively. Worst: Just do this bump, and you'll be good for another four hours on the line."
Who is your food god? "David Thompson. He's a chef's chef, still smashing the hell out of a wok during service in his early 50s, still uncompromising with quality and concept after decades in the business. He's got the mind of a scholar, the humor of an Irish poet and the constitution of an Australian prisoner."
Do you have a secret talent? "I can juggle."Next Chef