The TT 46

Niki Nakayama

n/naka, Los Angeles, CA
Photo: Zen Sekizawa

Why she killed it in 2015: Thanks to Netflix's Chef's Table series, Nakayama became a household name this year. But for the past four years, in a spare gray building behind sliding bamboo shutters, she's been pushing out her version of kaiseki, the season-focused, carefully orchestrated Japanese tasting menu, as one of the few female kaiseki chefs in the world. Here, Nakayama bends the rules of a strict menu, dimpling kanpachi with pepper gelees and twirling spaghettini with abalone and Burgundy truffles.

How would you describe your food? "Japanese modern kaiseki."

What's your signature dish? "Abalone spaghettini."

What's the dish you would cook for the rest of your life? "Sometimes on the weekends, I go out to our backyard garden, pick a few vegetables and herbs, and toss them into some angel hair—it's the perfect meal to make in five minutes. I love that pasta isn't bound by any particular type of sauce. It can be plain and simple, and it can also be rich and complex. It can take on the identity of any country's flavor profile—most of the pastas I end up making have some sort of Japanese flavoring added in—and still taste good."

What are the three essential cookbooks on your shelf? "Kisetsu no wanmono nyumon: Nihon ryori, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art and René Redzepi: A Work in Progress."

Rank pancakes, waffles and French toast from favorite to least favorite. "No! They are equally delicious, but it would be French toast, pancakes, waffles."

Find n/naka on DINE.

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