“What we’ve witnessed in the past 25 or 30 years is just incredible,” says Geoffrey Zakarian about the food and restaurant revolution in America. As one of the country’s most visible and influential restaurateurs, chefs, and food personalities, Zakarian is uniquely qualified to discuss the proliferation of top-notch restaurants and exploding interest in new forms of culinary expression. If our national cuisine was once bland and derivative, he observes, it’s now the global center of experimentation and innovation.
Zakarian is an Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America series and he’s a regular judge on the channel’s massively popularChopped, in which contestants whip together a three-course meal using mystery—and usually incongruous—ingredients. (In one typical episode, participants were asked to create an appetizer using watermelon, canned sardines, pepper jack cheese, and zucchini.) His 2006 cookbook, Town/Country: 150 Recipes for Life Around the Table, was a best-seller and last fall’s My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes From 50 Essential Ingredients has been praised for its accessibility and surprising flavors. Zakarian operates no fewer than five restaurants in the New York area, including the highly regarded Lambs Club and the Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court. In 2016, he’ll be opening his first place in the nation’s capital, the National in Washington, which will be housed in the Old Post Office Pavilion.