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New York's 11 Top Free Agent Chefs, 2013

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Here are 11 talented, big deal chefs who currently aren't in New York City kitchens. Some of them have been out of the game for a while, while others just left big restaurants this year. Check out New York's top 11 free agent chefs below, and nominate other candidates in the comments.


Laurent Gras

The celebrated French chef Laurent Gras is still without a restaurant. In 2010, Gras left Chicago's L2O, where he earned three Michelin stars, to move to New York. While looking for spaces in the city and taking some time for himself, Gras participated in various guest chef dinners and festivals. In the past few months, though, he's kept totally quiet.

In an Eater interview conducted over a year ago, the chef explained that whenever he does open in New York, he intends to go big: "I think in a city like New York you need fine dining. People want to go out, have good food, be surprised, and have a great experience. If you look at Tokyo or Paris, you have many places for this, with pristine products and pristine preparations. If New York doesn't support that, there is a problem. A real problem. I'm very confident about this."
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Elizabeth Falkner

San Francisco chef Elizabeth Falkner came to New York City less than a year ago to open the pizzeria Krescendo in Boerum Hill. Falkner earned high praise for her work there, including an enthusiastic two stars from Pete Wells, but she recently announced she would be leaving the venture. She explained that her intention all along was to get the place off the ground — "My goal after moving to New York was to help open Krescendo," she wrote — and she's now involved in culinary council of the Holland America cruise line.

No word yet on Falkner's future restaurant plans, but it seems she's sticking around New York.
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Missy Robbins

Five years ago, Andrew Carmellini left his post as chef of A Voce in Gramercy, leaving big shoes to fill. That person ended up being Missy Robbins, and she rose to the occasion. Robbins maintained quality at the original location while also presiding over a successful expansion to the Time Warner Building (see Sam Sifton's positive review of that venture).

Robbins announced she would be leaving the restaurants a few weeks ago. In a statement to Florence Fabricant, Robbins said she had plenty of concepts in mind but "no definite plans." She'll be traveling and working on a book while she figures out her next restaurant.
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Justin Hilbert

At Gwynnett St. in Williamsburg, the young chef Justin Hilbert earned raves for his ability to translate his experiences at places like Mugaritz and wd-50 to a neighborhood restaurant. He spent a year and a half in the kitchen there before announcing his departure a month ago. Hilbert joins the ranks of chefs like Angelo Romano, who, for various reasons, couldn't stick around Williamsburg for long.

It sounds like Hilbert is poised to open his own restaurant in the future.
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Riad Nasr & Lee Hanson

Chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson spent sixteen years working with restaurateur Keith McNally. The string of hits the trio collaborated on kicked off with Balthazar in 1997 and ended with the successful revival of Greenwich Village classic Minetta Tavern, which has now been in business since 2009.

After what both parties call an amicable split last month (McNally's statement here, the chefs' here), Nasr and Hanson are off to "brave new challenges." All signs point to the two chefs remaining collaborators, but they've yet to announce specifics on their plans.
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Brian Nasworthy

Former per se sous chef Brian Nasworthy didn't end up being the right fit for Graydon Carter's more laid-back revival of the Beatrice Inn. The project debuted in September of last year, and Nasworthy lasted only a couple of months in the kitchen before it was announced he would be leaving. Emil Varda, a partner in the Beatrice, explained that Nasworthy was "a very talented chef, but that his culinary philosophy did not agree with ours."
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Bradford Thompson

A member of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs class for 2004, Bradford Thompson has worked in Scottsdale, AZ and in New York City at Café Boulud, Miss Lily's, and, most recently, the kosher restaurant Jezebel. Thompson spent eight months at Jezebel, after which it was announced that the owners would be adjusting the concept of the space and that Chris Mitchell would replace Thompson as chef.
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Jason Hall

Earlier today a rep for chef John DeLucie's Crown Group announced that Jason Hall had parted ways with the restaurant empire. A former chef de cuisine at Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar & Grill, Hall first worked at DeLucie's The Lion in 2011 before overseeing the openings of Crown and Bill's. A statement from the rep reads, "The two have parted ways but very amicably and Crown Group wishes him well and all the best in his future endeavors."
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Francis Derby

Francis Derby was included in last year's installment of this list after he had left the Soho restaurant King — despite good buzz — three months after it opened. Derby remains without a restaurant, but he recently cooked a meal inspired by American Psycho at the Nitehawk. Prior to King, Derby worked in the kitchens of Tailor, wd-50, Gilt, and Momofuku Ssam Bar.
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Amanda Freitag

Amanda Freitag's situation as a free agent is as it was last year: the former Harrison chef (she left Bradley's kitchen in 2010) is active on several television shows but will probably opening something up in New York City when the opportunity arises.
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