Every May, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month honors the ways in which those of Asian descent have shaped the history and culture of North America—and the culinary world is a big one.
These 13 chefs and restaurateurs across the U.S. serve as shining examples of the emerging API talent in the food and beverage industry. They’re creative forces that have paved their own paths in a challenging industry and macroenvironment and used their personal experiences and heritage to inform their cooking styles and restaurants.
This is especially critical as the restaurant industry as a whole continues to recover from a pandemic-fueled contraction, which reportedly cost Asian restaurants, in particular, an estimated $7.4 billion in revenue, largely tied to anti-Chinese sentiment that spiked in 2020 and 2021. The resilience of the API community, however, has been proven many times over, and today, there remain tens of thousands of Asian—East, Southeast, and South Asian alike—restaurants across the nation.
Read on for 13 outstanding API chefs to watch at restaurants across America.
City: New York City
Chef: Tomohiro Urata
If you’re looking for a meal that will never repeat itself, head on over to MIFUNE with its ever-changing eight-course omakase tasting menu. Chef Tomohiro Urata leads the kitchen, and his passion for cooking is decidedly hereditary. His mother began to teach him her traditional Japanese techniques when he was just five years old, while his father began teaching him the craft of sushi knife work. He later went on to study at the Tsuji Culinary Institute in both Osaka, Japan, and Lyon, France.
In light of his international education, Urata soon sought to marry his Japanese and French cooking background, making his way to acclaimed restaurants including three-MICHELIN-starred Régis & Jacques Marcon in Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid and Maison Troisgros in Roanne.
Today, he brings that specific French-Japanese background to MIFUNE, which has received numerous accolades from both critics and diners alike for dishes such as foie gras rice with egg sabayon.
City: New York City
Restaurant: Xu’s Public House
Chef: Louis Shen and Ryan Cai
Louis Shen and Ryan Cai of Xu’s Public House in New York first gained attention in 2019 when Xu’s was called “the most compelling newcomer yet” to the Chinese dining scene in New York City. Four years later, the buzz has not abated. The duo manages to highlight Shanghainese cuisine (Shen’s specialty) and Cantonese food (Cai’s ballgame), while also nodding to European influences that may attract a broader New York crowd.
The menu is often lauded for its eclectic and perhaps surprising nature—take, for example, the swan puff pastry, filled with foie gras, wagyu beef, and king oyster mushrooms. This provides a sharp foil to more traditional dishes like zha juang mian (a fried noodle dish typical in Beijing) and Sichuan favorite mapo tofu.
Chef: Christine Ledesma
Kubo was launched in 2017 by the creative mind of Filipina chef Christine Ledesma. It was in the city of Bacolod on the northwest coast of Negros Island that Ledesma began her culinary journey, and she has since sought to bring the food of her home country to diners in Chicago.
The restaurant name refers to a traditional Filipino abode, considered a symbol of togetherness in Filipino culture, and has undoubtedly brought together many diners since it opened in 2017 with a positive review from the Chicago Tribune. Ledesma is a fixture in her community for sharing traditional Filipino recipes such as pork ribs adobo and lechon sisig, further evangelizing this style of cooking.
Restaurant: Shanghai Terrace
Chef: Elmo Han
Chef Elmo Han of Shanghai Terrace studied at The Beijing Institute of Education, honing his skills not only in the kitchen but also in the broader hospitality field in the capital city of China. In recent years, he’s drawn local attention for his upscale approach to Chinese cuisine, completely casting aside stereotypes of Chinese food as greasy noodles meant to be served out of white takeout boxes.
He’s done this most notably as chef de cuisine of Shanghai Terrace, where he’s known for celebrating his native Chinese cuisine with luxurious feasts that honor special Chinese occasions, like the Lunar New Year. You can find dishes like steamed tiger prawn, chrysanthemum fish, spicy chicken in pineapple sauce, and mandarin orange cheesecake on his specially designed menus. Shanghai Terrace’s gorgeous rooftop with breathtaking skyline views makes it all even more glamourous.
City: Los Angeles
Restaurant: Delhi Belly
Chef: Sagar Ghosh
Chef Sagar Ghosh most recently worked at popular Culver City restaurant Arth Bar & Kitchen, before branching out on his own to open Delhi Belly in Alhambra.
Ghosh graduated from the Indus Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts and the Global School of Management with diplomas in culinary arts and food and beverage management. He previously also worked as the executive chef at renowned Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s fine-dining restaurant, The Yellow Chilli in Tustin, California.
Delhi Belly builds on Ghosh’s experiences both at the Yellow Chilli and Arth by providing a contemporary take on Indian food with dishes such as a butter chicken burger, South Asian street food staple bhel with the addition of avocado, and paneer or chicken tikka served as part of tacos.
City: Washington, DC
Restaurant: Estuary at the Conrad DC
Chef: Ria Paz Montes
Ria Paz Montes worked for years at some of DC’s top restaurants including Blue Duck Tavern before taking over the reins as chef de cuisine at Estuary following a massive restaurant revamp in 2022. Today, she’s known as one of the leading female chefs in the DMV and works to support sustainability efforts and local producers (as well as other women in the food and beverage industry).
Montes grew up in a large Filipino family, which largely informed her cooking style. “Because we were immigrants, our family meals were moments for us to hold onto our culture. It is a way to stay connected to not only my culture but also my parents and grandparents,” she says. “It is ingrained in everything I do, but especially in my food.”
At Estuary, this ethos translates to Filipina twists on more familiar Chesapeake dishes, including ceviche with calamansi granita or roasted oysters with garlic chile crumbs.
City: Katy, Texas
Restaurant: Tobiuo Sushi & Bar
Chef: Sherman Yeung
Sherman Yeung has built the beginnings of a restaurant empire in Katy, Texas, all while valuing diversity in his kitchens and his concepts. Yeung hails from a Cantonese background but has always felt the need to represent the broader Asian continent in his work.
“Growing up, I’ve had a huge sense of pride and eagerness to explore my culture and the rich history of Hong Kong,” as well as other Asian cultures, he says. Yeung partnered with Filipino chef Jio Dingayan to bring the vast diversity of Asian cultures to Katy via food.
While Tobiuo is focused on more traditional Japanese techniques, the newer Money Cat gets more playful and brings in other Asian flavors, such as in a miso-cured Chilean sea bass with green curry or raw tuna with nước chấm.
Restaurant: Seorabol Center City
Chef: Chris Cho
Chef Chris Cho became something of a social media sensation after sharing his traditional Korean recipes on TikTok and YouTube during the pandemic. But while some social media chefs create all the magic in their home kitchen, Cho has been cooking for well over a decade professionally as the second-generation owner of Seorabol Center City.
The elder chef Cho, Kye, opened Seorabol decades ago, and Chris helped chop vegetables in the kitchen. But it wasn’t until a family emergency that Chris returned to the culinary world from various other ventures to bring the restaurant to its current level of fame (and second location).
Now, Seorabol’s status as a city favorite for Korean barbecue is cemented via Cho’s larger vision.
Restaurant: Crown Block
Chef: Intae “Ian” Kim
One of the hottest Dallas restaurant openings of 2023 is home to chef Intae “Ian” Kim. Crown Block, atop Reunion Tower, is the natural next step for Kim, who trained at big-name sushi restaurants Nobu, Uchi, and Uchiba.
“My culinary journey has now led me to Crown Block leading their sushi programming,” he says. “The sushi menu is meant to be authentic yet creative, and it’s a core pillar of the restaurant rather than an extension of the steak and seafood offerings.”
Kim believes that sushi, sashimi, crudo, and aburi serve as an opportunity to innovate, and diners can look forward to an ever-growing sushi menu as the team (and concept) continue to evolve. Opening bites include sea bream with truffle crème fraiche, green apple, pickled onion, and caviar.
Having a stage as big as Crown Block has established Kim as a major player in Dallas.
Restaurant: Top Burmese Burma Joy
Chefs: Kalvin and Poe Myint
Kalvin and Poe Myint grew up in Burma, but the couple immigrated to the Bay Area as young adults. There, they found plenty of restaurants serving their native Burmese food—but this wasn’t the case when they moved to Portland in 2003.
To address the issue, the Myints took it upon themselves to open their own restaurant, which today has resulted in a local chain of Burmese outposts including their famous Burma Joy. What started as a takeout-only operation in 2019 has flourished to three cities in Oregon—but it wasn’t always easy.
“Our initial start was back in 2003 with a food cart in Portland without much success. For us, it’s a tale of immigrant struggles, and a drive to find success,” Kalvin says. “Celebrating and the joy of sharing our roots. Learning and respecting other cultures and being a part of this great melting pot.”
The plan is to continue to grow, spreading their native food as far and wide as possible.
Chef: Veenuthri Trisransri
Veenuthri Trisransri leads the culinary team at DĀEK, a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand Thai restaurant in Miami. It may have a long wait, but locals will tell you that it’s well worth the time spent, thanks largely to one of the best chef/owners in the business.
Named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2007, Trisransri is now a Miami fixture. He learned much of his cooking from his grandfather, and while he specializes in Thai cuisine, he’s also honed his abilities across other East Asian cooking techniques. DĀEK is an homage not only to his native Thailand but also to the broader continent and the many flavors and adventures it brings.
Elsie Yang is a Washington, DC-based writer.