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Sean Baker of Gather Named Esquire Chef of the Year

Today Esquire magazine releases its 2010 list of best new restaurants. John Mariani curates the list and makes some unexpected choices, as he's prone to do. But this year the critic even surprises himself, choosing Sean Baker -- the chef at Berkeley's Gather, a restaurant with very-non-Esquire vegan selections -- as 2010 Chef of the Year:

"Well suprise! Half of Sean Baker's menu listed tantalizing dishes like whole roasted petrale sole (a rich-tasting bottom-dweller), a burger with local Sierra Nevada cheese and fries, and one of the best pizzas I've had in ages...dishes to send vegans into a rage. But best of all, I swear, was the vegan "charcuterie"...I devoured it as if it were baby back ribs."

Among the list of 20 best new restaurants across the U.S., is a lone San Francisco rep -- not surprising this time -- Frances. Pullquote:

"Frances epitomizes the emerging cooldown approach to feeding people...[chef Melissa] Perello has worked in some high-end San Francisco restaurants...and at Frances she brings all she knows down to an elemental level. It's all good. No, it's all pretty wonderful. And it's always different, just like dinner at home."

Other Bay Area picks include Bauer's beloved Nick Balla of The Mission's Nombe as one of four "Chefs You Hope Move To Your City One Day." Mariani touts Balla's Japanese eggplant with miso sauce as his best dish. And Cantinetta Piero in Yountville makes the list of "Eleven Restaurants You Don't Want To Miss." Skip to Eater National for the full reveal on Mariani's Esquire 2010 picks.

· Esquire's 20 Best New Restaurants of 2010[-EN-]
· More Mariani Awards: Crenn Named Chef of the Year[~ ESF ~]
· Chefs to Watch 2007 [Esquire]
· Week in Reviews: Nombe [~ ESF ~]
· Previous Mariani Coverage [~ ESF ~]