Jared Simons, Chef/Owner, Violet, Los Angeles, CA

In a city as image-conscious as Los Angeles, the temptation to show off is irresistible. That's why it's so refreshing to discover a young talent who's playing it cool. Jared Simons is the chef/owner of Violet, a funky 60-seater that bloomed two years ago on a sketchy stretch of Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica.

The 27-year-old prepares what he calls "casual fare," which amounts to simple, recognizable food people like to eat. That's not to say that this graduate of the California Culinary Academy can't heat up a kitchen. He's just not fussy. So, on Violet's small-plate menu you'll find comfort foods like baked macaroni with Serrano ham, leeks and Gruyere cheese alongside seared scallops with vanilla risotto and baby artichokes.

Violet's prices are as easy-going as its chef, who, by the way, was named one of L.A.'s "Hottest" chefs by LA.COM. An average meal with wine runs about $40, which explains why the place is on every foodie's must list.

Simons' aforementioned hotness refers to his rock 'n' roll good looks. But he's more than just another pretty face. Last year, he was a runner-up Best New Chef in Angeleno magazine.

At age 22, Simons demonstrated he had a head for business by opening his own French-style bistro, dubbed Le Passage, in his hometown of San Diego.

Now in the land of the beautiful, he's getting noticed on all fronts. The Los Angeles Times praised Violet, calling it "smart and understated," its cooking "polished and professional." L.A. Weekly praised Violet as "a little restaurant that cares."