Traci Des Jardins, Head Chef, Patina, Los Angeles, CA

When Traci Des Jardin began cooking seven years ago at age 18, she hooked her wagon to a star--Joachim Splichal, regarded by many food critics as one of the most innovative and cerebral of the "new American" chefs.

Splichal agreed to take one Des Jardin as an apprentice at the request of her uncle and aunt, who met Splichal in France. The union between Des Jardin and Splichal began in Los Angeles, where Splichal was executive chef of Seventh Street Bistro. When Splichal left to head t

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