STEVEN ALEX VANDERPOOL
Executive Chef, Cuvee Beach Cellar, Destin Fla.
Age: 32. Why he's rising: This Cincinnati, Ohio native caused a stir in Houston when his American-Asian fusion cuisine at Sake Lounge brought that operation recognition as one of the country's best new restaurants of 1998. Now he's pioneering a wine-based concept on the Northwest part of Florida's Gulf Coast. His goal: "I want to help put the whole Destin area on the national food scene." Background: This New England Culinary Institute graduate worked at the Brennan family's Palace Cafe in New Orleans, then headed for Houston's top-rated La Reserve. His role as chef de cuisine at Sake Lounge followed a stint at Manna Bread Company. Cooking style: "Cuvee" is wine parlance for blend, and Vanderpool combines Asian and European flavors to produce complex and unusual flavors. Then he pairs each dish with a complementing wine. Signature dishes: Spicy lemon and fennel calamari; Pepper-crusted black and blue tuna. What the critics say: "Seldom are cross-cultural alliances so congenial."—Texas Monthly. "One of the best new restaurants in Florida for 1999."—Florida Trend. "Extraordinary. A truly exceptional meal."—Northwest Florida Daily News.