Table 42: Best of 2016

This year, Table 42 brought us innovative dishes, awe-inspiring plating, and truly authentic cuisines from a lineup of first-rate chefs. However, a select few stood out from the rest. Here are Foodable's "Best of" moments for Table 42 in 2016.

Chef Joe Cicala at Le Virtù

The inspiration for Le Virtù comes from Chef Cicala’s experiences all over Abruzzo, Italy. Every dish is inspired by Abruzzese culinary tradition. Take for example, their housemade couscous.

“How we make it is traditional to how they make it in Casalbordino. [We] use a small thistle broom. We dip the broom in water, and then we shake it over the semolina and it creates these little drops, and those little drops become the couscous,” Chef Cicala explained.

After spending a significant amount of time in Abruzzo, Italy, Chef Cicala developed an intimate knowledge of Abruzzo's "primary materials" and applies that experience to his selection of producers and purveyors surrounding Philadelphia like naturally raised pork from Berks County; lamb, chicken and rabbit from Lancaster County; and produce from rural New Jersey and Pennsylvania. What he can’t find locally, Chef Cicala imports from Abruzzo artisanal honey and cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, and even the flour used to make fresh pasta.

Chef Eileen Andrade at Finka Table and Tap

Chef Eileen Andrade’s work ethic and culinary background were instilled by her family early on. Her grandfather opened the well-known Islas Carnitas on Coral Way in Miami years back. 

Andrade learned how to cook authentic Korean dishes after training under a retired woman in Korea. After training every day at 7 a.m. for a few weeks, Andrade fell in love with the culture and cuisine even more. According to Andrade, the fusion of Korean and Latin cuisine that she dishes up at Finka was a no-brainer.

“It’s bold flavors, it’s colorful, it’s saucy... Once I started to pair things, I was just like, ‘Okay, perfect — kimchi goes amazing with rice and beans,'” she said.

Chef Tetsu Yahagi at Spago

Tetsu Yahagi wasn't sure what he wanted to do until he walked into a bookstore one day on a family vacation and stumbled upon Wolfgang Puck’s “Adventures in the Kitchen.”

“My dream, before I left the United States to go back to Japan, was to dine at one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants,” he said. “So, I asked my father if we could all dine at Spago. He made a reservation, and that’s where I first met Wolfgang. He signed the book that I bought.”

Now, Yahagi is the chef de cuisine at that very restaurant, working under Chef Lee Hefter.

“We have always created something new, and we still are trying to come up with new ideas, new techniques, new dishes,” Yahagi said. “We don’t want to turn ourselves into a museum. This restaurant needs to be evolving every day, and it needs to be kept always relevant in the industry.”

Keep an eye out for all of this year's "Best of" episodes to learn more about which industry professionals changed the game in 2016!