Chef Zoi Antonitsas is no stranger to recognition. As executive chef for Westward, she has won acclaim from The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and beyond, not to mention a slot in our own Eater 38. This morning, though, she surged to a new level when Food & Wine named her as one of their Best New Chefs of the year.
It all started when 16-year-old Antonitsas worked as a Dahlia Lounge prep cook while a Franklin High student. From there she went on to cook at Etta’s, return to Dahlia, then put in time at the Alibi Room and Marjorie before moving to San Francisco in 2000. In the Bay Area, she became chef de cuisine at Santa Rosa’s Zazu Restaurant and San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club, and made her television debut as a "Top Chef" contestant in 2008.
"She was a pistol," Tom Douglas told The Seattle Times in 2008, of his experience with Antonitsas, as she was eliminated from Top Chef after drawing one of the show’s most challenging dishes. "She was never shy. Very inquisitive. She turned out to be a fabulous cook. She has the talent to run her own restaurant."
And run kitchens, she has. Now restored to Seattle, she was executive chef at Madison Park Conservatory (which, under her leadership, was named the Eater Restaurant of the Year in 2012) before coming to Westward in 2013.
As a Food & Wine Best New Chef this year, she joins ranks with Jake Bickelhaupt (Chicago's 42 grams), Jonathan Brooks (Indianapolis's Milktooth), Katie Button (Asheville's Curate) and more. Find the full list of 2015 winners here.