Executive Chef, Ondine, Sausalito, California.
Age: 38. Why he's rising: His cooking has helped Ondine reopen to success in 1999, about a decade after it closed. Background: "Chef Waka" emigrated to the U.S. from Japan in 1989. He's worked at West Channel Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey, and Spago in West Hollywood, Calif. Cooking style: California fusion with Pacific Rim influences. Signature dishes: Lobster salad with chrysanthemum leaves, sweet ginger cream, smoked bacon, papaya and curry oil; grilled rare bigeye tuna with rock shrimp risotto, baby bok choy, macadamia nut relish and coconut banana curry. What the critics say: Bill Citara, San Francisco Examiner has called him "an incandescent talent, his dishes lofty flights of creative fancy firmly anchored in culinary basics." Also, "His combinations seem exotic, but they always make perfect culinary sense."—Michael Bauer, San Francisco Examiner