Best Chef

Alex Pope, R Bar

Joy Jacobs, co-owner of R Bar, the lively restaurant and music venue in the West Bottoms, scored a coup when she hired Alex Pope, the youthful sous chef at the American Restaurant. Moving from the swankiest dining room in the city to a raucous saloon was a challenge for Pope, who says his mantra in the tiny R Bar kitchen is, "We have to be able to make it fast, make it good and make a lot of it." Now 27 years old, Pope has learned a lot in his first year as R Bar's executive chef. "There's a lot of room for creativity here, but there have to be normal things on the menu. I've taken the blue cheese off the mixed-green salads and dropped the savory funnel cakes because people didn't like them." Pope also took the burger off the dinner menu because more patrons were ordering steaks and scallops. And though the funnel cakes flopped, his follow-up amuse-bouche — savory fried doughnuts — has been a big hit. "Alex brings all the concepts together," Jacobs says. "Music, cocktails and very inventive food."

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