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Frankie Cannata-Bowman, the one who got away.

Image: Pair

Rarely do the stars align this declaratively.

The chef de cuisine at Pair, Frankie Cannata-Bowman, landed quickly on our short list for Next Hot Chefs. She’d worked everywhere (for Eric Banh at Baguette Box, for Tom Douglas at Lola, for Cormac Mahoney and Zoi Antonitsas at the late Madison Park Conservatory) and had accumulated a reputation for organization in the kitchen and whimsical intelligence on the plate. She never went to culinary school; that’s what Tom Douglas was for. “Three years working my way up the line at Lola—that was my culinary school,” she says.

For her next gig, Cannata-Bowman knew she wanted to develop specific skills: cooking in the intimate environment of a small kitchen, focusing on technique, building her baking expertise. So she accepted the chef de cuisine post at the Bryant neighborhood restaurant, Pair…and began quietly wowing everyone with a palate.

That’s about the time we got wind of her, as the chef who was adding more vegetables to Pair’s lineup and broadening its French-ish menu with hints of near and far East. Her Greek heritage was showing up in a beautiful starter of rosemary-braised gigante beans with feta and Aleppo pepper; her interest in the restaurant’s vision was appearing in the form of a throwbacky baba au rhum dessert her bosses Sarah and Felix Penn had seen reprised all over Paris, and had been pestering their chefs to make ever since. Finally—here was a chef who would not only make it, she’d enliven it with orange vanilla cream and candied cocoa nibs. The Penns were wild about their 30-year-old chef; her diners wilder still.

This was precisely the kind of young talent we launched Next Hot Chefs four years ago to celebrate. Alas—in addition to being young, creative, hard-working, and smart, Frankie Cannata-Bowman also proved to be honest. After I anonymously dined at Pair, then told her she’d been shortlisted for Next Hot Chefs—she ‘fessed up and told me she was leaving for Vancouver, BC, in July.

“We’re super bummed to lose her,” Sarah Penn told me by phone, “but she’s still consulting with us through July!” Her menu remains in place at Pair, along with her influence at Pair’s sister restaurant down the street, Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor, where she’s been consulting and cooking for a few months. For a special encounter with Cannata-Bowman before she decamps, check out her alfresco farm-to-table dinner, to be held at Helsing Junction Farms in Rochester July 10.