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the quest for well-being, new orleans, star chefs

If anyone could unseat Besh in the cover-boy department and in the kitchen, it's John Harris, New Orleans Magazine's Chef of the Year in 2001. (Both Harris and Besh were named 2002 Best Chefs by Food & Wine.)

Without Besh's ambitions or any flag-waving, Harris romances diners at Lilette Restaurant with a French-Italian menu that includes his great-grandmother's labor-intensive spinach gnocchi, made with only a suggestion of flour; feathery quenelles, a virginal mixture of goat cheese and crème fraiche glazed with lavender honey; and boudin noir, or blood sausage, served with spicy mustard and cornichons. It's the kind of dish Harris learned to make when, six years ago, he moved in with a family in Gascony for a month and helped prepare two big meals a day.

Occupying a late-1800's corner drugstore with plate-glass windows, Lilette is filled with attractive young couples stealing the old smooch on creamy banquettes. It's the sexiest restaurant in town.