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Meet the Eater Young Guns Semi-Finalists: Heidi Brown

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Heidi Brown
Heidi Brown
Photo provided by Restaurant at Meadowood, by Bonjwing Lee

Heidi Brown is the 29 year-old "culinary liaison" at Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood. And if her fans and co-workers are to be believed, she's the glue that holds the operation together. She works as chef Christopher Kostow's assistant, coordinates the restaurant's special events, including the now annual 12 Days of Christmas dinner series, manages finances related to the kitchen, assists in the restaurant's social media efforts, is the project manager for Chef Kostow's book, coordinates between the front of house and back of house staffs, assists with recruitment, works with corporate sponsors, creates business opportunities for the restaurant, and forges professional connections with people in all sectors of the restaurant industry. It's quite a job.

She is someone who is neither a chef nor a GM, she's not a brewer or a sommelier. But she is young, talented, and an instrumental team member at a very serious, very well-regarded American restaurant, a primo candidate on our list of 50 Young Guns semifinalists. And she's modest too. She tells Eater, "If I have any recognition for my work right now it's because of Chef Kostow's insight and encouragement to share my opinions and creativity. He lifts his staff up and allows, nay, requires them to grow with him." Ahead, read what her fans have to say about her.

Christopher Kostow, chef, The Restaurant at Meadowood: "Heidi Brown is my Minister of Culture and Information. She is also a friend and accomplice in all things. Also, If she doesn't win, I am going to have to fire her."

Bonjwing Lee, photographer and friend of Eater: "I have worked closely with Heidi Brown at Restaurant at Meadowood on numerous occasions over the past two years. I cannot say enough great things about her professionalism and humility. She is one of the most amazing and selfless personal assistants I've ever met. She is organized, and always timely in her responses. And she keeps one of the busiest chefs I know on task and in the right place. I honestly don't know how she does it. Bravo to Eater for highlighting someone on the administrative side of the restaurant industry."

Robin Wilkey, associate editor of The Huffington Post San Francisco: "I first met Heidi while interviewing Chris Kostow in preparation for Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2012. Not only did Heidi quickly get me everything I needed, but she made a point of inviting me to cocktails with the restaurant's entire entourage at PBFW weeks after the article had already come out. Since then, she's insisted that I join the team at SF farmers market visits, celebratory restaurant dinners and general fun events whenever the team is in town. She constantly introduces me to interesting, up-and-coming people in her world and has never once asked about coverage; she just genuinely wants to share her passion.

And don't even get me started on what she's done for The Restaurant at Meadowood. From the new website to the Chef's Holidays event, Heidi always, always thinks outside the box. Meadowood could easily rest on its Michelin-starred laurels, but Heidi continues to think bigger. She has helped turn a hotel restaurant into a cutting-edge destination with its finger on the pulse. That restaurant is a cooler place because of Heidi."

Sean Brock, chef/owner McCrady's and Husk: "I was able to cook there for the 12 Days of Christmas dinner series. And I have never ever, ever in my life been treated that way as a guest chef. Just unbelievable hospitality. Amazing organization, a lot of discipline. You rarely come across someone who's extremely eager to help you. Usually it's a task, it's someone's job. Not there. I couldn't believe how excited she was to do whatever crazy thing I needed."

Erin Sullivan, General Manager, ACME Fine Wines: "Heidi Brown possesses an immense, encyclopedic knowledge of all things culinary. After my eight years of working in restaurants, and now six years of living in the Napa Valley, I have never seen any person navigate so sleekly the harried waters of a restaurant's back-of-house, the front-of-house, and the wild west of the social media world. True, Chef Kostow is a talent and deserves all the attention he receives, but we would all look a little better with a Heidi running things behind the scenes. From coordinating Kostow's new cookbook, brainstorming new restaurant concepts, sourcing locally-produced bespoke pottery for each course, live tweeting culinary smackdowns and staff meals, (all while smiling and personally, authentically engaging everyone she meets) Heidi is a huge reason why The Restaurant at Meadowood is fast becoming the finest restaurant in the country. Meadowood has always been special, but now people who have never been to Napa Valley can get a peek into this gem of a restaurant and get to know Chef, because she makes it accessible. She makes me more excited about eating great food than anyone I've ever met. Heidi is your winner."

Poncho Vasquez, Sous Chef, The Restaurant at Meadowood: "I have the pleasure of working with Heidi Brown. Most days I am busy writing and inputting recipes, with her at the desk next me, keeping me company and offering tech advice on the ever-complicating-to-me Microsoft Office. She's a life saver!"

Christina Turley, Turley Wine Cellars: "I am beyond excited to see Heidi Brown on the list of Eater Young Guns semifinalists. It is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that someone in her position has been given any kind of recognition whatsoever. It is certainly a long time coming, as people like Heidi are in fact indispensable elements of the restaurant industry.

I first worked with Heidi at Momofuku, where she ran the show in the office and I was the beverage director. There, I got to know her as a reliable source of critical information, whether it concerned David Chang's movements or the viability of a wine pairing I was working on. She is a formidable combination of intimate culinary, media, and overall industry knowledge, all executed with an unrivaled kindness and patience: two things that are often overlooked but nevertheless essential.

Now in her role at the Restaurant at Meadowood, the stakes are all the higher and the operations all the more complex. Her title suits her perfectly; as a liaison, she facilitates professional connections with people in all aspects of the restaurant. I continue to work with her as far as making the right connections with my family's wines in the various outlets, as well as working on special events. Her skills and responsibilities continue to grow exponentially, and I am very excited to see how far her experience will take her. Above all, I am honored to call her both a colleague and a friend."

· All Young Guns on Eater [-E-]

The Restaurant at Meadowood

900 Meadowood Ln., St. Helena, CA