Now that the list of Eater Young Guns semi-finalists has been released, it's time to get to know these rising stars. Check this space for regular introductions to each of the 50 semi-finalists and tune in on June 24 to find the list of winners.
[Photo: Cortney Cates]
"Once you become a chef, you really need to know everything that's going on in the kitchen," says Bradley Kilgore, the 28 year-old chef de cuisine at J&G Grill at the St. Regis in Bal Harbour, Fl. The Young Gun semi-finalist is explaining why, as a young tournant in Kansas City, he decided to rotate through the pastry station regularly, but it's an idea that seems to have pushed him throughout his entire career.
"I always said to myself, especially as a young cook, 'if you want to be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best,'" he says. It's a philosophy that took him Kansas City to Chicago, where he worked at Epic, River North, and L2O, and overseas to refine his skills.
"I've worked in Italy twice and my grandmother was from Italy, so not only do you see me put grits with halibut, but you'll see me bring in Italian touches," Kilgore says. He moved to Miami three years ago, where he became a sous chef at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental, and helped them land a five-star rating from Forbes. After that, the versatile Kilgore launched Brad's BBQ, his much-loved Kansas City-style barbecue pop-up.
"[He's] willing to take chances," says chef/restaurateur and Eater Young Gun committee member Michael Schwartz, who heaped on the praise, calling Kilgore super-interested, engaged, and passionate. "You can tell he does his own work—studies, reads, and is always trying to innovate and create."
Here, Kilgore talks with Eater about bringing his roots to fine dining, making dishes beautiful, and why teaching is so critical.
How do you describe your food?
I like to give homage to the classics. That was a big part of my career coming up was learning classic technique, European-based and French. And then bring in some artistic touch, and a little bit of modern technique into it, but still approachable when it comes to the diner.
What made you decide to switch to pastry?
Well, I had been working savory and the hot line for years, and then when I became tournant at the American in Kansas City, I decided to throw one or two days a week on pastry, just so I'd know everything in the kitchen. Once you become a chef, you really need to know everything that's going on in the kitchen. There are a lot of guys out there who leave it to the pastry chef, but I like to be able to hold my weight in any department.
Do you think that's influenced your savory work?
Definitely. One thing I've realized from pastry is that if you don't put sugar in it, maybe you just have a new sauce. Recently, I did a carbonara angalaise that didn't have any sugar it in. Or, I've done savory curds, tuiles and croquants and things. So you can pull those techniques into the savory side, so you have a new texture or flavor that you didn't have in the past.
I always thought in pastry, if you can imagine it, you can build it. When I was younger, before I knew anything about pastry, I would look at beautiful desserts and say, why can't you do that with savory? I've tried to combine those elements by spending time in the pastry kitchen and doing desserts and combining those elements with savory food.
In the public nominations, someone mentioned that you're an excellent mentor to those around you. Why is that so important to you?
I've worked for some really great chefs, and the ones I respected the most were ones that would teach you. I worked with some really high-accolade chefs that you didn't really have any relationship with, even though you worked years with them. I think it's really important that you have the mindset that you're only as good as the people around you. So, if you don't bring them up with you, then you're not really getting anywhere.
Are there a couple people who have been essential to you?
Yeah, there have been. It's kind of funny, because it's not event he biggest-name chefs I've worked for that were the most influential. A chef named Stephen Wombach...he's currently the executive chef at the Four Seasons in Chicago, but we opened up Epic in Chicago a few years ago. I was 22, and I was executive sous chef...I think I was the youngest person in the entire 120-person restaurant. And he guided me, so that made a big difference, but he was really tough on me at the same time.
What do you bring to J&G?
Even though I work for Chef Jean-Georges—he's an incredible chef and a great person—he's one of those chefs we were just talking about. He knows how to talk to people, knows how to approach people, but also knows when it's time to be a strong leader as well.
But here at J&G Grill at St. Regis, I am the chef of the kitchen. What I do on a daily basis, or a regular basis, is control the quality of the cuisine, ensure consistency, and bringing in the best product available, whether it has to be flown in or I can get it locally. And making those decisions, as well as mentoring and teaching, as I mentioned before.
So, what's in the future?
Well, you know, I'm extremely happy here. Working for the St. Regis and Chef Jean-Georges is quite an honor. He's always been someone I looked up to. He's one of the best chefs in the world. One day, I definitely want to own my own restaurant and showcase my creativity. And I definitely think I'm going to see barbecue again in my future. I had so much fun doing that. I think Miami needs some good Kansas City barbecue.
· All 2014 Young Gun Coverage [-EN-]