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Eater Young Guns 2016: Meet the Semifinalists

Up and coming industry talent from across the country

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Eater's annual search for Young Guns — ambitious and talented industry newcomers — continues. Hundreds of nominations for the 2016 class poured in, calling out tremendous new talent under the age of 30 or with fewer than five years experience. Today, after much deliberation, Eater is pleased to present this year's Young Guns semifinalists.


Eater's Young Guns semifinalists are up-and-coming standouts in the field and are taking on new challenges in their jobs as bartenders, general managers, chefs and pastry chefs, and beyond. Many were nominated multiple times, recognized by their peers, customers, and mentors for their dedication to pushing the boundaries of their professions. They were narrowed down, fact-checked, and vetted by industry leaders, past Young Guns winners, and Eater staffers.

In the weeks that follow and leading up to the announcement of the 2016 Eater Young Guns winners on June 28, Eater will share background on the stories and experiences of these professionals to provide insight into why they stand out in the industry and what to expect from them in the years to come. And we welcome you to share your own thoughts here.

Where they're from


Andrea Borgen

Andrea Borgen

Age: 27
Position: General manager and owner
Restaurant: Barcito
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Twitter: @aaborgen
Instagram: @aaborgen

From her nomination: "Andrea Borgen is the owner and general manager of Barcito in downtown Los Angeles. She's an extremely driven and talented individual and owns her own restaurant at the age of 27. Andrea is working on the hospitality-included movement and has transitioned Barcito to a no-tipping structure. She's on the forefront of restaurant trends and wants to better the restaurant community in Los Angeles."

From Andrea: "We recently launched hospitality included, and I can't wait to see what the implications will be for our business down the line. We look forward to continue to improve the infrastructure of the restaurant, and the employee experience, overall. Amanda Kludt's piece on the culinary gender gap was something that really hit home for me, and I'd love to help drive some much-needed changes in this industry. Hospitality included paves the way for that shift.

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Maxfield Schnee

Age: 28
Position: General manager and wine director for the Josef Centeno Restaurant Group
Restaurant: Orsa and Winston
Location: Los Angeles, CA

From Maxfield: "Progress. Forward motion. That's what it's all about for me. In May I watched Will Guidara win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Service at Eleven Madison Park. A bit of a hero of mine, his receiving the award only inspired me to continue with my progress. I want to bring that award to Los Angeles. I want to be a part of the reason Michelin has no choice but to re-visit our beautiful city because we have such an incredible array of dining experiences to offer. I want to continue to learn and grow and develop from the wonderful people of the Los Angeles restaurant community. I want to progress. I want to move forward."

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Margarita Kallas Lee

Margarita Kallas-Lee

Age: 26
Position: Pastry Chef/Owner
Restaurant: Scratch Bar
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Twitter: @MargaritaKallas
Instagram: @margaritakallaslee

From her nomination: "Margarita makes some of the most innovative and delicious desserts I have ever tasted. She constantly experiments with flavors and makes pastries really interesting and exciting in a way that is redefining the way LA food culture is heading. She had opened up two restaurants in the course of a few years, which is super impressive for her age, and she works harder than anyone I have ever met."

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Christine Rivera

Christine Rivera

Age: 25
Position: Chef de cuisine
Restaurant: Galaxy Taco
Location: La Jolla, CA
Twitter: @xtine65
Instagram: @xtine65

From her nominations: "She's assumed the incredibly time-consuming, skill-driven task of nixtamalizing, milling, and kneading masa each day, in house. She's doing this while running an exceptional restaurant in a demanding market."

"The integrity of her ingredients and the creative interpretation of modern Mexican cuisine is exemplary."

"At a very young age she has taken on a brand new restaurant [that has taken] a step above and beyond that of literally any other new restaurant in Southern California. She has taken the challenge with skill and elegance! This is not your typical taco stand."

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Keone Koki

Keone Koki

Age: 28
Position: Chef de cuisine
Restaurant: Commis
Location: Oakland, CA
Instagram: @kkoki87

From his nominations: "He has the ability to elevate his staff by teaching them skills to create and motivate people in a way that promotes leadership and teamwork."

"Without a doubt one of the hardest working chefs out in the industry right now — humble, respectful, and always looking to improve. He dramatically improved Commis by creating a new bread program and adding new ideas to the menu."

"Keone worked tirelessly, performing stages in a variety of places from bakeries to pastry kitchens and elevated the food at Commis to a new level."

"He had a huge part in Commis getting its second Michelin star this year."

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Brian Limoges

Age: 27
Position: Executive sous chef
Restaurant: Quince
Location: San Francisco, CA
Twitter: @Briloges
Instagram: @Bri_Limoges

How Brian keeps honing his craft: "I always try to be a sponge. I watch videos and read articles. Even if I'm too tired to read, I'll just stare at the pictures and absorb whatever I can. Finding ways to challenge myself. Learning and failing can be extremely intimidating, so much so that you just become stagnant. I'm constantly putting myself in uncomfortable positions."

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Marie-Louise Friedman

Marie-Louise Antonia Friedland

Age: 28
Position: Assistant Wine Director/AGM
Restaurant: The Progress/State Bird
Location: San Francisco, CA
Twitter: @JeuneCuisiniere
Instagram: @jeunecuisiniere

From her nominations: "Marie-Louise has an amazing knowledge of wine. Her presence on the floor is strong, and she is very ambitious about education and teaches property-wide wine classes twice a week, one for FOH and one for BOH."

"Dedication and skill combined with raw talent and a healthy dose of badassery. Insane knowledge of wine and cheese, including production methods, producers, and an ability to translate customer requests into reality, even when not described well. Immense palate and quiet dedication behind the scenes where success is actually made."

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Laura Meyer

Laura Meyer

Age: 27
Position: Head Chef/pizzaiola + Administrator and Teaching Assistant at the International School of Pizza
Restaurant: Tony's Pizza Napoletana and The International School of Pizza
Location: San Francisco, CA

From her nomination: "She's Tony Gemignani's right hand woman — when she's not in the kitchen at the restaurant, she's coordinating the schedule for Tony's International School of Pizza and teaching classes, where [students have] the opportunity to get certified in various styles of pizza making."

"Laura also has also come out on top in two major pizza competitions — she's the 2013 World Pizza Champion, teglia division (first female and first American to win this title) and she took home first place in the category of non-traditional pizza at the International Pizza Expo in 2014."

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Irene Li

Age: 26
Position: Chef
Restaurant: Mei Mei
Location: Boston, MA
Twitter: @ireneshiangli
Instagram:
@ireneshiangli

From her nomination: "She's a food ethics crusader. Since the get-go Irene's refused to take shortcuts that the vast majority of other food businesses make (local canola oil! no citrus!). She knows her farmers and refuses to sell anything that doesn't meet her standards. When the food truck opened in 2012 there weren't local food aggregators or distributors who focused on local product. She's played a key role in helping connect restaurants to existing farm distribution networks, introducing farmers to distributors, and bringing regional distributors with small farm products into Boston.

Her hope is to continue developing businesses that bridge the gaps in our food system: She started a high volume lunch truck that orders tons of local produce weekly, a fine dining restaurant that creates demand for more expensive local product and proteins, and now she's thinking about a slaughterhouse that caters to the needs of smaller farmers of pastured livestock. What sets Irene apart is how she creates projects that address needs, and how dedicated she is to each one."

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Katrina Juliet Jazayeri

Age: 27
Position: Owner
Restaurant: Juliet
Location: Boston, MA
Twitter: @kjazayeri

From her nomination: "Not only did Katrina design the logo for Juliet, but she also worked with their contractor from start to finish for a hands on approach to building the restaurant of her dreams. From creating a custom stain blend for the floors to personally forging metal hooks (she’s taken a blacksmith course) to curating the wall décor, Katrina has been involved in every process. She’s also lent her broad experience via unique upbringing and extensive travels to help develop Juliet’s concept and menu.

With a degree in social justice, Katrina has found a way to bring that to the forefront at Juliet through a service-included (no tipping) model and employee profit-sharing plan. By giving all employees a salary that pays more than minimum wage per hour and putting into place a profit-sharing plan, Katrina (and Josh) are hoping to foster real opportunity for them to build a career, contribute to the wellbeing of the restaurant, and blend the lines between front and back of the house."

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Retno Pratiwi

Retno Pratiwi

Age: 31
Position: Chef and owner
Restaurant: Kaki Lima
Location: Boston, MA
Twitter: @enopratiwi
Instagram:
@enopratiwi

From her nomination: "Talking to Retno you'd have no idea she has met with so much success. She exists outside the culinary mainstream. And she is humble in a way few successful chefs are. She simply cooks the amazing and complex food of Indonesia to her own extremely high standards. All her accolades and popularity come directly from the uniqueness and quality of the food she is making.

Retno is a refreshing new talent, a chef who focuses on flavors above all else. She cooks with her heart and her soul and it comes through at her events. Retno deserves to be recognized for her work. She has accomplished amazing things in the short time she has been a part of the industry."

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Robert Gonzalez

Robert Daniel Gonzalez

Age: 25
Position: Pastry Chef
Restaurant: Bistro du Midi
Location: Boston, MA
Instagram: @pastrychefrobert

From his nomination: "Robert Gonzalez has introduced a newly imagined pastry program that showcases a different philosophy studded with dynamic selections anchored by signature confections. He's driven to create desserts that are as unique and visually stunning as they are delicious, has a passion for mentoring students, and continues to share his knowledge with up-and-coming chefs in his role at Bistro du Midi."

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Laura Higgins

Age: 29
Position: Co-chef
Restaurant: The 41-70
Location: Cape Cod, MA
Twitter: @eatpeace
Instagram:
@laurahigginsbaltzley

From her nominations: "Quite possibly the hardest working, most determined, and focused chef I have ever worked with. She recently opened a new restaurant at nine months pregnant. Her food has a unique voice, and sense of time and place. Something that speaks of her dedication of being a pioneer of new Cape Cod cuisine."

"She forages her own ingredients. She spends hours outside finding local elements that have fallen out of the modern diet. She's able to find balance between old ingredients and modern techniques in ways that are simply astonishing. Farm to table really means less in her kitchen than literal backyard to table."

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Britney Ziegler

Photo: Melissa Hom

Britney Ziegler

Age: 27
Position: Owner, VP brands, marketing and development
Restaurant: David Burke Group
Location: New York, New York

From her nominations: "Britney has taken form as one of the most dynamic young players in our company. She continues to surprise and push our company through our daily evolution and project management. She brings creativity, vision, and direction to the growth and development of our company. No matter the day, she always brings a smile to the group keeping up our motivation to ensure we meet our goals."

"Ziegler’s success can be credited in part to an ability to ignore gender and let her work speak for itself, believing that talent wins above all. Ziegler is passionate about using her influence and leadership to help close the gender gap in the industry, crediting her alma mater, Pace University, with helping establish a connection to other budding female leaders. While at Pace, Ziegler helped found the Hospitality and Tourism Association (HATA), eventually becoming the group’s vice president. Since graduating, Ziegler has advocated for female leadership in the industry, returning to the school to offer inspiration to current students and empower talented females to believe in themselves and seek out leadership roles."

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Dan Pucci

Christian Harder for AndNorth

Daniel Pucci

Age: 28
Position: Cider director
Restaurant: Wassail
Location: New York, NY

Daniel on his source of inspiration: "The producers, farmers, cider makers, winemakers, and chefs. Talking to them daily about their work gives me pride and excitement to represent them everyday. There is no better way to learn than through conversations with makers. I hope to bring a fraction of their enthusiasm and excitement to my guests. Cider makers are easily amongst the most passionate people I know since no one goes into the apple business for the money."

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Daniela Soto Innes

Daniela Soto-Innes

Age: 25
Position: Chef de cuisine
Restaurant: Cosme
Location: New York, NY
Instagram: @danielasotoinnes

Daniela cites her mom as one of her biggest influences. Here's what she says: "When my mother had a cooking school for little kids, all I wanted to do was to be like her. I was 7. I wish one day to be as great as she is."

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Jamie Tao

Age: 28
Position: Sous chef
Restaurant: Wildair
Location: New York, NY
Instagram: @dryagedhumour

From his nomination: "Jamie helped create the menus at Contra for two years and joined the opening team at Wildair to help create the menu and run the kitchen. He helped Contra and Wildair reach the level they are whatever it might be."

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Sumaiya Bangee

Sumaiya Bangee

Age: 27
Position: Pastry sous chef
Restaurant: Atera
Location: New York, NY
Twitter: @s_bangee
Instagram:
@_sumaiya_bangee_

On a defining moment from her career: "Moving to New York and starting work at Eleven Madison Park, it made me realize if you work hard enough anything is attainable." She says she gets inspiration from the things she loves to eat that bring her to a nostalgic place. "I want people to feel that same way when they eat my food."

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Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine

Age: 40 (Vic), 38 (Heather)
Position: Co-owners and operators
Restaurant: Lucas Confectionery, Peck's Arcade, Twenty-Two 2nd Street Wine Co.
Location: Troy, NY
Twitter:€” @vicchristopher, @heatherlavineny
Instagram:€” @vicchristopher, @heatherlavinetroy

Reflecting on their first job in the industry: "We didn't come into the restaurant business with any experience. Our background was in Minor League baseball, where we hosted thousands of people a night. The focus on promotions, marketing, hospitality and the do-it-yourself work environment of Minor League baseball prepared us well for the restaurant business."

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Susan Querejazu

Susana Querejazu

Age: 28
Position: Executive pastry chef
Restaurant: Odd Duck and Barley Swine
Location: Austin, TX
Instagram: @squerejazu

From her nomination: "Susana exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated, thoughtful, and responsible professional. Her mind is always at work, never inactive, and always playing with new thoughts and ideas. She never lets fear, doubt, or failure stop her progression. She is consistently in motion, in and out of the kitchen. She is a true gem in the world, and at Odd Duck, we refer to her as 'the Queen.' And we mean it."

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Charles Zhuo

Charles Zhuo

Age: 28
Position: Executive sous chef
Restaurant: Barley Swine
Location: Austin, TX
Instagram: @zephyr_elemental

From his nomination: "Charles doesn't just love to cook, he loves the science behind it. The former neuroscience major is learning non-stop and is virtually a walking encyclopedia of food knowledge. There's nothing he won't experiment with — whether it's miso made from crickets or ice cream made with blood. There's nothing he won't try in the pursuit of art and flavor. Charles has developed personal relationships with farmers in the Austin community and uses their seasonal bounty to create unique items on Barley Swine's menu. His love of science mixed with his support of local farms presents challenges daily, and results in one-of-a-kind dishes."

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Madelyn Kay

Madelyn Kay

Age: 26
Position: Bartender
Restaurant: VOX Table
Location: Austin, TX
Instagram: @_madelynkay_

From her nominations: "She's an amazing team member who sacrifices a lot of her time for the bar, and she continues to self-educate herself on her craft. Madelyn began her career in the Austin cocktail scene in 2011 at the age of 21. She then decided to take her education abroad spending some time bartending in Melbourne, Australia, as well as traveling around Asia where she learned about new and interesting flavor profiles. Her travels allowed her to experience different cultural and global hospitality experiences.

In January of this year, Madelyn competed in the Speed Rack Texas Regionals and beat out 17 other women for the title of Miss Speed Rack Texas, bringing the title to Austin for the first time. She will go to NYC in May to represent Texas in the Speed Rack Finals."

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Alex Negranza

Photo: Sam Landrum

Alex Negranza

Age: 27
Position: Bartender
Restaurant: Anvil Bar and Refuge
Location: Houston, TX
Twitter:@alexnegranza
Instagram: @a_negroni

From his nomination: "Alex has already had a successful career in the coffee industry and has moved into cocktails — working at some of the best cocktail bars in the country. Coming from Seattle and a barista background, he approaches cocktails from a completely different place than anyone else. He's also extremely passionate about Anvil and the community. He’s an incredible amateur photographer, and he’s become the photographer for Anvil, which has helped showcase the cocktails [the bar is] so proud to make every day. His positive attitude is infectious and absolutely makes Anvil a better place."

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Victoria Dearmond

Victoria Dearmond

Age: 25
Position: Pastry chef
Restaurant: Underbelly
Location: Houston, TX
Twitter: @vicdearm

From Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd: "Even though Victoria's title is pastry chef, she's so much more than that. She does the ordering, she keeps the rest of the cooks in line, she makes sure that Underbelly is being executed according to my vision day in and day out — whether I'm in the restaurant or not. I hired her when she was 20, and I've seen her take responsibility for the success of the restaurant. It's her house as much as it is mine."

We've worked together so long that she picks up on little things I say and develops the idea fully. Victoria works longer hours than anyone on staff — she's the morning sous chef, and she often works all the way through dinner service. I usually have to tell her to go home."

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Bobby Pradachith

Jon Trevino/Vinophotography

Bobby Pradachith

Age: 23
Position: Co-chef and owner
Restaurant: Thip Khao
Location: Washington, DC
Instagram: @pradachith23

A time that defined Bobby's career: "There was a moment when I finished culinary school at the age of 21. I told my parents that I would like to spend at least five or six years working for the best chefs and come back to the family business. However, after just one year, there was a lot of media publicity happening at Thip Khao and I felt I needed to be with my mother and help with the family restaurant.

After a year at Minibar by Jose Andres, I made a sacrifice to forgo all of the years I originally told my parents to be full-time with the family business. This [gave] me the opportunity to learn the everything about restaurant operations, not just cooking. At my age, it is a great opportunity to learn as fast as possible and build upon those experiences."

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Matt Demma

Matt Demma

Age: 21
Position: Head of production and marketing
Restaurant: True Syrups & Garnishes
Location: Washington, DC
Instagram: @mattdemma

From his nomination: "He continues to be an essential part of the two-person team, helping drive marketing efforts, sales, and doing all of the True production; every bottle of True has passed through his hands. Matt drove the company's growth over the past 10 months, driving a complete rebranding (from True Tonics to True Syrups & Garnishes), designing all of the True merchandise, organizing special events, and R&D for multiple new products coming out this year.

Matt's not stopping there. He was recently hired by another new company, a boutique Italian market: part import store, part deli, and part culinary event space. His job: to put together a cocktail program."

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Patrick Curran Rey Lopez

Photo: William Hereford

Patrick Curran

Age: 28
Position:
Executive chef
Restaurant: Momofuku CCDC
Location: Washington, DC
Instagram: @pjcurran1

From 2015 Young Gun winner Alex Levin: "Patrick ran the opening of Momofuku here in DC, and spearheaded one of the best high-volume, high-quality restaurants to the city. He leads his kitchen, he inspires his sous and cooks, and he cooks at the highest level. He imprints his own spirit into the menu — something that helped earn the restaurant fabulous reviews from the critics of the city and the citizens.

He represents a new breed of chefs that are emerging in the world. He is free of negativity, he operates a tough kitchen with a smile on his face and warm heart full of kindness. He cooks for no other glory than knowing that his customers are loving what he does. I think that he is teaching the cooks of DC how important it is to bring that kind of personality to the job, while also teaching them an amazing array of skills for someone who is 28 and the leader of one of the biggest kitchens in the city."

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Spencer Gomez

Spencer Gomez

Age: 28
Position: Sous chef 
Restaurant: Gunshow
Location: Atlanta, GA
Instagram: @spencergomez

From executive chef Joey Ward: "As the restaurant has become increasingly more popular, and my attention has become needed for charity events and off-premise obligations, I can rest assured that Gunshow is in the hands of a natural leader. Spencer is quite often the first person in the building every day and the last one to leave.

His talents in the kitchen exceed his years of age and experience, demonstrating the skills and composure of someone twice his age. He has a passion for charcuterie and has taught me a lot myself. Gunshow would not exist in its current level of execution without Spencer."

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Matt Welch

Matt Welch

Age: 26
Position: Head bartender
Restaurant: Amer
Location: Atlanta, GA

From his nomination: "Matt Welch has a huge knowledge of cocktails history and recipes, but he doesn’t really reference that directly; instead he plays with spirits in unconventional ways. He recently said that the best drinks he seems to make have at least 7 ingredients. Which isn’t that he tries to over complicate things, so much as he likes the process of blending ingredients into drinks that you can’t put your finger on, like the Admiral Daiqbar or the Walking Ted from one of his many runs behind the stick at Eat Me Speak Me."

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Anh Luu

Anh Luu

Age: 29
Position: Executive chef
Restaurant: Tapalaya
Location: Portland, OR
Instagram: @anhroux

From her nomination: "She's innovative. By adding influences from her Vietnamese heritage to a New Orleans menu, it changed the game. And she's a hustler. I never know when she's not working, and on top of that she still has time to devote to her friends and family."

Anh on her biggest influences and source of inspiration: "My mother. I like to cook the things she cooked for family dinner when I was a little girl. I like recreating the taste of something she cooked with different ingredients. There is always a little bit of my family and upbringing in every dish I create. I like to flip through really old and random Cajun/Creole cook books and try to find similarities in Vietnamese dishes that I've eaten. I think about the Vietnamese food my mother cooked for our family growing up in New Orleans a lot. The tastebud memories I have from my childhood are otherworldly. It's like I can still taste some of it in my mouth right now!"

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Connor Martin

Age: 27
Position: Chef and co-founder
Restaurant: Mian
Location: Portland, OR
Instagram: @mianpdx

From his nomination: "He's the cofounder of the Mian pop-up in which his dishes are inspired by regional cuisines. The pop-ups each have a different theme/regional focus — everything from Muslim Chinese cuisine to Sichuan. Connor used to be sous chef at Boke Bowl and helped start their dim sum program; he's incredibly talented and innovative with how he incorporates flavors into his food. He's ambitious — currently working as a cook and bartender at Shift Drinks while also looking to take Mian to the next level with David Sigal, his partner at Mian."

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Maya Lovelace

Age: 28
Position: Chef and owner
Restaurant: Mae
Location: Portland, OR
Twitter: @mayalovelace
Instagram:
@mayalovelace

From her nominations: "She is passionate about food. Not only does she master her own style, she is constantly seeking to broaden her horizons with new skills, techniques, and flavor profiles. The passion behind Mae is the future of restaurants. Not only should every dish tell a story, but the entire experience should leave the diner with questions and insight."

"She is an excellent chef with impeccable training. She is filling a niche that Portland apparently wants and needs — Southern Appalachian cuisine. Her connections to the farmers and purveyors of the Portland area assure that her meals are prepared from the freshest in-season ingredients available, and she knows how to bring those ingredients together in a way that honors her heritage AND her cooking experiences in great restaurants, like Husk (Charleston, SC) and Beast (Portland)."

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Fred Noinaj

Age: 26
Position:
Executive chef
Restaurant: Americano 2211
Location: Chicago, IL
Twitter: @Fnoinaj
Instagram:
@Fnoinaj

Fred on the chef with the biggest influence on his career: "Koren Grieveson [chef de cuisine at Avec in Chicago at the time]. When I first started as a line cook at Avec, I was so intimidated by everyone who was cooking there. This tiny little line easily cramming in 275 covers a service with only room for three cooks, and only 50 seats. I was terrified of messing up every second. I remember working the wood-burning oven and getting slammed nightly with 100 orders of chorizo-stuffed dates, a 25-minute pork shoulder dish, half chicken, squid, and a salad coming off my three foot-wide station. Every time I put something on the pass, Koren would have her spoon ready. She would taste and adjust, EVERY TIME. 'More acid.' That was the key. She taught me efficiency, how to season, and how simple food can truly be."

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Sarah Rinkavage

Age: 28
Position: Chef de cuisine
Restaurant: Lula Cafe
Location:Chicago, IL
Twitter:@sarahrinkavage
Instagram: @sarinkavage

From Eater's Sarah Freeman: "The bulk of Sarah Rinkavage’s culinary career has been spent working at Chicago’s farm-to-table pioneer, Lula Cafe. Starting as a line cook and moving her way up to sous chef and finally chef de cuisine, she dedicated herself to the study and preparation of local and seasonal ingredients, including adding new dishes for the restaurant’s farm dinners every Monday night for the past three years. Under the guidance of chef and owner Jason Hammel, she specializes in 'substance over bravado,' according to Hammel and 'has a light touch with sophistication and style.'"

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Julia Momose

Julia Momose

Age: 27
Position: Head bartender
Bar: Greenriver
Location: Chicago, IL

From her nomination: "She has lead the cocktail program at two of Chicago's most respected cocktail bars: The Office (previously) and GreenRiver (current). She brings unexpected flavors together to make amazingly balanced drinks, such as mirin, mushroom, beet, chipotle, and spices like garam masala and Old Bay. She helps guests navigate these unusual flavor combinations with ease and helps everyone find something they love. She is one of the best mixologists in Chicago and brings a careful attention to detail and warmth to everything she does."

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Zoe Taylor

Photo: Esther Boston

Zoë Taylor

Age: 28
Position: Pastry chef
Restaurant: Milktooth
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Instagram: @zoeetaylor

From Eater's Sarah Freeman: "It’s difficult to walk into brunch-only Milktooth without being stopped dead in your tracks by Zoë Taylor’s pastry display. Gluten-free honey whey cake covered in frosting and flowers, pecan sticky buns, and sourdough chocolate croissants are just a few of her temptations that stand between guests and their morning coffee. Creativity and classic technique play well together in her pastries, such as lox and cream cheese Danishes.

'She influences Milktooth’s menu beyond pastry,' says chef and owner Jonathan Brooks. 'And we would not have had the success we've had without her.'"

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Ashley Shelton

Age: 27
Position: Executive chef
Restaurant: Pastaria
Location: St. Louis, MO
Twitter: @ChefShelton14
Instagram:
@chefshelton14

Ashley on her current favorite restaurant trends: "I'm from St. Louis so the boom in locally made beer and spirits is very exciting. Fast-casual concepts with commitments to serving natural, sustainable food. For the future I think the way we source our food is going to come into an even bigger focus than it is now."

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Dorothy Elizabeth

Age: 28
Position: Principal bartender
Restaurant: Standby
Location: Detroit, MI
Instagram: @sazeracs_n_scribbles

From her nomination: "I worked with Dorothy when she first came to Detroit to open Republic. How she thought about drinks was different than anyone I had ever seen. She used varying types of infused ice, hand carbonation, and thought about drinks like a chef. She has been in Detroit for almost no time at all and she's notorious for being one of the best. A year ago, no one knew her. Now she's carved out a neat little spot for herself among the top mixologists. I worked with her so I saw her talent and it's astounding.

Try any of her drinks. They're so trippy and well thought out. They all have a story — a beginning, middle, and an end. Plus there's always something she's tinkering with. I love seeing her because she's always excited about this new weird thing she's mastering."

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Hassan Musselmani

Hassan Musselmani

Age: 26
Position: Chef and owner
Restaurant: The Drunken Rooster
Location: Detroit
Twitter: @HMusselmani

Hassan on a turning point in his career: "The moment I realized I didn't want to make the fanciest food. Just the most delicious." He has been heavily influenced by "the chefs he's surrounded himself with that have guided him along the way," as well as his background. "I bring a very unique style to the table," he said. "My mom's family is from Brightmoor, Detroit, and my father's family is from Lebanon."

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Patrick Edward Clark II

Age: 25
Position: Chef and co-owner
Restaurant: The Red Cup
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
Twitter: @Chef_Beave
Instagram:
@chefbeave

From his nomination: "It's been a pleasure watching Patrick work his ass off, progressing from the dish pit to young cook and blossoming into a full-on chef in the challenging environment of this strictly vegetarian restaurant. Since taking over the kitchen at Red Cup, he has transformed a struggling coffee shop with a decent but limited menu into a full-blown restaurant, unapologetically showcasing fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

In addition to expansions to the main menu, this young chef flexes his culinary muscle, creating amazing daily specials and has recently instituted a monthly chef's dinner, bringing the fine dining experience to a humble coffee shop/vegetarian cafe in Oklahoma."

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Zachary Gutweiler

Photo: Karla Conrad

Zachary Gutweiler

Age: 26
Position: Chef and owner
Restaurant: Reed's Hollow
Location: Des Moines, IA
Instagram: @peculiarkids

How Zachary gets inspired: "My inspiration come from different dramatic events in my life, pop culture, and experiences that I have had and people that have influenced me. The time and place — where I'm at and what I'm doing." On his favorite food cities, he says, "I was born in Louisiana so I'm somewhat required to say New Orleans, but I spent a lot of my youth in Austin and watching it become a food town has been more than inspiring."

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Philip Powers

Age: 29
Position: Assistant pitmaster
Restaurant: Lewis Barbecue
Location: Charleston, SC
Instagram: @philip_powers

From his nomination: "Philip is classically trained, and left fine dining restaurants in New York City to do barbecue. He is passionate about the craft. He is so talented at honoring the traditional methods of Texas barbecue while bringing the depth of knowledge he has learned in school and fine dining. He enjoys his work and his team so much. Lewis Barbecue is better because of him and he is so proud to be a part of it coming to Charleston."

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Shuai Wang

Age: 28
Position: Chef and co-owner
Restaurant: Short Grain Food Truck
Location: Charleston, SC
Twitter: @shortgraintruck
Instagram:
@shortgrain

From his nominations: "In one year's time, Shuai has turned a city best known for its shrimp and grits into an izakaya-loving, pop-up obsessed, ramen-fueled, O.G. rice bowl craving nation of Short Grain devotees. Short Grain reaches across the aisle and regularly teams up with famed Charleston chefs, farmers, and restaurants to make must-be-there, threw-his-whole-heart-into events that ARE FUN."

"His food is seriously delicious. Creative and thoughtful and fun to eat. It's remarkably fresh and balanced."

"Impeccable spirit in the kitchen, positive attitude, and desire to make others happy. Constantly innovating within his niche, with creative and playful food. Deeply involved within his local restaurant/food community."

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Kate Kavanaugh

Kate Kavanaugh

Age: 27
Position: Owner, Butcher, Creative Director
Restaurant: Western Daughters
Location: Denver, CO

From Kate: "As I write this I cannot believe that three years of business ownership has gone by. I got into the business of butchery because I was passionate about being a steward of the land and interested in the idea that food can be a byproduct of conservation efforts. I wanted to restore the native grasses of my home state and bring people great meat simultaneously.

After three years, I see how those things are actually possible but I also found my passion for owning and operating a business. I found a love for the ins and outs of operations and the desire to expand and grow that business both horizontally and vertically and in the most organic way possible. This is just where I am starting, there is so much more to come. "

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Julien Asseo

Age: 29
Position: Executive Chef
Restaurant: Restaurant Guy Savoy
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Twitter: @JulienAsseo
Instagram: @jujasseo70

From Julien: "The first time I met Guy Savoy in person I knew I wanted to follow his way of running a restaurant," Asseo said. In an effort to keep developing his skills, Asseo says, he reads plenty of cookbooks and cooks with his chef friends so he can learn new crafts like bread making and fermentation."

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Malik Ali

Malik Ali

Age: 25
Position: Sous/Pastry Chef
Restaurant: Restaurant Neuf
Location: Philadelphia, PA

From his nominations: "The way he performs in the kitchen is outstanding. He's very quick and consistent when it comes to cooking, even on busy nights. He does all the braises in-house including braised goat legs, lamb shoulders, beef burgundy, chicken quarter legs, rabbit legs."

"He's a man of great integrity. Malik has overcome many obstacles in his life and has worked his way up at Neuf Restaurant. He's an extremely hard worker — he worked six days a week and even went to school while aiming for his dream."

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Max Petty

Maximillian Petty

Age: 27
Position: Chef/Owner
Restaurant: Eden Hill
Location: Seattle, WA
Twitter: @ChefMaximillian
Instagram: @maximillianpetty

From his nomination: "Maximillian’s ingenuity, imagination, and limitlessness have created a signature style. He combines his love of art, fascination with technology, and relentless desire to learn. His interpretation and experimentation with the unusual and uniqueness of molecular gastronomy bring together skilled technique and locally farmed Pacific Northwest ingredients. The daily menu he creates features beautiful and unique plating presentations, but in such a way that the diner feels the approachable refinement of his food. He focuses Eden Hill on "the bounty around us, the art that inspires us, and the science that intrigues us."

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Kaelin Ulrich Trilling

Kaelin Ulrich Trilling

Age: 23
Position: Head Chef
Restaurant: Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge
Location: Nashville, TN
Twitter: @kaelinu
Instagram: @kaelinulrich

From Eater's Matt Rogers: "Needless to say, being named the head chef of not one but two of chef and restaurateur Jonathan Waxman's restaurants by the age of 23 is quite an accomplishment. Oaxacan born and bred, the skills Kaelin began honing at an early age at his mother's cooking school in Mexico have taken him to some of the top Mexican restaurants in the country, including Caracol and the highly influential Hugo's in Houston, Texas. Now he's brought those chops to Nashville, opening Bajo Sexto last year and now the amped up Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge. Kaelin shows a true dedication to his craft, and it will be exciting to see how his cooking continues to mature and evolve."

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Editors: Dana Hatic and Sonia Chopra
Art direction: Erika Espinoza
Special thanks to Kelsey Scherer, Katie Abbondanza, Daniela Galarza, Jasmin James, Madeline Muzzi, Mary Hough, Matt Buchanan, Katie O'Dowd, Tammie Teclemariam, and Helen Rosner.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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