Since Eater started giving out the awards in 2012, the goal of Young Guns has been to showcase the people who make the food and restaurant world worth obsessing over, whether through their work in the kitchen, the front-of-house, the office, or outside of traditional restaurant frameworks.
And in 2019 — as rents in America’s major cities rise, pricing operators out of the market; as culinary school students graduate with huge amounts of debt; and as the industry comes to understand, however slowly, that the paths for advancement open to some are not open to all — it’s even more urgent to meet up-and-comers where they are, whether that’s a hotel kitchen, a tiny cafe, or a chocolate factory.
This year’s class of winners was chosen from over 500 nominees. The rules: Candidates must be under 30 or have fewer than five years of experience in the restaurant world. From there, we consulted with our network of city editors as well as past Young Guns to narrow down our list. Today, with our sponsor, Grey Goose, we introduce our 12 new Young Guns, who join the ranks of industry stars shaping the future of dining in America.
A few trends from among the winners: Despite ongoing industry concerns about the economic viability of hiring pastry chefs, the exceptional work of our Young Guns who focus on the sweet side of the kitchen shows that plated desserts can be a vital part of dining out. Many of this year’s winners consider environmental impact a crucial aspect of their visions, moving beyond cliche “farm-to-table” maxims and digging deeper into how to get responsibly made products into customers’ hands. There’s no denying that many in the restaurant industry still get their start in New York, but there’s plenty of innovation nationwide, whether that’s in other major markets, like Los Angeles and Chicago, or smaller cities, like Asheville.
But the Young Guns program is not just about who’s doing the coolest thing at the youngest age or with the least experience.
This year, winners were also asked to sign onto a mission statement affirming their commitment to ridding the food and restaurant industry of the discrimination and abuse that has proven endemic. By naming them Young Guns, Eater is tasking this group with modeling a better, more equitable future. The statement lives at the bottom of this page, and certainly doesn’t have to apply only to Young Guns.
Most exciting of all is the way each and every one of these Young Guns brings themself to their work. Simply put, there is nobody else besides these 12 winners who could do what they do the way they do it. And that is definitely worth celebrating.
—Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor
The Eater Young Guns Class of ’19
The Young Guns
As Eater Young Guns, we are committing to making the food and restaurant world respectful and inclusive. We denounce the discrimination that results in inequity in this industry, including but not limited to sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and harassment. We pledge that we will not perpetuate an abusive culture through our words or behavior, and urge all members of our industry to do the same.
Hillary Dixler Canavan
Photo of Max Boonthanakit: Wonho Frank Lee
Photo of Francesca Chaney: Louise Palmberg
Photo of Jason Chow: Nick Fochtman
Photo of Jacob Harth: Dina Avila
Photo of Annie Kamin: Kassie Borreson
Photo of Zoë Kanan: Matt Taylor-Gross
Photo of Claudia Martinez: Ryan Fleisher
Photo of Levi Raines: Denny Culbert
Photo of Ashleigh Shanti: Tim Robison
Photo of Lucas Sin: Matt Taylor-Gross
Photo of Kae Whalen: Wonho Frank Lee
Photo of Libby Willis: Louise Palmberg
Social Media Editors
Milly McGuinness, Esra Erol
Special Thanks to
Britt Aboutaleb, Matt Buchanan, Sonia Chopra,
Erin DeJesus, Amanda Kludt, Ellie Krupnick, and James Park