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Rock Stars Redefining the Industry

  • New York City 2013

    June 18, 2013

    You'd think it would get harder after three years to find culinary stars to honor as part of our annual 30 Under 30 program. Nope. When we started making our 2013 list of young up-and-comers in the food and restaurant world, we found more creative and successful individuals to consider than ever. Our most recent group of honorees showcases a variety of food world talent, from front-of-house managers to business owners to our first-ever caterer.

    Click through the slide show to see the innovators who impressed this year, despite the fact that they haven't finished their third decade. For a look back, you can see who made last year's list here and go through the digital time-machine to see our first-ever list from 2011 here.

    Story by James Mulcahy; Photos by Gabi Porter

  • Kathryn Ashby

    New York City 2013

    Kathryn Ashby, 27

    Dining Room Manager, Buddakan

    Running the show at Buddakan, one of the city’s highest-volume venues (1,000 people pass in and out on a busy night), is a gig like few others. Like many other Stephen Starr vets, Kathryn Ashby worked her way up through the organization (she calls herself “a poster child” for Starr), starting off in Philly as a hostess at Jones, and then coming to New York where she worked as a maitre d’ at Buddakan before eventually being promoted to floor manager. While others might crack in the pressure-filled environment, Ashby craves the excitement: “It’s a certain kind of person who can do 1,100 covers in six hours,” she says. “I always thrive in chaos. I feel like once you work there and you can last six months and you like it, it’s hard to go back.”

    Side Dish: Ashby majored in acting at the University of the Arts for acting and had self-described “big dreams of Broadway” until she realized that auditioning and making no money wasn’t the best fit for her. “People say, ‘So you’re not acting anymore,” she says, “and I tell them, ‘No I’m definitely acting.’ That’s all you do in a restaurant is put on a show.”

  • Jeff Bell

    New York City 2013

    Jeff Bell, 28

    Head Bartender, PDT

    This Hollywood-handsome bartender is as much of a fixture at PDT as the famous phone booth entrance. He moved to New York City from Seattle, where he tended bar while earning a degree in Philosophy at the University of Washington. His time in the service industry stuck, and when he came to the Big Apple, he worked in Danny Meyer’s empire before becoming Jim Meehan’s right-hand man. Now he’s an essential ingredient in one of the country’s top cocktail destinations, which won the first-ever James Beard award for Outstanding Bar Program.

    Side Dish: You can catch Bell sharing his insight in the documentary Hey, Bartender, which traces the rise of craft cocktails in America (and also stars 30 Under 30 alum Steve Schneider).

  • Sam Calderbank

    New York City 2013

    Sam Calderbank, 28

    Maître d', Per Se

    British native Sam Calderbank’s hospitality career started at a local Liverpool restaurant when he was just 16. After a stint in London working as a manager with chefs Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton, he found his “home away from home” while working as a kitchen server for Thomas Keller at Per Se. He steadily climbed the ranks, becoming a captain, serving as a part-time sommelier and, most recently, being promoted to maître d’. Calderbank says this role is his most challenging yet: “Once you step into restaurant management, you’re no longer the best actor; you’re the best supporting actor. It’s nerve-racking because you have to do justice for your team and give the talent a stage on which to perform.”

    Side Dish: When he’s not in the restaurant, Calderbank is something of an athlete. He is a long-distance runner and participated in the 2011 New York triathlon. His advice? “Nothing can prepare you for jumping in the Hudson. No matter what they tell you, don’t do it.”

  • Daniel Delaney

    New York City 2013

    Daniel Delaney, 27

    Proprietor, Delaney Barbecue

    It started with a dream: to bring authentic, Texas-style barbecue to the Big Apple. This food-world innovator didn’t take the traditional path to bring his vision to NYC. He traveled to Austin, got himself a smoker and launched his first concept, BrisketLab, a barbecue series that lets people buy beef by the pound. By the time he was selling out 2,500 pounds in 48 hours, it was clearly time to go brick and mortar. Delaney opened BrisketTown in Williamsburg, and now he's set up in shop in Manhattan with SmokeLine, a pop-up stand on the High Line that impresses with sandwiches like The Mess, a juicy pile of grilled Vermont cheese, brisket, pork, pickled onions and chile sauce served on a buttered roll. With all the expansion, he says, "the real challenge comes in operations and keeping our heads down and working to improve what we put out every day.”

    Side Dish: After raising over $75,000 with BrisketLab, Delaney pre-sold meat to fund the opening of BrisketTown. He calls this a “completely non-traditional way of making this business dream come true.” He gets asked a lot about how others can adopt this model, but thinks the success was in the smokers. “I don’t think if we did RibLab, that it would have worked. There’s something very special about brisket that made it work for us.”

  • Brandon Duff

    New York City 2013

    Brandon Duff, 24

    Head Bartender, Atera

    The food at this TriBeCa fine-dining restaurant is crafted using innovative equipment and molecular techniques, and head bartender Duff’s cocktails are no different. Duff works in close collaboration with chef Matthew Lightner, starting with an idea, ingredient or spirit and then tweaking the drink many times before nailing the final version. Duff, who used to work at nearby WeatherUp, tricks out his beverages by adding unexpected flourishes. For example, he clarifies ingredients to create colorless cocktails like a crystal-clear saffron gin and tonic. But as cool as these elements are, Duff says the taste is still what matters: “As long as it enhances the flavor, that’s the goal.”

    Side Dish: This bartender has a hidden talent in the visual arts. “I’m a painter. that’s why I moved to New York in the first place,” he says, adding that he still works on his figurative oil paintings every morning.

  • Aurelien Dufour

    New York City 2013

    Aurelien Dufour, 27

    Chef Charcutier, Daniel Boulud restaurants

    While working in Paris under distinguished charcutier Berranger Gérard, this young Bordeaux native got a call from Parisian charcutier Gilles Verot asking him to bring his talents to Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in NYC and run the day-to-day operations of Boulud and Verot’s collaborative charcuterie program. Dufor thanks his father for planting the seeds of his success: “During my childhood I spent 15 years in Hamburg, Germany. Every day for lunch and dinner there was charcuterie on the table. My father was a very good cook, and he was the first one that taught me these techniques, even before I went to cooks school.”

    Side Dish: In his role as the restaurant group’s charcutier, Dufour processes 4,000 to 7,000 pounds of protein each week. His advice to someone who wants to specialize in this field? Success starts with the sourcing: “You must care about the meat, where it comes from, and how it was raised. We buy from local farmers that we have relationships with and know everything about the animal. This ensures the best possible product.”

  • Bridget C. Firtle

    New York City 2013

    Bridget C. Firtle, 28

    Founder & Distiller, The Noble Experiment

    Firtle previously worked as an alcoholic beverage analyst at an NY-based hedge fund, a role that enabled her to visit A-list distilleries around the globe. These travels eventually inspired her to launch her own small-batch liquor operation in 2012. She quickly started bottling Owney’s NYC Rum, which was inspired by the fact that white rum was one of the first spirits distilled in the United States. Though she says her current gig is “full-out manual labor, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,“ she says she wouldn’t have it any other way: “There’s nothing like building a business from the ground up. I’m in control of my own destiny." She’s working on other spirits - rumor has it that her American whiskey may start flowing soon.

    Side Dish: When Firtle says she does everything for her burgeoning business, she means everything. In fact, you can meet her in person on Saturday afternoons, when she personally gives tours to the public.

  • Liz Gutman

    New York City 2013

    Liz Gutman, 29

    Co-Founder, Liddabit Sweets

    Confection-making wasn’t the goal when Liz Gutman moved to the Big Apple from Costa Mesa, California. She came to town to go to NYU, and it took a couple of years in an office job before she quit to work with pastry chef Will Goldfarb. She entered culinary school at the ICC, where she met her business partner Jen King. After that, things got really sweet with the launch of Liddabit, which started off as a stand at the Brooklyn Flea. The handmade candy bars, caramels and lollipops were a hit, and Gutman now sells her goods to over 50 stores - and an expansion is in the works, so stay tuned for a Liddabit shop or two around town.

    Side Dish: Chocolate maker isn’t the only thing on Gutman’s resume - she’s also a writer. She penned posts for Serious Eats for two years, and her Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook (penned with King) was published late last year.

  • Dylan Hales

    New York City 2013

    Dylan Hales, 29

    Partner, The Randolph Group

    Industry types know that downscale-is-upscale haunt The Randolph is the place to go to for a serious cocktail, and recently launched spin-off Randolph Beer is a mecca for unique craft brews. Partner and general manager Hayles, a Sydney native, earned his stripes by working everywhere from Ruby’s on Mulberry Street to Park Avenue hot spot Riff Raff’s and Baddies Lounge, the short-lived but super-hot club that operated in Kingswood’s basement. In his role at the Randolph, he helps keep up a cool vibe that is welcoming to all comers, and the upcoming opening of Randolph Brooklyn should provide a new opportunity to flex his hospitality skills.

    Side Dish: International boundaries are nothing to this budding restaurateur. He recently was in Mexico City where he’s a partner in a nightclub called Janis (with a VIP area dubbed Joplin). He sees the venue as bridging a gap between The Big Apple and Mexico City, highlighting that town’s international scene. “It’s the only nightclub in town where the bouncers run the door in English,” he said, promising to fly in NYC-based DJs on some weekends.

  • Charles Imbelli

    New York City 2013

    Charles Imbelli, 29

    Project Chef, Marcus Samuelsson Group

    Marcus Samuelsson’s hospitality group is on a hot streak with the success of Red Rooster and Ginny’s and the launch of American Table in Avery Fischer Hall near Lincoln Center. If you see more of the famed chef’s magic around town, you can thank Imbelli, who works with Samuelsson to develop new business concepts for the group - he describes his role as a “cross between an actual chef and a project manager.”  He has some experience running non-traditional food operations, having executed the pop-up Calva at Donna in Brooklyn (which you may see popping up again down the road) and opening concessions like Blue Smoke, Box Frites and El Verano Taqueria at Citifield during his previous tenure at Union Square Hospitality Group. His latest project for Samuelsson involved the opening of Uptown Brasserie, a sit-down restaurant in the Delta Terminal at JFK. “I was involved in all culinary aspects of the project,” he says, “from testing recipes to building employee manuals.”

    Side Dish: The Bronx native started his career when he was 14, making mozzarella in a small Italian deli on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. He had aspirations to embark on a whole different career as a writer, although he says his creative juices are currently satisfied by his work in the culinary realm.

  • Will Malnati and Doug Jacob

    New York City 2013

    Will Malnati and Doug Jacob, 28 and 29

    Partners, Willow Road

    Before this young duo opened Chelsea’s Willow Road in December 2012, they had plenty of experience catering to well-heeled neighborhood crowds. Jacob, who’s also the CEO of innovative marketing agency JWALK, was an investor at hot spot Tenjune, where Malnati had climbed the ranks to be promoted to manager at the young age of 22. Malnati also worked as the General Manager at EMM Group (Abe & Arthurs, Catch). Now that their first joint production is a proven success, they’re already knee-deep in their second project - bringing an outpost of Ken Oringer’s Boston tapas bar, Toro, to NYC in the next few months.

    Side Dish: If you think you recognize Will’s last name, you probably do. His grandfather was Lou Malnati, who founded the famous Chicago pizza chain in 1971, and his father runs it today.

  • Kyle Knall

    New York City 2013

    Kyle Knall, 27

    Executive Chef/Partner, Maysville

    To get his start in the NYC culinary world, Alabama native Kyle Knall did what many out-of-towners dream of doing: he simply showed up. But he didn’t arrive empty-handed; instead Knall came armed with a culinary school degree and experience in some notable Birmingham kitchens. One of his first stops was Gramercy Tavern where he worked under chef Michael Anthony, before landing at Maysville in the Flatiron as head chef. Though he says the pace of New York is “obviously much busier,” he certainly seems up to the challenge, as the restaurant is one of the buzziest hot spots of the year so far.

    Side Dish: Knall started working in restaurants in his teen years. "Since I was 15 or 16, all of my free time out of high school was spent in the kitchen. Cooking has always been number one."

  • Oliver Kremer

    New York City 2013

    Oliver Kremer, 27

    Co-Founder, Dos Toros Taqueria

    The co-founder of Dos Toros Taqueria has a simple life’s calling: “bringing burritos to the people.” His journey began during his childhood in Berkeley, CA, when near daily visits to Gordo Taqueria sparked an obsession. A degree in finance from Washington University in St. Louis was no match for his burrito love, and after visiting NYC and realizing the Mission-style offerings of his youth were hard to find, he and brother/business partner Leo devised a plan. And so Dos Toros was born in 2009 in Union Square. It has since spread to three other city locations, and word is DC might be next.

    Side Dish: Fans of the brand know they’ve done a series of viral videos including Guac It Out, which Oliver helped curate: “We don’t do that many exciting things outside of the day-to-day operations, so we figured we’d just make a rap song." If you want to see Oliver’s hidden talent, lay down a beat: “I’m mean on the freestyle. If someone drops a beat, I will drop a flow, and I generally rock it pretty hard.”

  • Malcolm Livingston II

    New York City 2013

    Malcolm Livingston II, 26

    Pastry Chef, WD-50

    Livingston’s career stated inside the kitchen of Le Cirque, but it was during his tenure at Per Se, where he started working in 2007, that he met his mentors pastry chefs Richard Capizzi and Sebastien Rouxel. He entered the world of Wylie Dufresne when he met chef Alex Stupak at an event and staged at WD-50 for a week. He eventually took over as pastry chef once Stupak moved on to open Empellon. He describes his style as “controlled anarchy” and hopes his artful desserts will prove to be “just enough to push you over the edge without crushing you.”

    Side Dish: Livingston is used to being the kid on campus - when he started Le Cirque, he was the youngest member of that restaurant’s kitchen team. He also says many of his dishes start off with an idea based around color, and regular trips to the city’s museums provide inspiration for his work.

  • Tyler Lyne

    New York City 2013

    Tyler Lyne, 28

    Executive Chef, Cloud Catering and Events

    A Texas native, Tyler Lyne went to the Culinary Institute of America straight out of high school, and then cooked in restaurants like Bouley, Momofuku Ko and La Esquina, where he met mentor Akhtar Nawab. Today he’s the executive chef at Cloud Catering and Events, a high-end company that produces restaurant-quality cuisine for clients like NASDAQ. Lyne’s father was a microbologist, so he spent his youth exploring the lab at Texas A&M, an experience that informs his molecular style today. (But his life wasn’t all test tubes; he also peeled vegetables in a restaurant kitchen when he was 16). And though his ultimate goal is to build his own business, he’s still focused on food.  “You cook and refine and refine and you peak out, and then you come back to the food you love in beginning.”

    Side Dish: Lyne was featured on Iron Chef America in Battle Pasta, where he assisted Shea Gallante (of Ciano). In his spare time, he hosts classes in molecular gastronomy out of his apartment, with equipment that he’s procured throughout his career.

  • Jack McGarry

    New York City 2013

    Jack McGarry, 24

    Co-Owner and Head Bartender, The Dead Rabbit

    Coming up with all 72 cocktails featured on the menu of recently re-opened Financial District bar The Dead Rabbit required over a year of research - and a liver of steel. McGarry, the co-owner/head bartender who previously worked at London’s Milk & Honey, tested thousands of recipes pulled from cocktail books dating back to the mid-1800s. He experimented and tweaked the old-time libations to make them suitable for modern-day audiences. Spirit enthusiasts have arrived in droves, drawn by his one-of-a-kind menu, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in New York.

    Side Dish: Irish-born McGarry started his bar career at the young age of 15 when he worked as a barback in Belfast, Ireland, at a joint called The Hunting Lodge. His long-term mentor, Sean Muldoon, who encouraged him to take the job at Milk and Honey, co-owns The Dead Rabbit with him.

  • Thomas Pastuszak

    New York City 2013

    Thomas Pastuszak, 28

    Wine Director, NoMad

    Pastuszak became familiar with the hospitality industry while working at his godfather’s Shelter Island bed-and-breakfast Peconic Lodge in his early teens. In 2011, he took on the role of wine director at Colicchio and Sons and from there it was on to the NoMad, where his duties as wine director range from managing his team of sommeliers to discovering new labels for the 1,000-bottle-strong list and taking care of the financial aspect of the wine program. In addition to his work at the restaurant and the hotel’s Library Bar, Pastuszak oversees the offerings throughout the 170-room hotel.

    Side Dish: This native New Yorker may be the only sommelier in New York City that has studied neurobiology and classic piano (he’s performed and competed around the world). In fact, he originally intended to go into medicine

  • Kathryn Peetz

    New York City 2013

    Kathryn Peetz, 28

    Pastry Chef

    This young pastry chef had a dream job: she had been working at Robertas and then became the pastry chef at Blanca when it first opened. But when new opportunities came along, Peetz went for it, saying she felt she had “some more growing to do in the culinary world.” That’s why you’ll soon find her cooking at Monkeytown 3, a pop-up restaurant space/art installation, where she’ll be partnering with fellow Roberta’s (and Zagat 30 Under 30) alum Max Sussman this summer. From there it’s on to Yuji ramen (opening later this summer), where she’ll be doing savory and pastry. “Yuji and I want his omakase desserts to be Japanese, seasonal and a little bit of my own style - savory, imperfect - but clean-looking, with a focus on ingredients.”

    Side Dish: Peetz is from Nebraska - she went to Creighton University in Omaha where she majored in business and played Division I soccer, but as soon as she graduated, she enrolled in the classic culinary arts program at the French Culinary Institute.

  • Alex Pemoulie

    New York City 2013

    Alex Pemoulie, 28

    Corporate Controller, Momofuku/Thirty Acres

    As corporate controller for David Chang’s growing empire, Pemoulie manages all of the company’s financial responsibility. Her job goes well beyond simple number-crunching - as she puts it, she's “translating real-life restaurant operations (a particularly busy night, the success or failure of a new dish, etc.) into a financial language." That position alone would be enough to land her on this list, but she also recently opened restaurant Thirty Acres in Jersey City with her chef husband Kevin. And after a two-star review from Pete Wells, who knows, maybe she’ll have a Chang-style empire of her own one day.

    Side Dish: Pemoulie didn’t choose to open Thirty Acres in New Jersey because of the lower rents. “We visited Jersey City and fell in love with it. From that first visit, we just never considered anywhere else. We moved to Jersey City from Brooklyn three years ago and have never stopped loving it.” One day, she says she would love to open a second restaurant in the Garden State.

  • Vinson Petrillo

    New York City 2013

    Vinson Petrillo, 28

    Chef de Cuisine, Prospect

    The chef de cuisine at Brooklyn’s Prospect got an early start, working as a line cook at a Hilton in New Jersey. Though Petrillo credits this early experience with giving him the work ethic that one needs to survive in the industry, it was his time at Toppers in Nantucket, MA, that really left a lasting mark. He says, “I  worked 17 hours a day, for two months straight for June and July. They were trying to break me, but I didn’t break, and they promoted me to sous-chef. The experience made me grow up really quick.” His goal now at Prospect? Creating cleanly presented plates that are deceptively simple. For example, his beef tongue dish may seem simple, but in actuality, it’s cured for two days and then sous-vide for 24 hours.

    Side Dish: Vinson has appeared on Chopped three times and won twice (the first win came after never having seen the show). One day he hopes to have his own place: “I’ve been thinking of opening up a very small restaurant, maybe five or six tables, and being able to work on my own schedule, and do tastings there.”

  • Alex Pettersson

    New York City 2013

    Alex Pettersson, 29

    Director of Operations, Colonie & Gran Electrica

    Before joining the hospitality industry, Pettersson was a professional swimmer, racking up nine gold medals in Sweden’s nationals and competing against big names like Phelps and Lochte on the world circuit. He began his restaurant career by working as a back waiter, before eventually moving to New York City, where he helped open Governor with Brad McDonald. He was working when Hurricane Sandy hit, and he saw the catastrophic flooding firsthand. “At the beginning, you thought it’s gonna be a little bit of water damage, and you try to move chairs, the little things. Then, all of the sudden you see that it’s almost dangerous to be in the space.” Although the team decided not to reopen, he decided to stay with them at their other two eateries.

    Side Dish: As for what's next, Pettersson is getting married, and then he wants to "keep learning." He’s also interested in opening a Scandinavian restaurant in New York.

  • Jason Pfeifer

    New York City 2013

    Jason Pfeifer, 28

    Chef de Cuisine, Maialino

    When he was just 18, Pfeifer completed a five-month hike of the Appalachian trail where he created gourmet meals with foraged ingredients. He followed that up with a stint maintaining two organic farms at an inn in his native North Carolina. From there it was on to the Culinary Institute of America and then the kitchens of Gramercy Tavern and Per Se. He eventually headed back to Danny Meyer’s Union Square hospitality group, working as a sous-chef at Maialino, where he was recently promoted to  chef de cuisine. He still manages to make trips into the woods these days, but less frequently than he used to. After all, “It’s more challenging when you live in New York,” he says.

    Side Dish: In the fall of 2011, Pfeifer traveled to Denmark to perform a seasonal apprenticeship with Rene Redzepi at Noma, where he worked in the prep kitchen, the canape station and in the test kitchen.

  • Jose G. Ramirez-Ruiz

    New York City 2013

    Jose G. Ramirez-Ruiz, 28

    Chef, Chez Jose

    This Per Se vet landed on the radar of hip NYC diners during his run at Isa, Taavo Somer’s Williamsburg restaurant with off-the-wall cuisine from chef Ignacio Mattos. After the project was rebooted, Ramirez-Ruiz left and launched Chez Jose, a pop-up with a "vegetable-forward" menu that’s run for two nights a week out of the very tiny Whirlybird Cafe in Brooklyn. If you want to see his skills with more meaty fare,  he runs pop-up pig roasts at Williamsburg’s Crown Victoria. He says a place of his own may be in the cards one day, but for the immediate future, he may return to Montreal for a Canadian Chez Jose (which he’s done before), and then in January it’s off to Spain to cook in the Madrid Fusion festival.

    Side Dish: Ramirez-Ruiz operates Chez Jose with his girlfriend and fellow Isa vet Pamela Yung.

  • Laura Ryan

    New York City 2013

    Laura Ryan, 27

    Communication and Special Projects, Craft Restaurants

    After graduating from Georgetown, Ryan dabbled in a many things, including law and a stin in the Italian Culinary academy at ICC, before ultimately landing a job as Tom Colicchio’s assistant, managing his day-to-day and going wherever “Tom’s wind’ took her. A recent promotion now has her managing all of the charity and food events for Colicchio’s restaurants, and acting as the hub of the group’s social media and deals with partnerships. She  also worked part-time with GoogaMooga, helping them with various things including vendor outreach and “contributing a culinary and operations mind to help realistically execute all of the fun ideas the guys at Superfly have.”

    Side Dish: Ryan claims that food and hospitality are in her blood, as her grandfather owned the famed (though now defunct) restaurant The Barge in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

  • Thiago Silva

    New York City 2013

    Thiago Silva, 28

    Corporate Pastry Chef, EMM Group

    On an average night, Thiago Silva is tasked with satisfying the sweet tooths of thousands of diners. As EMM Group’s corporate pastry chef, he oversees the desserts at busy hot spots like Abe & Arthur’s, Catch and The General. Silva’s career has modest roots. He began baking after his mother encouraged him to take a cake decorating class. He got his professional start in the kitchen of Olives, followed by two years at Sant Ambroeus bakery and a run at Atria before joining EMM in 2009. Silva knows some feel guilty about indulging in sweets. That’s why he likes to “create desserts that are shareable so more than one person can go at it and not feel so bad.”

    Side Dish: His favorite dessert of all time is tiramisu. “It’s so simple. But I love ice cream, I always seem to be craving ice cream, Ii feel like a pregnant woman craving ice cream. He also has a non-pastry related hidden talent: “I sing and I play the keyboard. I’m in a band and I’m a pretty decent singer.”

  • Sophie Caterina Slesinger

    New York City 2013

    Sophie Caterina Slesinger, 25

    Cheesemonger, Saxelby Cheesemongers

    This young cheese maestro’s passion for the industry was set when she worked at a French bakery in her hometown outside of Washington DC. After getting her degree at Emory University, she arrived in New York City and ultimately landing a gig working with cheesemonger Anne Saxelby, helping to produce her fromage-focused show "Cutting the Curd"on the Heritage Radio network. Slesinger also focuses on working with wholesale customers and doing marketing and events. Though she’s passionate about working in dairy, her ambitions may take her away from the cheese world. “My great uncle had a bakery in Sicily and my mom makes biscotti cookies. I’m kind of thinking about something that has to do with the tradition of my family,” she says.

    Side Dish: The food scene wasn’t the only thing that drew Slesinger to New York. One of her college majors was dance and today she works with a small company, specializing in modern and contemporary dance.

  • Kristen Sollenne

    New York City 2013

    Kristen Sollenne, 27

    Executive Chef and Culinary Director, Boca di Bacco

    Not only does this young chef helm three locations of this NYC chain, which would be an impressive feat for someone twice her age, she’s self-taught. Her Italian-American family found it challenging to enjoy the classics while pursuing their weight-loss goals, so Sollenne developed a penchant for cooking lighter fare. She describes her days as involving “a lot of bouncing around” - she starts in Chelsea, and heads up to the other two locations to check in and troubleshoot. Her advice to folks who are young and may be on the fence about culinary school? “If you have confidence in yourself and your food, just dive right into the world go for it - it worked for me”

    Side Dish: Sollenne has a bit of a performer in her. She was Pocahontas in Disneyland in California when she was in college, and one of her dreams is to be on Dancing with the Stars.

  • Michale Toscano

    New York City 2013

    Michale Toscano, 27

    Chef and Partner, Perla

    This Texas native has clocked time at some of New York’s big-name places, like Bouchon Bakery and Mario Batali’s Babbo, where he was a sous-chef.  He also worked as the executive chef of Manzo, the standalone eatery located inside Eataly, and after making it Batali-sized big, he set his sights on Gabe Stulman’s West Village empire, opening Perla and helping establish it as a warm and inviting neighborhood charmer. As a result, the intimate space is usually packed with fans clamoring for Toscano’s rustic fare. “I cook very simply; I love cooking different parts of the animal, off-cuts and things that aren’t so desired, and using technique and preparing them and making them beautiful,” he says.

    Side Dish: A passion for golf launched his culinary career. His first hospitality gig was at his local golf club where working as a dishwasher led to an invite by the chef to work as a cook. As Toscano puts it: ”I became the cook, and it was all over after that.”

  • Chad Walsh

    New York City 2013

    Chad Walsh, 28

    Beverage Manager, The Dutch

    When you’re enjoying a barrel-aged cocktail or drink with housemade bitters at hot spot The Dutch, you’re experiencing the handiwork of Walsh. Before his entrance into Andrew Carmellini’s world, he worked at Aureole and had a hand in opening Burger and Barrel. When he heard Carmellini was opening a new project, he threw his hat into the ring and has been there since day one. He appreciates the evolution of beverage culture, where once-distinct categories like wine and spirits are starting to meld together: “It’s not enough  to have a great wine list anymore,” he says. “Now diners expect to start with a great cocktail and end with a solid pot of coffee.”

    Side Dish: Walsh studied English literature during college, a field that he said informs his current work. Every bottle has a narrative," he says. "There’s a winemaker who’s an author, and there’s a story that’s there. I have fun sharing that with people.”

  • Jason Wang

    New York City 2013

    Jason Wang, 25

    President, Xi'an Famous Foods

    Although his father founded the original location of this foodie favorite in Flushing, Queens, Wang took the hand-pulled noodles and famous cumin lamb burgers citywide with an expansion of the chainlet after he came aboard in 2009 - there are now four locations plus the Queens original. He also opened Biang!, a sit-down restaurant with a more extensive menu. He’s involved every side of the operation, from updating the social media to training staff to taking on shifts when need be. “My father and I both share the belief that you must know every aspect of the business to run it,” he says. Wang’s considered future expansion to Chicago, DC and Boston, but he’s in no rush, explaining, “We’re not everywhere in New York yet. We’re trying to get to that point before expanding.”

    Side Dish: Wang cops to a hidden talent: “I broke-dance in college - it was something I was very involved in.” Though he had his share of battles back in the day, he says his moves aren’t as sharp as they used to be. “Time constraints have forced me to retire.”