Rock Stars Redefining the Industry

  • Atlanta 2014

    August 20, 2014

    From an award-winning pizza maker to a pre-teen ice cream entrepreneur, Atlanta's inaugural batch of food-and-beverage up-and-comers represents the wide array of talent our city has to offer. This young crop of Atlanta stars was nominated by their coworkers, employers, people who know them and by you, Zagat readers. And you recognized the breadth and scope of talent in the industry, looking well beyond just the high-profile chefs and mixologists. Read on for more about all of this year’s movers and shakers, including some of the city’s most creative young restaurateurs, soda creators, food advocates, bakers, artisans and more. We predict big things.

    Story by Christopher Hassiotis; Event Photos by Sarah Dodge

  • Adam Berlin and Juan Calle

    Atlanta 2014

    Adam Berlin and Juan Calle, 25 and 26

    Founders/Managing Partners at The Cairns Hill Group

    Adam Berlin and Juan Calle

    Fresh out of college, Adam Berlin and Juan Calle were already successful business owners in Athens, running the City Bar, Silver Dollar Bar and an events promotion company. That they were able to enter the Atlanta market and bring on star chef Hector Santiago to create the menu for Big Sky Buckhead was a real coup. Berlin and Calle, who worked in Buckhead restaurants as teenagers before going to college in Athens, now split their time between the two cities. "This industry is more service-driven now than ever before," says Calle, "and there are more establishments opening daily that are delivering great customer experiences." The two are busy focusing on Big Sky Buckhead and their Athens endeavors for now. "Big Sky Buckhead is still in its beginning stages so I am investing a lot of my time and effort into it," says Calle. Adds Berlin, "Now that I'm able to be here [in Atlanta] and to be close to my family and friends, I'm not in a hurry to start something new.”

  • Giorgia Caporuscio

    Atlanta 2014

    Giorgia Caporuscio, 23

    Pizzaiola at Don Antonio by Starita

    Giorgia Caporuscio

    "I started my career while watching my father make pizza at his first restaurant in New York City, Kesté Pizza & Vino," says pizzaiola Giorgia Caporuscio, an Italian native from Naples who also helped her father open Don Antonio by Starita, his second NYC restaurant. She came to Atlanta to set up the family business, opening a Don Antonio in Buckhead and training the staff — many of whom outnumbered her in years — in the secrets of Neapolitan pizza. Eager to grow both her professional knowledge and the boundaries of the cuisines, Caporuscio developed several pizzas for the Atlanta store using traditional Italian methods but with local Georgia ingredients — a pesto made from pecans and collard greens, for instance, rather than pine nuts and basil. "I love collaborating and learning from people in the industry who have a great experience," says Caporuscio, who splits her time between Atlanta, New York and Naples. She's also certified through the Association of Neapolitan Pizza-Making, and teaches a 10-day course to aspiring pizza makers looking for a traditional foundation.

  • Cora Cotrim

    Atlanta 2014

    Cora Cotrim, 27

    Founder/Creative Director of Queen of Cream

    Cora Cotrim

    Cora Cotrim has spent her entire working life in the restaurant business, and with Queen of Cream's ice cream, things have come full circle: “My very first job, at 14, was at Bruster's," she says. "I spent a lot of time at fine-dining restaurants and became very passionate about food and what it can bring to us as a society." The fledgling Queen of Cream offers a creamy complement to the city's top icy-treat purveyors, King of Pops (though there's no relation). Cotrim, who has done pastry work at Paper Plane, Victory Sandwich Bar and Cacao, focuses on creating flavors that are unique but never too outré or off-putting — creativity does not come at the cost of pleasure with her. Cinnamon ice cream is studded with snickerdoodle cookie dough, for instance, and flavors like caramelized banana and coffee-donut delight. "I concentrate most of my time in the kitchen. Coming up with new flavors, making all of the ice cream, placing orders, making all of the preserves, sauces, cookies and other accompaniments that can go into a flavor. I also spend some time working the cart and writing lots of e-mails." Keep an eye on Cotrim's ice cream sandwiches and bars too, offerings most indie ice cream shops around town ignore. Everything's available via roving cart and pop-up appearances for now, though a brick-and-mortar location may be in the cards.

  • Matthew Crawford

    Atlanta 2014

    Matthew Crawford, 29

    Assistant General Manager/Sommelier at St. Cecilia

    Matthew Crawford

    Matthew Crawford got his culinary start in Greenville and Charleston, SC, but moved to Atlanta during the economic downturn in 2008. He quickly locked into work with the city's top-tier restaurants, working at Craft, Aria, Woodfire Grill, Fifth Group's Alma Cocina and ultimately hooking up with Ford Fry's burgeoning restaurant empire at JCT. Kitchen. He stayed with Fry’s team to open St. Cecilia in Buckhead this past January. "Fifth Group was like going to grad school for operating a successful business," says Crawford. "It's been awesome being a part of such a dynamic company that's growing as fast as [we are now]." At St. Cecilia, arguably the city's hottest restaurant right now, Crawford holds down the wine program while keeping an eye on the restaurant’s bottom line and training the staff. Crawford emphasizes what's great about the ATL restaurant scene: "We are also a very tight knit community, which I love, very supportive and happy to see each other succeed." And though he's completely committed to Fry's current and upcoming restaurants, Crawford admits that "well down the road" he wouldn't mind returning to Charleston. "That place has been in my heart since I was 15," he says.

  • Kathryn Fitzgerald

    Atlanta 2014

    Kathryn Fitzgerald, 29

    Soda Director/Manager at The General Muir, Yalla, Fred's Meat & Bread

    Kathryn Fitzgerald

    Creative mixology is everywhere now. What's the next frontier? It may just be the same thing — combining herbal, sweet and effervescent flavors into a unique drinking experience — without the booze. Kathryn Fitzgerald honed her soda-making skills at The General Muir, where seasonal and classic fresh flavors would influence the regularly rotating syrups and concentrates, then combined with soda water upon ordering. "Most satisfying to me is being able to use my creative side in conjunction with these wonderful farmers in our area," she says, "and see the reaction of the public on a daily basis." She's moving into the Krog Street Market to help run Yalla and Fred's Meat & Bread (both from the General Muir team), expanding her sodas into a new neighborhood. "Shelley Sweet and chef Todd Ginsberg have given me a chance to make my mark and helped me get to this point in the scene," says Fitzgerald. Her long-term goals involve launching her own locally sourced and handcrafted soda line. Sign us up.

  • Audrey Gatliff

    Atlanta 2014

    Audrey Gatliff, 28

    Founder/Baker at Tiny Buffalo Baking Co.

    Audrey Gatliff

    "Small but mighty" is the rallying cry of Tiny Buffalo, the baked-fresh-to-order start-up business Audrey Gatliff founded last year. From scones to cookies and from caramels to a real knockout granola, Tiny Buffalo's food pleases both the mouth and the body, and it’s made with all-natural ingredients. "Climbing the corporate ladder never felt like the right career path for me," says Gatliff, who still maintains a day job. "After getting degrees in Consumer Foods and Dietetics, I continued to fall in love with the idea of what it meant to feed people. In particular the world of baking just felt right. I love the precision and detail it requires." Her goods are currently mostly available as mail-order items, though Gatliff has engaged with local restaurants as potential future outlets. "The scene in Atlanta is blowing up these days," she says. "Decatur alone is about as good an eating scene as one could hope for. With Krog [Street] Market opening later this year, the scene only seems to be on an upward trajectory."

  • Julian Goglia

    Atlanta 2014

    Julian Goglia, 26

    Partner/Beverage Director at The Pinewood

    Julian Goglia

    Decatur's long been home to one of the city's top cocktaileries in Leon's Full Service. So it takes a lot to open up an equally cocktail-focused spot just down the street. It takes even more to succeed. Julian Goglia, whose welcoming personality amplifies his skill with a drink shaker, handles many of the Pinewood's front-of-house affairs as part of a three-man team. The restaurant's lively mix of weekly events, well-executed classic American food and top-notch drinks make it a winner. "My absolute favorite part of what I do is helping curate tailored experiences for each guest that step through our doors," he says. That's not too far off from his former career; Goglia worked for five years in a compounding pharmacy, where pharmaceutical mixes are developed for individual patients. After recovering from an accident in 2010, Goglia "embarked on a crash course into the food/beverage world," he says. Following your passion can pay off? Proven.

  • Sara Justice

    Atlanta 2014

    Sara Justice, 25

    Lead Bartender at Holeman & Finch Public House

    Sara Justice

    It's one thing to try to launch a business, as many of our nominees have done. It's another to dive into an established spot like Holeman & Finch — the granddaddy of Atlanta's cocktail scene — and be expected to maintain that legacy of excellence. But bartender Sara Justice has reinvigorated a drink program at H&F. The Pennsylvania native recently moved back to the A after four years away, and isn't afraid of diving into lesser-known drinks; not too many places have a milk punch on their menu (yet). "I'm a very neurotic and driven person, and bartending is a lot about motivating yourself to be passionate and the master of your own space," says Justice. "There is always something new to learn, whether it be a new technique, an old lost liqueur or the latest new cocktail that is sweeping the nation." And if you want to know her secret passion, get this former vegan talking eggs. "Sours made with egg whites are a super-old-school thing," she says, "and to those of us living in the year 2014, that can sound kind of weird or scary. But really it just makes this delicious almost meringue that is the most magical and pleasing texture. I love to share that with people."

  • Katherine Kennedy

    Atlanta 2014

    Katherine Kennedy, 29

    Farmer/Urban Forager at Lionheart Gardens and Concrete Jungle

    Katherine Kennedy

    For being the region's largest metropolis, Atlanta still has the potential for remarkable access to farmland. Katherine Kennedy manages two, both of which serve social purposes. Most of her days are spent at the farm and garden of The Lionheart School for children with autism and similar challenges, while the rest of her time's occupied at Concrete Jungle's Doghead city farm. The latter is a nonprofit that "finds fun and intriguing ways to get food to Atlanta’s homeless population," says Kennedy. At Lionheart, the tactile connection to food can provide something larger than a map for the next meal. Skills learned in the garden "may translate into vocational skills later for our older students," says Kennedy. "For our younger students, the garden is a peaceful environment where they can begin to explore and expand their sense of place." And since the founding of Concrete Jungle, the organization has donated almost 17,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables to shelters and the Atlanta Community Food Bank — food grown either directly at the farm or foraged from the city's abundant but overlooked fruit trees. These are the types of undertaking that make clear where the emphasis in "service industry" truly is.

  • Xanna Kidd

    Atlanta 2014

    Xanna Kidd, 20

    Founder of XK Macarons

    Xanna Kidd

    Xanna Kidd started baking macarons for friends in the spring of 2013. "I was leaving my job, and posted on Facebook that I would be selling boxes of these French pastries until I found another job," she says. Demand built and remained high, while Kidd's entrepreneurial streak sustained supply. An admitted specialty coffee fiend, Kidd successfully placed her product in the city's top cafes, from hip intown heavyweights (Octane) to newcomers (Taproom) and distant suburban spots (Land of a Thousand Hills). "I simply love baking," says Kidd, who hopes to own her own bakery, crafting goods beyond macarons. How to pass the time while waiting for that next macaron delivery? Peruse Kidd's blog, Elegant Mornings, a design-heavy diary documenting where she finds inspiration.

  • Brooke Lenderman

    Atlanta 2014

    Brooke Lenderman, 28

    Executive Pastry Chef at Empire State South, ex-Lusca

    Brooke Lenderman

    After a close friend encouraged her to start working in a professional kitchen, pastry pro Brooke Lenderman started working under Cynthia Wong and Billy Allin at Decatur's Cakes & Ale in 2010. "I will forever be grateful for the knowledge Cynthia shared with me," Lenderman says. She moved on to an assistant pastry chef role at Hugh Acheson's Empire State South, where she honed her ability to create pastries that are classic, seasonal, both creative and thought-provoking yet still accessible and recognizably "dessert." She helped launch upstart Lusca's bread-and-pastry program, also baking that restaurant's crackers and crave-worthy bread service. "She is the kind of person that can take a crazy idea from my head," says Angus Brown, her former boss at Lusca, "and make it very real and seem not so crazy." Lenderman recently moved back to Empire State South to assume the reins as executive pastry chef, and eventually hopes to use her ability to translate intangible ideas into something on a plate for more than just restaurant work. "My ultimate goal is to write a cookbook," she says. "I love the idea of having all the things I have worked on in my career in one place. It's something tangible I can pass along."

  • Amy Lung

    Atlanta 2014

    Amy Lung, 27

    Assistant Manager and Wine Director at Veni Vidi Vici

    Amy Lung

    After working as a bartender for years, Amy Lung moved into management with the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group last year. "When I started [working with Buckhead Life], I was beyond green when it came to fine service," says Lung, who had been casually working as a bartender in Midtown and has worked in the industry since high school. "It was challenging, more than any other service job I had worked." She proved up to the challenge, working to better herself and her food and beverage knowledge. Her general manager, Leonardo Moura, says she's a "phenomenal manager and works harder than anyone else." The restaurant group is one of the established players in the Atlanta hospitality industry, and management talent like Lung has allowed Buckhead Life to remain relevant in the midst of an Atlanta restaurant boom. "There are restaurants all over the city that open and close their doors within a year," says Lung, "that prove that a hip concept can't stand up without that Southern hospitality that people travel from all over to get in Atlanta." Lung plans to stay with Buckhead Life for the foreseeable future, with goals of becoming a restaurant's general manager; Lung, who calls herself "a crafter, food lover, artist and avid crocheter," eventually wants to move to Montana with her fiancé to open a coffee shop, bringing Southern hospitality to Big Sky Country.

  • Whitney Ott

    Atlanta 2014

    Whitney Ott, 28

    Photographer at Whitney Ott Photography

    Whitney Ott

    As a food photographer, Whitney Ott embraces natural light and vivid colors, and doesn't shy away from the messiness that sometimes comes with food. Her images show that she knows that sometimes a half-eaten piece of pie or scoop of ice cream, for instance, can be even more drool-worthy, more gimme-gimme-inducing than a perfectly posed shot. She's broadening her portfolio of clients and partners in town — check out her naturalistic but not overly casual work with Revolution Doughnuts, The Bitter Southerner and fellow nominee Tiny Buffalo Baking Co., for instance — and embraces the hustle in a field where just a handful of players define the way the city’s restaurants and food show up in print and on the web. "While being a freelancer isn't always easy, I really enjoy working with a variety of different people to help create imagery for their businesses," says Ott. "For me, it's all about staying constantly motivated, pushing myself creatively and shooting as much as I possibly can. Since I was 13, photography started out as a hobby that gradually turned into a passion, and now, I can happily say it's my career."

  • Nick Pantano

    Atlanta 2014

    Nick Pantano, 28

    Server at Muss & Turner's

    Nick Pantano

    The restaurant industry has always been a place where part-timers and workers on their way to other industries pass through, so real longevity is something to value. Nick Pantano, a server at Muss & Turner's, is the longest-running member of the front-of-house team from the restaurant group also behind Local Three, Eleanor's and Common Quarter. And though he's worked with them since his teens, it was a random conversation with Jay Swift of 4th & Swift, when Pantano used to take care of his dogs, that got him on this path. “I mentioned I was looking for a new job. He said his friends just opened a 'little deli in Smyrna' and sent me over for an interview." Since then he's helped serve as a core component of a team dedicated to creating a hospitable environment, his employers say. But the art of hospitality is not Pantano's only skill; he recently opened Sound Space, his own music-lessons studio located at the Goat Farm Arts Center. He teaches guitar lessons and does instrument maintenance. "I am in the process of growing the business and hope to expand to a larger space and add more instructors soon," he says.

  • Daniel Peach

    Atlanta 2014

    Daniel Peach, 25

    Chef de Cuisine at Chai Pani

    Daniel Peach

    Daniel Peach moved to Atlanta from Asheville last year as a kind of frontiersman, setting up the first Chai Pani location outside of that cozy North Carolina city. The pop-influenced casual decor brought in diners, but Peach's cuisine, inspired by Indian street food, ensured they'd return. "The beauty of Chai Pani is that someone who grew up in India can come and enjoy the food and atmosphere as well as a Decatur native who has never tasted Indian food in their whole life," says Peach, a native of the United States who has traveled, trained and cooked extensively in India, and learned Hindi in the process. "One of the most satisfying things about my job is when folks from India come in and get emotional after tasting our food," he says. That ability to translate and make approachable cuisine to both sides of the aisle makes Peach one to watch, though he plans to stay with Chai Pani and keep quiet around the scene. "I don't get out to eat much, and when I do it's mostly Indian food," he says.

  • Ryan Pernice

    Atlanta 2014

    Ryan Pernice, 28

    Owner/Operator of Table & Main and Osteria Mattone

    Ryan Pernice

    Running a restaurant by 28 is a fairly impressive thing to say about yourself. But running a restaurant at the forefront of the fine-dining renaissance on Roswell's Canton Street, and opening a second excellent spot by 28? Well, that's what restaurateur Ryan Pernice can say about himself. "That I can reread journal entries I wrote 20 years ago and see that I accomplished what a very young Ryan once dreamed of accomplishing [is very satisfying],” says Pernice. Table & Main opened several years ago, bringing the northern suburb farm-fresh, upscale Southern fare in a hospitable, historic environment. The newer Osteria Mattone replicates the formula but turns the cuisine toward Central Italy. "My primary job is to put the right people in the right roles. Once that’s accomplished, my mission, to quote a mentor, is to remove dysfunction." Like many of our honorees, Pernice feels immense pride for the current state of Atlanta dining. "We finally have a deep, vibrant pool of homegrown talent that chooses to stay in Atlanta to do interesting things,"  he says, "as opposed to moving to NYC or Chicago. That foundation of talent is essential, and the Atlanta dining public — to its credit — has shown up and supported the home team."

  • Ben Portman

    Atlanta 2014

    Ben Portman, 29

    Founder/Chef of PorKman's Table Supper Club

    Ben Portman

    "Unlike a lot of supper clubs, we never started PorKman’s with the intent of growing it into a restaurant," says Ben Portman, the founder and self-trained home cook running one of the city's newer supper clubs. "It will continue to evolve and change, but the overall goal is to be cooking in some form or fashion, but doing so in a way that remains fun and stimulating." Portman, a Pittsburgh native, is also a full-time financial adviser during the daytime. He's not on his own, though, with his supper club; he's assembled and leads a full staff to create multicourse Fight The Fright Sunday Suppers, seasonal meals paired with wine and cocktails. "My love for food only grew as I explored the unbelievable and inspiring Southern food scene," he says. Watch for him on reruns of Food Network's America's Best Cook, where he repped the region under coach Cat Cora. Hungry? PorKman's Table puts on a handful of events a week.

  • Jonathan Schechter

    Atlanta 2014

    Jonathan Schechter, 29

    Sommelier/Beverage Manager at Bistro Niko

    Jonathan Schechter

    Jonathan Schechter began his career with Atlanta's long-standing Buckhead Life restaurant group, starting out as a banquet server five years ago. Since then he was transferred and promoted three separate times within the group, moving into management. Most recently he was with Buckhead's iconic Bistro Niko. "On any given night at Bistro Niko," says Schechter, "walking through a dining room full of hundreds of smiling guests reminds me why I wake up every morning. The adrenaline rush and ambiance are intoxicating." Schechter's next move is his first away from Buckhead Life; he's accepted a position as the assistant general manager for the forthcoming Southern Gentleman restaurant from Southern Proper Hospitality (Gypsy Kitchen, The Big Ketch, Tin Lizzy's). And beyond that, Schechter's aiming big; he says his career goals are "to leave a legacy as CEO/founder of a multinational hospitality LLC." Ever the people person, we asked Schechter if he had a personal Twitter account. His response? "Twitter is a failing concept. Nothing trumps face-to-face networking."

  • Garrett Seiger and Daniel Waltzer

    Atlanta 2014

    Garrett Seiger and Daniel Waltzer, both 25

    President/Co-Founder and CEO/Co-Founder of Woblet

    Garrett Seiger and Daniel Waltzer

    The start-up world is tech crazy, but there haven't been many related to food that have taken off. Maybe that's because there's something about the sensory appeal of food, and the impermanent nature of a meal about to be eaten, that doesn't translate to the digital experience. Garrett Seiger and Daniel Waltzer, two Atlanta entrepreneurs, want to challenge that notion by making their app, Woblet, an integral part of the local dining scene. Woblet is many things, and a little hard to pin down. Use it at participating restaurants to receive a randomized discount from five to 15 percent. Woblet also lets you choose to donate those savings to charities, and it is moving into the mobile payment and rewards-points sectors. It also curates food events around town, partnering with local restaurants to create unique menus and experiences for users. In aiming to be an all-in-one app, Woblet's a little scattered, and a lot ambitious. It’s the ambitious part we like; we're looking forward to seeing what happens with it.

  • Victor "Beau" Shell

    Atlanta 2014

    Victor "Beau" Shell, 10

    Founder/Owner/CEO of Lil' Ice Cream Dude

    Victor "Beau" Shell

    Most pre-teens who love ice cream just eat a lot of it. "Beau" Shell, however, spreads the ice cream gospel as Lil' Ice Cream Dude, a diminutive man on a mission. With enthusiastic parental backing, Shell launched his own business with an ice cream pushcart, selling ice cream around Athens, where he lives, and Atlanta. He recently expanded his operation to a larger hitch trailer called The Popsicle. "Working on the cart and the Popsicle are my favorite parts [of the job]," says Shell, "because I love meeting new people and making them smile. For some events, I speak before giving out ice cream. I tell listeners about my business and how I got it started." Shell has made professional connections from the Chamber of Commerce to local ice cream suppliers and distributors. He currently dreams of creating his own line of ice cream novelties, "especially one that tastes really good and can be eaten by people who can’t eat dairy products and by people who have to watch how much sugar they eat," he says. "It makes me sad when I can’t serve them ice cream at my events." But he's got a more accessible ice cream dream in the meantime: "I would eat it all day everyday if my parents would let me," says Shell.

  • Jarrett Stieber

    Atlanta 2014

    Jarrett Stieber, 25

    Chef/Operator of Eat Me Speak Me

    Jarrett Stieber

    Some musicians solidify a career in a band, or as a regular studio player. Others go the solo route, inspired by different projects at different times, putting out albums when the mood strikes. Atlanta chef Jarrett Stieber would be the latter type; he hasn't had a full-time kitchen job in years, instead setting up residencies (usually under the Eat Me Speak Me banner) — almost a year at the Candler Park Market, six months at The General Muir's deli counter, etc. — and doing private events. His current gig sees him cooking at Candler Park's Gato with a team of like-minded cooking friends. "One of the most satisfying things about my position is being able to serve anything we want, be as irreverent as we want and still have amazing, open-minded regular guests who trust us enough to eat whatever we offer," he says. His commitment to local produce and ingredients matches his artful eye for plating. Find him, for now, at Gato Sunday and Monday nights, and keep an eye out for a potential Stieber-run spot in the next few years, he says.

  • Michele Tenggara

    Atlanta 2014

    Michele Tenggara, 22

    Server at Umi

    Michele Tenggara

    To stand out at a place renowned for its top-notch service, you've got to be doing something right. "Truly outstanding and very, very professional, a superb individual," says one of Umi's owners, calling Michele Tenggara the restaurant's top and most-requested server. Tenggara's family moved to the United States from Indonesia when she was a child; she got her first job in hospitality a few years ago while a senior in high school. "The first day was a little nerve-racking because I have always been a diner, from the outside looking in," says Tenggara. "I've loved it since then." She’s currently a college student and is taking her future career one day at a time. For now, Tenggara delights in helping guide diners through chef Fuyuhiko Ito's Japanese dishes. "Our menu could be a little bit overwhelming for someone that does not know much about Japanese cuisine," she says. For the trusting diner, Tenggara will also create an entire meal from the menu selections. "The most satisfying thing about my current position is to be able to recommend items from the menu and look at the people's expression after they take a bite into the most delicious thing ever!"

  • Erin Wakefield

    Atlanta 2014

    Erin Wakefield, 29

    Bar Manager at The Smoke Ring

    Erin Wakefield

    Erin Wakefield has worked in the industry since her teenage years, and in multiple rolls with Atlanta's Food 101 hospitality group for almost a decade. She and husband Jordan Wakefield launched barbecue restaurant The Smoke Ring last year. Her creative cocktails match the 'cue precisely, and the attention she pays to bringing in quality, mostly local craft brews is commendable. "The most satisfying thing about this position is when someone tastes something they have never had — and were skeptical about — but they take a chance, and love it," she says. "The fact that I have been given the opportunity to create a drink, wine and beer list that I believe in is really awesome. I love showing people new, quality things." She's also an event planner, promoter and strategist for a restaurant trying to act as ambassador for a neighborhood that seems to be perpetually on the cusp. "We try to come up with ways to bring people to Castleberry Hill," says Wakefield. "It’s a really amazing neighborhood filled with people who want to be here and believe in keeping it historic but still implementing growth. So that’s been cool, being able to show people an area that they might not just stumble on every day."

  • Layla Walk

    Atlanta 2014

    Layla Walk, 26

    Chef de Cuisine at King + Duke

    Layla Walk

    Restaurateur Ford Fry's Buckhead eatery King + Duke is an homage to manly things, all dark wood and stylish iron and sporting an open hearth that's used for everything the kitchen puts out. But at the kitchen's heart is a soft-spoken woman co-workers say they sometimes have to lean in to hear — the opposite of the stereotypically blusterous, ego-driven chef. "Not only because she has an amazing palate and demonstrates exceptional technique in her cooking, but she is also the catalyst in why we are able to attract and retain talented cooks that fuel this restaurant," says King + Duke's executive chef, Joe Schafer. That dedication to acquiring and sharing knowledge is a mark of generosity that matches the restaurant's hospitable service. Walk was sous-chef at The Optimist, and at K+D she instituted an in-house education program "that encompasses everything from defining culinary terms to executing multicourse tastings that my cooks present to Joe and me for critique," says Walk. Also a knitter and surfer in her spare time who's passionate about whole-animal butchery, Walk credits her education for shaping her outlook. "I was trained by very old-school chefs — Marco Pierre White-style — but realize that that is not the future of this industry. More open communication and deliberate, direct training is required to produce the great cooks that will ultimately succeed my generation."

  • Jeff Wall

    Atlanta 2014

    Jeff Wall, 28

    Co-Executive Chef at Kimball House

    Jeff Wall

    People thought Kimball House would do well. In the leadup to its opening in a historic Decatur train depot, there was a trickle — not a torrent — of buzz, but nothing like the acclaim that came once everyone realized it was a knockout. A stellar cocktail list and Bryan Rackley's excellent oyster program make up two legs of the tripod, and the final is Jeff Wall's seasonal menu he develops with co-executive chef Phillip Meeker. Their partnership is evidence that Wall is a rare chef willing to share menu development and the ensuing acclaim with a partner. "My morning starts out at 9 AM with coffee and folding towels while I read the menu and notes from the day prior. I drink my coffee in the garden and see what is ready to be picked. The garden is the driving force for the menu." Wall’s motivation to be a chef is making people happy, and his richly American, fresh flavors do just that; he says that desire stems from the Sundays when his father would cook dinner for everyone at church. As for upcoming plans, Wall is open to possibilities, though maintaining the success of Kimball House remains atop the list. "The future is full of many options," he says. "More gardening, more restaurants, more knowledge and more techniques are my foci." Yes, foci.  

  • Shawn Deangelo Walton

    Atlanta 2014

    Shawn Deangelo Walton, 28

    Advocate of Ashview Community Garden, Founder at Wecycle

    Shawn Deangelo Walton

    Community means everything to Shawn Deangelo Walton. And food means community. "I'm a Southside Atlanta-raised gentleman," says Walton. "I've never had many material things, but I've had rich experiences in my communities from East Point to Ashview Heights… I believe that community experiences over heartfelt meals make life rich." As an advocate for the Ashview Community Garden and the founder of cycling nonprofit Wecycle Atlanta, he aims to connect more people to the food coming out of their own communities, particularly in one of Atlanta's more overlooked regions. "On weekdays we are usually working on the garden, facilitating youth lessons or doing tours of local farms, parks and business with the community throughout West Atlanta," Walton says. "[And] Wecycle Atlanta was created to provide fresh local produce and bicycles, cycling and agricultural education to communities… cycling and participating in urban farming opportunities in Atlanta has taught me lessons in work ethics, health, economics, environment, leadership and sustainability. My desire to share these lessons has led me to this point in my life." With goals of creating a low-cost Wecycle model that can be transferred to other cities, Walton's currently focused on a number of community projects. Next up is a flagship bikeshop that'll serve as community center and home to Wecycle.

  • Joey Ward

    Atlanta 2014

    Joey Ward, 29

    Chef de Cuisine at Gunshow

    Joey Ward

    Atlanta native Joey Ward now brims with pride at a hometown culinary scene that he once found boring and behind the times. “Let's chalk that up to immaturity," he says. "I've realized that the South has such a booming voice on the gastronomic map of our country and is changing the way people view our culture (as Southerners), both through the practice of pure, unwavering tradition, as well as through innovation." As one of Kevin Gillespie's right-hand men at Gunshow, Ward is responsible for all aspects of a weekly changing menu at the restaurant with the city's most innovative service style, where chefs serve food directly to diners in an environment reminiscent of dim sum or a churrascaria. He also manages the front-of-house staff and oversees operations while cooking his own dishes each night. "All I have ever wanted to be was a chef,” says Ward. ”There is nowhere else I would rather be cooking right now, and fortunately for me, [Atlanta] just happens to be where I'm from."

  • Whit Whitmire

    Atlanta 2014

    Whit Whitmire, 24

    Co-Founder/Cultivator-in-Chief of Locurean

    Whit Whitmire

    Rather than spend his time with the cows as a third-generation rancher — though he does that too — food entrepreneur Whit Whitmire's interested in bringing parts of the food world together. While working on his family's sustainable cattle farm, Brasstown Beef, supplier to much of Atlanta, Whitmire "saw that there were some major obstacles impeding business from happening throughout almost every aspect of the local food and drink supply chain, from cultivation to consumption. I wanted to connect things, and simply make it easier for everyone involved." Locurean was born with that goal in mind. Whitmire and co-founder Skot Waldron are in the process of creating an industry-oriented network serving food suppliers, businesses and consumers. The project is still in its nascent stages, but the goal is to make local business more efficient, and thus more able to compete with massive corporations. Whitmire's also involved with Georgia Organics and acts as a tireless ambassador for neighborhood farmer's markets. The Georgia food and agriculture scene's a prime location for something like Locurean. After all, says Whitmire, Atlanta "is a community that breeds a mentality of giving and support, and in which people simply celebrate one another."