Even as last year’s 30 Under 30 honorees have gone on to prove their sphere of influence on the dining scene (Chester Watson at Trick Dog, Thomas McNaughton at Central Kitchen and Danny Bowien's NYC expansion), a fresh new crop of equally talented, up-and-coming culinarians have been making their own set of waves. And we’re not just talking about a bunch of hotshot chefs (though you'll find a fair share of them on the list).
From maverick craft brewers and advance-level-certified sommeliers to a social media guru and a professional food systems hacker, the honorees on this year's 30 Under 30 list are transforming the food and restaurant world from all angles. Read on to find out more about these freethinking innovators who, despite having been born after the Orwellian year of 1984, are challenging the establishment.
Story by Meesha Halm; photos by Molly DeCoudreaux and Aubrie Pick
Heidi Brown, 29Culinary Liaison at The Restaurant at Meadowood
In a world where celebrity chefs hog center stage, Brown flexes her superpowers behind the scene, working on the restaurant admin side with a “who’s who” of the food world, including Thomas Keller, Mike and Lindsay Tusk, Tyler Florence and David Chang. The California Culinary Academy grad cooked her way through Italy, assisted cooking demos at COPIA in Napa and worked briefly as a food editor for a local weekly before transitioning from the kitchen to office. “I realized that I was more productive thinking about cuisine and dining, rather than attempting to cook,” she tells us. As culinary liaison at Meadowood, a role she’s had since 2011, Brown assists chef Christopher Kostow on everything from managing his upcoming cookbook and travel schedules and uploading photos of new dishes to social media and liaising with visiting chefs during special events such as The 12 Days of Christmas. “The wonderful part of my job is that it changes every day,” admits the jack-of-all-trades Brown. “I can confidently say that it never gets boring.”
Brown is an obsessive karaoke enthusiast. She’s also cripplingly gullible. Her coworkers kid her that they have to raise their left hand when they’re being sarcastic with her, otherwise she’ll take a joke seriously.
The best part for Brown about assisting Kostow with his upcoming book project (which focuses a lot on Napa Valley, its history and its bounty) is getting to know so much about the place where she works and lives, including some of the lesser-known and most-beautiful areas.
Laura Cronin, 25Pastry Chef at Perbacco
Tagged as the family’s “designated dessert-maker” since childhood, Laura Cronin doesn’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. The Johnson and Wales graduate staged with pâtissier Angelo Musa in Paris and trained at the San Francisco Bread Institute. However, drawn to the faster pace of a restaurant kitchen, she headed to Zero Zero where she developed its popular soft-serve dessert program. Now at Perbacco, Cronin creates inventive farmer’s market-inspired desserts with an Italian accent. “I like to use every part of an ingredient,” explains Cronin. “Nothing gets thrown away. I even use strawberry tops for syrups and sauces.” She also likes to blur the lines between savory and sweet (think candy cap mushroom donuts) and is not afraid to employ modern technique. Her family wasn’t the only one who deemed her a dessert diva; in addition to nabbing our honors, Cronin was recently shortlisted for Food & Wine’s best new pastry chef.
Cronin lived on a sailboat in Nova Scotia when she was 15. “If I had to do something else in life, it would involve living on a sailboat and traveling all over the world in it.”
She has a thing for spoons (her boss Staffan Terje calls it a “creepy obsession”). She uses them every day for tasting and plating and always has one on her. “Sometimes when I get home, I’ll sit down and realize my spoon is still in my pocket.”
When she’s not at work, she’s either eating or drinking somewhere else, or at a yoga class. Cronin points out, “I love what I do, but I think yoga is what keeps me sane.”
Jessica Entzel, 27Pastry Chef at Morimoto Napa
Entzel has trained with some serious heavyweights from master chef Alain Couturier in France to the “Iron Chef” himself, but her most formidable culinary experience happened when she was much younger. “I'll never forget the first time I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Wonka picks the ‘flower’ to smell it, drinks out of it like a tea cup, and then he eats the whole thing! My mind was blown over and over again! “ After attending Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, Enztel worked at Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Chambers Kitchen before relocating to New York as pastry chef de partie at Gordon Ramsay. Entzel worked briefly in Career Services at The Institute of Culinary Education, but returned to the kitchen in 2012 to become the pastry chef of Morimoto Napa, where she now creates her own Wonka-like whimsical desserts, such as coconut dacquoise with pickled pineapple, mustard seed and pineapple ginger sorbet.
Entzel also works as a food stylist and recipe tester. She just finished styling the recipe booklet and video for the Nomiku, a soon-to-be-released new immersion circulator designed for the home cook. She also recently started writing a weekly food column for local Napa paper American Canyon Eagle.
She’s the youngest of eight siblings.
Maya Okada Erickson, 22Pastry Chef at AQ
At an age when most kids are just getting out of college, Okada Erickson already heads the pastry department of one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants and will soon be in charge of its two spin-offs as well. Okada Erickson seemed destined for a life in the performing arts. Like her mother, one of the founders of dance company ODC, she studied to be a dancer, but her first job at age 16 with Elizabeth Falkner at Citizen Cake (and later Orson) propelled her into the culinary arts instead. Erickson credits her “badass” mentor for “encouraging me to go against the grain and develop my own style.” That style, while still evolving, means encouraging diners to have as much fun as she’s having. “I want people to come to AQ and have a dessert that is a little familiar but totally different than what they expect.”
When she was four years old, her mom shot a home video of her doing a cooking show called "Maya’s Kitchen," in which she made things like chicken teriyaki, meatloaf and apple tarts.
Okada Erickson is excited for all the new desserts she’ll get to make at the new restaurants. She’ll have her own soft-serve program at TBD and will make macarons for Mélange.
Ian Ferguson, 29Co-founder and Chief of Product at Kitchit.com
After iOS 7 updates and privacy leaks, the next most popular topic of conversation among tech-savvy Bay Area diners is the best place to have dinner. In 2011, Stanford MBA grads Ferguson and his (now 30-year-old) business partner Brendan Marshall tapped into these twin obsessions by launching Kitchit, an online platform that allows diners to bring professional chefs and restaurant-caliber experiences into their own homes. Just as technology is disrupting the way artisanal food is distributed by cutting out the middleman, start-ups like Kitchit are short-circuiting the traditional relationship between chefs and consumers. For diners, that means no more fighting for hard-to-get large reservations, swallowing big mark-ups on wine or being hurried off over-booked tables. For chefs, the carrot is greater opportunity to engage with customers and make money without the costly overhead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant model. The company’s early success speaks to the hunger for this new paradigm of dining. Debuted in San Francisco, the service now operates out of New York and Chicago.
After graduating from Yale and Stanford School of Business, Ferguson was a consultant at Bain & Co. and the founder of DXA Design, a startup design practice in New York City that worked largely with culinary clients such as restaurants and cookbooks authors.
Two years after launching the site, Ferguson continues to burn the midnight oil. Expect lots of changes on the site in August, including a more inspirational browsing experience, better functionality and more spotlights on chef offerings.
He splits his time between San Francisco and New York, because, he jokes, he can't decide which city's restaurants he likes better.
Michelle Fernández, Leticia Landa, Angela McKee, Daniella Sawaya, 24, 29, 28 and 24La Cocina
Any one of these four women, who collectively run La Cocina, the San Francisco food incubator that provides affordable commercial kitchen space and technical assistance to low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs, would be worthy of our list. What makes them truly remarkable, insists La Cocina founder Caleb Zigas, is what they’ve achieved as a team: “They kick ass because they work together.” Over the past five years, they’ve launched the San Francisco Street Food Festival; helped create Off the Grid Fort Mason Center; opened a kiosk at the Ferry Building featuring the products of La Cocina's businesses; and shepherded several alumnae into brick-and-mortar restaurants and bakeries. These relentless advocates inspired countless female entrepreneurs and significantly altered the landscape of San Francisco’s food scene - all the more impressive, points out Zigas, considering the statistics about women, particularly women of color, when 70% of food business owners are men and women are paid 25% less in the kitchen. Talk about girl power.
Program Director Leticia Land studied anthropology at Harvard, and has a background in international nonprofit working in rural southwestern China and Northern India.
Sawaya, who has worked almost every position at La Cocina, worked on improving accessibility at a farm for children with disabilities in Bolivia and assisted on a slum-upgrade project in the Mathare River Valley in Nairobi before joining the organization.
Before joining La Cocina to oversee the Retail Program, McKee worked with Food & Wine magazine in New York.
Bicultural and bilingual, Fernández is the newest member of La Cocina's team, but has already made herself indispensable. In charge of marketing and communications, she’s already revamped the organization’s social media marketing strategy, played a crucial role in its Inaugural Gala and is responsible for all sponsorship of the San Francisco Street Food Festival.
Christopher Gaither, 29Wine Director at Gary Danko
Although Gaither recently won the Guild of Sommelier’s trophy for TopNewSomm of 2013 (besting competitions at the local, regional and national level that tested his skills in wine theory, beverage service and blind tastings), he hadn’t always set his sights on becoming the toast of the wine world. The Moorehouse College grad had planned on a life in performance theater. “I loved the thrill of acting on stage, and improvisation was my favorite,” he recalls. “I find there is a correlation in the rush I get during service in the restaurant while taking care of guests.” After working in restaurants in Atlanta, he developed a keen interest in wine and began studying toward certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Since coming West to complete a wine internship at The French Laundry, Gaither worked as head sommelier at Spruce, overseeing the restaurant's extensive, Burgundy-heavy wine list and was recently hired at Restaurant Gary Danko, where he’s directing the Zagat top-rated restaurant’s wine program and focused on building on its comprehensive wine list.
Gaither has completed two marathons in the past year and a half, and continues to train for future ones. “I love going on long runs, especially given the beautiful landscape in San Francisco.”
The young somm is humble about his mentors, notably Dennis Kelly, Sur Lucero, Tim Gaiser, Fred Dame, Eric Crane, Rob Van Leer and Andrew Green. “I stand on the shoulders of giants. I am quite fortunate to be where I am.”
Brian Gremillion, 28Chef di Cucina at Delfina Restaurant
After 15 years, Craig Stoll’s Mission Italian flagship is still going like gangbusters, thanks in part to his right-hand man, Brian Gremillion, the French Culinary Institute grad who joined the team three years ago and quickly ascended to chef di cucina. At Delfina, Gremillion’s menu is driven by seasonality and simplicity. “I used to have eight, 10 or 12 components on a plate. Now I find myself pushing to create great food with fewer ingredients so it comes across as more focused and clean. When we have an idea, we remove two to three ingredients from the plate until it’s an understated dish that surprises in its simplicity.” It’s an approach that’s proven fruitful. Under Gremillion’s watch, Delfina recently notched 3.5 stars for food from the San Francisco Chronicle, who lauded him for his “zenlike focus to get it right.”
Gremillion credits his stepmother for truly teaching him how to cook, albeit in an expected way. “I would ask her questions, and the answers were so vague that it required me to learn to cook, not just to read a recipe.”
When he’s not cooking, you’ll find Gremillion and his wife biking and eating their way around the city. The two are very DIY and spend their time making or crafting things for their tiny SF apartment.
His biggest peeve in the kitchen is raised voices. “Don't get me wrong, our kitchen is loud, but I don't like yelling. We are calm and deal with issues in a cool manner.”
Ryan Harris, 28Sales & Marketing Manager at Fatted Calf Charcuterie
“Pork peddler” sounds like something out of an Isaac Bashevis Singer short story, but that’s what Ryan Harris, whose official title is sales and marketing manager, prefers to call himself. Harris isn’t your typical hipster butcher - he earned serious cred as a fine-dining chef at Meadowood and Station 1 before stepping out of the kitchen to be behind the butcher’s counter, a role that’s allowed him to engage more directly with consumers, educating them on the value of small farms, sustainable agriculture and properly raised meat. At the Napa charcuterie, you’ll find him doing everything from doling out tips on proper pork preparation to hosting Butcher Happy Hour (during which he breaks down whole hogs and plies observers with free beer and snacks) and generally being an “evangelist spreading the good-food gospel,” to which we say, praise the lard.
In addition to helping to promote In the Charcuterie, The Fatted Calf’s soon-to-be-released new cookbook, Harris writes about food on his blog.
When he’s not peddling pork in Napa, you’ll find him helping out Burr-Eatery, his former colleague’s mobile truck hawking Sonora-style burritos, which are wrapped in handmade tortillas made with lard from Fatted Calf.
Toby Hastings, 29Owner and Farm Manager of Free Spirit Farm
Farm-to-fork restaurants are only as good as their supply chain. That’s why San Francisco’s top restaurants, specialty grocers like Bi-Rite and corporate chefs at companies like Airbnb and Oracle make it their business to know Toby Hastings, the 29-year-old founder of Free Spirit Farm. A chance encounter with the chefs from Slow Club and Serpentine at a Slow Food Nation Conference in 2008 got the ball rolling, and Hastings now delivers his fresh eggs, veggies, flowers and herbs to over 40 restaurants, including Bar Tartine, Range, Townhall and Abbot’s Cellar. Hastings leases his property from the Center for Land-Based Learning, where he mentors high school-age students on farming. When he’s not at the farm or driving his minivan around the city delivering, you can find him looking for old record or DJ'ing a late-night set in one of the farm’s barn parties throughout the year, including a late-summer food festival/campout/rave called Farmstock.
To satisfy his sweet tooth, he brings his leftover veggies to his favorite ice cream shop, Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. “It's probably every eight-year-old’s dream,“ jokes Hasting, “trading vegetables for ice cream.”
He's working with the chef at the Slow Club to make a line of retail hot sauces (available in the fall) under the label Sauce Boss using different peppers grown at the farm.
Duncan Holmes, 27Chef de Cuisine at Sons & Daughters
Although he spent the better half of his youth working at his mother’s restaurant, Holmes had his eyes on a different prize - a career in economics. A chance summer internship at Eccolo in Berkeley working with Chez Panisse alum Chris Lee completely changed his trajectory. He was “completely changed” by the experience and set off to further his culinary training, touching down at iconic spots such as La Toque, Auberge du Soleil and Saison (with stages along the way at Alinea, AOC and Geranium). At Sons & Daughters, working alongside previous 30 Under 30 honorees Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty, he’s constantly pushing to evolve the restaurant, creating boldly flavored dishes that are inspired by his time in Scandinavia and the wide variety of local ingredients available to him, much of which comes directly from the restaurant’s own garden in Los Gatos.
Holmes sent his resume to Eccolo on a lark when he failed to get a proper summer job at a firm. His decision to accept the position was facilitated by the encouragement of another up-and-coming chef working there, Samin Nosrat.
He loves the restaurant’s garden because “it forces me to use flavors that others might not be exposed to and create dishes based off the flavor of an herb or green rather than a dish centered around a protein or vegetable.”
Erik Johnson, 25Sommelier at Thomas Keller Restaurant Group
Johnson spent his 21st birthday celebrating at Bouchon Bistro after passing his introductory-level sommelier exam. Little did he know that he would end up becoming Bouchon’s head sommelier just three years later. The young wine maverick moved up the ranks at lightning speed. After passing his second-level exam a few months later, an internship at The French Laundry turned into a permanent gig, and he found himself a cellar sommelier at the most coveted restaurant in the country at 22. Tapped to be head somm at its sister bistro Bouchon, Johnson oversaw the wine and bar program, directed staff education, ran its “vin en carafe” program and special regional dinners. Now at 26, two years after leading the beverage program at Bouchon, Johnson is “honored and humbled” to return to The French Laundry, where he is being welcomed back as sommelier to resume working with mentor Dennis Kelly, while pursuing his Advanced Sommelier Certification.
Johnson played a role establishing relationships for Bouchon’s “Vin en Carafe” program, which showcases local vintners and winery owners that produce single barrel, exclusive wines of distinctive varietals uncommon to Napa Valley.
While at Bouchon, he collaborated with the Alexander Valley Brewing Company to bottle and release their new White Apron Ale, which is now available exclusively at Thomas Keller’s restaurants in the U.S.
Robin Kloess, 27Pastry Chef at Incanto
Kloess, the pastry chef at Chris Cosentino’s nose-to-tail Italian restaurant, has a lot more in common with the offal-slinging Food Network star than meets the eye. She attended CCSF with every intention of becoming a butcher (“There is something very special to me about taking down a whole animal”), but discovered she had a better affinity for pastry. After completing an externship at Gary Danko, Kloess trained with pastry maestro Lisa Lu at Jardinière, where she worked for four years, before moving on to Prospect. At Incanto, she crafts “stalk-to-plate” desserts, utilizing as much of the produce as possible and “letting it show me what to do best with it.” Inventive offerings such as goat cheese mousse featuring multiple grape elements - sorbet, fresh grapes, a grape caramel and a powder made from dehydrated grape skins that she dusts over the top of the mousse - are getting Kloess noticed. In addition to gracing our list, she was nominated for Food & Wine’s Best New Pastry Chef.
Kloess, who has a very green thumb and grows a ton of herbs, trees and flowers at her home, uses her horticulture knowledge to inform her dessert combinations. A case in point was a recent blueberry and polenta cake that she served with Douglas fir ice. “If you eat blueberries and close your eyes, it’s as if you can taste the forest they were from, which is very much like a Douglas fir flavor profile because they grow together; you can almost always find the two flourishing together.”
Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach are just a hop skip and a jump from her house, but she also loves to get in a car and head north, checking out different farms, wineries and food joints.
Lucas Knox, 26Executive Chef at Burritt Room + Tavern
As the new executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s Burritt Room, Knox was brought in to completely overhaul the tavern’s menu. Armed with first-hand experience of agriculture (growing up near his uncle’s farm in Nebraska) and 10 years working in fine-dining restaurants like Bouchon and Aureole in Las Vegas, the Thomas Keller/Charlie Palmer protégé knows his way around fresh ingredients and how to enhance their flavors with minimal manipulation. “My dishes integrate Charlie’s Progressive American style," he says, "while also incorporating my passion for clean, simple plates with strong flavors and a sense of San Francisco style.” He recently turned his attention to the Burritt Room, where he’s raised the bar on the menu offerings, introducing items that go beyond your standard fare such as fried pork shank with American Ale reduction and asparagus and crispy artichoke salad.
Knox credits his mentors for teaching him many things, but notes, “some of the most important lessons have included basic organizational practices in the kitchen - cleanliness, menu planning, standards and management. Without that foundation, you will never be able to run a successful kitchen as executive chef.”
In his spare time, he loves to golf.
Caitlin Lacey, 25Production Manager at Dandelion Chocolate
Lacey’s initial interest in chocolate was purely academic. Her senior thesis explored cacao as the lens to study models of sustainability, social justice and international development. Eager to gain firsthand perspective, she took a job at Dandelion Chocolate, the artisanal bean-to-bar micro-factory and cafe in the Mission. When she started, she was the only production person; now she’s involved with everything from sourcing to leading a team of 10. Dandelion’s goal is to “make the best chocolate possible in a way that’s best for all people involved, from farmers to chocolate makers to customers.” Having garnered numerous national awards and 100 wholesale accounts, there’s little doubt the chocolate maker is hitting a sweet spot with consumers, but a recent trip to Venezuela to meet with five of her farmers reaffirmed her faith. “Most farmers never get to taste the finished product that comes from their cacao beans," she tells us, "so it was very special to be there while they tried the chocolate.”
An avid traveler, Lacey learned Thai while teaching English for a year on a Fulbright in Thailand and studied abroad in Botswana where she interned with the Department of Wildlife near the Okavango Delta. Her sourcing trip to Venezuela involved traveling many hours, sometimes via canoe on the edge of the Amazon and the coastal valleys north of Caracas.
When she’s not at work, you can find her playing banjo in her band.
Jessica Largey, 27Chef de Cuisine at Manresa
Largey didn’t just break the glass ceiling at David Kinch’s celebrated Los Gatos restaurant - she shattered it. Before becoming second-in-command, she honed her skills working at iconic restaurants like The Fat Duck and Providence in LA, where she and Kinch first met at a special event in 2008. Kinch recalls, “The first time I worked with Jessica, I immediately recognized her talent, drive and intelligence.” He invited her to stage at Manresa, where she became smitten with Kinch’s philosophy and relationship with Love Apple Farms, the restaurant’s biodynamic farm partner that provides the primary sources of inspiration for the menu. Largey returned to LA to work at Bastide, but when the opportunity arose in 2009, Kinch brought her on full-time as chef de partie. Since 2011, she’s been promoted to the position of chef de cuisine, where she runs the kitchen in “effortless collaboration” with Kinch and with the help of another supremely talented woman, Stephanie Prida.
Largey, who has to forbid herself from entering bookstores because she already has too many books, is making room for one more - the forthcoming Manresa cookbook, which is being released this fall. “It was an immense amount of work and a true labor of love for the past two years," she says. "I can't wait for the day when I am wandering through a bookstore and see it there on the shelf.”
She credits Michael Cimarusti and Paul Shoemaker as her most influential mentors, explaining, “They both have such passion and dedication to food as an art as well as an industry. I feel privileged to have started out with them, I will always consider my time at Providence to be my home, my cooking school, my boot camp.”
Michael Lay, 28Lead Bartender at Restaurant 1833
Drawing inspiration from his restaurant’s former days as an apothecary, Lay’s innovative cocktail menu - grouped into categories such as “Stress Relievers,” “Aphrodisiacs” and “Pain Killers” - aims to remedy life’s little bothers by way of beakers, vaporizers, small-batch spirits, housemade bitters and syrups. “I treat my bar like I’d treat a kitchen,” he explains, “and try to have synergy between every ingredient and tool to tell a story.” Lay spent 10 years at top spots in San Diego and Seattle before moving to Monterey, where he’s developed a bar program that pays homage to his adopted home, using reclaimed bourbon barrels and local products, particularly during Tuesday happy hour when he mixes up elixirs utilizing what he’s picked up from the farmer's market.
When he’s not taste-testing the hard stuff, Lay gets his buzz on from java. “I love coffee and will drive a long way to get the good stuff.”
Lay played drums in various bands for many years during and after high school.
His company, Coastal Luxury Management, is planning on opening a new restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles that pays homage to old-school, historical LA, and you might see his mug behind the bar shaking cocktails for a little while.
Michelle Lee, 29Pastry Chef at Duende Restaurant, Bar and Bodega
Although her parents ran a successful Chinese restaurant in North Carolina, where she grew up and learned how to honor the preparation of food, when it came to making desserts Lee was on her own. “They strictly cooked Chinese cuisine. My interest in baking and pastries always astounded them. Since they didn't know how, I tried my best to teach myself.” Lee furthered her pastry education on the job working at Boulettes Larder, Chez Panisse, and Boot and Shoe Service. At Oakland’s hot newcomer Duende, Lee’s pastries draw upon techniques from Italy, France and Spain, yet she’s never lost sight of her roots. Her version of the Spanish classic olive oil torta topped with a sesame crisp is a nod to her Chinese heritage, while her fried churros reveal that she's a Southern belle at heart.
Lee confesses, “Sometimes I feel like a cheat because I live in an area where fruit is always abundantly available at the farmer’s market from people who care about growing the tastiest produce. In the summertime, I often feel like it's these farmers who should be getting the credit for a delicious dessert over my expertise in sticking it on a plate."
When she’s not at work, she’s usually toiling away on a project at her house, be it remodeling the kitchen, landscaping or converting her attic into a livable space.
Gabriel C. Lowe, 27Bar Manager at The Battery
In an age when a cocktail takes 15 minutes and sets you back $10, it’s refreshing to hear mixmaster Lowe’s straight talk on the most important ingredient for making drinks: a good attitude. “The only good drink is the one that the guest likes," he says, adding, "My biggest pet peeve is bartenders who forget they are in the business of serving others.” Lowe trained with bar titans Todd Smith at Bourbon & Branch and Thad Vogler at Bar Agricole, and worked at Beretta, Serpentine and Locanda, but enjoys finessing his skills in a variety of settings, including music festivals, dive bars and mansion parties. At KronnerBurger, Lowe earned props for his fun, diner-style cocktails such as Scotcholate Milk and the colorfully named Carbonated Mother-F***ing Margaritas that complemented the messy grub. Come August, he’ll be overseeing the bar program at The Battery, the forthcoming members-only social club in the FiDi and the five bars at the adjoining 717 B restaurant.
Along with Jesse Vida, Lowe runs a cocktail consulting company called The Tilted Tumbler. Their latest gig included bartending at the Governor’s Ball in NYC in June. Lowe worked with previous 30 Under 30 honoree Chris Kronner back in 2009 when they both were at Serpentine.
Lowe’s an avid gamer. “If I overhear you talking about a game I like, you're likely to get a round on the house.”
Collin McDonnell and Shane Goepel , 27 and 29Founders and Brewers of HenHouse Brewing Co.
“We love brewing IPAs as much as the next set of brewers,” confesses McDonnell, who along with just-about-to-turn-30 Goepel co-founded HenHouse in 2011, “but it's hard to swallow that what the world needs now is another IPA.” Instead, they focus on three “just-as-delicious” styles (Saison, Oyster and Belgian Style Golden Ale) that aren’t typically found on tap, a move that’s earned them a loyal following, including one particular restaurateur - Thomas Keller. The French Laundry and Ad Hoc are the only places aside from the headquarters in Petaluma that sell HenHouse beer in bottles, though when there’s extra (they typically produce only 62 gallons at a time), you can find it on tap at St. Vincent, City Beer, Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar. Not bad for two dudes who only work on the venture nights and weekends, but more is brewing. The duo plans to expand operations this year and eventually build their own brewery.
McDonnell’s brewing philosophy is simplicity: “Use good ingredients, know what you want the beer to taste like and follow the process. Complicating things too much is a good way to lose sight of what you originally wanted to brew."
Goepel is big on outdoor sports: wakeboarding, bouldering, skydiving, and sculling.
Jeremiah Morehouse, 28Sommelier at SPQR
While most millennials spend their free time checking their Twitter feed or playing video games, sommelier Morehouse whips out his flashcards. “You never know when you may want to polish up on the cru sites in Barolo, right?” His nerdiness has paid off: Morehouse, who served as wine director of Enotria in Sacramento before landing a plum gig at Shelley Lindgren’s Italian wine-centric SPQR, recently passed his third-level Advanced Sommelier diploma (only 25% pass on their first try) with the second highest score, for which he earned a $2,500 Rudd Winery Scholarship. Morehouse concedes, “One can spend their whole life just trying to comprehend Italian wines,” but his goal for the guest at SPQR is far simpler. “I’m all about harmony. I just want the wine to add a dimension of flavor to the food and vice versa.”
The Sacramento native confesses, “I would like to say you can often find me golfing, but studying does consume most of my daily grind.” Morehouse plans to spend his scholarship money to further his wine education by pursuing the coveted Master Sommelier title and hopes to progress in next TopSomm competition.
Whether it’s pairing wines around their selections or choosing for a pasta-tasting menu, Morehouse believes “it’s very important to understand what the guest is looking for, especially with such an eclectic selection like at SPQR.”
Gianpaolo Paterlini, 27Wine Director at Acquerello and 1760
Although Paterlini shares the same last name and half of his first with his dad (Giancarlo Paterlini, owner and GM of Acquerello), he earned his role as wine director through his own hard work, not nepotism. After working at his father’s restaurant since age 14, Paterlini earned his chops working with Shelley Lindgren at A16 and Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger, but an internship working for Rajat Parr and Tony Cha at Michael Mina when he turned 21 is “what really made me decide I would spend my life working with wines.” Paterlini returned to Acquerello in 2007, first as sommelier, before being promoted to wine director, where he’s expanded the Italian-centric list to 2,000 selections. This summer, the chip-off-the-old-block will be spawning 1760, a new casual spin-off on Polk Street that will showcase chef Adam Tortosa’s Italian-inspired California cuisine and a smaller but broader, constantly evolving wine list featuring 200 European and domestic labels, allowing him a greater variety of wines to explore.
While he cares about educating diners about the varied indigenous varietals and styles of wine in Italy, he admits, “My job is not to tell people what to drink, but to help them find something to drink that will make them most happy.”
“Working for my dad is a blessing and a curse,” confesses Paterlini. “We’re able to say anything to each other, in a way regular colleagues wouldn't be able to. The curse is that we’re both stubborn, so when one of us has a new idea, we often butt heads for a while before accepting and implementing the idea.”
He tends to avoid wines that are “interesting” or “geeky” unless they are also delicious.
Ryan Pollnow, 28Chef de Cuisine at Central Kitchen Restaurant
Central Kitchen has generated its share of noise, both for its executive chef Thomas McNaughton (a previous 30 Under 30 honoree) and its notoriously loud soundtrack, but things have really come into harmony since Pollnow (former chef de cuisine at flour + water) took over the reins in April 2012. Like many, the NorCal native fell into the food business by chance; he took a job as a server while studying criminal justice, became enthralled by cooking and re-enrolled in the culinary arts program instead. Flash-forward to 2013, where he’s redefined the CK menu to be more aligned with the physical space and neighborhood. “The food still begins with the same high-quality raw product and emphasizes whole-product utilization, but has much more energy behind it,” explains Pollnow. “It’s a loud space and I believe the flavors now stand up to that.” He’s also working on a business plan for another Ne Timeas restaurant that will “share the same youthful energy.”
On the restaurant’s infamous acoustics, Pollnow is unapologetic. “The loud music is part of who we are. We have an extremely talented music director, Katie Mathis, who curates the playlists. It’s a whole-album program that greatly adds to the energy of the space."
The accomplishment that Pollnow is most proud of since taking over is allowing his team to have an equal collaborative voice. “Every night we discuss the next day’s changes, and I count on every cook to add to the creative process. Thomas and I get final say, but I find the more ownership the team has in menu items, the more pride goes into the steps to get to a final product.”
Mike Reis, 25Beer Program Co-Director at The Monk's Kettle and Abbot's
Reis discovered his love for beer in an unlikely place: Italy. While spending a semester abroad in the wine-soaked country, he discovered the young Italian craft beer scene. A quick trip over to Belgium solidified his infatuation, and upon returning to the United States he kicked his Keystone Light habit. After college, he worked as an “ambeersador” and sales manager at Lagunitas Brewing Company while pursuing his beer knowledge on the side. On his 23rd birthday, Mike passed his certified cicerone exam, becoming one of the youngest cicerones in the country. In his current role at Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar, Reis leads staff education efforts, works with the chefs to design beer and food pairings and fulfills floor duties similar to those of a sommelier. For his efforts to integrate beer into a fine dining setting, Abbot’s Cellar was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a semifinalist for their 2013 Outstanding Bar Program award.
Reis met a lot of brewers and passionate beer geeks at a bar in the Travestere neighborhood of Rome called Ma Che Siete Venunit and its sister restaurant Bir e Fud. He’d grab a plastic cup of craft beer from the bar and drink it on his walk home through the ruins of the Roman fora.
He's a bi-weekly contributor to the national food blog Serious Eats, where he shares his knowledge of beer with the masses. Reiss usually has about three to five experiments fermenting in his apartment at any given time. “Right now there's two five-gallon batches of beer, three gallons of kombucha and a five-liter oak barrel filled with malt vinegar in the making back there.”
Brandon Rodgers , 27Chef de Cuisine at Benu - San Francisco
Playing competitive basketball in college proved to be apt training for Rodger’s eventual career in fine dining. The former point guard cooked competitively at Bocuse d’Or and on Iron Chef before getting his formal training at the New England Culinary Institute and working as chef de partie in some of the most demanding kitchens, including Restaurant Daniel and The French Laundry, where he met his future boss Corey Lee. When Lee left to open his own place, he tapped Rodgers to be his wingman. As chef de cuisine, Rodgers shares all the responsibilities of running the kitchen with Lee and giving diners a “singular and unique experience.” He also applies many of the skills he learned wearing a jersey: teamwork, camaraderie and leadership. Rodgers is no longer job-hopping from one kitchen to another, so in order to stay “competitive” and continually exposed to new ideas, he relishes traveling and working alongside chefs from other countries.
Rodgers got his big break in 2005 when his then-mentor Tony DiSalvo recommended him to James Beard Award winner Gavin Kaysen, who was in search of an assistant chef under 21 to compete in the Bocuse d’Or competition. The two competed together again in 2009, this time beating Michael Symon in Battle Octopus on Iron Chef America.
This September, Rodgers will travel to Taipei, where he’ll be collaborating with chefs Andre Chiang from Singapore, Seiji Yamamoto from Ryugin in Tokyo, Alvin Yeung from Hong Kong and Yu Bo from Chengdu. When he’s not at work or spending time with his family, Rodgers can be found shooting hoops with his Benu colleagues.
Jared Rogers, Chef and Partner at Picco Restaurant & Pizzeria Picco28
In an area where “sourcing the best possible ingredients in season and making them stand out on the plate” is hardly a unique cooking philosophy, Jared Rogers has earned the respect of his boss, local chefs and his clientele for walking the walk. By developing close relationships with local suppliers such as quail hunters, mushroom foragers and fishermen, his ingredients are some of “the freshest I’ve ever seen,” marvels his longtime mentor, Bruce Hill. Rogers cut his teeth in Southern Virginia kitchens, where he learned about the bold flavors and simplicity of Lowcountry cooking from Richard Perry and rustic Italian from Michael Gucciardo before attending the California Culinary Academy, where he met Hill at age 17 and with whom he’s worked ever since. At Picco, Rogers ascended quickly from sous chef to his current role as chef and partner (he’s one of the youngest chefs to be made partner in the Real Restaurant group) where he oversees the restaurant’s rustic Californian menu and adjacent pizzeria.
Rogers’ first job at 15 was a busser, but he confesses, “I was quickly thrown into the dish pit because I had too much energy for the floor."
Bruce Hill hails Rogers for having the “all the skills of a true restaurant chef, bringing up almost all of his staff from unskilled jobs like dishwasher all the way to pizzaiolo and sous chef."
When he’s not working, you’ll find Rogers outside, either mountain biking, fishing or barbecuing with friends. He’s also an avid computer flight simulator pilot.
Shakirah Simley, 28Community Coordinator and Canner-in-Residence at Bi-Rite Family of Businesses
Life is jammin’ for Simley. The U Penn graduate and human rights fellow turned La Cocina entrepreneur started her own company Slow Jams, landed herself on the Katie Couric show and earned a one-year Fulbright fellowship at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy to pursue a Masters in Food Culture and Communication. As she says, “Not bad for a Harlem-raised girl who didn’t taste a fresh apricot until her first visit to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.” Since returning to the States, the self-described gastronome, activist and policy nerd now wields her considerable talents for Bi-Rite, wearing a number of hats including canner-in-residence for its Public Label line, cooking instructor at 18 Reasons (its educational arm) and community coordinator in charge of giving and outreach, with a penchant for programs that support youth empowerment and increase access to healthy food.
As an African-American growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Harlem with little access to fresh and affordable food, Simley has a different perspective on eating than your typical NorCal foodie. “If the personal is political, then there’s nothing more personal or political than food. Eating and cooking is an act of empowerment, of choice and engagement.”
Simley also works as a grant consultant for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded initiative working with underprivileged youth across the U.S. to change their school food systems. On her blog, Simley recalls her favorite foods growing up were super-sour whole dill pickles swimming in bright green brine from the corner bodega, and Mister Softee vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles.
Cappy Sorentino, 27Bar Manager at Spoonbar, h2hotel
“Being seasonal and making your own ingredients isn’t enough these days, as almost every bar does that,” admits Sorentino of Healdsburg’s Spoonbar. “What makes us different is our attitude toward service and the steps we’ve taken to get you the best, freshest and quickest cocktail possible.” To achieve this, his bar program, which offers 28 to 32 drinks at one time, focuses on cocktails on tap such as clarified milk punches and drinks made with forced carbonation. The trend is starting to catch on elsewhere, but Spoonbar was one of the first to do it. “By putting six cocktails on tap, we’re able take the same care and seasonal ingredients to maintain the integrity of the drink but get it to you in half the time,” leaving his mixologists ample time to turn out some of the most visually arresting cocktails around with the aid of flowers, stencils, foams, picklings and other garnishes. We’ll drink to that.
Although his legal name is Daniel Ellison Sorentino, he’s always gone by the nickname Cappy, after his great grandfather Captain Ellison, who was a captain in the Oklahoma Cavalry and who migrated his family out to California during the Dust Bowl, à la Grapes of Wrath.
Sorentino is working on introducing a second, smaller, “weirder” cocktail menu that “will allow us to continue to push the boundaries” while still maintaining the cocktails and style that Spoonbar is known for. Think an entire menu of highballs and soda fountain-style cocktails such as phosphates, lactarts and shakes.
Tim West, 29Food Systems Hacker and Cofounder at Food Hackathon
“My life is about redefining what it means to be a chef in the 21st century,” explains this Slow Food culinarian-turned-social entrepreneur, who cooked his way from the CIA in Hyde Park to Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley before cofounding three food-related start-ups and establishing himself as a culinary cross-pollinator, helping Bay Area food and tech founders get access to the capital, resources and mentorships needed to birth and grow innovative food companies. The grandson of Arch West, inventor of Doritos, West is on a mission to combine technology with human networks to make the world a happier, healthier and tastier place. “After leaving Facebook, I realized that I could feed more people as sustainably as possible with a cell phone and a computer than I can [with] a chef knife and a flame.” The Food Hackathon was his most recent collaborative effort toward achieving that goal after being “sick and tired of seeing some of the best and brightest minds wasting their time building games that throw birds at walls.”
In 2012, West won the StartupBus competition with Cerealize, a custom cereal concept, thus giving rise to his preferred title, Cereal Entrepreneur. West is working with the SF Mayor’s Office of Innovation and the Burning Man Project to help with the Central Market Street neighborhood revitalization effort, which he believes holds great potential for food entrepreneurship.
When he’s not in town, West spends a lot of time in Puerta la Vida, an eco resort/permaculture community in Costa Rica where he is helping to develop VIDA, a music festival/wellness conference.
Chad Zeigler, 28Head Sommelier at RN74 San Francisco
Since he learned to surf at four and obtained his pilot’s license at 16, it’s no surprise that maverick Zeigler passed his Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Exam as soon as he was eligible, at age 21, just three months after buying his first wine book. Hooked, the Pensacola Beach native jettisoned visions of becoming a pilot and flew West instead for a wine internship at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, where he quickly found himself promoted to a permanent position on the cellar team. After a stint in LA at Gordon Ramsay, Zeigler found his way back to the Bay Area, where he’s now managing flights of a different sort as head sommelier at Michael Mina and Rajat Parr’s RN74. There, he manages a team of somms and makes all the purchasing decisions for the much-ballyhooed James Beard Award-winning wine list (1,700 selections, roughly 12,000 bottles in all).
Never one to stand still, Zeigler has completed two sections of the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is preparing to sit for his final section this year.
Ziegler still enjoys outdoorsy adventures such as surfing and snowboarding, as well as indoor endeavors like cooking.
He considers himself fortunate enough to learn from some of the best in the wine industry: Paul Roberts, Gregory Castells, Jared Heber and Rajat Parr.