Meet FSR's 40 Under 40 Rising Stars | Food Newsfeed
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Meet FSR's 40 Under 40 Rising Stars

March 08, 2018

Melissa King, 33

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Susan Yee Photography
Melissa King, 33

Chef & Owner | Co+Lab | San Francisco

Most chefs who train in Michelin-star kitchens under luminaries like Ron Siegel and Dominique Crenn go on to open their own restaurants. But Melissa King has blazed her own totally unique trail in foodservice.

After studying at the Culinary Institute of America and working in kitchens for eight years, King decided she wanted some more balance and variety in her life and went independent. That at first included a partnership with Kitchit, a tech platform that matched chefs with private cooking opportunities, and later the foundation of her own pop-up dinner series, Co+Lab.

“One day I can be in a kitchen training chefs, another day I might be developing recipes in front of my computer at home, and another day I might be demoing at a food festival or on a speaking panel,” she says. “I feel really grateful to have supportive people in my life cheering me on to accomplish more and more each day.”

The Co+Lab project, which King founded after she placed as a finalist on Season 12 of “Top Chef,” focused not only on hyper-local ingredients, but also other local artisans whom she involved in the events. The Co+Lab pop-up dinners are on hiatus, but King has plans to expand the brand. In the meantime, she serves as a brand ambassador for Whole Foods Market, through which she helps promote sustainability and high-quality ingredients while also developing creative flavors and ideas. She also hopes to eventually open restaurants, write cookbooks, and even start a nonprofit. As King says, “It’s only the beginning.”

Sara Kramer, 32, and Sarah Hymanson, 31

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MELISSA BARNES
Sara Kramer, 32, and Sarah Hymanson, 31

Owners | Kismet | Los Angeles

Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson met while working in the Brooklyn restaurant scene. After an inspiring visit to Los Angeles, they planned a cross-country move to open two restaurants—a falafel shop and a full-service spot—serving uncomplicated, delicious food with Middle Eastern inspiration.

For many who follow their dreams to the City of Angels, becoming a star can be a long hard journey full of rejection. But Kramer and Hymanson were welcomed with open arms and are rising to stardom quickly. Kismet opened in January of 2017. The sleek, modern restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard seats about 50 at connecting tables and is open for all-day service. Kramer and Hymanson can often be seen in the restaurant, Hymanson in the open kitchen and Kramer greeting guests from the neighborhood community who make a regular meal of shakshuka.

“It’s important for us to maintain a presence and to keep motivating and to keep our involvement high for everyone’s sake, for our own and for our staff,” Kramer says. “And we want to. We love what we created, we love our community, so it would feel strange not to be involved on a very regular basis.”

Taylor Houseman, 23

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Taylor Houseman, 23

Former Executive Chef & Partner |Queensborough | San Diego

Taylor Houseman likes to mix things up and play off the concept of a melting pot for the food he creates. “I love to draw upon ideas, flavors, and themes for dishes from all cultures and traditions, then combine and revamp them in my personal way,” he says. “I love to bring together creative flavors that you wouldn’t really expect to see on a plate together, but which balance each other out on the palate in a surprisingly complementary way.”

This career is, pun intended, tailor-made for him. “I love the long nights, the grittiness, and the hard work, collaborating with like-minded human beings [and] feeling completely unrestricted with the extent of my culinary creativity,” he says.

Cynthia Velasco, 28

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Native Grill + Wings
Cynthia Velasco, 28

Director of Marketing | Native Grill & Wings | Chandler, Arizona

When Cynthia Velasco embarked on her career with Native Grill & Wings, the Arizona-based concept was a struggling 19-unit brand. Velasco helped to transform it into a family-friendly sports grill with more than 30 locations. She introduced new brand guidelines, modernized marketing campaigns, and initiated a new fan base that turned into a loyal following.

“Evolving a brand involves taking risks, and [that] gave me the determination and persistence to stay true to course,” she says. “Native Grill & Wings provides a great balance of collaboration and autonomy, which fuels innovation and keeps the brand evolving. I’m constantly challenged, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.”

Chris Weber, 31

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Ron Zimmerman
Chris Weber, 31

Chef | The Herbfarm | Woodinville, Washington

Not only is Chris Weber the youngest chef overseeing an American five-diamond restaurant, but he’s also instrumental in its impressive local-food program, whether it’s working with various producers or foraging for mushrooms or overseeing the eatery’s farm

“I see our kitchen as one that operates in a somewhat linear fashion, starting with our producers and ending with me,” he says, adding that he makes sure cooks, guests, and owners are also satisfied in their needs along the way. The Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute graduate finds that The Herbfarm’s environment is enriching, allowing him to work within a core philosophy while building on various concepts, projects, and experiences.

Jonathan Granada, 32

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Caroline Hollingsworth
Jonathan Granada, 32

Chef de Cuisine | Otium | Los Angeles

Jonathan Granada’s career began at Thomas Keller’s French bistro, Bouchon, but he spent his off days staging at The French Laundry, where he eventually worked his way up while learning from numerous inspiring chefs.

One of those chefs was Tim Hollingsworth, who brought Granada to Los Angeles in 2015 to help open his contemporary restaurant, Otium. Granada’s creativity was further on display when he won last year’s Grand Cochon King of Porc competition. The education Granada received at The French Laundry “has become the foundation of my career,” he says, and he wants to emulate his mentors by passing along the skills he learned from those around him.

Tyler Gugliotta, 32

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Baran's 2239
Tyler Gugliotta, 32

Chef & Owner | Baran’s 2239 | Hermosa Beach, California

After kicking off his food service career at Fleming’s Steakhouse during college, Tyler Gugliotta hopped from restaurant to restaurant throughout Los Angeles, holding sous chef, executive sous chef, and executive chef roles at establishments like Brix @ 1601 and The Tasting Kitchen.

His most recent and proudest accomplishment to date? Partnering in his very own Hermosa Beach restaurant—Baran’s 2239—where he serves as executive chef in the fine-dining eatery. Mentorship plays a big role in Gugliotta’s approach to being a chef and restaurateur. “If I can teach someone to do something and they become better at it than I am, then I consider that the ultimate success,” he says.

Lionel Uddipa, 33

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Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Lionel Uddipa, 33

Executive Chef & Partner | Salt | Juneau, Alaska

Lionel Uddipa started out washing dishes in his family’s Juneau, Alaska, diner. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta in 2008 and then worked and staged around the country, including cooking in several Michelin-starred venues, because he was “hungry for more.”

When he returned home one holiday to visit his family, he realized nobody there was doing the heightened cuisine he was doing, making for a perfect opportunity. As executive chef and partner at Juneau’s Salt, Uddipa serves what he calls Alaskan cuisine: food sourced in Alaska, preserved through the spring and summer months. It’s everything from fermenting and pickling to making charcuterie and freezing.

A third-generation chef, Uddipa is also Filipino, and strives to have at least one dish from his native country on the menu, such as lumpia or adobo. His job, he says, is all about mixing old and new. “I love cooking avant garde, something that is forward moving,” he says. “Everyone knows what lumpia is, so I enjoy deconstructing it in ways they’ve never seen before and mixing some comfort with it and making sure this dish has all the flavor profiles.”

Tyler Shipton, 34

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Cohn Restaurant Group
Tyler Shipton, 34

Executive Chef | BO-beau Kitchen + Garden | La Mesa, California

Growing up on a family farm in Minnesota, Tyler Shipton learned about food and cooking at a young age. He eventually became a premier emerging chef in Minneapolis, working with James Beard Award–winning chefs and running highly praised kitchens. A decision to change scenery led him to San Diego, where he became executive chef at French- and comfort-food restaurant BO-beau Kitchen + Garden.

A self-described “free spirit,” Shipton wants to continue to excel and grow in the ever-changing culinary landscape while managing to maintain a positive work/life balance. He wants “to keep things fun, fresh, and interesting so that I don’t get burnt out like so many do in this industry.”

Kevin Templeton, 35

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Walter Wilson Photography
Kevin Templeton, 35

Executive Chef | The Smoking Gun, Barleymash, & Spill the Beans | San Diego

Chef Kevin Templeton leads the kitchens at three popular San Diego restaurants: Barleymash, a pizza joint with a killer bourbon and beer selection; The Smoking Gun, boasting cocktails and modern takes on street food; and Spill the Beans, which dishes premium coffee and bagels. But his mission extends far beyond the food he serves. Templeton is dedicated to practicing and preaching sustainability.

“I hope to leave a strong impact on the San Diego scene—not only with my food, but also with the little things I have done to reduce our carbon footprint,” he says. “We still have such a long way to go, but hopefully I can and have inspired some people to make different choices that impact our planet in a positive manner.”

Petra Polakovicova, 39

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EPIC Steak
Petra Polakovicova, 39

Wine Director| EPIC Steak | San Francisco

Petra Polakovicova has come a long way, from her native Slovakia to San Francisco where she started as a busser. Polakovicova worked her way through various jobs in the Bay Area until she became a certified sommelier in 2007. Two years later, she became EPIC’s wine director.

“I love the fact that it is always changing and always dynamic,” she says. “There are new developments every day, and we need to stay knowledgeable and keep learning.”

Polakovicova was recently named an advanced sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Rachael Lowe, 38, and Joe Flamm, 31

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Matt Haas / Galdones Photography
Rachael Lowe, 38, and Joe Flamm, 31

Beverage Director and Executive Chef | Spiaggia | Chicago

Joe Flamm likes to joke he’s only a VIP by association in Chicago’s big-league restaurant world. “She’ll ask me, ‘How’d you get in there?’ I told them I know you,” Flamm says. He’s referring to Rachael Lowe, the 38-year-old beverage director of Windy City institution Spiaggia and the other half of one of Chicago’s most exciting culinary duos.

In addition to being the executive chef of Spiaggia—a four-star Italian eatery run by Tony Mantuano, winner of the 2005 James Beard award for Best Chef: Midwest—Flamm might now be best recognized from Bravo TV’s latest season of “Top Chef.” But outside of the TV spotlight, the 31-year-old chef has spent the past three-and-a-half years working with Lowe.

“When we create the new tasting menu, beside Tony and my sous chefs, the first person who looks at it is Rachael Lowe,” Flamm says.

Samantha Oyen, 25

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Gigantic Design Co.
Samantha Oyen, 25

Sous Chef | Brazen Open Kitchen & Bar | Dubuque, Iowa

After culinary school, Samantha Oyen began her career working on a cruise ship, which she says introduced her to different places, cultures, and foods.

Now she’s sous chef at Brazen where she is developing management skills while honing her cooking. “Every day is an adventure with something new to learn,” she says. “After five years in the industry, I haven’t even touched the surface of the world of food.”

Always hungry for more, Oyen last year placed first in the Taste of Elegance competition hosted by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“The people and environment I surround myself with are positive and encourage me to do the best I can,” she says.

Julieta Campos, 27

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The Whistler
Julieta Campos, 27

Beverage Director | The Whistler | Chicago

It didn’t take long for Julieta Campos to uncover her passion for experimenting with liquids. As a child, she remembers mixing together cleaning solutions to make a long list of colorful concoctions. Years later, she moved on to cocktails, whipping up craft creations at Chicago bars like Roka Akor, The Berkshire Room, and Queen Mary Tavern.

Now Campos leads the beverage team at The Whistler, a cocktail bar/music venue/art gallery that’s made many major magazines’ best-of lists. Most recently, Campos was nominated for the 2018 Jean Banquet Award for Best Mixologist.

Jacyara de Oliveira, 28

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El Che Bar La Sirena Clandestina
Jacyara de Oliveira, 28

Beverage Director | El Che Bar & La Sirena & Clandestina | Chicago

Despite making a career in the beverage industry, Jacyara de Oliveira has few illusions about the product of her craft. “I tend to think that beverages are, at best, good,” she says. “It’s rarely about what’s in the glass. It’s about how you receive it.”

With less than a decade of experience behind the bar, de Oliveira has fast made a name for herself as one of Chicago’s top cocktail talents. De Oliveira now serves as Beverage Director at a duo of South American concepts, El Che Bar and La Sirena Clandestina, giving her the opportunity to connect with her family’s Brazilian roots.

Kevin Burke, 29

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Jimmy’s Egg
Kevin Burke, 29

President | Jimmy’s Egg | Edmond, Oklahoma

In the four years since Kevin Burke took the helm at Jimmy’s Egg, the breakfast-lunch chain has doubled in size to 60 units and is actively expanding its regional footprint.

“I’ve had a unique opportunity to be trained by multiple founders of different restaurant companies,” he says. “Understanding the fundamentals of those businesses has provided me with invaluable lessons that I apply daily.”

Burke looks to continue building hospitality companies “to create new opportunities for our team members while improving the communities we do business in.”

Leigh Omilinsky, 33

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Chloe List
Leigh Omilinsky, 33

Pastry Chef | Nico Osteria | Chicago

When her dreams of being a jazz pianist fell flat due to a fear of performing before an audience, Leigh Omilinsky decided, at the age of 15, to cook. And it wasn’t just any type of cooking; she wanted to be a pastry chef.

“I wanted to do this because it’s prettier and, being young, I just wanted to make things pretty,” Omilinsky says.

She’s been at Nico Osteria, based in Chicago’s Thompson Hotel, for nearly three years. One Off Hospitality Group, the Paul Kahan–led Chicago empire that owns Nico Osteria, encourages learning and teaching, Omilinsky says, which gives her room to learn and grow. And that’s what she loves about her job: every day she can experiment.

Just 33, Omilinsky’s already been named Jean Banchet Rising Pastry Chef of the Year in 2012 and Jean Banchet Pastry Chef of the Year in 2013, and listed in Zagat’s “30 under 30” in 2013.

Ming Pu, 27

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Sarah Strite
Ming Pu, 27

Executive Chef & Partner | The 502 Bar & Bistro | Prospect, Kentucky

Ming Pu has plenty to be proud of at the tender age of 27—for example, that he’s the executive chef and co-owner of The 502 Bar & Bistro, and that he’s also been the coordinating chef of two James Beard House dinners in New York City.

Pu helped develop and open The 502, which is just outside Louisville, in 2015. He describes the restaurant’s menu as new American. “I take modern and classic techniques and apply them to different ingredients and dishes,” he says. “For example, we sous-vide our hanger steak, and it’s served with fingerling potato confit and a ginger orange beurre blanc.”

Pu attributes much of his success to his mentor, Chef Peng S. Looi. “He taught me about the industry and how to run an efficient kitchen.”

Ross Evans, 28

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Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood
Ross Evans, 28

Executive Pastry Chef | Hard Rock Hollywood Hotel & Casino | Hollywood, Florida

Art and science merge in Ross Evans’ desserts. “The defining point of the pastries we create is the care and manipulation we take with each ingredient and understanding how the ingredients work with one another to create textures and flavors that dance upon the palate,” he says. Evans’ favorite ingredient is chocolate, which he uses to create showpiece sculptures, a method that “is the best way to express my value as an artist.”

He says his job never gets old. “I love creating new plating designs along with artistic chocolate sculptures while continuing to push the boundaries.”

Among many awards, he has received the gold medal chocolate showpiece award from the American Culinary Federation.

Riley Oates, 28

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Cowford Chophouse
Riley Oates, 28

Sous Chef | Cowford Chophouse | Jacksonville, Florida

Riley Oates has made significant contributions to the Cowford Chophouse, including meat selection, kitchen design, menu tastings, and training.

Oates graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, which taught her that she was destined for a culinary career.

“I love the creativity, ingenuity, and heart in cooking,” Oates says. “The culinary world is ever changing, so there is always something new to learn and try. You have to love this to want to be in it day in and day out, but there is no better or more exciting career around.”

José Meza Arróyave, 29

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Kathy Tran
José Meza Arróyave, 29

Executive Chef | Jalisco Norte | Dallas

Though he grew up in Mexico with a love for Mexican flavors, ingredients, and dishes, it was José Arróyave’s experience cooking outside of the country—with roles at Rene Redzepi’s NOMA in Copenhagen, as well as other eateries in Spain and Belgium—that gave him an even greater appreciation for the food of his homeland.

In late 2017, he brought his passion for authentic flavor to Dallas, opening Jalisco Norte, a spot where diners can enjoy both classic Mexican dishes and modern takes on his country’s cuisine. “Having the chance to come to America and share my passion and the culture and recipes of my home country is what makes me proud,” Arróyave says.

Justin Lavenue, 29

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Justin Lavenue, 29

Co-Owner & Operator | The Roosevelt Room | Austin, Texas

Justin Lavenue found his calling when he began bartending in college. He fell in love with the craft and set his sights on starting a business—perfect for his marketing and business degree from the University of Colorado.

Lavenue opened his first two establishments, The Roosevelt Room and The Eleanor, by age 26. He was named North America’s Most Imaginative Bartender by the U.S. Bartenders Guild in 2015. That same year, he was named Bar Tender of the Year by Eater, Food & Wine’s Best New Mixologist, and he graced the cover of GQ magazine’s special “Men of the Year” issue.

While his creativity wins him awards, his business savvy is driving him forward. Lavenue plans to continue opening unique establishments with his business partner, Dennis Gobis.

“We have five concepts that we would like to bring to life sometime in the next five years,” he says.

Amir Hajimaleki, 32

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District Kitchen + Cocktails
Amir Hajimaleki, 32

Executive Chef & Owner | District Kitchen + Cocktails | Austin, Texas

The decision by Amir Hajimaleki’s parents to leave Iran for the U.S. when he was young was obviously life-altering. “It blessed me with the opportunity to fuel my passion for food and open my own restaurant concepts,” he says.

The chef-owner, his brother, and his uncle launched their restaurant without investors, developing it into a go-to destination in Austin. A second eatery, Oasthouse Kitchen + Cocktails, opened a few years later.

Known for stretching boundaries on his menus, Hajimaleki enjoys incorporating Middle Eastern flavors into his menus “among other elements I’ve picked up from my classical French training and studies of Japanese culture.”

Jennifer Earnest, 35

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Courtesy of Jennifer Earnest
Jennifer Earnest, 35

Co-owner | The Candy Apple Café & Cocktails & The Chef’s Garden Catering & Events | Jacksonville, Florida

Jennifer Earnest traded in her textbooks restaurant street smarts. While at college, Earnest watched her mother, Liz, start The Chef’s Garden, a catering company that would grow into one of Jacksonville, Florida’s preeminent venues. She wanted in, so she decided to skip grad school and join the operation.

In the past decade, the mother-daughter duo has grown the company into a mini-empire. The Chef’s Garden Catering & Events forged an exclusive relationship with the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, including the creation of The Cummer Café. Then, in 2013, after meeting Pete and Allison Berringer, Earnest helped invent The Candy Apple Café & Cocktails, a French-meets-Southern-cuisine restaurant known for its craft-candy cocktail program. The restaurant has to garnered many accolades.

Joseph Zerwas, 36

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Rachel Plunkett
Joseph Zerwas, 36

Former Executive Chef | Bacon Bros. Public House | Sugar Land, Texas

Joseph Zerwas had already been executive chef of a top-ranked Houston catering company and run a pop-up kitchen when a chance meeting led to him taking the helm of Bacon Bros. Public House’s expansion into Texas.

He took the position partially to learn from Anthony Gray, noted executive chef of the original Bacon Bros. in South Carolina. “Being able to collaborate with him on special event menus has been an honor,” he says.

Zerwas hopes to own his own Bacon Bros. units someday. “It’s a challenge I take seriously,” he says.

Hari Cameron, 35

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Hari Cameron
Hari Cameron, 35

Owner & Executive Chef | a(MUSE.) | Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

There was a time when seeing the small, sandy town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, pop up on James Beard lists would be surprising. Chef Hari Cameron changed that. After being named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2013, Cameron earned Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic semifinalist honors in 2015 and 2016. And this in a powerhouse category often dominated by chefs from Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

Cameron was creating waves in Rehoboth Beach, a town with fewer than 2,000 residents, long before the accolades. He started at Espuma before attending The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia. He then joined restaurateur Kevin Reading at Nage. Eight years later, Cameron launched his first solo venture, a(MUSE.) He’s also the owner of a two-unit fast casual, Grandpa Mac. Cameron’s cuisine is known for its dedication to local ingredients, artful design, and inventive recipes.

Gary Huether Jr., 37

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Courtesy of Gary Huether
Gary Huether Jr., 37

Cofounder & President | Arooga’s Grille House and Sports Bar | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

By combining an old-fashioned notion of exceptional service and high-quality food with a modern focus on the environment, Gary Huether Jr. has positioned Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar to flourish. In the decade since the first Arooga’s opened in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, it has grown to 16 units in six states, with more on the way.

Huether grew up in the Harrisburg area. While attending college, he worked for Snap-On Tools and owned several franchises by age 21. That business background was important when, at age 25, he sold his franchises and bought a bar in Harrisburg. “Everyone told me I was nuts,” he says. “But I always had a passion for food.”

The first Arooga’s—the name is the iconic sound of a Model T horn—opened in June 2008 and caught on. All 10 company-owned units are in central Pennsylvania. Arooga’s first franchised unit opened in 2015 at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Huether projects 10 franchised restaurants will be open by mid-2018.

Dave Goldman, 39

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Urban Village
Dave Goldman, 39

Head Brewer & Owner | Urban Village Brewing Co. | Philadelphia

To say Dave Goldman is a restaurant professional of many talents would be a vast understatement. He’s the cofounder of the Landmark Americana group, a hospitality company with four locations spanning New Jersey and Philadelphia, producing total annual sales volume of $18 million. He’s the co-owner of WineWorks, a Marlton, New Jersey–based store featuring everything from spirits to cigars and fine cheeses.

But, at his core, Goldman is a brewer, and that’s where he gets to shine at Urban Village Brewing Co. Goldman is a graduate of the University of the Sciences Brewing certificate program, and he puts those skills to use at the brewpub. Goldman oversees all craft-brewing operations and is responsible for executing the entire beer selection and production process from tank to tap.

Diego Garcia, 30

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Katie Burton
Diego Garcia, 30

Chef & Owner | Gloria | New York City

It began with the question, “Can we do this without any meat at all?” Only this wasn’t the beginning of another vegetarian or vegan concept. Diego Garcia wanted to open a pescatarian restaurant in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, one that also happens to be gluten-free.

He may only be 30 years old, but Garcia was the best chef to bring the bold idea, named Gloria after his mother, to market. Before Gloria, Garcia, who was born in Mexico and raised in Napa, California, was a sous chef at Le Bernardin. That’s where he met Gloria partner and general manager Phil Johnson, who was opening Aldo Sohm, the wine-bar spinoff of Le Bernardin. Johnson went on to become the GM of renowned tasting-menu concept Contra and he brought Garcia along. After nearly two years, a span in which Contra earned a Michelin star, the two decided to open their own concept.

Gloria, which debuted in March, has received critical acclaim for its cool vibe and essential flavors.

Tatiana Rosana, 30

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dillon burke
Tatiana Rosana, 30

Executive Chef | The Envoy Hotel | Boston

Tatiana Rosana attributes her success to “half fate and half determination.” Eight years ago, she had never set foot in a professional kitchen, but since then she’s worked her way through several.

Rosana describes her food as “progressive American” because she has “a wide array of local and global influences, and my inspiration is always evolving. The more I grow as a chef, the more my dishes progress forward.”

And she’s confident she made the right career choice. “The thing I love most about my career is the way it marries science and art so perfectly,” she says. “I am able to create something that’s not only beautiful and delicious, but moving, as well.”

Ricky Arias, 30

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Dinnertable
Ricky Arias, 30

Executive Chef | Dinnertable | New York City

Ricky Arias wants to make ingredients shine. “My cuisine is defined by simplicity,” he says. “It’s a way of showing respect to the product.”

Arias has held this belief since he started working in restaurants in Puerto Rico. He eventually moved to New York City and worked his way around some of its top restaurants before he joined Dinnertable in 2016. His menu pays homage to his Puerto Rican roots by incorporating French Caribbean flavors into modern Japanese preparations.

Despite his success, Arias remains humble. “This career requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice,” he says. “Being away from my loved ones, having very little time off, and the long hours can be very alienating. Keeping my head down and staying focused has been the key to my success.”

Tracy Chang, 30

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Ken Richardson
Tracy Chang, 30

Chef & Owner | PAGU | Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tracy Chang’s path to becoming a chef and restaurateur seems natural. She grew up around her grandmother’s Japanese restaurant, and in college, she worked at award-winning O Ya in Boston.

Afterward, she studied pastry in Paris and cooked at a three-star Michelin restaurant in Spain—before launching a pop-up ramen restaurant and opening PAGU, featuring Japanese- and Spanish-inspired tapas.

PAGU has won accolades since opening last year, but Chang admits she still has much to master. “I have to learn to empower, trust, and delegate to others” just as her mentors did, she says. “I hope to see my team members successful.”

Justin Shoults, 31

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Dawn Rabinowitz
Justin Shoults, 31

Executive Chef | Oak + Rowan | Boston

Justin Shoults was the opening executive chef of Oak + Rowan, where his progressive New England cuisine celebrates quality sourcing. Every dish tells a story, of farmers, artisans, and foragers.

Named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 in Boston in 2015, Shoults says he’s always kept his eye on his goals.

“Early in my career, I saw the importance of creating a strong foundation in cooking and surrounding myself with great chefs and restaurants,” he says.

Tainah Soares, 31

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Area Four Boston
Tainah Soares, 31

Bar Manager | Area Four Boston and A4cade | Boston

Combining an irreverent personality with cocktail expertise has led Tainah Soares to become one of the top bartenders in Boston.

Often pulling inspiration from her Brazilian heritage, Soares says she creates “quirky yet thoughtful cocktails” that she pairs with Area Four’s wood-fired pizzas.

The responsibility she learned growing up in a large Brazilian family has translated into a strong work ethic that helped her develop the bar program at A4cade and evolve the one at Area Four Boston. These opportunities have provided her with the skills to help open new units and perhaps one day own and operate her own bar.

Paul Donnelly, 32

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Chinese Tuxedo
Paul Donnelly, 32

Executive Chef | Chinese Tuxedo | New York City

It’s not often you hear of a Scottish-born chef specializing in Asian cuisine. But from his early days in the industry, Paul Donnelly has held the continent’s food culture close to his culinary heart.

After staging at Gordon Ramsay’s Amaryllis while attending culinary school in Glasgow, Donnelly followed his passion for Asian cooking to Australia, then made his way to Thailand for a short stint at Nahm and Tetsuyas in Bangkok. He then spent a decade with Australia’s Merivale restaurant group—holding an array of positions at The Ivy Lounge, Sailors Thai, El Loco, and Ms. G’s—before landing in the Big Apple in 2016 to open Chinese Tuxedo with friend and co-owner Eddy Buckingham.

Rob Ficks, 32

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Emily Hagen
Rob Ficks, 32

Head Bartender | The Hawthorne | Boston

Rob Ficks developed his craft for five years at Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before coming to steer the innovative cocktail menu at The Hawthorne, a nationally recognized cocktail haven. He says he’s taken his craft to a new level at The Hawthorne. “I get to exercise my creativity through a median that is very dynamic.”

Ficks’ job may be perceived as glamorous, but it’s hard work that he describes as an “intense physical and mental exercise.”

“I pride myself on working every moment of every shift, in addition to sharpening my skills when I’m off the clock,” he says. “It’s not always easy, and it’s rarely glamorous, but it’s necessary. There are always ways to improve.”

Simone Tong, 36

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Little Tong
Simone Tong, 36

Chef & Owner | Little Tong Noodle Shop | New York City

Not too many Americans are familiar with authentic foods of China’s Yunnan province, particularly mixian, the region’s popular rice noodle dish. But when mixian becomes the next ramen, we’ll likely have Chef Simone Tong to thank.

Tong, owner of Little Tong Noodle Shop in Manhattan’s East Village, studied all over the world and worked at New York’s famed wd~50 and 15 East prior to opening Little Tong. Tong, who grew up in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, spent months traveling the Yunnan province to learn more about mixian.

Her aim in her career is to tell the story of authentic Chinese food. Americans today are more curious and adventurous than ever before, she says, and in the last decade have started to understand that there’s much more to Chinese food than sweet-and-sour chicken. But there’s more work to do.

“I want to spend my life introducing the world to China’s vast and rich cultural diversity by creating a modern Chinese cuisine with all of these regions in mind,” she says. “I’d like to redefine how we perceive Chinese food by establishing a new Chinese cuisine that brings together inspirations from all corners of China, as well as those from our experiences here stateside.”

Sean McPaul, 36

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High Street on Hudson
Sean McPaul, 36

Executive Chef | High Street on Hudson | New York City

Staging in the mornings before his shifts as a food runner in the evenings at Philadelphia’s Buddakan, Sean McPaul quickly discovered his love for the back of the house. After completing culinary school and a three-year stint at Tangerine, he made his way to the fine-dining food mecca of San Francisco. It was there he developed his craft and style at such establishments as Farrallon, Quince, and Jardinière.

Returning to the City of Brotherly Love, McPaul joined Talula’s Garden as executive chef, executing two James Beard House dinners in his time at the restaurant. He then transitioned to New York City, ultimately landing in his current role at High Street on Hudson last September.