Once again, it's time to reveal a fresh new class of young culinarians - the chefs, mixologists, sommeliers and food artisans that make up our 30 Under 30 list. This group of twentysomething Angelenos is creating a food and drink scene around LA that's bursting at the seams with flavor and verve, from chocolates to classic cocktails, food trucks to fried chicken, and everything in between. Click through to meet the 2013 honorees.
Story by Lesley Balla
Sarah Asch, 29Pastry Chef, The Tasting Kitchen
Why she made the list: Asch landed in baking the same way many have - after her chosen career, documentary filmmaking, proved unfulfilling. She moved here from Portland, OR, and landed first at Canelé, and then the Mozza empire to work with Nancy Silverton. “I learned a lot in terms of balance, technique and sensibility working with her,” notes Asch. She continues to refine her seasonal, clean style of desserts at Casey Lane’s Tasting Kitchen in Venice where she creates masterpieces like chocolate walnut semifreddo with black walnut meringue, and steamed gingerbread pudding with maple caramel, persimmon mash and ginger cream.
Spencer Bezaire, 27Executive Chef, L&E Oyster Bar
Why he made the list: Growing up in Altadena, Bezaire learned from watching his Japanese grandmother cook in the kitchen. Following his passion, he attended Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena while interning at Cafe Stella in Silver Lake. There, he worked his way up to executive chef and formed close relationships with farmers for fresh seasonal ingredients. He also bonded with Dustin Lancaster, who went on to open Bar Covell and his new, always packed L&E Oyster Bar, where Bezaire creates his seafood-centric menu with fresh oysters from East and West Coast farms along with locally grown produce.
Stephanie Brown, 29Director of Food and Beverage, Avalon Hotel
Why she made the list: Who knew Applebee’s could lead to something so good? That was Brown’s first restaurant job, hosting at one of the local chains, but she moved on to serving, bartending and training at some of Florida’s top restaurants. In Atlanta, she was the opening bar manager at The Mansion on Peachtree, and won accolades and awards for her ingredient-focused cocktails. She continues to develop food and beverage programs for the Viceroy Hotel Group, first at L’Ermitage, where she helped launch Livello, and now at Oliverio at the Avalon Hotel, where the drinks are super-quaffable, especially poolside.
Alyson Buoncristiani, 29Managing Director and Events, Gravy Train Poutinerie
Why she made the list: When Buoncristiani worked with filmmaker Judd Apatow, she was known as “the dispatcher,” because she ran his production office with military efficiency. Now, in her role with the Gravy Train Poutinerie food truck, Buoncristiani does everything from managing the day-to-day operations to sustaining new business opportunities and helping grow the brand. She also founded Lady Food Truckers, a national network of women working in the industry. With her on board, the Gravy Train continues to spread the good name of gravy-smothered french fries and cheese curds far and wide.
Holden Burkons, 28Pastry Chef, Muddy Leek
Why he made the list: Taking a cue from his Kentucky grandmother’s roots, Burkons dishes out classic American dishes with a seasonal and modernized twist. He started cooking at a sushi bar in the Valley before landing at San Francisco’s Town Hall Restaurant and then Tom Colicchio’s Craft, where as pastry sous-chef, he became immersed in the farm-to-table approach. At Muddy Leek, everything from the mascarpone to crème fraîche and mustards is made from scratch. In addition to desserts like honey buttermilk panna cotta with blood orange and caramel, Burkons is experimenting with new bread-making possibilities, including a fantastic cumin focaccia.
Cole Dickinson, 29Chef de Cuisine, Ink
Why he made the list: Dickinson’s first taste of restaurant life was working as a server after high school, but he eventually made his way to stage at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in London and L2O in Chicago. He’s worked with Ink’s Michael Voltaggio for a while now, first at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, then at Hemisphere at The Greenbrier in West Virginia and The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS in Beverly Hills. At Ink, he helps oversee the kitchen, working in tandem with Voltaggio on his modernist approach to American cuisine.
Beau du Bois, 29Head Bartender, The Corner Door
Why he made the list: Du Bois uses his intimate familiarization with cocktail history and a chemist’s knowledge of flavor profiles to create complex drinks with boutique spirits. After bartending at the infamous “Riot House” Hyatt on the Sunset Strip, he was tapped to launch the beverage program for David LeFevre’s MB Post in Manhattan Beach. From there he created the beverage program at the Corner Door, which is widely heralded for its use of homemade bitters, mixers and spirits, and cleverly named cocktails - think Grandma’s Pack of Cigarettes.
Brian Dunsmoor, 29Co-Executive Chef, Hart and the Hunter
Why he made the list: When a friend’s father cooked from Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen cookbook for dinner one night, the Atlanta-raised Dunsmoor was hooked. He worked with Hugh Acheson (who he describes as “the most influential chef I have ever worked under”) at 5&10, and after he moved to Southern California, he did time at Providence, Axe, Hungry Cat and Joe’s, where he met Kris Tominaga, his co-chef at Hart and the Hunter. They created a wildly successful pop-up on Abbot Kinney, and now on Melrose, they’re perfectly blending SoCal ingredients with Southern soul.
Noah Ellis, 29Managing Partner, Red Medicine
Why he made the list: Ellis started out cooking in restaurants while he was attending Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, but moved to the front of house in Vegas at FIX Restaurant at the Bellagio and STACK Restaurant and Bar at The Mirage. While working as opening manager for various Michael Mina projects, Ellis met pastry chef Jordan Kahn, and the two debuted Red Medicine on the outskirts of Beverly Hills, where he’s put together a fantastic wine list and creates quaffable drinks that pair perfectly with Kahn’s Asian-inspired cuisine.
Meg Gill, 28Co-founder and President, Golden Road Brewing
Why she made the list: After working at Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado, Gill took her passion for all things beer to Northern California, where she helped organize San Francisco Beer Week and the 2011 Craft Brewers Conference. After moving to LA, she found a kindred spirit in Tony Yanow, and together they co-founded the eco-friendly brewery, which is now one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country. As the youngest female brewery owner in the world, Gill continues to help facilitate development and product implementation, and is elevating LA beer culture one can at a time.
Jonathan Grahm, 28CEO and Chocolatier, Compartés Chocolatier
Why he made the list: Self-taught, Grahm is one of the youngest chocolatiers in the country, making more than 150 varieties of gourmet chocolates and chocolate bars. At his Brentwood store and factory, you’ll find flavors like smoked sea salt, mango and saffron, kaffir lime and lemongrass, and olive oil and rosemary. And in true LA fashion, his whimsically designed chocolates have been huge hits with celebs at premieres for movies and popular TV shows like True Blood. Who else can make blood-orange chocolate topped with red fangs?
David Hands, 29Executive Chef, Bouchon Bistro
Why he made the list: Hands started cooking at the age of 15 in England, and was running a meat station four months later. By the time he was 19, he was working at the Gidleigh Park Hotel in Dartmoor. After landing a chef de partie position at NYC’s Per Se, he arrived at Bouchon Bistro as a sous-chef in 2009, working his way up to executive chef when Rory Herrmann moved on in 2012. He continues implementing the best of LA and California seasonality with the high standards of a Keller restaurant.
Patrick Hotchkiss, 27General Manager, Hinoki & The Bird
Why he made the list: Hotchkiss has been a dedicated team player and key asset to the David Myers Group for several years now. Before running Century City’s new Hinoki & The Bird, he was previously general manager at Myers’ Pizzeria Ortica in Orange County. “David and I both appreciate attention to detail, and we share a similar vision,” says Hotchkiss. Having grown up just outside of Reno, his first job was working for a family-owned sushi restaurant, which created the spark for the industry. A few years later, he worked for the Dolce Group in Reno and then moved to LA. “The rest,” he says, “is history.”
Rachel Kerswell, 29Sommelier, Osteria Mozza
Why she made the list: After working for two years as wine director at Restaurant L’Original in Montreal, Kerswell realized she’d rather not wear a heavy coat in winter and ran off to Los Angeles, where she found herself immersed in Mozza’s wine program. Fluent in French, with a penchant for Italian wines, she’s an invaluable asset to the wine program at Osteria Mozza, where she loves to share her passion with the customers.
Maxwell Leer, 29Wine Director, Bestia
Why he made the list: Leer got his start in Italian restaurants throughout the Hudson River Valley while working for the Department of Environmental Conservation, developing a love of Italian varietals and a passion for clean, sustainable food. He followed chef Casey Lane from Portland’s Lewis and Clark to the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, and then landed a role as wine director at The Bazaar at the SLS in Beverly Hills. In 2012, he signed on to lead the wine program at Downtown hot spot Bestia, where you can sip food-friendly vinos like Austrian Blaufränkisch and crisp whites from Friuli.
Kevin Luzande, 29Chef de Cuisine, Playa
Why he made the list: Under the tutelage of John Sedlar, Luzande channels an undeniable love for cooking and creativity in the kitchen. He credits his “Nanay,” or grandmother, for fostering his epicurean passion, citing her flavorful dishes and heartwarming preparations as inspirations. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, his handiwork and organization soon earned him a position at Playa as Sedlar’s right-hand man. He helps curate the urban-Latin menu featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients, some even plucked from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. “Being a chef is a lifestyle, not a job,” he says, “and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Charlie Parker, 29Executive Chef, Freddy Smalls Bar + Kitchen
Why he made the list: Like the jazz musician he shares a name with, Parker has a knack for inventive cuisine that seems improvised but coheres on the plate. Born and raised in Menlo Park, his first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. After culinary school, he learned to butcher at Severino Community Butcher in Santa Cruz, was chef at Oakland’s Plum and spent a decade working at top restaurants like Manresa, Ubuntu and Bonny Doon Vineyard. Now in LA, he’s making waves with unique gastropub dishes like flash-grilled steak tartare with smoked egg yolk.
Natasha Phan, 28Director of Business Development and Brand Marketing, Kogi and A-Frame
Why she made the list: Growing up around her parents’ Echo Park supermarket, Phan was used to running around with fishmongers, butchers and produce guys. As an “intern” for Roy Choi’s Kogi truck, she scraped plates and did dishes. Six months later, she was in charge of business development and brand marketing for the entire company, which now includes A-Frame, Chego, Sunny Spot and the forthcoming Line Hotel. She’s also helping Choi pen his upcoming book, Spaghetti Junction: Riding Shotgun with an L.A. Chef. In her free time, she says she still enjoys washing dishes.
Zach Pollack, 28Chef-Owner, Sotto
detour through food that cultivated a passion for cooking. It was during an internship with Neal Fraser at Grace that he bonded with future Sotto chef and co-owner Steve Samson. After more training in Italy, Pollack joined Samson to open Pizzeria Ortica, which became a local hit in Orange County. The duo received a number of accolades, especially for their dough recipe, which would eventually lay the foundation for Sotto's critically celebrated pizza.
Brian Quint, 29Head Bartender, Hungry Cat Hollywood
Why he made the list: Landing a job as a server at The Hungry Cat shortly after his arrival in LA, Quint began training under the gifted Tim Staehling and Danielle Motor, noted throughout the city for their expertly mixed market-fresh cocktails. He also drew inspiration from his grandmother, who taught him the art of preserving fruits and vegetables from recipes she created from her victory garden and fruit trees in San Diego. Quint creates seasonal cocktails, housemade bitters, liqueurs, house-cured olives, preserves and brandied cherries for the restaurant, ranking the bar program as one of the best in Los Angeles.
Ashley Ragovin, 29General Manager, Trois Mec
Why she made the list: Although Ragovin began working in restaurants as a means to get through graduate school, she became addicted to the tangible energy of restaurant work and fully immersed herself in the art of service. After deepening her wine knowledge as a sommelier at Osteria Mozza, she joined the team at Animal as general manager. She’s thrilled to begin a new chapter at Trois Mec, the collaboration between Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo and Ludovic Lefebvre. She intends to create a dining experience that’s elevated and personal, and one in which beverage and food seamlessly intertwine.
Doug Rankin, 27Chef de Cuisine, Pigg at Umamicatessen
Why he made the list: Having worked in professional kitchens since he was 16, Rankin tried his hand at culinary school, but he dropped out and was hired at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole. He then moved to Costa Mesa to open Palmer’s restaurant at South Coast Plaza. But it was at Saam at The Bazaar by José Andrés where he really got to showcase his skills creating the intricate 22-course menu. After working with Michael Voltaggio at Ink, Rankin was tapped to open Pigg at Umamicatessen, serving Chris Cosentino’s pork-centric dishes in all forms - cured, terrined, grilled and fried.
Trevor Rocco, 27Executive Chef, Red Hill
Why he made the list: Rocco attended the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, and worked at Snackbar in Philadelphia, which he credits for teaching him not only technique but also integrity and work ethic. He came to LA with the intent of opening a West Coast Snackbar, which didn’t pan out, but it did lead him to partnering with Local’s Jason Michaud. At Red Hill in Echo Park, Rocco puts the slow-food philosophy to delicious effect, garnering kudos for his housemade pastas and sausages (even vegan), use of seasonal local ingredients and simple preparations that let flavors shine.
Hourie Sahakian, 25Head Baker, Short Cake
Why she made the list: Sahakian met Amy Pressman at the gym, and quickly discovered they were “food soul mates,” which led to a gig running the Original Farmers Market bakery. With little training, other than flipping porterhouse steaks with her dad or crafting delicate Armenian cookies with her grandmother, Sahakian hopes to keep Pressman’s vision alive by creating delicious tea cakes, scones, cookies, pies and savory bread pudding - food that’s robust, traditional and from the heart.
Daniel Shemtob, 24Founder and Owner, TLT Food and The Lime Truck
Why he made the list: Everything Shemtob does embodies the Southern California dream. Born and raised in Orange County, he won season two of the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race with the Lime Truck, and just recently opened a brick-and-mortar outpost, TLT Food, in Westwood. Shemtob’s affordable “New American Food Without Boundaries” is all about consistency - think dishes like ahi poke nachos and addictive carnitas fries. With his partners, he now operates two trucks here and in Orange County, and is already looking to open a second restaurant in LA.
Nikki Sunseri, 29Beverage Director, Little Dom’s and Dominick’s
Why she made the list: Sunseri has an extensive culinary background, graduating from the California School of Culinary Arts’ Le Cordon Bleu before moving on to work as a chef under Wolfgang Puck at Granita and, later, a sous-chef under pastry queen Jonna Jensen at Josie Le Balch’s Josie. Nikki uses her knowledge of food and flavors to create unique and ever-changing cocktail programs at Dominick’s and Little Dom’s. In addition to old-school classics, she crafts seasonally inspired elixirs using her very own infusions and bitters in addition to unconventional cocktail ingredients.
Ari Taymor, 27Executive Chef and Owner, Alma
Why he made the list: Taymor is getting as much recognition for his subtle, creative Californian cuisine as he is for helping to enliven the burgeoning Broadway neighborhood in Downtown LA. After time spent with Suzanne Goin at Lucques, at SF’s lauded Flour + Water and Bar Tartine, and at La Chassagnette and Ostapé in France, he tested Alma in a pop-up format before finding his permanent home on South Broadway. When he’s not visiting local farms, Taymor is busy developing a charity project that will offer cooking classes and internships to underprivileged and at-risk teens.
Miles Thompson, 24Executive Chef, Allumette
Why he made the list: Talk about a teenage prodigy. Thompson landed his first job in the kitchen at the age of 13 and was instantly hooked. He worked at NYC’s Nobu and then locally at Animal and Son of a Gun, where he became executive sous-chef. It was his Vagrancy Project pop-up that caught the eyes of Bill Didonna and Charles Kelly, co-owners of the Allston Yacht Club. Thompson held the dining club there several times a week, until the three decided to make it more permanent. In early 2013, they debuted Allumette, his first solo venture as executive chef.
Santos Uy, 29Owner and Wine Director, Papilles and Mignon
Why he made the list: Uy has a penchant for eclectic wines, especially those that push the boundaries of your palate. He caught the oenophile bug while working at Silverlake Wine and as a part-time sommelier at the original A.O.C. He opened Bacaro with friend Danny Kronfli, and then Mignon in the Historic Core of Downtown LA. The two partners split, and Uy now focuses solely on Mignon and his latest venture, Papilles, a tiny French “bistronomy” restaurant. When he’s not drinking wine, Uy enjoys boxing and ballet class. But his favorite activity? Dining out, especially if it’s in Europe.
Raymond Weber, 29Chef de Cuisine, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
Why he made the list: Weber has been with the Wolfgang Puck Group for many years, moving from the The Source in DC to the opening team at WP24 to the Hotel Bel-Air, where’s he really been able to explore the best of our local bounty. The Florida-born chef couldn’t be more grateful for everything he’s learned from mentors like Lee Hefter and Puck himself. You can practically taste that gratitude in dishes like loup de mer with heirloom shelling bean ragout, black trumpet mushrooms, mascarpone and micro arugula. Not bad for a guy who grew up working in his family’s diner.