A teen chef who will probably open his own restaurant before he’s even 21. A woman who outfits the biggest chef names in the world with aprons. Barista champions going way beyond latte art. And restaurant entrepreneurs whose bond started in kindergarten. That’s just a sample of who made our third annual list of 30 Under 30 culinary and hospitality rock stars in LA. From the top kitchens, bars and food trucks in the city to trailblazers in beer, coffee, artisanal foods, Oaxacan culture and more, these honorees were all nominated by their peers, bosses, us and you, Zagat readers. Let’s all raise a glass and toast the big dreamers and high achievers of our ever-expanding food and drink scene.
Story by Lesley Balla; Photos by Ryan Tanaka
Jake Ahles and Max Block, Both 27Founders at The FareTrade
Block and Ahles, buddies since their days at Pitzer College, were primed to launch something like The FareTrade for years — whether they knew it or not. Block, an LA native, has been surrounded by the restaurant business since he was a kid, thanks to his parents’ liquor-license brokerage firm, and as an adult, his tenure as a restaurant and hospitality publicist. Coming from the farming community around Fresno, Ahles always had a penchant for artisanal and seasonal foods, which led him to cooking at the now-defunct District with chef Kris Morningstar. Together, they are the driving force behind The FareTrade, a new kind of Community Supported Agriculture basket, one that’s brimming with chef-selected small-batch goods from around the country, plus recipes on how to use them, all delivered to members’ doors each month. “We were clamoring for a way to get our discoveries from our own personal travels back home to friends and families,” says Ahles. “And getting these artisans a chance to grow their brands and chefs a new way to connect with fans,” adds Block.
Side Dish: Favorite finds for the baskets so far include Willy B’s Dehydrated Hot Sauce. “It’s perfect in aïoli,” says Block. And Ahles likes All Spice Cafe’s Chipotle Olive Tapenade for its kick.
Tristan Aitchison, 29Chef de Cuisine at Providence
Like a lot of chefs, Aitchison knew he wanted to cook at an early age. When he was in high school, his godfather, a server, got him a staging opportunity at The Water Grill with chef Michael Cimarusti. “My fellow cooks said that culinary school was not the way to go, so I worked my way up through the ranks,” says Aitchison. “Like a lot of other people, I was hooked to the raw, almost criminal feeling of being a line cook.” He went on to cook with Cimarusti at Providence in 2005, and now he’s the proud chef de cuisine, which he attributes to hard work and listening to his mentors. “Working for chef Michael isn’t about working directly with him, it’s about how he influences everyone around him,” says Aitchison. “His expectations are high, and to become a great chef, everyone strives to meet those goals.”
Side Dish: One of Aitchison’s favorite recent discoveries is jelly melons, or African throned cucumbers. “They smell like green bananas and have bright-green fleshed seeds that have the texture of cucumber.”
Chris Amirault, 26Head Barman at Harlowe
Amirault looks far beyond just the next tincture for his cocktail program at this West Hollywood hot spot. Whether it’s a smoked Negroni on draft, bottled and carbonated gin and tonics or jarred Sazeracs, it’s as much about how to serve a drink as what goes in it. After training with mixology masters Julian Cox and Josh Goldman from Soigné Group, and focusing on seasonal cocktails at Eveleigh, in two short years this young barman has made a name for himself through his use of herbal accents, botanical essences, housemade juices, gommes and more. Being on the “observational prowl” steers his craft, which means you’ll always find something new and delicious on his menus. “The key for me is still maintaining that insatiable quest for learning more about flavors, spirits and hospitality,” says Amirault. “And having a little fun along the way.”
Side Dish: Amirault won the Broker’s Bowler Cup for the West Region for his Ballad of Sir Francis Drake, a mix of Broker’s gin, rum, lemon and toasted-pistachio-infused coconut cream.
Charles Babinski, 29Cofounder of G&B and Go Get Em Tiger
Whoever walks into G&B or Go Get Em Tiger and expects to get an ordinary cuppa joe will be quickly disappointed. And then transformed. Coffee here is an art form, from bean to cup. Babinski and business partner Kyle Glanville decide how it’s sweetened, how much and what kind of milk is added — including their own housemade almond-macadamia milk for one of the best iced coffees in the country, according to The New York Times — all to exacting proportions. Having worked in coffee shops in New York, Chicago — the two met while working for Intelligentsia — and LA, Babinski and Glanville opened their two coffee bars at Grand Central Market Downtown and on Larchmont to create a new service model for coffee with uncompromised quality. To Babinski, who placed second in the U.S. National Barista Championships for the last three years in a row, that means not hovering over a pot of coffee making sure it brews the right way, but instead selecting the right products and making the process fairly automated for the team so everyone can be more engaging with the customer. “My experience as a whole in coffee has been that for every ounce of effort I put in, I get a wealth back.”
Side Dish: Babinski isn’t just a coffee junkie. He drinks a lot of tea, like light Taiwanese oolongs and deep sweet Yunnan black teas. “I also make kombucha, mead and tonics in my spare time, though I generally keep the hippie stuff at home.”
Ellen Bennett, 27Designer and Founder of Hedley & Bennett
You’ve seen her aprons on everyone from Michael Voltaggio to David Chang and Grant Achatz. In fact, over the last two years since Bennett made her first 40 aprons for Josef Centeno’s Baco Mercat, Hedley & Bennett has outfitted aprons, chef jackets and hats for more than 600 restaurants worldwide. “When I was a line cook at Providence, I didn’t like our uniforms,” Bennett says. “Since I always loved design, I thought I could make them better.” Using handpicked fabrics from around the globe and stylish, sturdy, functional designs, Bennett’s aprons and fame have skyrocketed. To space, even: one of H&B’s newest clients is for Elon Musk’s Spacex rocket company. “I did some bananas designs for the on-site restaurant staff,” she says.
Side Dish: If there were one apron she could do forever, it’s the Thomas, a classic Japanese denim number she made for Thomas Keller. “I sent it to him and he had no idea who I was, but he responded,” she says.
Sophie Bonnet, 27Restaurant Manager at ink.
Having only been with Michael Voltaggio’s restaurant for a short time, Bonnet has made a big impact on the dining room. Her corporate training lends well to overseeing such a hot spot, where she can implement standards and processes that a machine like that needs. It doesn’t hurt that she loves everything on the menu. “It’s so easy to work for a place where everything is delicious and you can recommend everything,” Bonnet says. Hospitality is in her blood: her grandfather was a food and beverage director at a Paris hotel, which inspired her to pursue a degree in hospitality management at Vatel Paris. She landed in LA to pursue her MBA and work at haute hotels like the Four Seasons and The Peninsula, but didn’t expect to stay. She really didn’t expect to leave hotels for a restaurant. “I was a little scared to make the move,” she says. “But it’s been so much fun.”
Side Dish: Bonnet was born in Bagnolet, a suburb of Paris, France.
Robin Chopra and Eduardo M. Ruiz, Both 28Owner/Bartender at Corazon y Miel, PUNCH and Chef-Owner at Corazon y Miel, Picnik
Ruiz’s two-lb. turkey leg sandwich, the pan con chompipe, is one of many reasons to make the trek to Bell, where his almost two-year-old and much-lauded restaurant Corazon y Miel is located. Another reason is the cocktails, which Chopra describes as “loud, flavorful, sticky-sweet, boozy and fun,” a perfect complement to the bold, flavorful cuisine. The two have known each other since kindergarten, and both coming from families of cooks, they tap into their Mexican and El Salvadoran (Ruiz) and Peruvian (Chopra) roots for their menus at Corazon, Picnik (Ruiz’s sausage and beer spot) and PUNCH (a punch-only bar in Pasadena). The two keep each other motivated, while reaching for the same goal with their current and future projects. “We both have high expectations for each other but welcome collaboration and feedback,” Chopra says. “That's how we get the best out of each other.”
Side Dish: Pisco is a favorite right now. “It’s wonderfully aromatic, dangerously smooth and has a rich history. It also pairs well with egg whites in cocktails,” says Chopra.
Jeffrey Faust and Woogene Lee, Both 29Partner, Business Development and Managing Partner of fundamental LA
Good friends since the second grade, Faust and Lee started talking seriously about opening a restaurant together during their time at UC Berkeley. “I think it's the aspect of community and hospitality that we really love,” says Faust. “Welcoming someone into your place, serving them something special, and showing them a good time.” Fundamental LA is nothing if not a good time. With Faust running the front of the house and wine program, and Lee, who worked at Melisse for a time, more involved with menu development and kitchen operations, the two created almost two different concepts in one small space: lunch with its artisanal sandwiches and salads, and dinner with more composed plates and a compelling wine and beer list. The two plan on expanding their catering operations beyond the very supportive Westwood neighborhood, and are looking to do more projects around town soon, possibly heading Downtown.
Side Dish: If you’re going to order anything, get the brisket sandwich. “It took us forever to get it just right, but now that we have, I probably eat three or four a week,” says Lee.
Chris Ford, 29Pastry Chef at Bouchon Beverly Hills
“I always try to bring a sense of nostalgia or a story to the menu,” says Ford, who took over the pastry program at Bouchon in 2013. “It’s what chef Keller always pushes for: every dish should have a story.” Having arrived from a top role at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, where he gained local and national praise for his haute desserts and pastries, Ford is happy to be in LA, especially for the weather and produce. Whether he’s working for one of the most powerful and respected chefs in the world or making super-gooey chocolate chip cookies at home, when it comes down to it, his philosophy is simple — to produce something everyone loves. “When a guest says, ‘This reminds me of my grandmother’s,’ it’s really the whole point,” he says. “Food should touch people.”
Side Dish: Another way to be touched is via Ford’s Instagram — he’s a very talented photographer — with the name that says it all: Butterloveandhardwork.
Kate Green, 29Assistant to Nancy Silverton at Mozza Restaurant Group
If you’ve seen Nancy Silverton anywhere over the last seven years, be it the Mozzaplex, handing out caprese at an event, or working the crowd at a party, chances are Green isn’t too far away. “I definitely help Nancy run like a machine; that is a part of what I do,” she says. “But my job is about five different titles rolled into one. I have my hands in a lot of projects on the corner.” When she was 22, Green started answering phones as a reservationist at the Pizzeria, and worked her way up to office manager and then running special events. Soon she was invaluable to Silverton, helping with VIP reservations (First Lady Obama has dined at the restaurants twice, and she oversaw a private event for the President), off-site events and handling personal social events, and now to the Mozza Group as a whole, working closely with her counterpart in the New York office on all social media for the restaurants. “I didn’t exactly always picture myself in this career or position,” says Green. “But once I met Mario and Nancy and saw what they do on a day-to-day basis, I can’t imagine myself ever stepping out of it.”
Side Dish: When she first moved to LA, Green worked as a model for a year and a half. “It kept interfering with my schedule at the restaurant, and I had to choose between the two.”
Anna Knudson, 29Head Bartender at Melrose Umbrella Co.
When Knudson moved to LA from Florida, where she was an assistant to a fine-dining catering chef, her goal was to land in a kitchen. She instead became a front-of-the-house power player at places like STK and First & Hope. It was at the latter where she met some of the city’s top barmen and -women, including Aidan Demerest, Naomi Schimek and countless others, who opened her eyes to the craft-cocktail scene. Her culinary drive combined with her time at the lauded Julian Cox bar training course has put her on the fast track to becoming one of LA’s top bartenders, known for simple concoctions beyond the flash. “I love three-ingredient cocktails where the spirits speak for themselves,” says Knudson. “A perfect old fashioned, a riff on a martini.” Her coworkers find her focus and craft unparalleled at a time when hype too often outshines true passion.
Side Dish: One of the most enticing aspects of spirits to her: “I’m really into the aromatics.”
Robert Kronfli, 26Owner-Founder of Bacari PDR, Bacaro LA, Nature’s Brew, and Kronfli Brothers products
Going from a successful pop-up to co-owning two restaurants and an artisanal sauce company is a lot for someone so young. The food bug bit Kronfli hard when he hosted three-course underground dinners at his apartment while at USC. “The Paladar Underground really solidified my passion for food,” says Kronfil, “and made me realize hospitality is what I needed to pursue full time.” Without skipping a beat, he joined his brother Daniel to open Bacaro LA, which has kept the coeds awash in fusion tapas and wine since 2008, and now their first Westside venture, Bacari PDR, which focuses on Mediterranean small plates. Somewhere in there they opened the Nature’s Brew coffee shop and cafe near Downtown LA and launched a company to make sauces like kale-tahini and pomegranate-molasses that are now carried in more than 150 stores around the country. The entrepreneur says the best part about starting any new business is the blank canvas. “It allows you to be creative as you want to be. Nothing holds you back.”
Side Dish: He’s a boss, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. “I was knocking out dishes last night in the kitchen at the new restaurant because we unexpectedly got very busy,” Kronfli says.
Cloe Lane, 20Owner of Bon Puf
After a few minutes with Lane and her pretty cotton candy ‘pufs,’ you’ll start to see the world through cute, sweet and rose (or in this case, honey-rose)-colored glasses. Launching her organic cotton candy cart at the ripe age of 19 was natural for this travel-loving trendsetter. “I love cotton candy,” Lane says. “I wanted to reinvent it for a more modern, hip audience, to move away from the typical carnival-style approach.” So in 2013, she sourced organic sugars and ingredients and began experimenting with fun, unexpected toppings. Wherever you see the cart, be it at Coachella or Unique LA, or at events designed by Mindy Weiss Party Consultants or Bash Please, you’ll find wisps of spun sugar in flavors like chile-mango, litchi-green tea or chai topped with edible glitter. As soon as she finishes classes at Santa Monica Community College, she hopes to travel more and grow the brand, including taking it across the globe. “I just love bringing joy into people’s lives in such a whimsical way,” she adds.
Side Dish: Travel is her passion, having been to Hungary, Austria, France, England, Uganda and Kenya among other distant locales. “All of these cultures’ flavors have given me a very eclectic palate.”
Johnny Lee, 27Chef de Cuisine at Eggslut
Chalk it up to being in the right place at the right time. Lee was running the Thai street-food counter Sticky Rice, which was part of the first wave of new restaurants amping up the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, when he hit a “personal plateau” as a chef. He didn’t have to look far for new inspiration: he saw an opportunity to help at the insanely busy Eggslut breakfast-sandwich stand. Chef and owner Alvin Caitlin calls Lee one of the “dynamic duo” helping to keep business running smoothly (the other is 22-year-old manager Justin Carleton) and ensuring it’s the best breakfast experience possible. With a strong background in Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Latin American cuisine, or “Pan-Angeleno-style,” as he likes to call it, Lee will be instrumental in helping Caitlin launch the forthcoming noodle stall at the market. “I have been in pursuit of creating the perfect tonkatsu for quite some time now,” he says. “When I have more free time, I can’t wait to dive back into it.”
Side Dish: He got his start in restaurants working as a waiter at a “run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant catering to white American palates.” After that, he knew he wanted to stay in the business, but in the kitchen instead of the front of the house.
Phillip Frankland Lee, 27Chef-Owner at Scratch|Bar and The Gadarene Swine
For a chef looking to get away from “stuffy” restaurants, Beverly Hills would seem like an unusual choice to open your first solo project. But it was exactly the right spot for Lee, who debuted Scratch|Bar there in 2012. “I wanted to take fine dining away from the ‘elite’ customer,” Lee says, “and make it more affordable, approachable, accessible and fun. I want to be a gateway drug for aspiring foodies.” Known for using smelt, bone marrow and tons of uni (his favorite ingredient) on the menu, Lee still keeps things nutritionally balanced. “I got cancer a year ago, and my wife put me on a super-strict diet, which ended up reducing the severity,” he says. “I now apply those principles of food as fuel and healing to all of my recipes.” Look for more at The Gaderene Swine, his latest restaurant in Studio City. The best part about opening your own restaurant: “I don’t have to ask permission, nor do I have to apologize.”
Side Dish: The name Gaderene Swine comes from a biblical story about Jesus driving a flock of pigs into the sea — a subtle reference that there are no animal products on the menu.
Thomas Lim, 29Chef at Goldie's, LA and Dudley's, NYC
From spending time in his uncle’s Chinese restaurant as a kid to working in Western Australian kitchens during the summer months, Lim has honed his style of small plates with big flavors through the years. Serving as executive chef at Nick Maters' restaurants on both coasts, including Goldie's, the West Third Street restaurant they opened in 2013, Lim designs menus based on local, seasonal ingredients and global flavors. Dishes like seaweed tagliatelle with Dungeness crab and lemon, pork shoulder steak with hoisin-glazed grilled peaches, and roasted yellow corn with fregola and lime really showcase the depth of his flavor repertoire. Working on new projects in both New York and LA presents its challenges, but Lim keeps a steady head. “Restaurants require a lot of attention,” he says. “It takes a very focused and dedicated team, investing time in current establishments and making sure we keep to our original vision.”
Side Dish: His favorite ingredient right now is brown butter.
Bricia Lopez and Fernando Lopez, 29 and 27Co-Proprietors at Guelaguetza Restaurant and Michelada Guelaguetza
Bricia and Fernando’s father opened Guelaguetza in the 1990s, and although they worked there, neither thought they’d end up running the business one day. “I wanted to stay as far away as possible,” Bricia says. “But this industry has a funny way of pulling you back in. As soon as I graduated college, I knew there was nothing else I’d rather be doing.” Fernando felt the same way, and together, they’ve helped push the Guelaguetza brand to new heights. Not only do they help run the restaurant, but they’ve launched a product line, which includes jarred mole and michelada mix, and celebrate the “spirit of Oaxaca” and Mexican culture all over LA. Spearheaded by Fernando, they recently launched the MicheMobil, a tricked-out VW bus with beer taps, DJ booth and video screens to serve Guelaguetza micheladas at events. “Making people fall in love with Oaxaca through food and drink is the best way we can give back to our home state,” says Fernando.
Side Dish: Bricia is a founding member and sits on the board for The Taste of Mexico Association, and will serve as president for its 2014-15 term. She was also the youngest of eight people at a roundtable with President Obama to discuss immigration and economic issues.
Andrew Luthi, 26Owner at Ohana Brewing Company
Luthi, one of the youngest brewery owners in California, wasn’t even allowed to drink beer when he first heard about craft brews. “I didn’t know what it was or what to expect,” he says. “But when I turned 21, I slowly started to buy beers brewed in San Diego, like Stone and Green Flash.” Although he’s not the brewer — that would be Erick "Riggs" Villar and Eric McLaughlin — he is hands-on with just about everything else, from cleaning kegs to delivering his beer all over town. He was also instrumental in getting the small tasting room open in Alhambra, where the thirsty go to sample Ohana’s hoppy IPAs, Belgian-style saisons, American pale ales and Luthi’s favorite, the coffee amber ale (and to buy and refill growlers).
Side Dish: Luthi is finishing his business degree at California State University at Los Angeles, and also repairs gaming machines for the horse-racing industry throughout California. But he mostly just likes to visit other breweries.
Ivan Marquez, 28Head Pastry Chef at Short Cake
For a pastry chef who has never been to Paris, Marquez makes one heck of a good croissant. “Our ham and comte croissant is one of my favorites,” he says. “I love how the layers proudly present themselves from the side view with the crispy comte at the base.” He also makes a mean éclair, which is impossible to pass up when you walk past the Short Cake counter at the Original Farmers Market. Sherry Yard discovered Marquez, who learned under her tutelage at Spago, and he then went on to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, followed by stints in top pastry kitchens at Providence, Gordon Ramsay at the London and The French Laundry. That's a lot of talent to hit the corner of Third and Fairfax. His new menu items span both sweet and savory and have a slightly modern edge, with an eye toward the seasons.
Side Dish: He can’t wait to work with chestnuts, persimmons, quince and all of the fabulous squash of the fall.
Flynn McGarry, 15Chef at Eureka Pop Up
This prodigy has accomplished more in his 15 years than many chefs have in a lifetime. He’s cooked with top toques like Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago and at Eleven Madison Park in New York City and currently at Alma in Downtown LA. He sells out $160-a-head pop-up dinners, which were most recently held at Fifty Seven (on hiatus until the fall). And he’s graced the cover of The New York Times Magazine. Not bad for a homeschooled teenager, albeit one who’d rather be eating aged pigeon roasted in ash with charred spring onion, ember-roasted plum compote, umeboshi and succulents than grilled cheese sandwiches. One look at The French Laundry Cookbook when he was 10, and McGarry knew exactly the kind of chef he wanted to be. And his aspirations aren’t waning anytime soon: his dream apprenticeship would be with Magnus Nilsson at Faviken in Sweden. “Then if all goes to plan, I hope to open a restaurant by the time I’m 19,” he adds.
Side Dish: While most teens are spending their cash on video games and skinny jeans, McGarry has a kitchen full of toys, like a crazy-expensive chamber vacuum sealer.
Rebecca Merhej, 26Chef de Cuisine and Pastry Chef at love&salt
“I want to make desserts that make you feel good when you eat them,” Merhej says of her upcoming menu for love&salt. “I want them to remind you of something your grandma or mom would make.” That means homey things like pies and tarts, fruit upside-down cakes and the like. At Mar’sel, where she was chef de cuisine, Merhej put her personal stamp on the menu with her breads and pastries, and also with her deft hand with savory items (she’s currently tapping into her Lebanese family recipes). Her talent not only garnered the praise from the diners, but also from executive chef Michael Fiorelli, who brought her with him to do the same for the forthcoming Manhattan Beach restaurant.
Side Dish: Being a California girl, she can’t get enough of the glorious stone-fruit season. “There are just so many things that can be done with them: raw, baked, sorbet, ice cream, jam...I’m obsessed.”
David Palos, 27Chef de Cuisine at Hatfield's
“I grew up watching the Iron Chefs (Japanese), Good Eats and No Reservations,” Palos says of his early years in Rialto. It’s only natural that he went to culinary school, which eventually led him to working with some of LA’s best chefs, like Tony Esnault (at Patina), David LeFevre (at Fishing With Dynamite) and now at Hatfield’s. “Quinn and Karen have taught me a lot about being business-minded without losing focus that food is the star.” The Hatfields have enough faith in him as a chef that they’ve let him tap into his roots for a dish on the fall menu: spiced pumpkin with mole poblano. “When I think about food in LA, I feel like anything can work,” says Palos. “You can make it work as long as you put in the effort and make it as delicious as possible.”
Side Dish: His favorite dish of all time is his mother’s chiles rellenos. “Always take out the seeds,” she told him while he cooked by her side. “Leaving the seeds in the chile is a sign of a lazy cook."
Percy Omar Ramirez, 29Director of Coffee Operations at Compañía de Cafè
Although Ramirez got his serious barista training at Intelligentsia (co-honoree Charles Babinski was one of his early mentors), the owners of Portos Bakery, where he got his start, handpicked him to oversee the coffee program for the famous Cuban cafes. “I never liked coffee before then,” he laughs. “It was just a job in the beginning, but I slowly started to realize how fragile and intricate the whole process was.” A finalist in the Southwest Regional Barista Championship, Ramirez now runs the coffee program at the new San Fernando cafe, where he combines traditional Mexican beverages with popular espresso drinks. Think horchata lattes and infusing cold brew with tamarind and hibiscus aguas frescas. “You would never guess to mix these ingredients with coffee, but I promise you it’s freaking delicious,” he adds.
Side Dish: A Native of Guatemala, Ramirez competed in the barista championship in his home country.
James Seok and Brian Yuen, 26 and 28Co-Owner and Chef and Co-owner at The Bun Shop
“Our food represents who we are,” says Yeun. “We are Korean Americans from Detroit.” It just so happens that there’s a huge Mediterranean influence on the food scene in the Motor City. So when the two launched The Bun Truck in 2011, that’s where the menu ended up: spicy pork buns with tzatziki, grilled pita chips with hummus, gochujang-marinated pork gyros. “It just worked out that way when we thought up food that we were familiar with and enjoyed,” adds Yeun. Friends since high school, Seok, who trained at the New York Culinary Institute and ended up in the Morimoto kitchen, and Yeun, a former banker, always knew they wanted to open a restaurant, and a truck was the first step. Cut to February 2014, and they opened their first brick-and-mortar shop, with hopes to expand the brand more in the coming years.
Side Dish: As a side project, Seok is opening a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich franchise.
Dylan Snyder, 28Brewer, Bartender, Consultant, Educator Beertender Los Angeles, Acme Hospitality Group, Barrel Down
Thank goodness Snyder found a job at Wurstkuche, otherwise we’d be talking to him about lamps. Having left a lamp-store job for a bartending gig at the sausage and beer hall when he first moved to LA, the all-around beer guy is now in charge of all of the taps for ACME Hospitality Group, which owns great neighborhood spots like the Library Bar, Spring St., Beelman’s Pub, King Eddy Saloon and Sixth Street Tavern, among others. His favorite: Sixth Street. “We dance, we have a great beer list, the cocktails are out of sight,” Snyder says. “I personally trained this staff on cocktail making, so I feel a whole a lot of pride toward that bar.” He also brews beer, hosts educational seminars and plans events, like the upcoming ACME Downtown Bar Crawl, with Beertender, the consulting and lifestyle company he co-owns. “Everything we do is to help Los Angeles drinking culture be something the world will be in awe of.”
Side Dish: Dylan’s top beer right now is Noble Ale Works’ Naughty Sauce, a golden milk stout brewed with coffee. “It will change your life,” he says.
Brandyn Tepper, 27Head Bartender of Hinoki & the Bird and Founder and Partner of Cocktail Academy
Having worked in bars from the Central Coast, during his time at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, to Venice, his hometown, Tepper has continuously upped his cocktail game. But it wasn’t until he met famed barman Sam Ross, who helped put the LA cocktail scene on the map with his perfection on classic drinks at Comme Ça, that things turned. When he heard that Ross would be overseeing Hinoki & the Bird cocktail program, he knew that was exactly where he wanted to be. “Classics, strictly classics,” Tepper says of his style. “I can’t, nor do I have any interest in, making cocktails that involve thinking way out of the box. I envy bartenders that can do that, but everyone should know how to make a simple gimlet, sour, Collins, Rickey and Manhattan.” That doesn’t mean he’s not looking toward trends. The new menu at the Century City restaurant will feature several types of sherry, some verjus, matcha and more.
Side Dish: In addition to catering cocktail parties, the Cocktail Academy’s Apartment A is a unique event space/private tasting room/cocktail lab in an Arts District loft.
Erwin Tjahyadi, 28Co-Owner/Chef at Komodo
When Tjahyadi and Komodo co-owners Mike Cho and Thomas Choi wanted to break out of the fine-dining confines of the Hotel Bel-Air, the first thought was to do an enhanced hot dog cart. He just wanted to do restaurant-quality food for the street, with a menu that reflects the melting-pot culture of LA. They instead launched a truck in 2010, before the food-truck scene really exploded, and opened their first brick-and-mortar shop within a year — all based on hard work and no investors. Tjahyadi’s background, from catering corporate events and splashy entertainment galas, like the Daytime Emmy Awards, to running the Hotel Bel-Air kitchen, coupled with his penchant for Asian flavors, was a winning combo. Now there’s top sirloin sandwiches with jalapeño aïoli and Southwest corn salad, Singaporean-style shrimp and California-style “burgerritos” in the heart of the mostly kosher Pico-Robertson neighborhood. Sounds about right.
Side Dish: Komodo was selected as a name and logo because Tjahyadi is Indonesian American, and his father was born near the Komodo island. But the Komodo dragon is also a scrappy, resourceful animal, which was fitting for a food-truck crew.
Adrian Vela, 26Sous-Chef at Cafe Del Rey
Having recently moved to LA from Las Vegas, where he worked at Joe’s Stone Crab and Joel Robuchon, Vela is most excited to get into the local produce, especially the fall bounty. “Beautiful bold flavors come out, such as fresh beans, the cabbage family begins to flourish, mushrooms begin to sprout just about everywhere, and the pears and persimmons season begins, which my daughter loves so much,” he says. Under the tutelage of executive chef Chuck Abair at Cafe del Rey, Vela gets to spread his wings coming up with dishes for special menus, like a few recent wine dinners, and helping to source the most sustainable seafood he can for the menus. While he continues to learn and grow in the kitchen, he can see launching a food truck one day. “My family actually owned and operated a moving business,” he says. “So the idea of being mobile and having the ability to share my passion for cooking with people across the country would be an amazing opportunity.”
Side Dish: Before turning to the stoves, Vela was a nationally ranked four-star athlete in Las Vegas. Although he had offers to play for USC, UCLA and Texas, an injury kept him from continuing to play.
Kimmy Wade, 27General Manager at Son of a Gun
“Hospitality as a career was never the plan,” says Wade. “I moved to New York to work with Doctors Without Borders; working in restaurants was my supplemental income, until I realized I was already in love with it.” But it was long before New York that she fell in love with hospitality: making sure people were happy and well taken care of came naturally to her. “Every family event I ever went to or dinner my mother planned encompasses everything I believe hospitality should be,” she says. That’s why she was a shoo-in as host at dell’anima in New York City, and why she quickly moved to the role of GM at Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s West Third Street restaurant after being hired as an assistant general manager. “It is a fantastic feeling to work with so much talent,” she adds. “I love being able to pass that along to every guest who walks in.”
Side Dish: Wade’s family owned and operated restaurants, which she would frequent as a child. For meals, of course, but also to do odd jobs, like fill the jukebox with quarters.
Jonathan Whitener, 27Chef de Cuisine at Animal
It’s kind of fitting that Whitener has a pet pig while working behind the stoves at a place called Animal. “When I’m walking him people always ask if I’m a vegetarian,” Whitener says. “I laugh and say no, I work at a restaurant that serves tons of pork!” Having joined the team of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s flagship restaurant a couple years ago, he made such an impression that they entrusted him to run the ship. It helps that he creates delicious things like fried rabbit legs with sour cream gravy, and lamb-neck birria with cactus salad, just a few of his additions to the six-year-old restaurant’s menu. His philosophy is one of a seasoned chef: using the best ingredients at peak season is the most important facet of his cooking. “I don’t believe in using ingredients that already don’t taste delicious on their own.”
Side Dish: When he’s not behind the stoves on Fairfax, you might catch him at Tiki Ti in Los Feliz sipping cocktails and talking “about other things than cooking” with friends.