From a forager who hunts for wild mushrooms in the hills surrounding his restaurant and a set of food-truck owners hawking vegan soul food, to a 26-year-old CEO who’s bringing WiFi-enabled sous vide technology to home cooks, this year’s crop of 30 Under 30 winners showcases the diversity and creativity of talent shaping our regional food and beverage landscapes. Nominated by their peers, bosses and by you, Zagat readers, this motley crew of up-and-comers includes chefs, bartenders, bakers, distillers, techies and other entrepreneurs who together are making the Bay Area a better, more interesting and delicious place. Let’s all raise a glass and toast the big dreamers and high achievers of our ever-expanding food and drink scene.
Story by Meesha Halm; Photos by Molly DeCoudreaux
Daniel Beal, 23Director of Research and Development/Sous-Chef at Atelier Crenn
Dominique Crenn is known for her fanciful molecular gastronomy–inspired modern Californian tasting menus, and Beal, Crenn’s sous-chef and director of R&D, is a big part of making that happen every night on the line. “My job is [to] decipher her wild concepts (corn rock — what is corn rock?) and figure out how to translate that into a cohesive dish” (answer: compressed corn praline). Challenge comes naturally to the Johnson & Wales grad, who competed in multiple Culinary Federation team competitions and was a San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef finalist. After school, Beal worked at various restaurants in Europe, Asia and, most recently, Fruition Restaurant in Denver. While at Fruition he also worked as a farmhand at the sheep’s-milk dairy creamery associated with the restaurant. “Everyone was required to spend time living on the farm. I liked that part more than cooking at the restaurant.” He joined Atelier Crenn in 2013, where he applies what Crenn calls “his scientist's mind” to help create new dishes for the restaurant.
Side Dish: Beal lives on a houseboat called Sunshine at Pier 39. On weekends, he likes to invite friends and family over to grill and watch the boats sail by, or drives up to Sonoma to go wine tasting.
Ali Bouzari, 27Cofounder/Culinary Scientist at PILOT R&D
What do Benu, SPQR, Meadowood, Bar Tartine and the Thomas Keller Group have in common? They’ve all collaborated with Ali Bouzari. You may never have heard of Bouzari, but this food scientist is influencing some of the country’s most innovative restaurants. It helps that he cooked in restaurants while he was a biochemistry undergrad before pivoting to academics, studied sous vide at The French Laundry for his dissertation and helped develop the CIA’s Culinary Science curriculum. “To make an impact and really help a restaurant make a better french fry, you have to understand the cook making those french fries isn't going to have room for a 17-step process in his daily routine, so understanding the ebb and flow in the kitchen has been just as important as actually knowing the sciencey stuff.” These days, the TEDx speaker splits his time between New York and Healdsburg, where he is collaborating with fellow food scientists Dan Felder and Kyle Connaughton to launch PILOT, a culinary research company and facility, and working on a book he hopes will be “the Rosetta Stone for the kitchen.”
Side Dish: Bouzari grew up with a mother from central Texas and a father from Tehran — both places where food is on the radar all the time. “I was the only kid I knew growing up who knew how to tell the best of any kind of produce at the grocery store,” reminisces Bouzari. “My dad gave me that talk with the same fervor that some dads talk about how to hit a baseball (I taught him that part).”
Travis Campbell, 28Barrel house manager at Drake’s Brewing Company
As a former philosophy student who ran civil rights campaigns in DC, Campbell was an unlikely beer evangelist. Seeking a change of pace, he landed a job at the beer-centric ChurchKey in DC, and was drawn to teaching and education. “I was able to tell stories and explain beer the way I might explain ethics or predicate logic.” Campbell furthered his career at working at Monk’s Kettle and helping to open Mikkeller. Having worked at the top three beer bars in the U.S., he’s hawked his share of highly coveted, super-alcoholic, experimental brews. But Campbell believes the act of drinking should be “to create a sense of community, not something just to check off the trophies on Tap App.” This ethos was instilled in him while living in Austria. “At my local [bar], there was exactly one beer available, all year long. And there were thousands of people there, every day of the year.” That experience informed the approachable program he designed for Perdition. Campbell is now the barrel house manager at Drake’s Brewing Company where he’ll be overseeing the brewery and tap room’s expansion which will include an onsite kitchen.
Side Dish: Campbell hews to the old adage, "A rising tide raises all ships.” “I don't see another craft-beer bar popping up down the road as competition. Each site has its own twist on how to drink craft beer, and everyone gets different product and treats it a different way. Any one of those forms helps make the whole scene much more popular, which in turn pushes breweries to get better and more interesting, and then we have better product to sell.”
Connor Casey, 28Proprietor/Founder at Cellarmaker Brewing Company
San Francisco native Casey’s year-old, 10-barrel SoMa brewery and taproom set is already a “bulletproof brand in the mind of Bay Area drinkers,” according to noted cicerone Sayre Piotrkowski, who reports it as the best-selling brewery at his Oakland beer hall, Hog's Apothecary. Casey, a former wine guy who met his just-turned-30 brewmaster partner, Tim Sciascia, while working at Marin Brewing, hawks small-batch, hops-driven Saisons and stouts — some aged in wine and bourbon barrels to enhance the flavor — which are only available on-site, in growlers to go and on draft at a few outside accounts (from Abbots Cellar to Nopalito, for whom they made a special blend incorporating taco ingredients). “Our belief is that beer is best served fresh and within the local vicinity of where it is made,” explains Casey of his limited-distribution model, sounding very much like a locavore restaurateur. Since Cellarmaker opened, he’s slowly added more fermenters, but “quality not quantity” remains his focus. In the meantime, keep an eye out for a line of unique bottled beers (prior to now, they’ve only released one) slated for this fall and early 2015.
Side Dish: Although beer was his first love, Casey actually started out in the wine business, first attending classes at the CIA at Greystone (which taught him about aromatics, flavors, the process of fermentation) and later working for Fritz Winery.
Dante Nicholas Cecchini, 26Chef de Cuisine at Marlowe
“Ninety-five percent of everything I know I learned from Jenn Puccio,” confesses Cecchini, who’s only worked in one other professional kitchen — at Citizen Cake with Iron Chef competitor Elizabeth Falkner — and even that wasn’t very glamorous. “I spent an entire summertime peeling and blanching tomatoes for ratatouille,” recalls Cecchini. Eventually, he moved on to garde manger and grill. But it was his next boss, Puccio at the SoMa gastropub Marlowe, who developed his palate and showed the fledgling line cook the hows and whys of running a kitchen. As Puccio’s empire grew (opening Park Tavern and The Cavalier), so did Cecchini’s career. He assumed more responsibilities at Park Tavern and eventually returned to Marlowe to run the show as chef de cuisine, notching a 2014 Chronicle Rising Star Chef honor for his efforts. He’s even produced two pop-up dinners under the moniker Wander. It’s a sliver of the vision for the restaurant he hopes to open one day. Until then, find him at the relocated Marlowe, creating new menu dishes (including a brand-new bar-bites section) and overseeing the rollout of brunch and a walk-up burger window.
Side Dish: In his spare time, Cecchini works on his old Volkswagen Beetle or listens to his collection of vinyl records. His favorite places to dine out? “Where there are oysters is where I'll be!”
Christa Chase, 28Sous-Chef at KronnerBurger (forthcoming)
The child of busy parents, Chase grew up serving Hamburger Helper and fridge-foraged desserts to her sisters. These days, the Scottsdale Culinary Institute grad is the poster child for farm-to-table cuisine. Chase fell in love with ingredients working at Oliveto and Pizzaiolo, where the daily changing menus taught her the importance of creating relationships based on food, “starting with the enthusiastic farmers and their produce, to the other chefs in the community who vibe off of each other’s talent, to the guests who come into your ‘home’ to eat the food you create,” explains Christa. It’s a chain of connection she thrives on. She was also instrumental in opening Duende with Paul Canales, who calls her a “great California chef in the best sense.” She’s also admired by her peers for her managerial style. Instead of strutting a badass persona, she says the “only way to have a strong, successful team of people executing your food is by supporting them and giving them respect.” Christa is now teaming up with another influential (and prior 30 Under 30) Oakland chef, Chris Kronner, at his forthcoming brick-and-mortar.
Side Dish: To stay connected to her family and friends, Chase holds weekly “family dinners” — communally prepared meals with a rotating theme that they share together.
Kevin Cimino, 28Head Chef at ABV
North Carolina native Cimino was given a unique challenge when he joined ABV, the all-star cocktail bar in the Mission: create a menu that doesn’t require utensils. Like Trick Dog and Trou Normand, ABV is part of a growing trend of gastrobars dishing out restaurant-worthy snacks. “It’s nice to serve food you’re proud of without pretense, or even a place setting,” says Cimino, who established fine-dining chops at St. Vincent, Commonwealth and Bar Tartine and now turns out inventive, handheld, late-night bar bites that reveal his Southern roots. The decision to eschew silverware was a “point of contingency that we knew we had to stand firmly behind, and to not be apologetic about,” explains Cimino. “Confidence was going to win people’s opinion over. We just had to only serve dishes that really worked with the concept, and avoid ones that were a question.” So far, Cimino reports, it’s something his customers have really been into. Fan favorites so far have been the lamb dog, kimchi fritter and a pimento cheeseburger that’s fast become a rival of his former mentor’s Kronnerburger. Pass the napkins.
Side Dish: When he’s not at work, Cimino enjoys cruising around his BMW K75 motorcycle and taking day trips around the Bay Area, often stopping in Tomales Bay to pick up oysters.
John Codd, 28Principal Bartender at The Coachman
Like most bartenders, this Slanted Door protégé got into the biz because he wanted to “be in the cool club.” A birthday crawl that led him to 15 Romolo solidified his desire to “take the red pill.” Since teaming up with cocktail guru Erik Adkins, he’s worked his way through the Phan empire before landing at The Coachman, where he mixes up more than just straightforward English-inspired cocktails. His bartending approach? “When someone tells me about a crazy absurd cocktail you should never do, I think to myself, ‘Let’s blend it, smoke it, force-carbonate it and dip it in liquid nitrogen and see what happens.’” The results — such as ice spheres, a three-stage “smokes” cocktail and a blended Negroni that looks like orange slices — can be found on his “secret menu,” sought out by cocktail geeks in the know. These tongue-in-cheek drinks aren’t just for showing off his molecular gastronomy skills. As Codd explains, "We are serious about our craft,” but the ultimate goal of a bartender is to “make our guests happy.”
Side Dish: On the rare occasion he finds himself with a day off, Codd, who likes to refer to himself as “Johnny Casino,” likes to hop on his motorcycle without any final destination. That is, unless it’s snowboarding season.
Jolie Devoto-Wade and Hunter Wade, 26 and 28Founders/Cider Makers at Devoto Orchards Cider and Golden State Cider
This formidable husband-and-wife team — she’s a scion of a Sebastapol’s most venerable orchard growers, he ran his family’s cattle ranch in Maryland — is poised to capture the fast-growing cider business with their two artisanal lines. Devoto, which comes in a bottle, is marketed like a fine wine; Golden State Cider, served in cans or on tap, is directed at beer drinkers. Both boast low alcohol percentages and are positioned as the next great active-lifestyle beverage (i.e. you won’t get too smashed drinking it). Jolie and Hunter are using social media and event marketing to get the word out, and they now have high-profile restaurant accounts like A16, Alta CA and Prospect to name a few. They’re also busy preserving the past. “Cider was once America’s beverage of choice”, explains Jolie, but “European immigrants’ preference for beer and the temperance movement” led to cider orchards being chopped down. By using her family’s nearly 100 varieties of heirloom and cider apples in their farmstead blends, and creating a demand for sustainably sourced West Coast apples for GSC, they’re helping ensure greater crop diversity for future generations.
Side Dish: The couple met in a Bikram yoga studio in San Francisco. “The first day we met, we went to Thirsty Bear (where we watched flamenco) and then to Magnolia,” recounts Jolie. “We found that we shared a love of beer, which eventually turned to a love for cider and, of course, for each other.”
Kevin Dowell, 26Bar Director at Foreign Cinema and Laszlo Consultant at Outerlands Northern California Representative at The 86 Co.
It’s hard to miss Dowell when he’s working the stick. His long rock ‘n’ roll locks and tattooed arms suggest a glimmer of the San Francisco native’s former life as a heavy-metal drummer who picked up bartending gigs in between tours. Burned out on “extensive travel, recklessness and an empty wallet,” Dowell eventually returned to his hometown and dove headlong into the bar industry, training with veterans such as Joel Teitelbaum, Brooke Arthur and Erik Adkins, and eventually headed up the cocktail menus for Zero Zero and Rich Table. Since joining Foreign Cinema and its sister bar, Laszlo, Dowell has revamped the bar menus, which include re-creations of drinks invented by former colleagues. But a rolling stone gathers no moss, and neither does Dowell, who also consults with Outerlands, and is a brand rep for The 86 Co., a specialty-spirits company comprised of industry folks distilling high-quality products for the bartending community. “My role will have a strong focus on educating novice bartenders and bar owners on menu development and organizing events and educational seminars.” Not bad for a self-described former “hungover, careless teenage musician.”
Side Dish: It's rare that he’s not doing some form of work, but when Dowell has free time, he likes sneaking out of town for mini road trips.
Sylvee Danger Esquivel and Tiffany Esquivel, both 27Chef-Owner and Owner-Manager at Hella Vegan Eats
The couple behind this popular street-food truck are not just hawking whimsical, sustainable, vegan comfort food on both sides of the bay — they’re also responsible for transforming an alternative diet into a cult sensation, one Lusty Lovers Taco at a time. Offerings like the Doughnut Burger, a beet patty sandwiched between donuts, and a Chicken & Waffle Combo have racked up truckloads of Best Of and SF Street Food Awards. They’ve also won over carnivores, who use social media to track them down at farmer’s markets, festivals, the StrEat Food Park and pop-ups at bars such as Dear Mom and various spots in Oakland. Not bad for a bunch of recent La Cocina graduates who started selling vegan tamales in 2009. Hungry for a new challenge, they recently organized the first-ever Vegan Beer & Food Festival in Oakland and San Francisco. Which begs the obvious question: When are they going to open up a brick-and-mortar already?
Side Dish: The couple reconnected with their roots and sparked the idea for their food business after spending their honeymoon backpacking through Mexico and Central America for six months. “Both of our families come from Mexico, yet we were born in the U.S. with a somewhat vague sense of cultural identity. When we arrived back in the U.S., we moved to Oakland and started selling vegan tamales.”
Tony Ferrari and Jonathan Sutton, both 27Chefs-Owners at Hillside Supper Club
Former Johnson & Wales classmates Ferrari and Sutton collectively toiled away for years at fine-dining spots like Acquerello, Michael Mina and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G before realizing their restaurant dream the 2.0 way, by way of pop-ups and a Kickstarter campaign. “The transition from being a cook, to running a pop-up, to opening your own restaurant is like learning how to crawl before you walk”, explains Sutton, who along with his partner breaks the mold of the typical millennial chef. “Chefs our age [24 at the time] are really just beginning their career and have no idea even where to start with opening a place, let alone cooking meat to the correct temperature,” points out Ferrari. Not to mention find money in a city as expensive and competitive as San Francisco. Two and a half years later, HSC, built on the principle of simplicity, sustainability and camaraderie, has become an integral part of the emerging Bernal dining scene, and the guys are eyeing to open a second restaurant, providing the right situation arises.
Side Dish: Ferrari grew up in Cincinnati surrounded by his grandmother’s Italian cooking, but stints working in England and Italy deepened his understanding of old-world traditions and sustainability. Sutton grew up on the San Juan Islands surrounded by fruits, vegetables and chickens roaming freely in the backyard, and he fondly remembers working on his father’s small organic vineyard and going on hunting and fishing excursions with his older brother.
Lisa Q. Fetterman, 27CEO at Nomiku
This 26-year-old former journalist and current CEO is creating technology to change the future of food. Although sous vide isn’t new, Fetterman, along with her astrophysicist husband, Abe, and third co-founder, Wipop Bam Suppipat, is bringing this technology to home cooks and professionals at a fraction of the size and price of the existing models. The trio invented the namesake Nomiku, which clips to the side of any pot and heats and circulates the water at a very consistent temperature. The portable device is the first of many cutting-edge cooking tools and ways the company hopes “bring tech into the kitchen.” Already chefs like Joshua Skenes of Saison and bartender Ashley Miller at Alta CA are using the Nomiku to splendid effect. The NYU grad also employs her marketing savvy and hunger-inducing recipe blog to fuel her company’s momentum. Having just raised $750,000 in her second Kickstarter, her team is working with food scientist Harold McGee to manufacture a smaller, second-generation, WiFi-enabled Nomiku in the Bay Area, and plans to release a companion app for users to crowdsource cooking tips.
Side Dish: The idea for the original Nomiku came about when Fetterman and her then-boyfriend (now-husband) Abe were watching Iron Chef and she fell in love with a sous vide cooker being used. Lisa suggested they save up their money to buy one; he countered, why spend thousands when he could just make one? They went to the hardware store and built a crude version for around $80.
Anisha Jagtap, 29Chef-Head of Dinner & Events at Airbnb
Having Indian parents, “I couldn't escape the initial push to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” says Jagtap, by way of explaining how she ended up enrolling in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. But soon she was skipping class and got a job working with the then-pioneering slow-food chef Ned Atwater. Smitten, Jagtap quit Hopkins and decided to cook professionally (yes, her parents freaked out). She immersed herself in various aspects of the restaurant business, including competing on The Food Network’s Sweet Genius and running her own restaurant/catering company, before jumping at the chance to work with Grant Achatz at Alinea on sourcing and new dish creation. That experience “solidified my love for creating unique, memorable, multisensory experiences involving food,” and is what Jagtap tries to inspire in her teams today. In her current role as chef and “experience guru” at Airbnb, her daily responsibilities include running the daily kitchen flow (four meals a day, seven days a week, each inspired by a different listing from around the world and feeding anywhere from 300–600 people) and managing company and nonprofit community events.
Side Dish: Jagtap is interested in providing an outlet of learning and experience for everyone, not just Airbnb guests. To that end, she hopes to launch Chef Talks, similar to TEDx talks, and a series of cooking and food classes in the next couple of months.
Laetizia Madsen, 25chef, Benu
This young culinary badass from Copenhagen is imbuing some hybrid vigor into the local dining landscape. Having just arrived in May, she’s already playing an instrumental role in Corey Lee’s growing empire, working closely with last year’s 30 Under 30 nominee Brandon Rodger at Benu, and helping Jason Berthold open the casual offshoot, Monsieur Benjamin. With a Danish father and Indonesian mother, Madsen grew up understanding the importance of food in culture. Since graduating from Copenhagen's Hospitality College, she’s cooked in many acclaimed kitchens in her homeland and around the world, including L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in France, Sarong in Bali and Nihonryori Ryugin in Japan. “From each restaurant and each country I've had the chance to experience, I've taken a piece here and there that explains why I cook, create and experiment the way that I do,” reflects Madsen. But while those experiences provided her with a “very broad horizon of what is possible,” she doesn’t consider herself defined yet. “Acknowledging how much this common passion for food can be so diversely illustrated gives me a hunger for what I have yet to see.”
Side Dish: She’s meticulous to a fault. “If I have to edit or erase something I have written on my mise en place list before the day has started, I will rewrite the whole list,” confesses Madsen.
Lulu McAllister, 29Wine Director at Nopa
Everyone’s who’s anyone in the Bay Area restaurant business eats and drinks at Nopa when they’re off work, which makes Lulu McAllister’s job a tricky one. “If she screws up, everyone knows it,” one insider says. Fortunately, McAllister, a certified level 2 sommelier who started at Nopa as a hostess armed with a wine education from the CIA at Greystone before taking over in 2013 when the longtime wine director left, hasn’t made any mistakes. McAllister has written about music and worked on a farm in Hawaii, but a part-time job at a small winery in Texas confirmed that wine was more than just a passing fascination. Ironically, McAllister recalls, “While I was a student up in Napa, I had extolled Chris Deegan's wine list. About a year later, I had inherited it and was learning how to make it my own. It was pretty surreal. Now I feel like the list really reflects me, even though it is my adopted child.” Today, she’s ushering in innovative ideas of her own, such as instituting Monday’s magnums-by-the-glass program and publishing short features about wine directly on the list.
Side Dish: Chef Ravi Kapur has tapped her to write the wine list for his forthcoming Hawaii-inspired restaurant Liholiho Yacht Club. “It will be my first original list,” effuses McAllister, who anticipates the selection will “involve sake by the glass and a good balance between comfort- and adventure-oriented wines.”
Thomas McEntee, 29Lead Butcher at 4505 Meats Butcher Shop
There’s a meat revolution happening in San Francisco and across the nation, and no one is leading the charge to promote the consumption of humanely raised and processed animals more than Ryan Farr of 4505. And at the helm of that burgeoning operation (which includes farmer’s market stalls and a burger & BBQ joint) is McEntee, a former PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant from Washington State who wrangled his way into a cutting job two years ago. “I want to be a part of the movement of changing the way people eat.” McEntee worries that consumers have gotten too used to a low price point for industrially produced meat. By contrast, alternatives that are raised, slaughtered and processed humanely are more expensive. “I believe in eating meat often, but in smaller portions as a way to be able to work within your budget.” McEntee is responsible for the entire whole-animal program, working with farmers to source the best product, breaking down carcasses, training other butchers, educating customers and, of course, cutting to order. Currently, he’s working on a dry-cure program to sell dried salamis and charcuterie at the shop.
Side Dish: Two things to know about McEntre: one — surprise — his favorite thing to eat is fish. And, two, he likes to sing and dance at work, but freely admits he’s “not very good at either.”
Laura Meyer, 25Executive Chef/Head Pizzaiola at Tony's Pizza Napoletana Administrator/Teaching Assistant at International School of Pizza
Forget The Hunger Games. When it comes to winning grueling, winner-takes-all competitions, Meyer can whoop Katniss Everdeen any day. At 25, she’s won first place in the only two competitions she’s competed in: the 2013 World Pizza Champion Pan division in Parma (the first female and first American to win this title) and the 2014 International Pizza Expo Non-Traditional division in Vegas (as the only woman competing), proving that the first title wasn’t a fluke. That tenacity has served Meyer, who started working at Tony Gemignani’s first restaurant, Pyzano’s, out of high school, and has ascended to executive chef and head pizzaiola at what Forbes declared as the “Best Pizzeria in America” — overseeing an almost all-male crew. She’s also the administrator and teaching assistant at the International School of Pizza. Meyer loves playing a part in the new pizza paradigm. “It’s no longer ‘Plan B.’ Pizza is still something that can be eaten in front of the TV, but it’s also now looked at as a sophisticated experience where you can enjoy great food and wine without having to wear a suit and tie.”
Side Dish: Her award-winning La Bella Rosa isn’t on the regular menu, but occasionally turns up as a seasonal special. It’s a triple-infused rosemary dough (made with rosemary water, rosemary-infused olive oil and fresh, chopped rosemary), topped with mozzarella, braised lamb, pomegranate seeds, arugula, tzatziki-style Greek yogurt and finished with red chile flakes, lemon zest and rosemary simple syrup (that’s a mouthful).
Phillip Moratin, 29Sous-Chef at Ad Hoc and Addendum
If you want to land a job at The French Laundry, chances are you’ll start by working with this up-and-coming sous-chef, who grew up in Ewa Beach on the island of O’ahu. Moratin may not be a household name, but he’s responsible for mentoring scores of young cooks new to the TKRG empire to “think like a chef,” pushing them, like Keller does, to do things better. “It’s not just cooking. From the way we tie our aprons, to how we clean our kitchen — if we’re able to do the small things right, we’ll be able to tackle the larger tasks.” He’s also responsible for making the seemingly simple American fare extraordinary. After all, while The French Laundry is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, customers return to Ad Hoc regularly — if he does his job right.
Side Dish: In addition to fine-tuning Addendum’s BBQ menu, Moratin has been experimenting with the wood-burning oven in the restaurant’s garden. “Eventually we would like to offer our private-dining guests the opportunity to have a four-course menu prepared using only the pizza oven as the heat source.”
Nick Muncy, 26Pastry Chef at Coi
Muncy onboarded to Coi three years ago as a pastry assistant, tagging along with his mentor, Matt Tinder, whom he worked closely with at Saison. Since Tinder’s departure, Muncy now oversees the restaurant’s entire pastry and bread program. Muncy’s all-star résumé shows his journey from savory cook at the Fairmont in LA to pastry cook at Cyrus and a stint at Jose Andres’ Bazaar. His current boss sees a talent in the making. “Nick has the talent, drive and experience to be one of the best pastry chefs in the country,” says Daniel Patterson. Yet Muncy is humble about declaring his signature style. “The challenging part of being a pastry chef is trying to adapt your cooking to match the restaurant. It’s important for desserts to flow and relate to the savory food. At Coi, I focus on great produce and serving it in a new and exciting way.” One thing Muncy does avoid is fads. “It’s impossible to be truly original, but if I can put a dish on the menu that doesn't resemble what everyone else in the city is doing, then I'm happy.”
Side Dish: For most of his youth, Muncy wanted to be a painter or artist of some sort, but after high school he figured he needed to pick something a little more realistic. “I liked that there was creativity, and that you were able to physically make something with your hands [being a chef]. So I enrolled in culinary school and went for it.”
Tim Obert and Clint Potter, both 26CEO and COO at Seven Stills
“Craft whiskey is what craft beer wants to be when it grows up,” jokes Tim Obert, half of the team behind Dogpatch-based distillery Seven Stills, who are “creating a new category: craft beer–inspired whiskeys.” Obert, who completed a Master Brewers Program at UC Davis, decided to switch to making whiskey with his former classmate because "he couldn't really figure out what else could be done with beer. Craft brewers are already pushing the envelope." So the UC Santa Cruz buddies started a hobby distilling in Potter's backyard. At Seven Stills, Obert focuses on the brewing side while Potter oversees the distilling and aging. Their philosophy is: the better the craft beer, the better the whiskey. Their initial offerings have been well received at spots like 15 Romolo, Bourbon & Branch and Serpentine, but it’s still a passion project. Whiskeys take a long time to age — and hence come to market — so they’ve released artisanal vodka and bitters in the meantime. They’re also passionate about cross-industry collaboration, throwing parties like I’m on a Boat and distilling mash-ups such as forthcoming blends that will incorporate barley wine and cold-brewed coffee.
Side Dish: Obert’s been homebrewing since he was 21 and always has something going at his place. Potter likes to woodwork at the Techshop in his spare time and occasionally bartends at Whiskey Thieves.
Laurie Ellen Pellicano, 28Head Pastry Chef at Tartine Bakery
Customers come from far and wide to Tartine Bakery for sticky morning buns, flakey croissants and, of course, Chad Robertson’s famous country loaves, but there’s more than just white flour-y goodness lurking in those gleaming pastry cases; for the past several years, Robertson has been on a quest to bring whole and ancient grains into the baking forefront. And Pellicano, Robertson’s right pastry hand, has been instrumental in leading that grain exploration. In addition to managerial duties leading a team of 15 bakers, she oversaw recipe development and testing for the Beard-nominated Tartine Bakery 3, and now incorporates some of those ideas into the daily pastry offerings. “TB3 was an incredible opportunity to filter our body of work through a new lens,” reflects Pellicano. “Working with these grains unlocks new flavors and textural transformations.” She sneaks spelt flour into the Valhrona brownie (the nuttiness highlights the chocolate) and buckwheat in chocolate sable cookies (which don’t rely on gluten development). Expect to see more of Pellicano’s handiwork at Tartine Bakery with the debut of new seasonal pies and holiday specials.
Side Dish: As long as she can remember, Pellicano has loved to bake. “I used to make multitier cakes with my Easy Bake Oven for very elaborate stuffed-animal wedding celebrations.” When she’s not at work, you’ll likely find her in the kitchen making food for others, or hooking up with friends, like noted food writer Samin Nosrat, on a collaborative pop-up dinner.
Josh Phelps and Carlo Trinchero, 28 and 27Partners at Taken Wine Company
Phelps and Trinchero come from old-guard winemaking families, but these childhood buddies are finding success in a new way — using social media to educate, engage and convert the growing ranks of millennial wine drinkers. Their initial offerings, Taken and Complicated, have received critical acclaim, and in 2013, Trinchero Estates acquired them. Their wines are served in the nation’s top restaurants, including locally at Bottega, Coqueta and Michael Mina, and the duo spread the gospel by hosting tasting parties at tech companies and hip wine conferences such as the annual Wine Riots, those part-party/part-wine-tasting festivals attracting Gen-X drinkers. The Taken portfolio will come full circle this coming spring when the duo launches its newest brand, Available, a passion project that they’ve been working on for several years. Unlike the higher-priced Taken and midrange Complicated domestic bottlings, Available will be an affordable line of international wines. In addition to making this list, the duo was recently honored in Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 issue.
Side Dish: Although the duo doesn’t own an actual tasting room, they’re happy to sit down and meet prospective customers at local restaurants or even over a beer.
Alex Powar, 27Quality Control & Education at Four Barrel Coffee
Powar wasn’t reared in a coffee-drinking family. His father hails from India and only drinks chai. In fact, his initial relationship with coffee was entirely utilitarian, something downed between organic chemistry and physics class during medical school. His epiphany came after traveling through the wine regions of South Africa, where he was studying medical anthropology for a semester. Powar became fascinated by the effects of terroir in other beverages: how coffee from the same farm at different elevations could taste radically different. That intense curiosity led him to working with food scientists and leading classes at a local coffee shop. At Four Barrel, Powar applies his scientific mind to ensure that the coffee is brewed meticulously to be “balanced, have nice sweetness and clearly express the coffee's origin. It's the promise the barista makes to every link in the chain that's brought that coffee to that person's hand.” That entails experimenting with mechanics, establishing quality standards and managing training for all three cafes and 250 wholesale accounts. In other words, he’s the reason that every cup of Four Barrel you’ll get in town tastes great.
Side Dish: Powar strives to raise the level of professionalism to the barista culture. To that aim, Four Barrel has an 11-page “hospitality manifesto” that appropriates many Danny Meyer Setting the Table hospitality guidelines to a coffee environment.
Stephanie Prida, 29Pastry Chef at Manresa
The last few years have been big ones for Prida. The San Diego native and art school grad made a name for herself running the pastry programs at top award-winning Chicago restaurants such as RIA, where her signature Paris-Brest earned her the admiration of GQ’s Alan Richman, who declared it one of the five best desserts in 2011. Prida moved on to work at the three-star L20 in Chicago before heading out west and joining the kitchen brigade at Manresa in 2012. A year later, she was shortlisted for Food & Wine’s “The People’s Best New Pastry Chef” award. Prida’s first love was art, and she makes desserts with the same attention to detail that she paints with. In July, a fire that shuttered Manresa put her momentum on hold. Until the restaurant opens, Prida is consulting with chef-owner David Kinch to help reopen the restaurant and is currently developing pastries for his burgeoning bread venture, the Manresa Bread Project, which pops up at several South Bay farmer’s markets and is scheduled to open a brick-and-mortar bakery later this fall.
Side Dish: Prida originally wanted to be a painter, but she chose to attend culinary school as a way to combine her passion for art with her interest in cooking. She still paints in her spare time.
Amy Racine, 26Wine Director at Sons & Daughters
At 26, Racine is one of San Francisco’s youngest, most respected sommeliers, notching honors as Wine & Spirits’ Best New Sommelier and earning an Advanced Level 3 certification. The onetime Red Robin host found her true calling in a mandatory wine studies class at culinary school, which led to a degree in the inaugural class of the Accelerated Wine and Beverage Program at the CIA Greystone. At Sons & Daughters, Racine oversees the beverage program for previous 30 Under 30 honorees Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara, crafting pairings that showcase a balance of local, imported, classic, modern and esoteric wines, and is awed by her fellow twentysomething customers. “Bay Area millennials are so knowledgeable about wine. They expect a lot from their dining experiences, which inspires me to continue learning.”
Side Dish: Racine is an avid traveler. In addition to regular weekend outings, she recently visited the Willamette Valley and plans to head to Portugal in the fall. “It’s important to get out of my comfort zone to meet new people and experience other wine regions in order to grow in the industry and stay relevant.”
Cameron Cole Rahtz, 28Forager/Larder Manager at The Restaurant at Meadowood
By the time most people are grabbing their morning coffee, Rahtz has already been rummaging through the woods surrounding the Meadowood resort, foraging for wild mushrooms, berries and pine seeds. Rahtz, whose official title is Larder Manager, has one of those only-in-California dream jobs, where his primary responsibility is to “capture a time or place so that when we pull spring ingredients out in the gloomy months of winter, it evokes a feeling or memory from spring.” Salt, vinegars, smoke and distillation are just a few preservation methods in Rahtz’s arsenal for transforming wild grapes into verjus, black walnuts into nocino liqueur and wild plums into eau de vie, elements that make chef Chris Kostow’s tasting menus shine. The Tahoe native grew up fishing and harvesting berries with his mom, but started cooking professionally in Laguna Beach. There he trained under top chefs such as Peter Arachovitis and James Boyce who “instilled the importance of sourcing quality ingredients.” Befriending Kyle Connaughton steered Rahtz to Meadowood in 2010, where he started as cook, eventually moving up to the plum (no pun intended) position he occupies today.
Side Dish: Rahtz is conflicted about the trendiness of foraging. “As we spend more time in the woods hunting and gathering in hopes to connect or spend time with Mother Nature, we also disrupt what we love. It's obvious we face large climate-change issues, and sometimes I wonder if we should just find and not gather. There's more pleasure in finding than picking for me. I love picking mushrooms, seeing what they're like under the dirt, but it's also rewarding to not pick and visit that same mushroom a couple of times through its life cycle.”
When he’s not a work, you’re likely to find him in the woods, on the pitch or in his board shorts.
Alyssa Reaves, 29Assistant Director of Operations at Mina Group
Restaurant operations wasn’t part of the original plan of this Cornell graduate. “I received my degree in policy analysis and management (not hotel administration, as my colleagues widely assume),” recalls Reaves. Soon after realizing a nonprofit desk job wasn’t for her, she found herself on the restaurant fast-track. That led to managing NYC hot spots such as Masa (where she was responsible for everything including steaming chef’s jackets, peeling ginkgo nuts and sanding the sushi bar daily) and Morimoto (getting schooled on finance and back-end operations). Since joining the Mina Group three years ago, she rocketed from captain at RN74 to assistant GM before being wooed into the corporate operations team, where she has been instrumental in overseeing new openings. There have been six this year with three more projects planned by the end of 2014. Her motto is, “Every action, inaction or interaction is a reflection of your level of care,” and she strives to instill that sense of pride and self-awareness in all the teams she works with.
Side Dish: “Some people have yoga; I have sushi,” jokes Reaves, who spent the first three years of her career in Japanese restaurants and has “never been able to fully recover.” When she’s not at work, there’s a strong likelihood you’ll find her seated at a sushi counter.
Akeel Keane Shah, 25Assistant General Manager at Lazy Bear
Universally admired by his peers, who call him a real “Danny Meyer type,” this unassuming front-of-house maestro and level 2 certified sommelier is one of the youngest employees to have been promoted to assistant general manager in the Mina Group. Shah has worked in restaurants since age 14, but credits his upbringing for his instincts. “Indian hospitality is very warm and inviting. I remember my mom not only cooking for family, but also neighbors in the community.” Working with Luca Riemens at RN74 for two and a half years deepened his understanding of effective management. Now at Lazy Bear, David Barzelay’s permanent above-board supper club in the Mission, he’s hoping to “create a sublime vibe,” explaining, “our concept is very different from all the restaurants in the city. We want to make everyone feel like they are coming into our home.” He’s also bringing service back. “Fine dining has taken a crazy step toward being more casual. As more restaurants focus on food, they’re becoming less focused on polishing their service standards. I feel like service should be the No. 1 focus for all restaurants.”
Side Dish: Shah grew up in the countryside of Northern Virginia where he spent a lot of time outdoors. “Anytime I have the chance, I love to hike, bike and backpack.” Yosemite is a particular favorite destination.
Elijah Kai Villegas, 26Beer Guru/General Manager at Brewcade
Villegas got into beer at an early, not-so-legal age. While his high-school peers would drink anything they could get their hands on, Villegas recalls, “I was always interested in how other beers tasted. I was ‘that guy’ who would show up with a case of Newcastle.” His real epiphany came when he was older, over a pint of Triple White Sage from Craftsman Brewing. “Little did I know I was actually drinking one of the rarest and most sought-after beers.” Fast forward to 2010, when Villegas embarked on his fast-moving beer career at Monk’s Kettle, under the tutelage of certified cicerone Sayre Piotrkowski, starting as a busser and eventually assuming the responsibilities of beer-list assistant. As the beer director at Brewcade, Blackbird’s hotly awaited vintage arcade and beer bar, Villegas plans to emphasize Bay Area breweries who are “changing the way we think about beer,” but sprinkled in will be “nostalgic” choices such as Anchor and Sierra Nevada that also “paved the way for the California craft-beer movement.” Plus, he’ll be busting out a champagne slushy machine. Good times.
Side Dish: Another passion of his is music. In high school, he spent a ton of time helping out Night Versus, a friend’s band, and just before moving to San Francisco, he worked at the small record label Vagrant Records in Santa Monica.