Atlanta's sophomore batch of rising food-and-beverage stars show a city brimming with creativity and drive. They reflect the broad aspects of the food and beverage industry, ranging from high-profile chefs to beer experts and even an artisanal-salt maven. All of these honorees have achieved big things — and we expect bigger things to come.
–Story by Christopher Hassiotis, Photos by Sarah Dodge
Madison Burch, 25Beverage Director, Seven Lamps, Grain Cocktail Bar, Tavernpointe
If you’ve been out in Atlanta in the past several years, you’ve probably had one of Burch’s drinks. The cocktail pro has only been able to legally drink for a handful of years, but she’s already won competitive awards for her well-balanced libations and has moved up the ranks to oversee the bars at chef Drew van Leuvan’s three concepts: Seven Lamps, Grain and Tavernpointe. “My favorite days are right after launching a new cocktail menu and working on it for weeks,” says Burch, “then seeing a bar team execute it perfectly and get excited about it.
John Castellucci, 24Executive Sous-Chef, Cooks & Soldiers
As one of two Castellucci siblings on this year’s list, John is from a family of restaurateurs that goes back five generations. After working in the family business, Castellucci spent six months apprenticing in San Sebastian, Spain, which informs his current Basque-inspired tapas menu at Cooks & Soldiers. He finds the immediacy of cooking extremely satisfying. “In most industries you have to wait weeks, quarters or even years before you know if you were successful,” he says. “In cooking, you can look at someone’s face after they eat your food and know what kind of job you did.”
Stephanie Castellucci, 28Co-Owner, Castellucci Hospitality Group; General Manager, Double Zero Napoletano
Castellucci got her start as a line cook at The Roasted Garlic, which her parents opened in the mid-‘90s. And it’s still a family affair: her restaurant group includes Cooks & Soldiers, where little brother John cooks, as well as Double Zero Napoletano, Iberian Pig and Sugo. Hiring, training, planning, interviewing and overseeing both back- and front-of-house operations make up her current day to day. “My favorite meetings to take are the menu and beverage development sessions,” she says, “where we eat and drink our way to important decisions.”
Beau Dameier, 28Lead Manager, Whiskey Park & Living Room W Atlanta Midtown
For a man who got his start in the industry as door muscle, Dameier has moved in particularly thoughtful directions, always asking “What’s the next step?” He has a passion for connecting people, whether that means working directly with staff at the Midtown W’s two bars, booking talent and arranging events or simply pointing hotel guests in the direction of ATL experiences he thinks they’ll love. “The thing that got me hooked originally in nightlife, and still gets me today,” he says, “is getting to watch people leave with a smile and continue their conversations with new friends.”
David Durnell, 28Managing Partner, AMER
A humble, self-taught mixologist, Durnell established himself on the ATL scene behind the bar at Bocado, making sure the Westside restaurant’s cocktail game matched its acclaimed New American cuisine. He’s now made the move to partner, managing most aspects of the upcoming bar AMER in Inman Quarter, and the Atlanta cocktail culture’s something that drives him. “It's a very tight-knit group of people involved in the growth of cocktail culture here,” he says, “and we are all friends in addition to being colleagues. Atlanta is awesome for the feeling of community we have in the industry.”
Lauren B. Duxbury and Adam Panayiotou , 27 and 28Founders/Co-Owners, Panbury’s
Handheld savory pies are not a common thing in Atlanta — make that in America — but this ambitious duo of South African natives has been working to change that. “We liked Atlanta because of its young, vibrant and multicultural scene,” says Duxbury, who handles marketing for the pie company, while Panayiotou takes the chef reins for the meaty, crusty delights. Aiming high, Duxbury says, “Our company goal is to make Panbury’s an internationally recognized name.” Next step? The soon-to-open Panbury’s Pie Café in Downtown’s Peachtree Center.
Sara Frinak, 23Barista, Spiller Park Coffee
This Alabama-born-and-raised barista says she’s “been spoiled on Southern service, food and hospitality.” In her role at the new Hugh Acheson–backed coffee bar in Ponce City Market, she’s determined to lower the intimidation factor sometimes found in the artisanal coffee world. “I am the face of a person's coffee experience,” she says, “and I determine how a person remembers their coffee. Why not make that experience a fun one? Why not make that memory an enjoyable one?” She relishes the opportunity to connect people and resources across the South’s burgeoning coffee scene.
David Garcia, 29Co–Pastry Chef, Proof Bakeshop
Garcia’s day starts around 3 AM — that’s dedication. Fortunately for us, it pays off in terrific bread and pastries at Proof Bakeshop. After a gig working in Spain, the CIA grad landed at Cakes & Ale, and was brought over when that team opened Proof, where he turns out top-notch French pastries, Southern biscuits and more. “When I’m not in production mode,” he says, “I’m always trying to find ways to gain and or create more business.“ Future goals? Garcia hopes to one day open a bakery that doubles as a pub at night — that’ll be a lot of all-nighters.
Cameron Gardner, 26Director of Operations & Logistics, Beautiful Briny Sea
Salt’s the kind of thing that most people give no second thought to, but for Gardner, it’s front and center. Handling logistics and operations for Suzi Sheffield’s handcrafted salt company Beautiful Briny Sea, he’s getting the flavored finishing salts onto tables across the country. When not touring as the live drummer for the band Washed Out, he’s often making new salt blends or working on custom collaborations with local restaurants and bars, like the Gunpowder Finishing Salt for Gunshow. “There's always something new in the works,” he says.
Jaime Genovese, 27Director of Operations, True Story Brands
Playing a pivotal role in the growing South African–cuisine empire of restaurateur Justin Anthony, Genovese started as a server at 10 Degrees South four years ago. She’s since moved into management, handling training, menu development and general operations for that restaurant as well as Yebo, the brand-new Cape Dutch and the soon-to-open Biltong Bar in Ponce City Market. Genovese embraces the variety and challenges of having a hand in many pots: “Every day is different,” she says, “and I love that about the restaurant industry.”
Wilson Gourley, 29Chef de Cuisine, Lusca
“My day generally starts when I wake up with a phone call or a text from one of the farmers that we use,” says Gourley. His passion for ingredients translates to diners’ plates at Lusca, the Peachtree spot that raised the profile of the team behind Octopus Bar. Gourley, who’s worked under chefs like Jason Burdett and Steven Satterfield, makes sure the kitchen turns out the top-notch New American food Lusca’s known for. He hopes to open his own neighborhood restaurant one day, driven by the authenticity and variety of local food.
Matt Harper, 27Executive Pastry Chef, Empire State South
After attending culinary school, Harper landed at Empire State South several years ago, where, he says, Hugh Acheson’s role as mentor has been “instrumental.” He recently moved from executive sous-chef to executive pastry chef after the departure of Brooke Lenderman (a 2014 honoree). “It has been quite a change to go from butchering whole animals and making sausages to baking breads and making candies,” says Harper, but he’s up for the challenge of constantly learning. “One of the best parts of working in the food industry is that there are always ways for your ambitions to evolve.”
Caleb Hawkins, 27General Manager, H&F Burger and Hop’s Chicken
"Pure madness” is how Hawkins describes his routine as GM of both of Linton Hopkins’ operations at Ponce City Market: H&F Burger and Hop’s Chicken. Hawkins has only lived in Atlanta since February after “roaming around the country,” but he’s already deeply immersed himself in the scene. Balancing the high culinary and service standards of his boss with the rapid needs of the new quick-service spots has been one of Hawkins’ more impressive accomplishments. What he loves most: working at restaurants that create everything, from the bread to the sauces, in-house.
Amanda Herrara, 27Craft Wine and Spirit Consultant, Prime Wine & Spirits
As one Prime’s younger consultants, Herrera has helped shape a number of the city’s wine lists and alcohol selections. She’s been in the industry for years — her family owned a seafood restaurant in Florida; she’s managed (and served) at The Optimist, then St. Cecilia; and she was a wine buyer for Krog Street Market’s Hop City. Now she helps train restaurant staffs to make sure guests enjoy their drinks. “It's about getting to know your client,” says Herrera, who loves “continually learning and sharing that knowledge with industry and nonindustry people alike.“ Next up: the advanced sommelier exam.
Maggie Huys, 23Sous-Chef, Saltyard
Huys developed an early love affair with dining, always trying to recreate restaurant meals at home. “When I was skipping my art classes at Georgia State to make bagels in my dorm room,” she says, “I realized I should probably reconsider a career in fashion.“ Working at chef Nick Leahy’s South Buckhead small-plates winner since its opening in 2013, she preps, cooks, sources ingredients and interacts with guests from the open kitchen. “I guess my parents’ love of eating good food ultimately led me here,” she says.
Andrew Isabella, 26Executive Chef, BeetleCat
Since spring, Isabella has been involved in helping set up three of restaurateur Ford Fry’s spots. And while his Italian family roots helped in his last gig as executive chef at No. 246, as exec at the upcoming Inman Park restaurant BeetleCat (a spin-off of The Optimist), he’ll be tapping into his Florida upbringing for coastal seafood galore. “It’s important to take one day at a time, because the hospitality scene is constantly evolving,” says Isabella, who has more changes coming — he’ll also be a new dad come January.
Parker Jorgensen, 28Chef de Cuisine, Il Giallo Osteria & Bar
After starting at well-established Midtown Italian restaurant Veni Vidi Vici, Jorgensen worked at several different Buckhead Life restaurants, eventually landing sous-chef at Kyma. But when Vici closed earlier this year, much of the staff set out to start up their own enterprise with Il Giallo, recruiting Jorgensen to handle the kitchen operations as chef de cuisine. He’s eager to introduce the city to the new Sandy Springs restaurant. A positive attitude’s kept Jorgensen moving forward: “I always tell people to make sure you have fun and love what you do,“ he says.
Deandrae Kitchen, 26Executive Chef, The Shed at Glenwood
Although chef Todd Richard’s departure earlier this year from The Shed at Glenwood was unexpected, the real surprise is that the quality at the Glenwood Park restaurant hasn’t slipped since. That’s thanks to Kitchen, who stepped up from sous-chef to executive chef. He’s had to operate without a sous-chef and baker, putting in long hours, but it’s been worth it, especially as he maintains the Shed’s reputation while making the menu more his own. “Being able to affect people’s lives through cooking is the most satisfying feeling to me,” he says.
Paige Lane, 28Former Bar Manager, Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall
For Lane, it’s not just about pushing drinks and turning tables. “I have a great passion for high-speed, high-volume craft bartending,” she says. Her fun drinks are as quirky as the Great Outdoors–themed restaurant itself, and she’s received praise for her commitment to incorporating local spirits, bitters and other ingredients. Another passion: “empowering women in this industry and helping them to excel.” By the time you’re reading this, she’ll have moved on from Ladybird; keep your eyes peeled for what’s next.
James Martin, 28Founder, The Sipologist; Co-Founder, The Burger Coalition
Martin’s the kind of person you want at a dinner party — he loves to share all the cool things he’s learned. For his work at The Sipologist, he investigates drinks, from ingredients to inventors, and then spreads the word at pop-up events. “There's such a rich history to cocktails, so my goal is to document what I find and share it as I go,” he says. Meanwhile, his semi-regular Burger Coalition organizes meet-ups for sampling — and evaluating — the city’s most notable burgers. As if that weren’t enough, he’s busy working on a documentary about the Sazerac.
Alexandra Michaels, 26Bar Manager, Revival
Bartenders move around a lot, but the best of them leave each establishment in better shape than when they started. That’s the case with Michaels, who during her short time leading the bar at One Eared Stag refocused the drink menu to reflect the creative combinations and local ingredients found on the food menu. She’s since moved on to Kevin Gillespie’s Revival, mixing up powerful concoctions — exciting, yet never too out-there — that still match well with the traditional Southern dishes. Have one on the restaurant’s broad front porch and enjoy the new (old) South.
William B. Mitchell, 29Sign & Mural Painter, Squared Away Sign Co.
The last time he worked inside a kitchen was as a mess cook in the Coast Guard, but Mitchell has had a hand in developing the identity of many Atlanta restaurants. As a sign painter and muralist, his work helps restaurants define themselves visually and attract new guests. You’ve seen his painting — keep an eye out for his gold and copper gilding too — at places like Krog Street Market, Staplehouse, The Cockentrice and Twain’s. “They appreciate handcrafted food, and that carries over into their appetite for art,” he says.
Troy Montrone, 26Quality Assurance Analyst, SweetWater Brewing Company
Montrone tried many things (he’s a trained geologist who’s trotted the globe) before finding his calling: “I knew I was good at science and drinking, so it only made sense to be in the craft-beer industry.” Arriving at 6:15 AM every day, the Florida native helps maintain SweetWater’s brewing standards, and he also plays with flavor components to develop new beers. “I enjoy taking aspects of how beer is made in different parts of the world and adapting it for SweetWater,” he says. To that end, he’s been instrumental in the company’s rollout of innovative sour beers.
Holly Nagle, 25Operations Specialist, Table & Main and Osteria Mattone
Nagle spent her high-school years working at Carmine's in Alpharetta before eventually landing at Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney. Upon returning to Atlanta she met Ryan Pernice (owner of Table & Main and Osteria Mattone, and one of last year’s 30 Under 30 honorees). In a year she’s moved from maitre d’ to server to event coordinator at Table & Main, and is currently transitioning to handle operations for both restaurants. “Seeing first-timers turn into regulars is a constant reminder that what I do can make a difference,” she says.
Mercedes O'Brien, 26Cocktail Director, Gunshow
At Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow, O’Brien follows the restaurant’s innovative m.o. by integrating the idea of a “bar” into the dining room itself, rather than making a separate space. She currently leads a team of bartenders who craft tableside concoctions via beverage cart. While more great cocktails are in the immediate future, O’Brien has bigger hopes. “It’s been a dream of mine to create a nonprofit for women and families in the industry,” she says, “a place where women can come together for mutual support, creative development and fundraising.”
Jorge Ortiz, 27Chef de Cuisine, Minero
When Sean Brock announced he’d bring his Mexican eatery Minero to Ponce City Market, he tapped Ortiz, formerly of Yebo and Flip, to run the kitchen. Born in Toluca, Mexico, but raised here, he says of the the opportunity: “It's awesome that we get to make some of the food that my grandmother used to cook for us, but in a restaurant setting.” Atlanta’s positive restaurant scene also keeps him going. “I’ve worked in other cities where the cooks and chefs don't talk to each other,” he says. “Here, everyone is a lot tighter.”
Karen A. Pagano, 24Freelance Marketing, Events & Photography
Pagano dove into the hospitality industry early, working as a barista, cook and manager all while in high school in north Georgia. She helped open Barrelhouse, Takorea and Saltyard and has recently started taking on more marketing, brand-development and planning roles. “Our city is focused on giving, not receiving,” says Karen, “and that above all sets us apart.” She’s worked at restaurant tech startup Orderly, set up the Atlanta branch of the food-and-beverage networking organization Industree and works to establish a brand identity for PeachDish, a chef-crafted meal kit service.
Matthew Weinstein, 28Co–Executive Chef, ONE Midtown Kitchen
The new co–executive chef at ONE Midtown Kitchen’s been working in professional kitchens since he was 16. After time at the CIA, Weinstein landed at DC’s 701, then worked as sous-chef for Top Chef finalist Bryan Voltaggio, opening three restaurants. He moved to Atlanta to sous under Tyler Williams at Woodfire Grill, moving into the exec position when Williams left, and was snatched up by ONE when Woodfire closed. “I love that I have the ability to change dishes and flavors on a whim,” says Weinstein, whose sophisticated New American cuisine is as creative as it is satisfying.
Justin White, 24Executive Chef, Vino Venue
In addition to gigs at The French Laundry and Bouchon in California, CIA-trained White formerly led the kitchen at Cafe 458 in Sweet Auburn, which donated all proceeds to the homeless as the restaurant arm of the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency. In his current role at wine-and-tapas spot Vino Venue, which operates alongside the Atlanta Wine School, he runs the kitchen, designs custom vino-centric culinary experiences and generally takes a thoughtful approach to menu creation. Watch for his Parisian pop-up Franca in the coming year.
John Williams, 20Sous-Chef, The General Muir
It’s tough to be the new guy in an established restaurant, and even tougher to help steer it in fresh directions. But that’s just what Williams did during his time at Westside’s popular West Egg Café. While there he helped co-create the buzzy Oddbird pop-up serving Nashville hot chicken earlier this year. “I believe that this career chose me,” he says. “I’ve also had a lot of people along the way who have trained me well and helped me progress.” The latest is Beard-nominated chef Todd Ginsberg, who’s tapped Williams as his sous-chef at The General Muir.