“Most likely to succeed in the food world” isn’t an accolade that exists in any high school yearbooks that we’re aware of, but if it did, everyone in this crop of Philadelphia’s best and brightest surely would have taken it home. This year's 30 Under 30 class boasts a business-school grad turned natural-wine importer, an urban farmer who started his career in the kitchen, a sustainability coordinator straight out of the Nordic Food Lab, plus all of the young talent that makes Philly’s restaurant scene the unique and thriving place that it is today.
-Story by Caroline Russock, Photos by Maria Young
Stefanie Angstadt, 29Owner-Cheesemaker, Valley Milkhouse Creamery
With a mother hailing from Belgium and formative years spent in Europe, Angstadt’s love of stinky cheese was cultivated at an early age. After deciding that the world of finance wasn’t for her, she took a leap of faith and transitioned from cheesemaking hobbyist to pro, opening Valley Milkhouse Creamery a little over a year ago. Setting up shop in southeastern PA, Angstadt now makes cultured butter, cream top yogurt and a run of seasonal, grass-fed sheep’s and cow’s milk cheeses using milk from nearby Spring Creek Farms.
Ian Boothman, 29Chef de Cuisine, Cheu Noodle Bar
Boothman’s first real-deal cooking position was during the last days of Le Bec-Fin with Nick Elmi at the helm. “Half of the people there were reading The French Laundry cookbook and half were reading the Momofuku cookbook,” Boothman explains. He was in the Momofuku camp, which made him a perfect match for Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh’s Bing Bing Dim Sum, which they describe as “inauthentically Asian.” He’s now running the kitchen at the duo’s Cheu Noodle Bar with the appropriately cheeky mantra: “If you’re a five-year-old running a noodle bar, what would you want to do?”
Alex Busch, 23Sous-Chef, Whetstone Tavern
With a German dad, an Italian mom and a long-standing love for spaetzle and schnitzel, Busch was a natural fit for his first serious cooking job at Brauhaus Schmitz, which he landed at the tender age of 19. (His dad found the job for him on Craigslist.) Chef Jeremy Nolen brought Busch with him for his next project, Whetstone Tavern, where he’s putting his skill to use by preparing elevated American plates and helping develop new menu items, a welcome break from the daily grind of sausage making.
Ana Caballero, 29Sustainability and Outreach Project Manager, High Street Hospitality
With a degree in food studies from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy and an internship at Rene Redzepi’s Nordic Food Lab under her belt, Caballero came to Philadelphia passionate about both cooking and food studies. While working on the line at a.kitchen, chef Eli Kulp created a role for her at the restaurant group, which also includes Fork, High Street on Market and the soon-to-open High Street New York. She works hands-on with chefs and producers, organizing outreach programs and farmer’s markets as well as sourcing new, sustainable products.
Paul Carrier, 28Head Chef, The Diving Horse
Carrier heads up the kitchen at The Diving Horse, an acclaimed Jersey Shore destination in Avalon. It’s an experience that’s very different from his time at Philly spots like Fitler Dining Room and Bistrot La Minette. The staff of this seasonal restaurant is brought to the beach each summer and set up in dormlike housing, spending the entire summer living and working together. He’s been wowing locals and tourists alike with a menu that makes the most of fresh-off-the-boat seafood and local produce — think a take on bouillabaisse with Jersey tomatoes and long hots.
Matthew Fein, 29Chef, Federal Donuts
A year into pre-med, Fein realized becoming a neurologist wasn’t what the doctor ordered. He switched to culinary school, and after getting some experience on the line he took a Birthright trip to Israel and promptly fell in love with the country’s unique cuisine. The day he got back, he emailed Mike Solomonov and secured a line cook position at Zahav. After several months, he was was offered a unique chef position at Federal Donuts, a nationally acclaimed mini-chain where Fein now has creative control over the restaurant’s two beloved menu items: fried chicken and donuts.
Jayna Fey, 26Assistant General Manager, Tria Taproom, and Brand Identity Design Consultant
As a lifelong multitasker, Fey decided early on that a desk job just wasn’t the right fit. Upon moving to Philadelphia she worked at The Dandelion and Garces Trading Company, while also growing a small-brand identity consultancy and working in software marketing. She was already a big fan of Tria, explaining, “I wanted to find a place to work that wasn’t going to drive me crazy.” Aside from running the city’s most impressive roster of beer, wine, cider and soda on draft, she also works with Philly Wine Week.
Adrian Galbraith-Paul, 25Farm Manager, Heritage Farm
Politically and environmentally minded, Galbraith-Paul decided that the best way to become a productive member of society was to learn urban farming. He now operates Heritage Farm, a three-acre operation on the grounds of a nonprofit home for women. Many of the residents staff the farm, and 70% of its produce is sold to restaurants like Amis, Russet and The Farm and Fisherman. The rest is donated or sold at a discounted price at farmer’s markets geared toward the surrounding community.
Jeffrey Gillespie, 23Beverage Director, Le Chéri
You might be surprised to learn that the beverage director at polished Rittenhouse Square restaurant Le Chéri started out flipping pancakes at the Jersey Shore. Just a few years later, a chance encounter with Bibou’s Pierre and Charlotte Calmels at The Restaurant School set him on a new career trajectory. By the time he was 18, he was working a few nights a week at the Bella Vista bistro; now, five years later, he’s at Le Cheri every day, guiding neighborhood folks and oenophiles alike through the restaurant’s impressive French and Swiss wine list.
Daniel Giorgio, 24Chef de Cuisine, Bud & Marilyn’s
After culinary school at CIA in Napa Valley and a stint at LA’s Son of a Gun, Giorgio’s South Philly roots called him home to Little Nonna’s, a red-gravy joint from Marcie Turney and Val Safran. There, thanks to a passion for all things spaghetti and meatballs–related (plus a tight relationship with Turney), he rose from line cook to chef de cuisine, contributing his Italian-American intel along the way. Recently, Giorgio was tapped to tackle another kind of comfort cuisine, heading up the kitchen at Bud & Marilyn’s, Turney and Safran’s retro Americana spot just around the corner.
Jack Goldenberg, 28Farmer, Plowshare Farms
After years cooking in restaurant kitchens, Jack Goldenberg began the transition from cook to farmer by planting a small plot in his backyard. By harvesting and selling his produce to local restaurants, Goldenberg gradually grew Plowshare Farms with the help of his partner, Teddy Moynihan. They now operate a full-scale farm at the Village at Rosemont, a nonprofit specializing in trauma-informed care that stocks a CSA, has a weekly farmer’s market partnering with High Street on Market and provides produce to a venerable restaurant clientele that includes Fork, Dizengoff and Pub & Kitchen.
Michael Griffiths, 28Chef/Co-Owner, Helm
Before starting Helm with friend and business partner Kevin D'Egidio, the pair used to talk about opening their own place while driving back from work along North Fifth Street. Rehabbing a none-too-glamorous former cheesesteak shop after work hours and on days off, the two transformed the space completely. “Everyone seems to think that our dining room is their living room,” Griffiths says of the homey, critically acclaimed BYO that builds its menu around produce sourced from urban farms and gardens.
Chloe Grigri, 27Owner, The Good King Tavern
Walking into Parisian-inspired South Street bistro The Good King Tavern, you’d never know that Chloe Grigri and her father is their first venture into the world of restaurant ownership. Although Grigri’s background includes political science studies and production design for Anthropologie, it was her time spent in local restaurants like El Camino and Chayya that prepared her for the daily multitasking that goes into managing the day-to-day operations of a restaurant. She considers herself something of a natural, from hiring a staff that’s grown with the business to curating one of Philly’s most intriguing French wine lists.
Amy Hartranft, 28Bartender, Petruce et al.
At an early age, Amy Hartranft informed her mother that she wanted to work in restaurants, but it wasn’t until she joined the opening crew at a.kitchen that she really embraced what that meant. Delving into the restaurant’s excellent wine and cocktail program, she met Tim Kweeder, who went on to open Petruce et al. and brought her aboard as a bartender. At Petruce, she’s come into her own, not only crafting clean and creative cocktails to match the kitchen’s menu but also coming to love the more convivial side of bartending.
Michael Jreidini, 27General Manager, il Pittore
Jreidini is the first to admit that he’s a bit young to be general manager at a restaurant of il Pittore’s caliber. But he must be doing something right — soon after graduating college (after studying corporate finance), he landed a position at Stephen Starr’s swanky Rittenhouse spot. He credits chef Chris Painter and his passion for real-deal Italian cooking as one of the motivations for his rapid rise from waiter to general manager. “Italian cooking isn’t always Italian food,” Jreidini says. “Italian cooking is cooking with what’s around you.” And that’s what he tries to convey to his guests.
Dan Kennedy, 27Chef de Cuisine, Sbraga
Dan Kennedy’s first foray into the world of cooking came when he was helping out at his uncle’s Southern California barbecue restaurant: “I was a young white kid who didn’t know sh*t about anything,” he says. Set on upping his game, he traveled and worked, ending up in LA and securing gigs at INK and Trois Mec before returning to his hometown. At Sbraga, he’s graduated from sous to chef de cuisine, heading up the day-to-day operations and managing tasting menus while the Top Chef boss is out of the kitchen.
Lindsey Krueger, 28Bar Manager and Head Bartender, Oyster House
Intrigued at a young age by the mysterious contents of his grandparents’ liquor cabinet, Lindsey Krueger feels as though he was destined to work behind the bar. While studying international business administration at Temple University, Kreuger was working at Tinto: “I was so much more fascinated with what was going on there than with my macro and micro econ classes,” he says. After working his way through a few Garces spots, Krueger ended up at Oyster House, where he’s crafted a savvy and smart menu of cocktails and one of the best gin selections in town.
J. Christine Lamb, 28Beverage Manager, Charlie was a sinner
Her career as a bartender might not have started off glamorously (“I worked at lots of places [that] are hilarious to me now”), but J. Christine Lamb nevertheless landed a swanky cocktail gig through unlikely circumstances: six months after beginning a vegan lifestyle, she no longer felt comfortable serving meat and applied for a job at HipCityVeg. Hitting it off with management, she was brought on as a bartender at Charlie was a sinner, the company’s new cocktail bar, and now heads up the beverage program, incorporating vegan-friendly ingredients like coconut and agave into riffs on classic cocktails.
Ross Maloof, 27General Manager/Beverage Director, Vedge Restaurant
Even before Ross Maloof really sunk his teeth into the world of wine, he worked at some of the best-cellared restaurants in Philly, like Moshulu and a.kitchen. At Vedge, Maloof focuses on grape growers who take a hands-off approach both in the vineyard and the cellar. Working with natural wines at Philadelphia’s premiere vegan destination allows Maloof an advantage. “Half the people walking in the door are so far out of their comfort zone already, they’ve already done away with all of their preconceived notions,” he says, “so I’m able to get them into funky, cool things.”
Jason Malumed, 28Owner, Chalkboard Wine + Spirits
After graduating from Cornell with an Econ degree and unsuccessfully trying to land a job on Wall Street during the recession, Malumed had a summer of introspection and decided to pursue his love of wine, securing a sales rep position in Philly. Eventually, he began Chalkboard Wine + Spirits, a wine brokerage focusing on the small producers close to his heart, and which now has a portfolio of over 500 wines for sale in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Damon Menapace, 29Chef, Kensington Quarters
If you’ve ever tasted Damon Menapace’s pastas at Kensington Quarters, it won’t come as a shock to know that he worked his way up through the Vetri ranks. After working as a “baby sous-chef” at the now-shuttered Oceanaire, Menapace wanted to delve into the world of Italian cuisine and went to work at Osteria, eventually venturing across the street and heading up the kitchen at Vetri gastropub Alla Spina. Now he’s living the dream at Kensington Quarters, where he gets to work one-on-one with the in-house butcher shop and turn out some killer pastas.
Peter Merzbacher, 26Owner, Philly Bread
Peter Merzbacher came to Philly with a grant to study urban farming, but instead ended up inside the kitchen as a line cook at Talula’s Garden, where he fell in love with bread baking. After he surveyed the Philly bread scene, he decided to set himself apart by introducing a new product: the Philly Muffin, a square muffin made from house-milled, locally sourced grains. As demand grew for his artisanal take on the English muffin, he eventually moved from his home kitchen to his own bakery in North Philly, where he’s also making baguettes and brioche.
Austin Schafer, 28Chef de Cuisine, Amada
Austin Schafer’s history with the Garces Group began with his sister, who just so happened to live in an apartment on top of Tinto and Village Whiskey. After hearing good things about these newly opened spots, Schafer secured a position as a line cook and eventually headed to Revel in Atlantic City, working at Yuboka noodle bar and up the chain of command at Amada to become the chef de cuisine. After Revel shut its doors, Schafer moved back to Philly to take over the same position in the popular Old City location.
Buddi Schlesinger, 29Assistant General Manager, Barclay Prime
While working her way through a hospitality and restaurant management program at Penn State, Buddi Schlesinger spent summers working the casino circuit, eventually ending up with full-time gigs at Harrah’s and Revel. After moving back to Philadelphia post-graduation, she linked up with the Starr group and worked at both Butcher and Singer and Barclay Prime. For someone who manages high-end steakhouses, Schlesinger isn’t all that much of a meat eater, but she loves the clientele and the fact that “every day feels like a special occasion.”
Emily Seaman, 29Chef, Dizengoff
When Emily Seaman moved back to Philly after attending culinary school in Austin and cooking in Napa, she was determined to get into the kitchen at Zahav after hearing her brother sing praises of the modern Israeli spot. While her knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine was limited, she learned quickly and rose through the ranks to sous-chef before getting tapped by owners Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook to open their new hummusiya, Dizengoff. There, she’s been given ample freedom to work with local farmers and create vegetable-centric hummus toppers (and excellent wood-fired pita) that have gotten serious national attention.
Danielle Seipp, 23Pastry Chef, Osteria
Just before enrolling in CIA, Danielle Seipp decided to forgo culinary studies in favor of pastry. Her transition from student and intern to heading up the pastry programs at both Osteria locations was virtually seamless, leading her to fall in love with the simplicity of the menu and develop close relationships with local farmers. While she’s still putting out stellar seasonal desserts, Seipp is gradually moving on to a larger role: overseeing the desserts at the Vetri group’s rapidly expanding empire.
Collin Shapiro and Jonathon Zilber, 26 and 29Owners, Philly Style Bagels
What began as an at-home experiment between two friends and coworkers who met working in a craft-beer shop. transitioned into a year and a half of wildly successful weekend bagel pop-ups at Pizzeria Beddia. Now, the Philly Style Bagel guys are finally opening a brick-and-mortar location in Kensington. Slated for a late October opening, the pair have outfitted a former shop with a crowd-sourced deck oven and plan to expand their bagels, cream cheese and house-cured salmon menu to include lunch options like tuna and chicken salad and corned beef.
Michelle Soda, 26Director of Operations, HipCityVeg
Although she worked with high-end steakhouses Barclay Prime and Butcher & Singer during her six-year tenure with STARR Restaurants, it wasn’t too difficult for Soda to make the switch to veggies-only fast-casual chain, HipCityVeg. When friends introduced her to founder Nicole Marquis, the pair hit it off immediately. Starting out as GM, Soda now oversees the company’s rapid expansion, helping launch small-plates spot Charlie was a sinner, new locations of HipCityVeg and its newest endeavor, Bar Bombon, a vegan Latin snack spot, juicery and cocktail bar.
Rhett Vellner, 29Sous-Chef, City Tap House
In a city that prides itself on excellent beer lists, Vellner has done an excellent job making sure that menus measure up to draft lists. He first made his name with a vegetable-forward menu at the dearly departed Resurrection Ale House, and then went on to open cozy cocktail den Bardot, where he crafted an elegant menu that was both cocktail- and beer-friendly. Next up for Vellner is another one of the city’s best beer spots: a sous-chef gig at City Tap House, where he’s looking forward to tackling a larger-scale operation.
Michael Wambolt, 28Owner-Brewer, Crime & Punishment Brewing Co.
Home brewing began as a hobby for Michael Wambolt, one of the seven partners behind the newly opened Crime & Punishment Brewing. He spent two years as an inner-city elementary school counselor before friends encouraged him to open a brewery. It’s not only the first brewery to open in years in Brewerytown (which gets name from its rich beer-making history) — the team also hopes it will be a place where local artists, musicians and nonprofits can come together in a communal space. Case in point: it’s probably the only brewery with its own cassettes-only record label.