From cover to cover, this magazine is often filled with people performing extraordinary magic within the restaurant industry and occasionally beyond. I found the folks in this issue to be particularly spell-binding.

It all started when Diana Dávila told our food and beverage editor that she’s a witch, and she wanted everyone to know it. I first heard about Diana from FSR’s May 2018 cover girl and recent James Beard Outstanding Chef nominee Sarah Grueneberg. Sarah told me last spring that Diana’s restaurant, Mi Tocaya Antojería, was her new favorite spot in Chicago. “It’s insane, so delicious,” she told me.

Diana has been turning heads it seems since her restaurant opened. I saw her speak a month after Sarah told me about her and I had one thought cross my mind—this woman is a badass. Had she not told us she was a witch, I would have simply assumed that badass cuisine was her superpower. But that term, it turns out, belongs to another chef in this issue, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins.

Claudette’s food has been hailed in no uncertain terms as “comida chingona,” though she prefers to call it grandma-chic, which leads me to yet another defining characteristic that ties together many of the chefs (many of whom are women) leading the rise of regional Mexican cuisines. Daniela Soto-Innes, whose restaurant ATLA is featured in this month’s How It’s Done section, recently told the New York Times she’s a self-proclaimed “Mexican grandmother.”

So, to really create amazing regional Mexican cuisine in the U.S. today, one must have magical, potentially ancestral powers. Or, in other words, these women are cooking from their hearts, their passions, and their heritages. And their work deserves both reverence and delight from guests and peers alike.

Meanwhile, in other segments of the industry, the magic seems to come from a similar place: passion and hard work. Ryan Ratino, for example, whose restaurant Bresca earned its Michelin star in 11 months, is driven by commitment to the craft. The young chef is so committed he’s barely taken a day off since the restaurant opened. And for our cover guy, Chris Simms, whose business model boasts a seemingly opposing ethos of time off and work-life-balance, success has not come without a dedication to his passions. We talked about how creating a restaurant brand rooted in his own passions, as well as the passions he came to share with guests, launched him on his own path to success.

Where’s your magic? I have a suspicion, based on some anecdotal evidence, that if you look to where your passions are, you may find it there.

Expert Takes, Feature