Donnelly Marks

Simple goals: To own a business by the time she was 30 and to educate people about Korean food. But her business savvy and culinary talent elevated the simple to the superlative, and Esther Choi, chef/owner of mŏkbar, has become New York City’s ambassador of Korean cuisine.

40 Restaurant Stars on the Rise

A generation of foodservice professionals—all under the age of 40—are helping define new expectations for the industry.

A teenage prodigy, 17 young adults roaring into restaurant careers while still in their 20s, and a collection of prime-time pros who have hit their stride and are rising fast, well before they crest the 40-year mark—these are the stars we hail as ones to watch in 2017. 

Representing all walks of restaurant operations, the FSR Rising Stars include chefs, owner/operators, entrepreneurial restaurateurs, executive leaders, and beverage visionaries. Most were nominated by industry professionals, often by a mentor or peers, and all of the rising stars have proven histories working in full-service dining. 

As is often the case, young and driven stars first make their mark in large cities, and this list is heavily populated with those working in major markets like Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and—of course—New York City. 

Our story begins with a profile of one such chef: Esther Choi, who opened her first restaurant, mŏkbar, in New York’s Chelsea Market and, in January, opened a second mŏkbar in Brooklyn. Chef Choi fulfilled her teenage dream of owning a business by the time she was 30 in 2014, actually two years shy of turning 30, and since then she’s become the unofficial Korean food ambassador for New York City tourists and locals.