Although Covid-19 surges, labor shortages, and supply chain bottlenecks have persisted into 2022, this was arguably the first year since pre-pandemic times when restaurants weren’t content to merely survive—they were once again pushing forward. This resurgence is being led, in no small part, by younger professionals in the industry. From socially minded restaurateurs with do-better missions to chefs celebrating their culinary roots to franchisees seizing growth opportunities, this year’s class of 40 under 40 Rising Stars is returning foodservice to its rightful vibrancy.
Joe Kim (pictured above)
Founder / Owner
Dae Gee Korean BBQ
Joe Kim had no foodservice experience when he opened the first Dae Gee Korean BBQ in a Denver suburb 10 years ago. What he did have was a proven track record in the small business sector.
West Hartford, Connecticut
Macarena Ludena has been in the family business for nearly a dozen years, and now at the helm, she’s taking it to new heights. Named for Ludena’s hometown, Cora Cora opened in 2011 and specializes in traditional Peruvian dishes. After working every position, from busser to cevichera (ceviche maker), Ludena attended the Lincoln Culinary Institute to deepen her mastery and advance Cora Cora. Her efforts are bearing fruit, with both the restaurant and Ludena landing on the James Beard Awards semifinalist list for Outstanding Restaurant and Best Chef: Northeast.
Open since 1893, haute Creole fixture Commander’s Palace has a legendary reputation to maintain, and Meg Bickford is up to the task. Bickford has been in her current role since 2020 and has spent over 12 years with Commander’s family of brands—a period during which her career has never stopped evolving, thanks to a go-getter attitude. “I liken being a chef to being a professional athlete,” she says. “You have to be dedicated, always practicing and honing your skills, and willing to push yourself to your limit.”
Executive Chef, Director of Culinary Development
Table 301, CAMP
Greenville, South Carolina
At just 29, Drew Erickson has the resumé of a seasoned professional. He has cooked for Greenville institution Soby’s New South Cuisine, competed on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay,” worked under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, and nabbed the director of culinary development title for Table 301. In 2021, Erickson opened his most recent project: Greenville’s CAMP, a modern American eatery serving casually refined, largely shareable fare. The secret behind his success? A deep love of the creativity involved in cooking any and every ingredient.
Another Broken Egg
Amanda Johnson’s contributions to Another Broken Egg have been diverse. She’s helped more than double locations, rolled out a digital waitlist program, and taken on the difficulty of supply chain management, all while offering operator support. The satisfaction of a job well done keeps her energized: “The ability to assist in a project from the beginning of the ideation, to the training and then execution in the field gives a sense of gratification that is unexplainable,” she says.
Chef Camari Mick
Executive Pastry Chef
The Musket Room
As soon as Camari Mick joined The Musket Room in November 2020, she started exploring ways the fine-dining restaurant could remain relevant amid Covid challenges. Mick took the lead in launching MR All-Day, a café concept operating out of a vintage 1962 Harvester truck parked outside the Nolita establishment. With a style described as “playful yet refined,” the pastry chef has been lauded by none other than The New York Times’ Pete Wells and also received a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Outside of the restaurant, Mick works with young chefs in the community on collaborative projects.
Chief of Staff
Saison Hospitality Group
In addition to half a dozen lauded concepts (including a Michelin-starred establishment of the same name) Saison Hospitality Group boasts the fresh energy of young leaders. Inspired by her father’s entrepreneurial spirit, Jessica Kapoor has served as the group’s chief of staff since 2018. Last year, she leveraged her comprehensive knowledge of the industry’s strengths and weaknesses to add a new role to her portfolio, that of founder and owner. Her new restaurant, Copas, is an all-day eatery that blends Mexican, Californian, and Spanish cuisines.
Chef de Cuisine
Saison Hospitality Group
Chef Richard Lee also draws on his background, utilizing the Chinese flavors and ingredients from his upbringing and early culinary training to cook for nearly a half-dozen Michelin-starred institutions, including Eleven Madison Park, which nabbed the distinction of No. 1 Restaurant in the World by William Reed Business Media’s World’s 50 Best during Lee’s tenure. The chef brings outstanding attention to detail to his craft, which is vital for his role leading Saison’s culinary team in a storied hearth-fire cooking method.
Saison Hospitality Group
Behind Paul Chung’s culinary prowess lies his mother’s homemade Korean dishes and his world travels. These experiences underpin Chung’s newly expanded role at Saison Hospitality wherein he oversees Saison, Angler San Francisco, Angler Los Angeles, and any forthcoming properties. More than a culinary director, Chung also mentors the group’s younger culinary artists.
Jessica Tomlinson has a knack for applications that bring customers back for more. As head of culinary for 16-store craft burger chain, Ford’s Garage, she’s created trend-forward menus while remaining mindful of supply chain disruptions and scalability. Case in point: Tomlinson’s Smoked Brisket Burnt Ends Melt first launched as an LTO, but due to soaring sales, the sandwich was added to the menu across the chain, where it earned the spot of No. 1 best-seller.
Hidden Leaf, Midnight Cafe
Iain Griffiths’ extensive hospitality journey started in pubs in his native Australia before he felt the pull of cocktails. Since then, Griffiths has worked in—and often led—some of the most celebrated beverage programs across the globe, including Black Pearl (Melbourne), Eau de Vie (Sydney), Bramble (Edinburgh, Scotland), White Lyan and Dandelyan (London), and Supernova Ballroom (Toronto). In 2017, he won the first-ever “Bartender’s Bartender” recognition by the World’s 50 Best Bars. Now, in addition to his work as creative director at new pan-Asian concept Hidden Leaf and cocktail bar Midnight Cafe in New York City, he’s busy at work on Jellybone, a consulting, branding, and design collective.
The Social Order
Years ago, Courtney Mankin started working in restaurants as a cocktail waitress. Today she’s president of The Social Order Dining Collective, which includes a mix of homegrown concepts and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop franchise locations. Mankin has taken the lead in building programs to better support its 400 employees—something that proved especially crucial at the height of the pandemic. The company offered staff up to six free, anonymous therapy sessions and hosted special seminars called Intermissions that featured discussions around urgent topics like the Black Lives Matter movement and mental health in the age of Covid.
The Black Bourbon Guy
Durham, North Carolina
Che Ramos has worked at some of the best restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, including French bistro Kitchen, Counting House at 21c Museum Hotel, and brunch destination STIR Raleigh. With plenty of experience managing both the restaurant and bar side of things, Ramos decided to strike out on his own and create a hospitality consultancy centered around his passion: bourbon. Through The Black Bourbon Guy business, Ramos collaborates with local bars and restaurants, plans private tasting events, and provides professional bar training.
Trust Restaurant Group
Brad Wise’s five concepts specialize in a culture of hospitality. The chef’s humble beginnings mopping floors in a pizza joint eventually led to his first solo venture, Trust, which opened in 2016 and offers shareable, rustic fare cooked via traditional Santa Maria–style grilling. While Wise’s restaurants are distinct, all share Trust’s comfortable atmosphere and rich, smoky flavors. And in hopes of extending hospitality beyond dining rooms and into kitchens, Wise also works to redefine labor conditions, offering his staff livable wages and other financial benefits.
Three-time James Beard semifinalist and “Top Chef” fan favorite Shota Nakajima has wowed diners and audiences alike with his modern take on Japanese fare. Off-camera he’s also been a serial entrepreneur, first with a catering business and then kaiseki restaurant Naka in 2015. The chef eventually transformed Naka into a more casual concept, Adana, which was named Best New Restaurant by The Seattle Times and a Top 10 Restaurant by Seattle Magazine. Pandemic pressures led to the restaurant’s closure in 2020 but not before Nakajima had launched fast casual/karaage bar Taku, which has received fanfare in its own right.
Beverage Director and Sommelier
Alexandria Brashears began her restaurant career as a server and bartender before becoming a certified sommelier in 2017. Within two years she was working at none other than Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York. She also curated a beverage program at Lyla Lila that made it to the semifinalist round of the James Beard Awards. In her new role at Andros Taverna in Chicago, Brashears works with chef Doug Psaltis to build a beverage menu and pairing recommendations reflective of the Greek islands.
VP of Finance
Managing the finances of Jinya Holdings’ 50-plus restaurants across its five modern Japanese concepts in both the fine-dining and fast-casual sectors could be an overwhelming task, but it’s one that Joe Cloud continues to handle with aplomb. Cloud is the supervisor for all of Jinya’s finances and a true team player. Until recently he also oversaw the group’s supply chain, a demanding role in the best of times and a considerable achievement amid current shortages.
Senior Digital Marketing Manager
Eureka Restaurant Group
Just as NextGen Casual Eureka expands, so too does the growth potential for its people.
Senior digital marketing manager Taylor Bulen first began her career at the company as a team member in 2013. Now she directs the brand’s digital strategy across its 25-plus-unit system by creating and leading integrated marketing campaigns, strategic partnerships, and digital marketing tactics. Her work has modernized Eureka’s digital presence through an experiential loyalty program, app, and new website, among other initiatives.
Vice President of Beverage
Eureka Restaurant Group
Eureka’s ever-evolving and cutting-edge beverage program can be credited in large part to Trevor Tyler, whose expertise span beer, wine, and spirits. Tyler is one of only about 3,500 certified cicerones in the world and a member of the Guild of Sommeliers. He has forged relationships with breweries across the country to make beers exclusive to Eureka. On the spirits side, Tyler manages the brand’s Whiskey Club Program, which introduces its 1,200-odd members to new distilleries through a monthly subscription program.
DDP Restaurant Group
Although Megan Luedtke studied fashion in New York and then kicked off her professional life in Los Angeles, an irrepressible draw to F&B changed her trajectory. She moved back to Minneapolis and delved into mixology, starting as a bartender and growing into more senior roles. Now as the bar director for chef Daniel del Prado’s DDP Restaurant Group, Luedtke oversees multiple beverage programs, several of which she built from the ground up. Luedtke’s passion for all things cocktail extends to her personal life, too; one of her pets is a cat named Congresswoman Daiquiri.
Executive Vice President of Operations
East Coast Wings + Grill
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Nowadays it’s rare for ambitious, young professionals to stay at the same brand for a decade-plus, but that’s exactly what Whitney Mann has done. She started as a server at East Coast Wings + Grill in 2004 and over the ensuing years has advanced to general manager, corporate administrative assistant, training coordinator, systems analyst, brand field consultant, and director of functional analytics. In March, she was elevated to vice president, and CEO Sam Ballas remarked, “She is truly the embodiment of our corporate mantra, ‘Never be satisfied.’ I’m confident our brand will continue to grow under her operational watch.”
Cofounder, Hospitality Director
Destination Unknown Restaurants
As hospitality director of Destination Unknown, Kelly Phillips is largely responsible for the experience proprietary to D.C. favorites Espita, Ghostburger, Taqueria Las Gemelas, and Destino. In addition to providing the group’s signature atmospheres, Phillips has also made waves by implementing a tip-free structure at her concepts that allows for a living wage and bonus system for staff. “We’ve shown that we can change and survive for the better,” she says. “I’m inspired by how the industry is shifting the focus to employee well-being and stability. Restaurants can be happy places for everyone and be successful.”
Thatcher’s Wine Consulting
At just 22 years old, Thatcher Baker-Briggs was certified by the Master Court of Sommeliers—an early indicator of an impressive career. Following this certification, he migrated toward the beverage side of restaurants, first at Saison in San Francisco and later Takazawa in Tokyo, where he served as head sommelier and clinched a Best of Excellence Award for the restaurant. In 2019, Baker-Briggs launched his own consultancy whose clientele ranges from leaders in technology and finance to publishing and politics. Two years later, he also founded Thatcher Imports, which works with such lauded institutions as Atelier Crenn, Majordomo, n/naka, and The French Laundry.
Senior Director of Culinary
An alum of the Culinary Institute of America, Tabitha Yeh has cooked under some of the world’s most decorated chefs, including Thomas Keller, Rene Redzepi, and Masa Takayama. During the pandemic, she was tapped by Noodlelove to help transition the fast casual into a full-service enterprise. Pulling from her Korean-American heritage, she created comfort foods, like the Seoul Alle Vongole, which became an instant hit. Six months ago, she joined multiunit restaurant Planta as senior director of culinary, working alongside another revered chef, David Lee.
The Statement Group
All-day brunch spot The Place 2 Be has been making guests swoon over Instagram-worthy dishes since 2015, and now CEO Gina Luari is hitting the gas on expansion. Earlier this year, she formed The Statement Group, which encompasses The Place 2 Be’s four (and growing) locations, as well as new concepts, like seafood bar, Raw; Charred pizzeria; and Latin eatery, Cantina. At her side are two “Chopped” champions, chefs Xavier Santiago and Maurice “Mo” Major.
Even before he was of drinking age, Marshall Minaya had cut his teeth working behind the bar. Once he hit 21, Minaya moved to the Big Apple in search of experience and opportunity, both of which he found. At high-volume restaurants like The Meatball Shop and Salvation Taco, he mastered the classics. Then at Salvation Burger and later Da Capo, he created and launched beverage menus in tandem with the restaurants’ openings. In his current role at Valerie, Minaya showcases small-batch and local spirits in a seasonal menu; he’s also built the largest gin library in Manhattan.
Bricia Lopez’s career is multifaceted. She helms Guelaguetza, her family’s traditional Oaxacan restaurant and boutique market, where she has created a renowned mezcal program. She’s the author of Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, and also an international activist for immigrant rights. Underpinning all of these ventures is a profound care for her Oaxacan heritage. “The best part of my job is knowing we are keeping our Oaxaca culture alive,” Lopez says. “To know that we are feeding an entire generation of Angelenos the food our ancestors ate is an absolute privilege.”
Linda Roth PR
In her near decade-long tenure at Linda Roth PR, Avery Meetre has advanced from public relations coordinator to vice president. In addition to her work with full-service restaurants, Meetre has helped reimagine the area’s biannual Restaurant Week to drive business amid the pandemic; she’s also increased media coverage of the region’s RAMMY Awards. Described as a “creative force of nature” by Linda Roth president Anthony Hesselius, Meetre has been recognized by DC Modern Luxury and Washington Life magazines and also serves as the current president of the International Foodservice Editorial Council.
Chef De Cuisine
Skyler Gauthier indulges his penchant for cooking meat low and slow through the menus at Haywire, a farm-to-fork concept serving updated Texan cuisine and specializing in premium, local beef. Before joining Haywire in 2019, Gauthier strengthened his steakhouse expertise at a chain of Texas steakhouse mainstays. Now, he helms the kitchens at Haywire’s two locations, creating hearty, seasonal menus that are rooted in, but never weighed down by, Lone Star tradition.
Ana De Sa Martins
Ana De Sa Martins moved to the U.S. from Venezuela, she immersed herself in all things hospitality, first with a culinary arts diploma, then a bachelor’s in hospitality management, and finally a master’s in human resources. While studying, she worked at Lure Fish Bar and The Dessert Bar in New York and spent a summer manning the pastry station at Aux Trois Rois in France. Now, at Stubborn Seed (which recently earned a Michelin Star), De Sa Martins dreams up playful sweets like the Milk Chocolate Chile Cremeux and the fudge brownie Candy Bar.
Executive Chef, Partner
Daniel Le developed an appreciation for cuisine—and seafood in particular—by being immersed in traditional Vietnamese cooking at a young age and spending childhood summers on his grandparents’ Louisiana shrimp trawlers. Le has cooked in (and helped open) several notable restaurants, including New York destination Hanoi House. Now, he draws on his childhood experiences at the Southeast Asian, tide-to-table restaurant Essex Pearl, where his menus marry light, fresh flavors of northern Vietnam and the bolder profiles of southern Vietnamese Phan Thiet cuisine.
After earning recognition as one of the youngest American chefs to be awarded a Michelin star and cooking for various beloved Chicago restaurants, Donald Young has left the world of brick-and-mortars for his new bimonthly pop-up and private culinary experience, Duck Sel. An evolution of his earlier pop-up, Salted Duck, Duck Sel leverages Young’s French culinary training to create duck-centric dishes—fare that is sometimes classical, sometimes avant-garde, and always retains a hint of whimsy.
Garrett Hospitality Group
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hospitality powerhouse Memphis Garrett is on his way to becoming a South Florida icon. Last year, Garrett added outposts of two existing restaurants and opened up two entirely new concepts, and he currently has three locations of a new speakeasy brand slated to open in Florida, Illinois, and Tennessee, respectively. At the core of his portfolio’s rapid growth is Garrett’s vision; he looks for opportunities in a variety of markets and cuisines, from Mediterranean fare to poké to Southern American cookery.
It’s no surprise that two-time James Beard finalist Kate Williams has achieved culinary success in Detroit, a city that plays a pivotal role in her family’s own history. Williams’s great-great-grandparents operated a Detroit bakery; family legend has it that so many customers were permitted to dine and dash that generosity was the bakery’s biggest weakness. After her first restaurant, Lady of the House, garnered widespread acclaim, Williams is making another imprint on Detroit with Karl’s, a charming luncheonette serving milkshakes and sophisticated versions of diner classics.
Alma Cocina Latina
David Zamudio is earning Baltimore a reputation for fine dining. After moving to the U.S. from Venezuela on an exceptional talent visa, Zamudio became the chef at Alma Cocina Latina, a Venezualan-infused eatery that has earned rave reviews from The Washington Post, Eater, and plenty of other publications. Feeding Baltimore—through Alma Cocina Latina and other channels—is central to Zamudio’s culinary practice; during the pandemic, he helped create a relief kitchen that delivered meals to more than 150,000 underserved Baltimore residents.
Cassandra “Cassy” Johns
As a U.S. Army veteran, mother of five, and business owner, Cassy Johns is accustomed to tackling multiple challenges head-on. In addition to a family home-building business, Johns and her husband, Robert, operate two (soon to be three) Huddle House locations. Her approach to franchising puts community first; she focuses on creating jobs for local residents and has built a proprietary give-back program for one of her stores that she plans to roll out at the second soon.
Mileyda “Mile” Montezuma
Head Chef and Partner
For the two younger members of Immigrant Food’s leadership, the migrant story is deeply personal.
Chef Mile Montezuma hails from Venezuela and leads the Immigrant Food kitchen under the direction of chef/partner Enrique Limardo, whom she previously worked with at Latin fusion establishment Alma in Baltimore. While Montezuma draws from her own culinary heritage, she also relishes the opportunity to work with other migrants and develop dishes whose provenance can range from India to Turkey to Thailand and beyond. Melding different flavors into a cohesive menu is a tricky process, but the chef savors the opportunity to indulge her curiosity.
Cofounder and COO
Téa Ivanovic was born in Belgium to parents from former Yugaslavia and moved to the States for college. Her subsequent studies and career focused on international policy at top think tanks in D.C., but anti-immigrant rhetoric compelled her, along with chef Limardo and global policy veteran Peter Schechter, to open a restaurant with a mission. Immigrant Food, which now has three locations, not only serves global fare, it also provides space to local nonprofits and encourages guests to become civically engaged. In her multifaceted role, Ivanovic manages everything from restaurant operations to financial responsibility.
Student and Veterinarian
Hotel, Culinary Arts, and Tourism Institute (HCAT)
Perhaps no one’s entry into the culinary arts is as unexpected as Lauren Peterson’s. Since 2014, she has worked as a veterinarian, but during the pandemic, she decided to pursue a long-held dream of attending culinary school. Now, in addition to her day job, she is a student at the Hotel, Culinary Arts, and Tourism Institute at Anne Arundel Community College. While she’s not completely sure of her plans after graduation, she hopes to bring her science/nutrition knowledge base into the food industry.
Chief Marketing Officer
Transforming a legacy casual-dining chain into a nimble, thriving brand is a rare feat, and might seem virtually impossible during a global pandemic. But Joe Artime managed to do just this for Perkins, rolling out digital ordering and delivery across all stores and growing digital sales five-fold just weeks after joining the brand in March 2020. Since then, Artime has launched various digital marketing strategies, created three in-house, virtual brands, sustained robust digital sales, and even developed a Perkins app and loyalty program.