The 2013 New York Rising Stars: Why They Shine

The 2013 New York Rising Stars: Why They Shine

By Caroline Hatchett with Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt

Shannon Sturgis and Antoinette Bruno

Sure, we’re partial, but New York is arguably the culinary capital of the world, drawing the best (and bravest) international and American chefs to its kitchens. That hasn’t changed since StarChefs.com started its Rising Stars Awards in 2002. And every year that we get to explore the evolving food and drink scene here is a year we’re grateful for the vibrant culinary community that surrounds us. What has changed is the geographic scope of New York’s restaurant scene.

In the last five years, Manhattan has relinquished her exclusive grip on creative, chef-driven dining to her sister borough Brooklyn. And Brooklyn, in return, is making it affordable for young chefs to express themselves for the first time in the New York market—and gain the independence chefs in other cities have enjoyed for years. There are still great chefs cooking in glamorous, high-profile restaurants, but it’s this new generation of young, go-for-broke culinary talent that’s defining heart and soul of New York cooking.

In the last few months, we tasted savory dishes, desserts, cocktails, and wine pairings from more than 100 talented chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers in Brooklyn and New York—and 27 earned the distinction of Rising Star. So what makes them shine?

Rising Stars have attributes that make them future leaders of the country’s culinary scene. Put simply, they're not just surviving in the New York restaurant industry; they're defining it with exciting food, pours, and culinary concepts. So without further ado, our 2013 New York Rising Stars: who they are, why they shine, and how they're shaping the future of American cuisine.

Justin Bazdarich

Brooklyn Chef: Justin Bazdarich, Speedy Romeo

Justin Bazdarich is a pizzaiolo with pedigree. Amidst the proliferation of Neapolitan joints scattered from Bushwick to Park Slope, Speedy Romeo distinguishes itself with Bazdarich’s innovative approach to pizza, combining traditional Neapolitan-style crusts with hometown flavors of his native St. Louis, Missouri. Bazdarich’s food harkens back to simpler, sous-vide-free times with nearly all his dishes fired on a parilla-style grill or blistered in a wood-burning oven. Bazdarich has the technical acumen to run a fine-dining temple, but he’s instead chosen an auto repair shop to showcase his skills. And after his first year, more than 30,000 pizzas sold, and expansion plans in the works, Bazdarich is destined to toss the dough even higher.  

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Crab Crostini, Cumin Mayonnaise, Radish, and Nasturtium Vinaigrette
  • The Speedy Romeo Pizza: Grilled Dough, Ricotta, Pomodorini, Basil, Lemon, and Chili
Justin Hilbert

Brooklyn Chef: Justin Hilbert, Gwynnett St.

Justin Hilbert approaches cuisine like few of his peers. He’s a proponent of local agriculture, but farm-to-table isn’t his trump card. Although he’s staged with Spanish masters, he isn’t swayed by the virtues of modernist cuisine, and part of his style derives from time in the wd~50 pastry kitchen, where he absorbed a dash of Alex Stupak’s wildly imaginative and technically precise philosophy. Hilbert’s not different for different’s sake—it’s all for the sake of food. And this culinary credo is on full display at Gwynnett St., where his dishes unearth the deep complexity and beauty of cooking. It’s his passion and global vision that ignites the cuisine there—and helps put Gwynnett St. and its fair borough on the map as a national dining destination.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Curried Australian Lamb, Quinoa, and Winter Preserves
  • Egg Yolk-poached Cod, Grilled Leeks, and Potato
Joseph Ogrodnek
Walker Stern

Brooklyn Chefs: Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern, Battersby

Not only is the kitchen at Battersby New-York tiny, it’s also home to not one but two talented chefs—and enough inspiration to fill a commissary. Chef duo Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern prove that taste innovation can grow from classic technique. And their food, in what’s essentially a neighborhood space with neighborhood prices, is grounded, sophisticated, and purposeful. New York diners understand the foundations of dishes like vitello tonnato and beef pastrami, and Ogrodnek and Stern present those accessible plates in a modern format, tweaking technique and taste to suit their Brooklyn sensibilities. They show mature restraint and an abiding faith in the foundations of cooking. And their success is built from two minds, one menu, and the endless potential of the Battersby kitchen.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Crisp Kale Salad, Kolrabi, Brussels Sprouts, Peanuts, Cilantro, Thai Basil, Scallions, and Lime Dressing
  • Short Rib Pastrami, Fingerling Potatoes, and Braised Cabbage
Angelo Romano

Brooklyn Chef: Angelo Romano, The Pines

Chef Angelo Romano draws from a freewheeling pantry and bends it to his will near the banks of the Gowanas in Brooklyn. His dishes at The Pines are built on ingredient combinations that are foreign as they are familiar in a city that packs 800 languages in a little over 300 square miles. Ultimately, it’s comfort with spiced with attitude and technique. There’s classic Italian pasta in the mix, along with fish sauce-marinated duck and a salad of coconut, uni, jicama, and smoked jowl. Romano is cooking what he loves—with fire—and the results are electrified with New York excitement and streaked with Brooklyn verve. Romano and his restaurant are defining the new, glorious possibilities for young, independent chefs in America.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Duck Breast, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Hearts of Palm, and Blood Orange
  • Duck Leg Agnolotti, Porcini Mushrooms, Pine Nuts, and Spigarello Flowers
Dale Talde

Brooklyn Chef: Dale Talde, Talde

A veteran of Chicago’s Vong and New York’s Buddhakan, Chef Dale Talde understands the value of restaurant theatrics. But at his namesake restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the chef forgoes dramatic ambience for a party in your mouth—and kung pao spices, buttermilk dressing, yuzu guacamole, Ibérico ham, and kimchi are all invited. Talde has mastered the melding of Eastern and Western flavors, and his food blows up preconceived notions of fusion cuisine—a definition he loathes but embodies at its utmost potential. At its heart, Talde is fun. It’s packed seven nights a week, and its chef is feeding people a personal, inspired, and daring vision of food.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Yuzu Guacamole, Crispy Rice, and Jamón Ibérico
  • Chow Fun, Braised Pork Shank, and Pickled Mustard Greens
PJ Calapa

Manhattan Chef: PJ Calapa, Ai Fiori

Chef PJ Calapa is playing in the big leagues. When diners sit down to a meal at Chef Michael White’s Ai Fiori, they expect luxury. They want to purr as bone marrow melts across their tongues and pause in wonder as duck ragu unfurls from layers of crest-stamped pasta. If it’s decadence you crave, Calapa delivers. But he’s more than pinch hitting with foie gras and truffles. Calapa cooks exciting, elegant food with style. And he wields the power of restraint to leave diners wanting, craving one more taste. It’s Italian cuisine for the food lover who’s in search of the next breathtaking bite. Calapa proves that fine dining is a relevant and much-needed refuge and that he’s a powerhouse chef in the making.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Diver Scallop, Celery Root, Black Truffle, and Bone Marrow
  • Ricci e Cavolfiore: Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Sea Urchin, Lemon Gelée, Cauliflower Couscous, and Parmesan
Leah Cohen

Manhattan Chef: Leah Cohen, Pig and Khao

If Leah Cohen has anything to do with it, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the pig and the khao. This “Top Chef” alum spent a year sampling the intoxicating flavors of Southeast Asia and brought back her vision of bold Asian food to New York City. There are lots of chefs who crush on lemongrass, curry, and nam pla, but Cohen has made those flavors all her own, cooking with panache. Unafraid to tackle authentic and modern dishes alike, Cohen proves her culinary prowess and creative drive—not to mention deep respect for her forebears—behind the stove at Pig and Khao, a restaurant that’s the new and exciting center of Southeast Asian food in New York City.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Banana Leaf-wrapped Cod, Turmeric Curry, Coconut Cream, and Crispy Garlic
  • Curried Lamb Ribs, Cumin Yogurt, Pickled Beets, and Whole Wheat Chapati
Matt Lightner

Manhattan Chef: Matt Lightner, Atera

Unadulterated product and molecular gastronomy live in complete harmony at Chef Matt Lightner’s Atera—a restaurant that serves as the ultimate expression of chef as individual and tastemaker. Atera has both the luxury and burden of one boundary-pushing chef, 18 seats, a dizzying number of courses, and the eyes of the greater culinary community watching every move. And Lightner’s giving them all a show. Whether he’s foraging or spending hours on R&D, he displays a singular focus on innovation and wonder. His dishes are whimsical, natural, and technical. They speak their own culinary language, and parsing it is an adventure into the unexpected world of one of America’s most exciting young chefs.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Sake-cured Diver Scallops, Sauerkraut, and Cabbage Ice
  • Pickled Quail, with Pig’s Blood Wafer, Chicken Liver Pâté, and Huckleberry
Justin Smillie

Manhattan Chef: Justin Smillie, Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

Trattoria cooking is taking new shape at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, where Chef Justin Smillie summons years of nose-to-tail, farm-to-table experience to make some of the most inspiring Italian food in the country. Smillie builds his dishes on the basic tenets of Italian cuisine: ingredients and simplicity come first. And in a space that doubles as a dining room and retail outlet, he doesn’t waste time on effete plating or stylistic flourish. Quail arrive at the table feet-on, and short ribs are piled on a wooden board. Smillie embraces rusticity, but he’s not a dogmatic traditionalist. He’s a New York cook with free creative reign and a cross-over pantry, and he’ll stop at nothing to serve you his modern Manhattan take on Italian cuisine.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Pulpo a la Plancha, Turmeric-pickled Cauliflower, Marcona Almonds, Black Garlic-Squid Ink Emulsion, and Kaffir Lime
  • Roasted Gnocchi, Foraged Mushroom Purée, Fresh Pasta, and Sage
Michael Toscano

Manhattan Chef: Michael Toscano, Perla

When Perla was born, pigs sighed. Italian nonnas clapped for joy, and New Yorkers—wrapped up in a vegetable craze of late—found a new reason to revel in meaty glory. At the center of the excitement is Chef Michael Toscano, who in the last year has carved out a name for himself in the upper echelons of New York cooking. His Italian food vocabulary is deep, his pasta al dente, and his way with carne brilliant. Toscano makes a menu that feels familiar without replaying modern Italian greatest hits (when was the last time you noshed on veal head for three). He owns a clear culinary voice and an intrinsic knack for enlivening one of New York’s favorite cuisines.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Garganelli, Tripe, Prosciutto, Tomato, and Chilies
  • Wood Fire-roasted Veal Rib-eye, Crispy Sweetbreads, Veal Tongue, and Ribollita
Abram Bissell

Hotel Chef: Abram Bissell, The NoMad

What does a chef do when Daniel Humm asks him to open and run his much-anticipated kitchen at The NoMad, not to mention the sleek hotel’s banquets, private dinners, room service, and summer rooftop restaurant? Chef Abram Bissell said yes—to all the glory and down-in-the-trenches work that the job entails. And he’s killing it, night after night, making haute comfort food look effortless (the chicken really is that good). Bissell executes at the highest level in the city, something he achieves by training a team, who can deliver on room service at 2am or in the middle of a Saturday night crush. Bissell is a pure force at The NoMad, and he’s building a national dining destination.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Slow-roasted Carrots, Wheatberries, and Crispy Duck Skin
  • Whole Roasted Chicken, Foie Gras, Black Truffles, Brioche, and Pickled Turnips
Ashley Brauze

Pastry Chef: Ashley Brauze, DB Bistro Moderne

Here’s a challenge. Try not to swipe your finger across the last drop of sauce on an Ashley Brauze pastry plate. Don’t massacre her tower of nougat glacé. This El Bulli- and Per Se-trained pastry chef forgoes modern, conceptualist desserts for elegant French-style compositions at New York’s DB Bistro Moderne. And her pastry reminds us why we love creamy ice cream quenelles, crunchy meringues, and decadent cakes in the first place. Every bite has a new story to tell of texture and clear, resonant flavors from the season’s best produce and an ideal salt-to-sour-to-sweet ratio. Brauze has a light, confident hand and the skills to command a presence on the national pastry scene.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Strawberry Chiffon, Lime Chiffon, Strawberry Mousse, Strawberry Meringue, Rhubarb, Confit Orange, and Basil
  • Chocolate Caramel Palet: Speculoos Sable, Caramel Fondant, Vanilla Meringue, Cherry Compote, and Goat's Milk Ice Cream
Malcolm Livingston II

Pastry Chef: Malcolm Livingston II, wd~50

Pastry Chef Malcolm Livingston II takes on familiar flavors with the reverence of a punk rocker and the skill of a virtuoso. His desserts at wd~50—whether an herbal riff on a piña colada or a mezcal-laced “s’more”—challenge diners to love new and brilliant versions of their favorite sweets. And Livingston’s culinary wizardry doesn’t stop with taste. He presents flavors out of context with naturalistic plating and an abundance of textural surprise, each element conceived, tested, and rehashed with scientific fervor. In the end, there’s nothing more satisfying than wrecking Livington’s creations with a well-intentioned spoon. His work is there for pleasure and taste and for the pastry world to watch and take note.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Coconut Sorbet, Cucumber Ice, Pineapple, and Chartreuse
  • Meringue Ice Cream, Bitter Cocoa, Graham Cracker, and Black Currant-Mezcal Sauce
Katy Peetz

Pastry Chef: Katy Peetz, Blanca

Katy Peetz has no preconceived notions of dessert. Forget nostalgic reinterpretations of childhood favorites and deconstructed French classics. At Blanca, Peetz is trailblazing a wild new path for pastry—one that draws much of its inspiration and technique from the savory side of the kitchen. She offers flavor combinations that make even the most jaded dessert connoisseurs do a double take—think parsley, lemon, black garlic, and fennel. And her desserts don’t just walk the line between savory and pastry; they call into question the need for any such distinction. Peetz and this sort of pastry gumption and no-holds-barred commitment to flavor are at the core of a rapidly changing definition of the modern dessert.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Parsley Cake, Fennel-Black Garlic Gelato, and Meyer Lemon Granita
  • Apple Ice, Sunchoke Cream, Sunchoke Chips, and Sunflower Seed Brittle
Evan Hanczor

Sustainability Chef: Evan Hanczor, Parish Hall

Sustainability drives Chef Evan Hanczor’s culinary philosophy at Brooklyn’s Parish Hall. We’re not talking farm-to-table menu lip service; Hanczor approaches sustainability holistically—from farm labor and community building to local agriculture and staffing. He and his team want to authentically represent the products and traditions of New York and surrounding areas, and relying on regional farmers and foodways translates to old-fashioned goodness. Not that Hanczor’s food is an ode to the past. He makes his own black garlic, perches lamb tartare atop parsnip chips, and infuses Brooklyn artisan spirit into plates with tangy bacon jam. Ultimately, for Hanczor, it’s about bringing people together with food, bridging communities, and making dinner a much more thoughtful affair.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Confit Chicken Thigh, Dirty Farro, Sunny Egg, and Black Garlic
  • Cured Duck Breast, Spaetzle, Winter Vegetables, Brussels Sprouts, Pickled Mustard Seeds, and Duck Jus
Aurélien Dufour

Artisan: Aurélien Dufour, Daniel Boulud Restaurants

Plucked from Paris to run Gilles Verot’s charcuterie program for Daniel Boulud Restaurants, French-trained Aurélien Dufour is versed in the classics, but he’s also an innovator—dreaming up new pâtés and terrines in his sleep. Dufour lives and breathes charcuterie in a commissary, where he and a team process a remarkable 4,000 to 7,000 pounds of meat a week. If you’ve eaten a sausage at DBGB, picked up tête de cochon at Epicerie Boulud, or savored pâté at Bar Boulud, you’ve experienced Dufour’s hands at work. He’s the man behind the meat for Daniel Boulud’s empire, and he’s making some of the most exciting and profound charcuterie in the country.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Poulet au Citron Terrine and Pâté de Campagne
  • Boudin Blanc, Truffled Potatoes, Confit Apples, and Pork Jus
Zachary Golper

Artisan: Zachary Golper, Bien Cuit

Developing a croissant with a soft, buttery center and dark, shattering crust isn’t for the faint of heart. Luckily for New Yorkers, Baker Zachary Golper met the challenge at his independent bakery, Bien Cuit. The bakery—now with three locations—was named after a French phrase defining the crunchiest loaves, baked to perfection. Golper has mastered that crunch with the croissant and an impressive selection of small batch, slow-fermented breads with the tang of serious sourdough. Golper’s philosophy on breads and pastries harkens back to older times when the mythical combination of water, flour, salt, leavening, and heat fed humanity. And his rustic, neighborhood bakeries strive to do just that, one loaf at a time.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Vermouth-Leek Sabayon Tart with Reading Cheese and Apricot
  • Croissant
Joe Carroll

Concept: Joe Carroll, Fette Sau

Joe Carroll’s Fette Sau captures the zeitgeist of casual dining in America. German for “fat pig,” the concept worships flame-licked barbecue and puts pork (and beef) on a smoky pedestal. The meats and wood are sustainably sourced. There’s craft beer on tap and American whiskies on the back bar. After establishing its Williamsburg preeminence, Carroll and restaurateur Stephen Starr took the Fette Sau concept to barbecue-starved Philadelphia in late 2012, and they plan on rolling it out across the country, giving far flung cities a wink of Brooklyn irony and taste of Southern soul. By all accounts, that’s what America craves, and Fette Sau will soon make fat and happy pigs of us all.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Beef Brisket
  • Hand-pulled Berkshire Pork Shoulder
Michael Chernow

Daniel Holzman

Community: Michael Chernow and Daniel Holzman, The Meatball Shop

On top of building a booming meatball empire, The Meatball Shop’s Michael Chernow and Daniel Holzman are building community. Even with their volume and steal-of-a-deal price points, Holzman (the chef side of the equation) sources meats from Heritage Foods and buys polenta from an upstate farm. When their kitchens are (for a moment) idle, they open them to upstart food company’s looking to make a break. And when disaster really strikes, Chernow and Holzman act. After Hurricane Sandy, they delivered blankets and meatballs to rescue workers and victims. After initial supplies ran out, they saved food from the city’s out-of-power restaurants and kept on cooking. With their efforts post-Sandy and throughout the year, Chernow and Holzman prove that community is good business.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Spicy Pork Meatballs, Spicy Meat Sauce, and Polenta
  • Build Your Own Ice Cream Sandwiches
Noah Bernamoff

Restaurateur: Noah Bernamoff, Mile End Delicatessen

When Noah Bernamoff opened Mile End Delicatessen in 2010, New York had no idea what a young, Canadian law school dropout had to teach the city about food. Turns out, plenty. Bernamoff and his team introduced Brooklyn to chef-driven, Jewish comfort food of the Montreal ilk—smoked meats, chicken soup, and loaded poutine. And with the successful 2012 opening of Mile End Sandwich on the Lower East Side, Bernamoff proved he’s more than a Brooklyn one hit wonder—he’s a bonafide restaurateur in the most competitive market in the country. He’s currently rebuilding a Red Hook commissary destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, promoting a cookbook, and conservatively fielding offers for new concepts (maybe Chinese!). As far as we can see, there’s no end to Mile End’s and Bernamoff’s potential.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with Blue Cheese and Pickled Vegetables
  • Smoked Mackerel Sandwich with Potato Chips and Tartar Sauce
Thomas Pastuszak

Sommelier: Thomas Pastuszak, The NoMad

Thomas Pastuszak is leading the wine program at one of the most dynamic restaurants in New York City. He’s put together a versatile list of Grand Cru bottles and esoteric gems—not to mention a custom NoMad Champagne blend—to pair with Chef Abram Bissell’s high-style comfort food and the restaurant’s mixed clientele of food lovers and high rollers. Pastuszak believes in pairing wine with people. Sure there’s a perfect wine and food match, but guests come first under his care. His personal style leans Old World, and he loves wines from New York’s Finger Lakes region, where he got his start in the business. But whether it’s a personal favorite, a $300 bottle, or a by-the-glass-pour, Pastuszak lives to share wine.

Emilie Perrier

Sommelier: Emilie Perrier, Ai Fiori

Emilie Perrier may be a French sommelier in a fine-dining Italian restaurant, but she’s a rock star in the American wine world. Perrier has assembled a seriously comprehensive list to ensure a full range of pairings with Chef PJ Calapa’s elegant food at Ai Fiori. Around 50 pages deep, her list has enough room for beloved American and New World wines that might get cut from less comprehensive programs, and she seamlessly guides guests through a maze of grower Champagnes, orange wines, Barolos, and West Coast Pinot Noirs. Perrier has fun with pairings, mashing up expectations and making wine approachable for guests. She’s adopted an American, pretense-free philosophy—backed by hard-earned knowledge and undeniable natural talent.

Jeff Bell

Mixologist: Jeff Bell, PDT

Three years ago Jeff Bell worked one night a week as bar back at Jim Meehan’s subterranean cocktail bar, PDT. Today, he’s head bartender, commanding the boozy ship and developing a cocktail philosophy all his own. Bell doesn’t espouse a single style; he crafts banging vodka drinks, beer cocktails, and amaro-driven booze celebrations with equal care. It’s about customers’ preferences—not Bell’s ego. For new cocktails, he gathers inspiration well beyond the back bar, working upstate wines into drinks and partnering with Christina Tosi on an irresistible Cereal Milk Punch. He wants PDT to represent New York—not mix exclusively with a nationally available pantry—and in the process Bell’s defining the very best of the New York cocktail scene.

Drinks that Clinched It:

  • Cabeza y Cerveza: Cabeza Tequila, Victory Prima Pils, Worcestershire Sauce, Bittermens Hellfire Habañero Shrub, Pok Pok Som Tamarind Drinking Vinegar, and Sal de Gusano-dipped Grapefruit Wheel
  • Cereal Milk Punch: Momofuku Milk Bar Cereal Milk, Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey, Bernheim Wheat Whiskey, and Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
Jillian Vose

Mixologist: Jillian Vose, Death & Company

Jillian Vose started her beverage career in the wine world, but she’s now commanding attention and the crew at New York City’s cocktail haven, Death and Co. As head bartender, Vose draws on her days as a sommelier, crafting precise drinks with otherworldly balance and technical grounding. She tinkers with combinations until they achieve just the right mouthfeel, body, flavor, and aroma. Classic cocktails provide the backbone for her imagination, and Vose takes that inspiration to make libations that are experimental and mature. As the fearless leader of one of the city’s most comprehensive and collaborative cocktail lists—she and her team recently added more than 40 new cocktails to the list—she has the gravity, dedication, and skill to craft a lasting industry reputation.

Drinks that Clinched It:

  • Morning Buzz: Cognac H, Ron Zacapa 23-year Rum, Acacia Honey Syrup, Orgeat, Lustau Amontillado Sherry, Honey Nut Cheerio-infused Cream, Egg Yolk, and Agostura Bitters
  • Sure Shot: Hayman's Old Tom Gin, Ancho Chili-infused Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Bols Genever, Galliano Ristretto, Demerara Syrup, and Orange Bitters