2017 New York City Rising Stars: Why They Shine

2017 New York City Rising Stars: Why They Shine

Over the past few months, the StarChefs team took a refresher course in New York dining, visiting more than 130 young professionals from Harlem to Pier A and Red Hook to LIC. And we couldn’t be more inspired to live, eat, and drink here right now. For all the doom and gloom projected onto (and from) the industry, young professionals and business owners in New York are full of ideas and promise, if not more practical ambitions. 

Five years ago, the 20-seat tasting counter was the dream. In 2017, the freshest crop of chef-owners has embraced the all-day cafe model, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even brunch. They’re taking full advantage of their real estate and channeling hard-won fine-dining skills into fish and pickle platters, funfetti cake, and sandwiches. And we’re all eating better for it. Dining out is fun right now. It’s casual, comfortable, and relatively affordable. Pre-fixe is the new tasting menu. Entrées are dead, and dining room lights are cued for that perfect Instagram shot—food is for sharing, after all, and isn’t it time we relaxed a little bit?

If the notion of a chef-driven restaurant has expanded, the beverage industry has exploded. In 2017, we have a whole generation of professionals who never knew a New York without the progressive cocktail movement. Good drinking is their norm, and they’re building cocktail programs with the highest levels of execution and creativity we’ve seen yet. There’s something exciting brewing in the wine world, too. Sommeliers have found their voice in the city, wearing their pins and pouring their favorite natural juices with a new pride and authority. The somms we met are pairing with aplomb across genres and cuisines (Indian, vegetarian, Nordic, oh my!) and building lists with character and perspective. 

It’s an exciting time to work in the New York restaurant industry, and the professionals who ultimately earned the title of Rising Stars this year are doing what New Yorkers do best. Shift. Change. Start trends. Go big. Throw a Hail Mary. They’re making a difference—through their food, drinks, and sheer audacity—that will impact dining across the city and country for years to come. Here are the 2017 New York Rising Stars and why they shine. 

Chef: Greg Baxtrom, Olmsted

With Olmsted, Greg Baxtrom took years of avant-garde, brigade-style training and added the spirit of a Brooklyn backyard. Baxtrom delivers the fireworks of a progressive tasting menu in an approachable, affordable à la carte format. He’s a confident cook, comfortable in the realm of experimentation (think wildly unfamiliar carrot crepes and clams) and ingenious at making the practical ethereal (he turns a bumper crop of greens into radish top gazpacho). And he does it all without pretense or fanfare at a destination-worthy neighborhood spot, so full of charm and brave cooking, that you can’t help keep it to yourself. Baxtrom could have picked any city, any style of restaurant to make his own, and he chose to make a home for himself—and everyone else—in Brooklyn.  

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Garden Radish Top Gazpacho, Pickled Radishes, Smoked Trout Roe, and Lemon Balm
  • Watermelon Sushi: Long Island Fluke, Watermelon, Shaved Bonito, Lime Zest, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Herb Oil
Chef: Suzanne Cupps, Untitled

Suzanne Cupps is the commander of a grand balancing act at Untitled. She has to produce food that’s comfortable and progressive. Her dishes—personal and devotedly seasonal—must strike a balance in a building that houses some of the world’s finest art, while also appealing to the museum-going masses at breakfast, a full-tilt lunch service, and dinner. It’s a job, and a stage, she is mastering with nuance and ferocity. Cupps trained to run a fine-dining restaurant, finding mentors in Anita Lo and Michael Anthony. In the process, she learned how to cook with heart and how to lead. Pushing herself beyond each service, Cupps invites chefs to collaborate on menus and serves as a thought leader within Union Square Hospitality and beyond. She’s a culinary force, cooking with the dual capacity for creativity and serious responsibility.  

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Clam Chowder: Sunchokes, Bok Choy, and Yuzu Kosho
  • Roasted Carrots, Spiced Chicken Liver Mousse, and Pickled Cabbage
Chef: Angela Dimayuga, Mission Chinese Food

Angela Dimayuga is the rare cook with style, substance, and soul. Part of the Mission Chinese team since its Orchard Street days, and now leading its New York flagship, you can see Dimayuga’s hand in every detail of the relaunched Lower East Side Mission Chinese. Dimayuga takes classic Chinese dishes like clams and black bean sauce, layers in her own family recipes, and makes them Mission ready with pork blood and Ibérico ham. It’s totally untraditional and completely representative of a Filipina running a punk-American-Szechuan restaurant. Oh, and it’s delicious. Dimayuga excels at genre-bending within an already boundary-pushing brand. She’s the polished captain of a pirate ship, who can design a restaurant from top to bottom, teach a new generation to cook, and course her own, distinct path to success. 

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Josefina's House Special Chicken: Whole Chicken, Pork Sausage, Eggs, Jus, and Mixed Greens
  • Clams, Cockles, and Black Bean Sauce
Chef: Ham & Sohla El-Waylly, Hail Mary

Ham El-Waylly is a Qatar-raised Bolivian-Egyptian. Sohla’s parents are Bangladeshi, and raised her in Los Angeles, where they owned a Baskin-Robbins. The couple is CIA educated and wd~50, Del Posto, Corton, and Empellon-trained. Their first date was at Di Fara’s, and they discovered real American fried chicken and barbecue on a cross country trip from L.A. to New York. Throw all that influence in a deep-fryer and up pops Hail Mary, an audacious new perspective on the American diner. Ham and Sohla have taken the heart of this classic concept—dependable, craveable, and crowd-pleasing—and internationalized, personalized, and modernized it. Overcoming what could be a kitschy aesthetic crutch, Hail Mary is exciting, supplying soul, swerve, and satisfaction. They’re bringing a beloved slice of Americana into the 21st century.   

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Fried Burrata, Herbs, Breadcrumbs, and Garlic-Chile Marinara
  • Seared Duck Breast, Egyptian Dirty Rice, Spicy Tomato Sauce, Crispy Shallots, and Dill
Chef: Jon Nodler, High Street on Hudson

Jon Nodler will never be a clipboard chef. As culinary director of High Street Hospitality Group, he has one foot in Philadelphia, one foot in New York, his heart in Minnesota, and his brain in all three. Open for three services a day, High Street on Hudson New York is a font for his boundless energy and creativity. It’s where he coaxes out the fun, whimsy, and beauty in food through mastery of technique. Nodler is cooking a Mid-Atlantic/Northeastern cuisine with Midwest flourishes. Humble inspirations, like the black and white cookie or cream of mushroom soup, transform into modern, flat-out delicious dishes that have the ring of new classics. Without truffles or caviar, Nodler makes luxury accessible and affordable. He represents the way chefs are cooking now and into the foreseeable future.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Nebrodini Mushrooms, Wild Rice, and Mushroom Soup
  • Seaweed Bucatini, 'Nduja, Mussels, Breadcrumbs, and Lobster Bottarga
Chef: Junghyun Park, Atoboy

Junghyun Park is speaking a new language at Atoboy. Park, who earned his chops at elegant, elite Jungsik, is wholly unencumbered by tradition. And, with Atoboy, he has chosen to present his vision of cuisine in a $36, three-course format within a minimalist concrete bunker off 32nd Street. In that spare setting, his food takes center stage. A plate of smoky eggplant, lush king crab, and tomato water is a globetrotting babaganoush. A comforting bowl of poached mackerel and radishes combines familiar gochujang warmth with floral green heat from jalapeños and poblanos. There are surprises layered into every dish. And with more “Ato” concepts in the works, Park is reconfiguring Korean food in America. 

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Sunchoke, Oyster Mushroom, Black Truffle, and Orange
  • Mackerel, Green Chile Broth, Radish, and Confit Scallion
Chef: Erik Ramirez, Llama Inn

For years now, Peruvian chefs like Hector Solis, Gaston Acurio, Virgilio Martinez, and Mitsuharu Tsumura have been experimenting with their cuisine and moving Peruvian food forward on a global scale. In America, Erik Ramirez is at the fore of the movement, leading the charge with a spear of anticuchos. At the precise moment when diners are just getting to know Peruvian cuisine, Ramirez is serving quinoa piled high atop banana mayonnaise, avocado, bacon, and cashews. His food is a delicious sucker punch to authenticity, but it still captures the spirit, warmth, and vivacity of the traditional Peruvian kitchen. Using his brilliant, playful brand as a platform, Ramirez is poised to grow and imbed his Llama-style Peruvian in America’s culinary consciousness.  

Dishes that clinched it:

 

  • Quinoa, Banana, Avocado, Bacon, and Cashew
  • Sea Bream Tiradito, Gooseberry, Ginger, Poppy Seed, and Huacatay
Chef: Jaime Young, Sunday in Brooklyn

Casual is the new cool, and Jaime Young is its provocateur. With Sunday in Williamsburg, Young is reconceiving the possibilities of laid-back, chef-driven cooking. In years past, the dream would have been to open one restaurant for volume and a second for creative freedom. Young has the best of both worlds, all in one space. At brunch, this Michelin-trained chef is making patty melts, egg sandwiches, and pickle plates. When service flips, there’s rice dumplings, raclette, beef both, egg yolk, and trumpet mushrooms. With its open kitchen, wood-burning oven, coffee counter, and market, Sunday is engaging a new paradigm for the all-day restaurant—that’s at once down-home, refined, and capable of paving an uncompromising pathway for longevity in the industry.    

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Black Cod Pastrami, Garden Pickles, Rye Sour Cream, and Grilled Buckwheat Sourdough
  • Glutinous Rice Dumplings, Redding Raclette, Beef Broth, Egg Yolk, and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Community: Aaron Bludorn, Café Boulud

Aaron Bludorn is the keeper and shape-shifter of a New York institution. His roots in and respect for technique and tradition anchor the cuisine at Cafe Boulud, while stretching the limits of what a fine French restaurant can be. Beyond his luxurious, satisfying, and beautiful food, it's his approach to staffing that sets him apart. Working with C-CAP, Bludorn is providing culinary training and mentorship to young people who, through no fault of their own, haven’t had a lot of opportunities come their way. We’re not talking unpaid interns. Bludorn is cultivating talent and promoting students within the Boulud ranks (his executive sous chef, Cesar Gutierrez, is a C-CAP alum). Channeling his dedication, passion, and integrity into his staff, the kitchen at Cafe Boulud reinforces that culinary excellence is not about where you come from, but about how hard you work.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Smoked Ora King Salmon, Coriander Crust, Dill Mustard, Fennel, and White Sturgeon Caviar
  • Seared Fioe Gras, Persimmon Flan, Parsnip-Persimmon Purèe, Died Persimmon, Pecan, and Vanilla
Concept: Matt & Emily Hyland, Emmy Squared

The odds of Matt and Emily Hyland succeeding in the specific way they have seem infinitesimal. Two pizza-loving art school kids move to New York City to start their lives. They end up making their mark with the very thing that brought them together—pizza. And they manage to get the most jaded diners in the world—New Yorkers—to embrace their pizza with a level of fanaticism seldom seen in restaurants. Even more, they did it twice, in two different restaurants with two completely different styles of pizza—wood-fired Neapolitan-ish at Emily and the Detroit pan-pizza at Emmy Squared. But it’s Emmy Squared that’s multiplying to meet the demands of a national and global fan base. The secret isn’t in the sauce; it’s Matt and Emily. 

Pizzas that clinched it:

  • The Emily: Mozzerella, Pistachios, Truffle Sottocenere, and Honey
  • The Colony: Tomato Sauce, Mozzerella, Pepperoni, Pickled Chiles, and Honey
Pastry Chef: Anna Bolz, Per Se

Anna Bolz introduces joy into the upper echelons of fine dining. It’s her job as a pastry chef, sure, but she takes whimsy and silliness more seriously than most. There are pop rocks on her Tequila Sunrise and a miniature penguin stealing the show of a “Happy Feet” themed dessert. In a format where she has to compose an entire dessert in the space of one bite, Bolz delivers on flavor. There’s no room for excess and certainly none for error. She executes doughnuts, macarons, and pâte de fruits with military precision. It’s what’s expected of a Per Se pastry chef, sure, but Bolz has something more. With her uninhibited playfulness and unimpeachable technique, she’s positioning herself as the future of pastry for one of America’s most celebrated culinary brands. 

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Tequila Sunrise: Crystallized Violet, Cara Cara-Buddah's Hand Juice, Pomegranate, Grapefruit, and Tequila Granita
  • Coffee Parfait and Brioche Donut
Pastry Chef: Fabian von Hauske, Contra

Fabian von Hauske is a pastry chef succeeding on his own beautifully executed terms. He moves fluidly between business owner and creator. Prodigy and teacher.  Savory and pastry. Even within the small restaurant group he co-owns with Jeremiah Stone, he produces desserts for luxe, hyper-creative Contra, along with more accessible Wildair. He’s a chameleon, who started his career on the hot line at Noma, Fäviken, and Attica before moving to pastry at Jean-Georges. His savory roots run deep, though, and continue to influence menus. Cucumbers, amaranth, yogurt, bitter almonds, and barley all make appearances in his desserts. von Hauske is a master of flavor, and he never sacrifices straightforward deliciousness for complexity or intrigue. At 26, he’s not a future pastry leader: he already is one.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Grains and Yogurt: Buckwheat Mousse, Puffed Amaranth, Valrhona Guanaja, Yogurt Sorbet, and Coffee Grounds
  • Panna Cotta, Green Apple Granita, and Honey Crumble
Brewer: Daniel Acosta, LIC Beer Project

Daniel Acosta is pushing the boundaries of urban beer making with his LIC Beer Project and Belgian-style farmhouse ales. To pursue that style of brewing in an industrial setting, Acosta designed and built one of the country’s only urban coolships, a self-contained room that captures wild yeast and promotes spontaneous fermentation. And from his coolship juice, he’s on his way to building the largest barrel program in New York City, picking up more than 300 local accounts (DBGB, Robertas, Pasquale Jones, Carmellini restaurants, etc.) along the way. With his wild yeast program safely isolated, Acosta is also making a roster of experimental canned beers, focused on old school hops and quaff-ability. The breadth and quality of the beers from this year-and-a-half-old brewery set Acosta apart and prove that the most exciting beer is the one the brewer has yet to discover.

Beers that clinched it:

  • Ardent Core Farmhouse Ale
  • Hell Within: Bourbon Barrel-aged Stout
Artisan: Lisa Mendelson, Monica Molenaar, and Rachel Simons, Seed & Mill

It may have taken millennia, but tahini finally met soft-serve ice cream at Chelsea Market, and it was the beginning of a beautiful, luscious, lick-able friendship. And, years from now, when Americans take the taste of freshly ground sesame for granted, we’ll have the trio of artisan-businesswomen behind Seed + Mill to thank. Producing proud, sweet-savory, and celebratory halva cakes, too, Lisa Mendelson, Monica Molenaar, and Rachel Simons grind whole and husked Ethiopian sesame on-site at their store (and now Whole Foods). Founded in 2016, Seed + Mill is timely, aligning with vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, healthful food trends—not to mention grain-mania and ingredient worship. Too often, chefs settle on tahini, buying cement-like paste drowning in stale oil. Seed + Mill is the answer and the means to elevating sesame to its rightful place in kitchens across the country. 

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Tahini: Whole Seed, Pure, and Green
  • Tahini-Goat's Milk Soft-Serve Ice Cream
Roaster: César Vega, Café Integral

Café Integral represents the next wave of American roasters. Instead of vying with other roasters for the same beans from Ethiopia, Colombia, and Guatemala, César Martin Vega is telling a personal story of Nicaraguan coffee. Born in Nicaragua and raised in Miami, Martin Vega sources exclusively from the mountains of his home country—traditionally a nominal player in the specialty coffee world. Martin Vega had a hunch that the country’s best beans weren’t making it to market, and Café Integral is part of a vision to change that. He works with farmers to improve harvests, seeks out new origins, and serves as a one-man marketer for the country’s beans. It’s a narrow approach that broadens the possibilities for specialty coffee, proving that there’s more than enough room for distinct voices in roasting.

Coffees that clinched it:

  • Lot 472, Sergio Ortex, Casa Blanca, San Fernando, Nicaragua, Pacamara, Fermented in Cherry
  • Espresso Dulcinea Edicion XVI Dipilto, San Fernando, Nicaragua, Caturra, Catuai Rojo, Bourbon, Washed
Sommelier: Daniel Beedle, Indian Accent

Daniel Beedle is a sommelier poised at the precipice. Beedle is the beverage director of Indian Accent, and each night, he performs pairing acrobatics with Chef Manish Mehrotra’s globally inspired Indian cooking. To prepare for the role, he dug into India’s culinary history and scoured the world for wines that celebrate spice and complexity. Beyond the bottle, Beedle also is responsible for Indian Accent’s cocktail program, and as the brand expands in Asia and into the Middle East, Beedle’s influence will stretch with it. Pack your suitcase somms, Daniel Beedle is building a globe-trotting beverage dream job with the potential to influence and teach a whole new audience about good drinking. 

Pairings that clinched it:

  • Chateau Rieussec, Grand Cru, Sauternes, Graves, Bordeaux, France, 2006 paired with Crispy Duck Curry Cone, Foie Gras, and Tamarind 
  • Chardonnay, Mount Eden Old Vines, Santa Cruz, California, 2014 paired with Rava Red Snapper, Herb Barley, and Tamarind-Coconut Moilee
Sommelier: Andrea Morris, Nix

Andrea Morris is the new somm. After climbing the upper echelons of the wine world in New York at Oceana and Jean-Georges, she has ripped off her white tablecloth shackles and crowd-surfed to the wine program at John Fraser’s rock ’n roll vegetarian restaurant, Nix. Fashionable, savvy, intelligent, poised, and all business, Morris is fearless in the face of those notorious foes to wine—veggies. Bringing joy and exuberance to meatless cuisine, Morris is normalizing and elevating it through wine. As it turns out, chefs can only take vegetable cookery so far. They need wine—from the Old World and New—and professionals like Morris to make it sing. Nix represents how the planet is going to be eating and drinking, and Morris’ wine list and pairings makes it look all the more enticing. Welcome to a new way to sip and bite.   

Pairings that clinched it:

  • Pinot Gris, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht,Thann, Alsace, France, 2011 paired with Cauliflower Tempura, Steamed Buns, and House Pickles
  • Chardonnay, Domaine Michelot Bourgogne, Burgundy, France, 2014 paired with Roasted Napa Cabbage, Potato Purée, White Truffles, and Cabbage Jus
Bartender: Masa Urushido, Saxon and Parole

Masa Urushido has a buoyancy and a smile that make his drinks taste better. And whether he’s mixing cocktails at his home base, Saxon + Parole, in New York, developing menus for a Moscow bar, or teaching whiskey classes in Tokyo, he wears his passion on his sleeve. Having worked his way up the AvroKo ranks, Urushido’s reach is now exhaustive, and his craft is as deliberate as they come. Straightforward categories get culinary makeovers behind his bar. Urushido’s daiquiri is built with butter-washed rum, poached pears, and cardamom syrup, and his Red Spritz is constructed of beet scrap-infused Aperol and house carrot-orange soda. It’s universally appealing creativity from a bartender-of-the-world, who’s primed to influence a generation of drinkers. 

Drinks that clinched it:

  • Cup O' Punch: Rum Eximo Facondo, Applejack, Hojicha Green Tea, Milk, Lemon Juice, Maple Sugar, Roasted Pumpkin, Nutmeg, and Pepitas
  • Red Spritz: Beet, Aperol, Orange, Carrot, and Rosemary
Bartender: Jesse Vida, BlackTail

Jesse Vida has quiet ambition. Moving to New York, he sought out cocktail programs—Death & Co., Booker and Dax, and Dutch Kills—that would ultimately prepare him to lead BlackTail, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry’s ode to Cuba in the Financial District. Vida approaches cocktails as methodically as his career, building components from scratch (his menu employs nearly 250 house tinctures, syrups, etc.) and tinkering with drinks until he lands on the best combination. BlackTail’s rum blend, alone, was selected from among 40 variations composed to recall pre-Castro Bacardi blends. It’s that attention to detail, the patience to get it right, that sets Vida apart and makes BlackTail one of the city’s most ambitious, important bars.

Drinks that clinched it:

  • Vodka & Celery: 86 Co. Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Celery, Verjus, Black Pepper, and Celery Soda
  • Nacional: House Cuban Rum Blend, Banane du Bresil, Suze Aperitif, Apricot Eau-de-Vie, Banana Cane Syrup, Yuzu Syrup, Pineapple Juice, and Lime Juice
Sustainability: Adam Geringer-Dunn, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster

Adam Geringer-Dunn has a few buddies he’d like you to meet: rabbitfish, digfish, sea robbin, and his personal favorite—the one with the funny haircut—hogfish. Geringer-Dunn and his business partner, fifth generation fishmonger Vincent Milburn, are changing the retail and wholesale fish-supply game in New York with their two markets in Brooklyn and Queens—doing for fishmongering what The Meat Hook did for butchery in 2010. A Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch partner, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster focuses on domestic, wild caught seafood, including invasive species, bycatch, underutilized fish, and the usual local suspects like fluke and bass. For their work in transparency and traceability, some of the city’s best restaurants seek out their daily catch. On the consumer side, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster teaches master classes in delicious sustainability through its restaurant and Chef Julie Cole’s halibut collars and opah belly. Geringer-Dunn has hooked NYC on the fish market of the future.

Restaurateurs: Joshua Boissy & Krystof Zizka, Maison Premiere

There’s a delightful sense of dislocation one experiences when walking through the doors of Maison Premiere and Sauvage—and that’s exactly what Joshua Boissy and Krystof Zizka intend. It’s become their trademark. Their guests may question, “Are we in 19th century NOLA, turn of the 20th century New York, or modern day Paris?” In meticulous, painstaking fashion, the duo accurately replicates periods in history that don’t exist. Even the complimentary matchbooks at Sauvage are thoughtful, original works of art—just like Boissy and Zizka’s establishments themselves. Taking the road less traveled for restaurateurs on the rise, they have no formula, just pure imagination and inspiration from art, architecture, design, literature, music, travel, and nature. In the heart of trendy Brooklyn, they have created timeless spaces, on the road to becoming New York institutions.