2015 Boston Rising Stars: Why They Shine

2015 Boston Rising Stars: Why They Shine

It’s been a while, Boston. The StarChefs team came to town this year to taste with Rising Stars candidates for the first time since 2009, and we scoured the city, meeting more than 100 chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, brewers, bartenders, and artisans. This time around, we found some of the Boston’s most exciting talent outside the city limits. Now, you can have dim sum-style mezze, award-winning cocktails, and killer large format dinners in places like Somerville, Newton, and as far as Woburn.

The city was also alive with the sound of shaking—cocktails that is. Eastern Standard and Drink are still bedrocks of the cocktail scene, but restaurants are investing more than ever in their beverage programs and bartending talent. And it shows: we drank a slew of solid classic cocktails, on-trend Sherry-based drinks, more mezcal than we care to remember, and a roster of hyper-creative culinary cocktails.

While much of the country struggles to nurture—let alone celebrate—women in the restaurant industry, Boston and its leading female chefs, including Lydia Shire, Barbara Lynch, Jody Adams, Ana Sortun, and Susan Regis, have worked for years to establish the city as place where women chefs can flourish and lead (as you’ll see of our lady-filled list of Rising Stars).

So without further ado, here are the women and men who are making Boston a more exciting place to eat and drink. Here’s why they shine and how they’re going to change the face of the American culinary landscape. 

Chef: Patrick Campbell, Café ArtScience

Patrick Campbell’s clogs are planted firmly on the ground. His confident, classic style is informed by nearly a decade of work at Boston’s No. 9 Park and it’s one he’s championing at Cambridge’s Café ArtScience. Campbell honors old school tradition with textbook technique and glimmers of luxury (how about truffles and lobster on your carpaccio, sir?). But within the white walls and modern aesthetic of the restaurant, he finds room to play. What that means for Boston (and the rest of the country as Café ArtScience expands to other cities), is that a new generation of cooks will be trained in a rigorous culinary cannon under a chef whose cuisine is as inviting and playful as it is formidable.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Beef Carpaccio, Canadian Lobster, XO Sauce, Pickled Black Trumpet Mushrooms, and Perigeux Truffle
  • Massachusetts Razor Clams, Fried Mussels, Clam Stuffing, Sherry Vinegar Aïoli, and Piquillo Pepper Purée
Chef: Cara Chigazola, Oleana

Cara Chigazola makes food that envelops and enthralls. Her plates are deeply satisfying, scratching an itch for both the exotic and comforting food we crave. From her post at Oleana, she’s carrying the Middle-East-in-Cambridge mantle of Ana Sortun’s 14-year-old institution and doing it with a style all her own. Chigazola is a California girl behind the stove, bringing a fresh, Latin-inflected ease into her dishes. She’s also a New Englander at heart with increasingly deep roots in the Northeast’s farming community. And, without any fuss or fanfare, Chigazola leads a majority female line, making her a model for both personal cooking and personal investment in the future of American dining.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Striped Bass, Turnip Brik, Pumpin Seed Tarator, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, and Green Harissa
  • Lamb-Cabbage Sarma, Sweet Potato-Brown Butter Purée, Tomato-Walnut Vinaigrette, and Crispy Maitake Mushroom
Chef: John daSilva, Spoke

Sometimes you have to go small to go to go big. When Chef John daSilva left Boston’s No. 9 Park, he never imagined his next move would find him behind the pass of a 40-seat wine bar in Somerville with just two induction burners and a tabletop oven. But daSilva embraced the challenge and hit his stride at Spoke, making personal food with brigade-worthy finesse. His style has immediacy. daSilva uses bold spices to wake the region’s pantry, and he throws in a dash of whimsy for good measure (reminding us why we fell in love with shared plates dining in the first place). daSilva’s first solo project may have a small footprint, but he’s established roots from which a great Boston restaurant empire will grow.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Harissa-spiced Lamb Tartare, Diva Cucumber, Labneh, and Pistachio
  • Roasted Branzino, Vadouvan, Cauliflower-Brown Butter Purée, Roasted Cauliflower, Pickled Cauliflower, Pickled Grapes, and Pickled Hazelnuts
Chef: Matthew Delisle, L'Espalier

Matthew Delisle is one of the few chefs brave enough to say that his work in the kitchen is art. Delisle, who helms the kitchen at L’Espalier, is driven by intellectual curiosity and creative restlessness. His compositions often are driven by color and always a precise manipulation of flavors, textures, and expectations. He believes in fine dining—whether or not it’s in vogue or financially viable—as an outlet for expression and fulfillment. At L’Espalier, Delisle presents for consideration and gastronomic pleasure, a New England native’s studied look at his home. It’s a regional perspective that has been filtered through a worldly, avant-garde lens and one that will define the future of fine dining in Boston and beyond. 

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Warm Oyster Stew: Wellfleet Oysters, Smoked Bone Marrow Emulsion, Autumn Brassicas, Smoked Hazelnut Oil, and Toasted Nori 
  • Carbonara: Mocomber Turnip Fettuccine, Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Truffles, Egg Yolk, and Braised Rabbit
Chef: Carl Dooley, Craigie on Main

Carl Dooley is a chef on the cusp. He’s a position away from rocketing to the fore of Boston’s and the country’s culinary consciousness. For the last year, Dooley has run his mentor’s kitchen at Craigie on Main, cementing the leadership skills necessary to forge his own path. But he’s already cooking like a veteran. The strength of Dooley’s food lies in subtlety and finesse. It doesn’t bowl you over with spice or acid or power, and his plates demonstrate artful restraint and a singular synergy. The strength of Dooley as a chef is his hunger—to run his own kitchen, explore his own ideas, and put his stamp on Boston.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Warm Veal and Goat Cheese Rillettes, Zucchini, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Veal Jus Vinaigrette
  • Rabbit-Foie Gras Rillette, Cranberries, Red Quinoa, and Red Amaranth
Chef: Cassie Piuma, Sarma

All the depth and spice of Middle Eastern cookery live in Cassie Piuma’s heart and hands. But she’s savvy enough to know when to break from its traditions. At Sarma, she’s making some of the most exciting food on the East Coast, leveraging an arsenal of ingredients and spices that too few cooks understand. Piuma takes that foundation—laid by travel and nearly a decade of work at Oleana—and applies it with uncommon intuition to her mezze-style plates. No detail is too small, no regional spice blend too obscure. Her food has a story—a passport stamped in Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, Israel, Greece, and Massachusetts—and Piuma is going to tell it to a hungry, national audience. Get your tickets now.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Blue Fish Falafel, Peach Pickle, Jalapeño Labne, and Bibb Lettuce
  • Brussels Sprouts Bravas, Garlic Aïoli, Migas, and Chorizo
Concept: Irene Li, Andy Li and Margaret Li and Max Hull, Mei Mei

You can’t help but fall in love with Mei Mei. The Chinese-American quick-serve from Andy, Irene, and Margaret Li has all the trappings of a rock star restaurant concept. This sibling trio has the story, passion, and craveable food to draw Boston diners to their roving food truck and bright-and-airy brick and mortar. Sustainably sourced ingredients are the foundation of veggie-packed curries, crispy dumplings, and the famous “Double Awesome” scallion pancake sandwich—dishes developed by the Lis and Chef Max Hull. It’s food you can and want to eat every day (and feel good about it). Mei Mei is food entrepreneurship at its best; proving, if you build it right, they will come.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Honey-Walnut Shrimp, Toasted Nuts, Honeycomb Candy, Crispy Shrimp Shells, Walnut Mayonnaise, and Honey Buttermilk
  • Harvest Moon Curry: Panang Curry, Seasonal Vegetables, Sage, Smoked Hazelnuts, and Scallions
Restaurateur: Jason Bond, Bondir Cambridge

Jason Bond is a different type of restaurateur. He built Bondir as a quirky, elegant dining destination in Cambridge. With his recent follow-up, Bondir Concord, he took all the character of the original and gave it more breathing room in the idyllic suburbs. The two restaurants give his team the chance to support more farmers and express the terroir of New England to a larger audience. With his second restaurant, he’s also looking toward the kind of organic, sustainable growth that’s a hallmark of Bond’s studied style. He envisions a bakery, maybe a bar, and, eventually, outlets for his talented chef de cuisines. What is certain is that Bond will do for Boston what Spike Gjerde did for Baltimore and Linton Hopkins, Atlanta: build a diverse, chef-driven restaurant group with integrity as its core.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Roasted Mackerel, Dashi Gelée, Roasted Eggplant, Crosns, Dahlia Bulb, Pickled Nasturtium Berries, Radicchio, and Radishes
  • Antelope Ragu, Rye Casarecce, Brussels Sprouts, Romesco, Apple Mint, and Parmesan
Pastry Chef: Renae Connolly, Café ArtScience

Renae Connolly explores desserts from the inside out, and her pastry at Cambridge’s Café ArtScience doesn’t operate within the confines of sweet cliches. That’s because Connolly is on a never-ending exploration of flavor and craft. Her chocolate is infused with Urfa chiles, and a sophisticated banana-chocolate pop variation is set in a whimsical garden scene. She serves clear, resonant ideas, just in a sweet, end-of-the-meal form. Connolly’s pastry is both inviting and intriguing, and the place on a plate where outsized creativity and execution merge. The desserts and the pastry chef are the sum of her travels, a provocative palate, and a modern aesthetic that defines the best of what’s to come in American pastry.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Urfa-infused Soft Chocolate Cheese, Ginger-glazed Tangerines, Sesame Tuile, Caramelize Feuilletine, and Tangerine Sorbet
  • Brown Butter Panna Cotta, Coffee Streusel, Pepita Nougatine, Warm Sugar Pumpkin Espuma, and White Coffee Ice Cream
Pastry Chef: Rachel Sundet, State Park

Hungry Mother’s Rachel Sundet isn’t Southern, and she trained as a savory chef. But that’s not stopping her from making some of the best Southern-style desserts in the country. Where lesser craftsmen would stop with nostalgia, she pushes homey sweets out of their comfort-zone doldrums. Watch out butterscotch, chess pie, and cheesecake. Your days as sticky-sweet bombs are numbered. Sundet is curious. She understands flavor, and she continuously works to refine technique—on something as mundane as a custard. She’s also a mom and a business woman, navigating the restaurant industry with fierce, purposeful determination. Rachel Sundet is lots of things, notably a beacon for delicious, masterful, soulful pasty.

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Salted Butterscotch Custard, Cranberry-Sparkling Wine Granita, Pickled and Dehydrated Cranberries, and Chantilly
  • Chocolate Chess Pie, Malted Yogurt Chantilly, and Cocoa Nib Brittle
Hotel Pastry Chef: Michael Daly, Four Seasons Hotel Boston

Pastry Chef Michael Daly is injecting serious energy into the hotel pastry program at The Four Seasons Boston. Daly started out as a savory chef and moved to pastry just to prove he could. In the last year, he made the move from an independent restaurant to the world of banquets, amenities, and mignardise, and the challenge of becoming a hotel pastry chef has matured his craft. Now, Daly can unleash the true potential of his playful, savory perspective—smoke, cheese, celery, and bay leaves all make appearances on his menus. With his foundation and relentless energy combined, Daly’s career is on the rise—no matter what his next self-imposed challenge may be. 

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Opera Cake: Almond Cake, Butterceam, and Chocolate Mirror Glaze
  • Bourbon-Apple Cake, Whipped Goat Cheese, Smoked Rye-Pecan Crisp, Apples, Honey, and Fennel Jam
Artisan: Joshua Smith, New England Charcuterie

Joshua Smith is in another league. He’s a craftsman, chef, butcher, farmer, scientist, and salesman who had the foresight to study charcuterie long before it fell into fashion. At his USDA-certified outpost, Moody’s Delicatessen and Provisions, Smith makes some of the East Coast’s finest cured meats—from traditional Greek loukaniko to all-American sriracha salami. Smith approaches each product under his New England Charcuterie label with fanatical precision and pride—each link tested, cured, logged, and monitored to meet his rigorous standards. As his charcuterie gains popularity locally and across the country, Smith has big plans: custom products for wholesale, a new restaurant, and a larger production facility nearby. His success and growing empire is fueled by and for the craft of charcuterie.

Meats that clinched it:

  • Charcuterie Board: Chorizo Seco, Loukaniko, Finocchiano, Lomo, Bresaola, Genoa Salami, Truffle Salami, Sriracha Salami, and Chicken Liver Mousse
Brewer: Bryan Greenhagen, Mystic Brewery

As a brewer, Bryan Greenhagen pushes boundaries and pushes himself. He’s methodical, meticulous, and adventurous. At his Mystic Brewery, Greenhagen cultivates his own yeast strains and develops category-defying brews such as the robust Entropy that lands somewhere between a Belgian strong dark and semi-dry Sherry. His style takes patience, vision, and innumerable trials, tribulations, and discarded barrels. Mystic is one of only a handful of breweries in the world to have a traditional lambic program. With determination and a background in science (courtesy of an M.I.T. degree), Greenhagen is brewing beers that can’t be duplicated—giving the region a style all its own and changing the way brewers go about brewing. 

Brews that clinched it:

  • Mystic Entropy: High gravity "Boston Cognac"
  • Mystic Saison Renaud: Summer saison made with pilsner malt and Saaz hops 
Bartender: Ran Duan, The Baldwin Bar

Ran Duan is making the suburbs sexy, drawing cocktail fans and an industry crowd to The Baldwin Bar, 20 minutes north of Boston in Woburn. Situated in his parents restaurant, Sichuan Garden II, The Baldwin Bar was Duan’s answer to 2009-post-culinary-school unemployment. He revamped the well and cocktail list and taught himself how to tend bar along the way. Left to his own devices, Duan developed a singular style with a creative bent (think combinations like mezcal-sesame and Cynar-root beer). He also built a team, recruiting and training bartenders from down the street and across the country. Woburn may not be the next epicenter of drinking culture in America, but it has given birth to one of America’s most talented, compelling bartenders.

Drinks that clinched it:

  • Ramona Rum Fizz: Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, Grapefruit Juice, Lemon Juice, Bitterman’s Tiki Bitters, Egg White, Cream, and Nutmeg
  • Domo Arigato: Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Sesame Oil
Bartender: Ezra Star, Drink

At Drink, there’s no cocktail menu, just one-on-one hospitality provided by lead drinks-slinger Ezra Star and her band of bartenders. Star has the serious classic cocktail knowledge and on-the-fly creative mojo that Drink’s format (and legacy) demandAnd while she doesn’t practice pushy bartending, per se, with each interaction, Star works to stretch palates and perceptions. Don’t like absinthe? She can fix it. Had a foul run-in with tequila? She has the cure. Star is a master of her craft, and Drink is the platform from which she will build the character and caliber of the nation’s drinking public.

Drinks that clinched it:

  • La Frontera: Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Ginger Beer, Cassis, and Lime Zest
  • 1910: Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Maraschino, Punt e Mes, Mezcal, and Peychaud’s Bitters
Community: Naomi Levy, Eastern Standard

The whole of the Boston restaurant industry goes to Eastern Standard to relax, have a cocktail, and eat. And when there’s drinking to be done at Eastern Standard, Naomi Levy is the responsible party. Training is at the heart of Levy’s culinary-leaning program, an imperative for keeping pace with a bar that’s three or four patrons deep. When she’s not serving the industry and greater Boston from behind the bar, she’s representing it in the community: Levy is a member of the USBG, completed the BAR 5-day, served as a Tales of the Cocktail apprentice, judges cocktail competitions, and started a Boston Bartenders Collaborative (whose success was the group’s demise; now, the members all run their own programs). Levy is a spirited, smart woman who, with her growing ranks of protegées and devotees, will make Boston a better place to drink and live.

Drinks that clinched it:

  • Wilford Brimley: Jameson Irish Whiskey, Amaro Fardini, Oat Syrup, Lemon Juice, Golden Raisins, Dried Cranberries, and Cinnamon
  • Hot Toddy: Calvados, Creme de Cacao, Yerba Mate, Simple, Lemon Oil
Sommelier: Lauren C. Daddona, L'Espalier

Boston is too big a wine town to live without a Master Sommelier, and Lauren Collins is aiming to change that. At L’Esaplier, Collins serves from one of Boston’s most diverse, fun wine lists, pairing with Chef Matthew Delisle’s progressive plates as she pleases—whether it’s with an affordable Greek Assyrtiko or classic Barbaresco. Collins thrives equally on the energy of the dining room and the endless pursuit of wine knowledge. Whether it’s by traveling, hitting the books, or organizing tastings for the Boston wine community, she’s obsessively consuming and cataloging each region, varietal, and soil type the larger world of wine has to offer. Soon enough, Boston will gain its MS, but it already has to its credit one of the country’s most exciting young sommeliers.

Pairings that clinched it:

  • Poached Halibut, Crab Apple-Fennel-Ginger Sauce, Turnips, Apple, Rice Chip, and Jalapeño Powder paired with Grillo, Gurrieri, Sicily, Italy
  • Carbonara: Mocomber Turnip Fettuccine, Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Truffles, Egg Yolk, and Braised Rabbit paired with Nebbiolo, Giuseppe Nada, Cascot, Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy, 2009
Sommelier: Joe Camper, Bar Boulud (Boston)

Shortly after he started his career as a classical musician, Joe Camper decided he wanted to play less Beethoven and drink more wine. So he went all in, selecting the best mentors he could find and restaurants to work in. In 2014, Camper arrived at Boston’s Bar Boulud with polish, panache, and a distinct wine perspective. His unapologetically Old World wine list is built on a Rhône and Burgundy back bone. Campers believes in balance, above all, followed by accessible service and affordable wines, and his level of sophistication and passion shine through his pairings. Attached to the Boulud empire, with dreams of importing and making juice on his own one day, Camper will be shaping what Bostonians imbibe for years to come.

Pairings that clinched it:

  • Paté en Croute: Squab, Foie Gras, and Apricot Chutney paired with Riesling, Alfred Merkelbach, “Erdener Treppchen,” Spätlese, Mosel, Germany, 2002
  • Spaghetti au Citron, Wellfleet Countneck Clams, Bottarga, Lemon, and Fennel paired with Furmint, Heidi Schrock, Burgenland, Austria, 2012