2019 StarChefs New York Rising Stars: Why They Shine

2019 StarChefs New York Rising Stars: Why They Shine

If opening a New York City restaurant is the ultimate goal, we’re here to tell you it’s possible. It takes daring, talent, and investors (and a touch of masochism), but an exceptional number of fiercely independent chefs and entrepreneurs are defying the odds to run restaurants on their own terms. 

While the fine-dining stalwarts continue to thrive, the heart of the market right now is food with immigrant roots. From casual Chinese in the East Village to home-style Indian in Queens and Michelin-star Mexican in Brooklyn, New York’s most exciting chefs are cooking the food of their own heritage or of a cuisine they love, have heavily researched, and devoted their careers to.

New York pastry has gotten flak in the past few months, but this isn’t an ice cream sundae-only town. Thanks to mentorship from pastry chefs like Bob Truitt, Ghaya Oliveira, and Alex Stupak, we have a highly trained and creative generation of young pastry chefs. As with their chef peers, pastry chefs are tapping into family history—rather than a collective American nostalgia—to make inventive, delicious, and resonant desserts.

Thoughtful beverage programs abound, and they’re making serious revenue for restaurants. We experienced tight, two-page wine lists; a program built on Beaujolais and Riesling, and Old World love letters with Champagne and Loire Valley wines for days. Bartenders, too, have mastered execution and speed of service to deliver better, more complex cocktails to drinkers faster than ever. (Batch, please!)

Since last July, StarChefs’ editorial team met with more than 125 chefs, pastry chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, and artisans. We’re proud to present the professionals who are leading our home city with style, substance, and savvy. Here are the 2019 New York Rising Stars and why they shine.

Chef: Eric Bolyard, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

Eric Bolyard is cooking his ass off, cranking from his modest kitchen—two induction burners, half an electric plancha, one electric oven—serving 250 covers a night. His food at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is convivial, neoclassic, and a balance of rustic and refined. He pulls in global influences from his time cooking in locales like Vietnam and Spain, and he exalts the green market, even in January, with an editor’s minimalist eye. Case in point: bomba rice, shrimp stock, caramelized squid ink, braised octopus, and pimentón—no ring mold in sight. With the backing of the Experimental Group, he and fellow Rising Star Somm Caleb Ganzer plan to open more concepts in New York and beyond. Bolyard is a hustler, a doer, and an entrepreneur who represents the last vestiges of that gritty New York line cook culture, proving that hard work pays dividends.​

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Cured Raw Scallops, Shaved Roots, and Yuzukosho
  • Braised Octopus, Squid Ink Rice, Garlic, and Pimentón


Chef: Trigg Brown, Win Son

Taiwanese food changed Trigg Bown's life, and at lively Win Son, the only thing louder than the sociable din of the dining room is the scraping of bowls. Brown’s food is extensively researched through books, travel, and the people with whom he surrounds himself. This rock solid foundation releases Brown—like a kid at recess—to present Taiwanese cuisine through a New American lens. Respect rather than authenticity is his aim. Think fried eggplant with labneh or egg-bombed scallion pancakes stuffed with Wagyu tartare. In addition to energizing and inspiring a kitchen firing on all cylinders, Brown is working to reform the hospitality industry, leading by example with healthcare for all full-time employees. With a sister cafe opening down the street from Win Son later this year, Brown and business partner Josh Ku will give East Williamsburg their Taiwanese food fix breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Dishes that clinched it: 

  • Fried Eggplant, Black Vinegar, Kefir Cheese, and Spiced Cashews    
  • Clams, Basil, Butternut Squash, Red Kabocha Pumpkin, Shaoxing Wine, and Scallion Pancake
Chef: Matt Conroy, Oxomoco

Matt Conroy is not Mexican. He built his foundation in Mexican cuisine at Alex Stupak’s Empellon Cocina, absorbing the colors, comfort, and technical aspects of the food. At the heart of his Oxomoco in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is corn, which Conroy sources from small farmers across Mexico. He’s not aiming for authenticity; he aiming to cook better every day. He’s not so interested in recipes as he is in the Mexican pantry and how that translates to the seasonality of the Northeast—think, charred carrot tamal and hoja santa mole. With Michelin-star ethos, he’s teaching New York the value of an impeccably sourced, technically sound, and radically delicious taco—all delivered by a hospitality team with pedigrees including restaurants like Per Se. Matt Conroy is not Mexican, but he’s cooking Mexican food for life and spreading the love one tostada at a time.    

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Yellowfin Tuna, Avocado, Radish, Soy, Sesame Salsa Macha, Roasted Sesame Seeds, and Tostada
  • Build A Taco: Smoked and Deep-fried Chicken, Chintesle Chile, Honey, Salsa Pasilla, Cilantro, Pickled Onion, Chicken Fat Fried Red Rice, Green Onion, and Guajillo-Tomato Salsa
Chef: Chintan Pandya, Adda

Chef Chintan Pandya isn’t holding anything back at Adda—neither spice, nor ingredients, nor passion. His Long Island City restaurant is dedicated to traditional Indian cooking, the kind that few Americans have experienced domestically. Indians eat offal like the rest of the world, but most restaurant owners are wary of scaring diners. Not Pandya, who’s tawa kaleji (chicken livers, bell peppers, ginger, and pao bread) is based on a Muslim dish from Mumbai. Authenticity is a fraught word in the food world, but at Adda, Pandya embraces it wholeheartedly. He’s not gussying up regional dishes. He’s serving them with odd bits, rustic plating, and crunchy whole spices at prices that don’t betray their humble origins. Along with his partner Roni Mazumdar, Chintan plans to open additional restaurants, each to further their mission of rewriting what Americans know—and love—about Indian food. 

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Tawa Kaleji: Chicken Liver, Bell Peppers, Ginger, and Pao
  • Lucknow Dum Biryani: Slow-Cooked Goat, Basmati Rice, and Saffron
Chef: Nico Russell, Oxalis

What happens when you drop Mirazur and Restaurant Daniel down in Brooklyn, rip off the linens, and charge $60 for a tasting menu? Oxalis, Nico Russell’s relaxed, BK-chic neo-bistro. Russell’s food is accessible with fine-dining flourish. With dishes like miso-aged scallops in apple-ginger broth and artfully arranged chicories with caramelized anchovy vinaigrette, Russell is packing ’em in (even without a liquor license, for now!) after two-plus years of pop-ups. His loyal following is a testament to the allure of his food and a dining experience he has refined. He has carved out a slice of the French Riviera in between Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, giving the neighborhood a destination restaurant. With an ambitious plan for expansion, Russell will put his stamp on Brooklyn—and that’s just to start.      

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Miso-aged Scallop, Radishes, Ginger-Apple Broth, Celery Vinegar, and Toasted Jasmine Oil 
  • Chicory Salad, Tarragon Oil, Caramelized Anchovy Vinaigrette, Nasturtiums, and Black Pepper
Chef: TJ Steele, Claro

TJ Steele dreamed of opening a farm-to-table Mexican restaurant in New York. People said it would never work, so he turned his sights to mezcal, working with a family of farmers in Oaxaca to grow agave to distill for his El Buho label. Successful liquor brand built, Steele returned to his original dream and opened Claro, an ode to Oaxaca by way of New York with fiery aguachiles; subtle mole; and tortillas made from criollo corn grown amid agave fields and fired on Steele’s treasured comal. It’s a restaurant as reverence for Mexican cuisine and culture, along with local farmers. And it’s packed every night—diners spilling into the restaurant’s breezy Brooklyn backyard in the summer. With momentum and drive to spare, Steele plans to open a mariscos restaurant, a tortilleria, and more projects across price points and formats, translating his adoration of Mexico for all of New York.

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Green Aguachile: Cuttlefish, Green Melon, Cucumber, Serrano Peppers, Red Onion, Mint, Cilantro, Papalo, and Burnt Habanero Oil
  • Mole Rojo: Braised Pork Cheeks, Red Mole, and Watercress Salad with Stone Fruit, Nuts, and Lime
Chef: Simone Tong, Little Tong Noodle Shop

What makes a noodle shop stand out in New York? In the case of Little Tong, it’s heart—pure but not so simple. Chef-owner Simone Tong cooks like a grandma, building rich bowls of broth, chicken, and rice noodles inspired by the Yunnan province in Southern China. But as a wd~50 alum, she’s layering flavor and stacking the deck with chef-driven details. Gilded dumplings swim in a truffled broth, and her mise-en-place includes lacto-fermented pickles and binchotan-infused oils. As soulful and satisfying as Tong’s bowls may be, she also has an eye for presentation, scattering edible flowers on top and arranging accouterments just so. Add to that affordable prices (nothing costs more than $17), delivery, two Manhattan locations, and another concept cooking. Tong and her little noodle shop are an empire in the making. 

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Mala Chicken Mixian: Hand-pulled Chicken, Mixian Noodles, Chilled Spicy Chicken Broth, Pickles, Cucumber, and Fried Shallots
  • Grandma Chicken Mixian: Chicken Confit, Chicken Broth, Mixian Noodles, Black Sesame-Garlic Oil, Tea Egg, House Pickles, Fermented Chiles, and Flowers
Chef: Justin Skribner, Benno

After running the gauntlet of restaurants for New York City chefs (Benno, Glocker, Kluger), Justin Skribner is seizing the moment to stand shoulder to shoulder with his mentors. At Benno, he’s a technician with a mastery of spice. Skribner is French technique and Italian spirit—with a little Jersey boy thrown in for good measure (read: Lobster Fra Diavolo, Lumache, Bottarga, and Breadcrumbs). A Keller disciple, Skribner cooks at the height of fine dining, carrying the mantle but never looking down at his guest. Classic-feeling and confident, his food is friendly. There is a comfort that comes from eating in the Benno dining room—the kind of comfort that comes not from the immaculate food, but from the care of Skribner’s own two hands. In that pair, the state of fine dining in New York is alive and well.          

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Coddled Egg, Pioppini Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Young Leeks, Black Truffle Mousseline, and Shaved Black Truffle
  • Maine Lobster Fra Diavolo, Lumache, Bottarga, and Breadcrumbs
Chef: Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, Don Angie

Don Angie is New York Italian. Not the Mulberry Street nor Arthur Avenue variety but the kind of Italian that struts through Chinatown and orders halal combo platters—it’s red sauce that’s in constant, joyous flux. The restaurant is the vision of Chefs Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, who are also partners in Quality Italian in New York and Denver. Don Angie is their dream restaurant. It’s small, stylish, and packed night after night. Like Sinatras in the kitchen, they have a knack for making hits: decadent, genius rolled lasagna; garlic-y chrysanthemum caesar; and sexy pimenton- and cilantro-studded sopressini. With a cookbook in the works and more concepts fermenting, Rito and Scott Tacinelli are New York’s Italian food power couple with verve to match what’s on the plate. 

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Tonnato Vitello: Spicy Veal Tartare and Tuna Carpaccio
  • Sopressini, Smoked Mussels, Pimenton, Peroni, Cilantro Macho
Hotel Chef: Mike Reilly, The NoMad

As chef of The NoMad Hotel, Mike Reilly is cooking for a global audience. (No pressure!) During a time when every chefs’ dream is the 15-seater neighborhood restaurant, Reilly has chosen to go in the opposite direction. He thrives on the intensity and scale of The NoMad, leading his gargantuan team in the no-nonsense style he learned from mentor Daniel Humm. Reilly has a special brand of luxury that puts substance before style without sacrificing elegance. Dishes like morels, sunny-side-up egg, and faro are minimal with a laser focus on flavor. In a word, his dishes satisfy, sending guests on their way with a memory. Reilly’s legacy will be seen years from now, when we eat at his protégés restaurants throughout the city, proving his decision to go big paid off for Reilly and New York City.       

Dishes that clinched it:

  • Razor Clams, Daikon, Mustard Seeds and Greens, Poached Kohlrabi, Pickled Kohlrabi, and Kohlrabi Purée      
  • Slow-cooked Halibut, Turnip Purée, Tahini, Pickled Turnip, Poached Turnip, and Smoked Turnip Jus
Community: Mavis-Jay Sanders, Brownsville Culinary Community Center

In the years Mavis-Jay Sanders spent cooking at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Blue Hill, and Untitled, she saw exactly one black family when she looked out into the dining rooms. Instead of putting her head down, she took action. First, she opened a food truck to reach communities on the other side of the hospitality divide. Now, she serves as the Operations Director of the Brownsville Culinary Community Center, where she’s on the hot line fighting food injustice. The restaurant at BCCC is the first sit-down eatery to open in Brownsville in 50 years. (Let that sink in.) Along with feeding her immediate community nutritious, affordable food, she’s leading a competitive culinary training center. With Sanders at the helm, participants get the education they need to excel in the foodservice industry and inspiration to fulfill their dreams. 

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Black-eyed Pea Falafel Salad, Avocado, Pumpkin Seeds, Red Onion, Pickled Cabbage, and Herb-Sesame Sressing
  • Jalapeño-Cheddar Biscuits 
Concept: Lucas Sin, Junzi Kitchen

Chef Lucas Sin wants to make Chinese food an everyday experience for Americans. Specifically: healthy, delicious, seasonal North Chinese food, including chun bing and ultimate-comfort noodle bowls. After joining Junzi Kitchen in New Haven, Connecticut (where Sin attended Yale), Junzi has established itself near university hubs in New York (Columbia and New York University) and will soon expand to Bryant Park and beyond. With Sin as chef and culinary director and a corporate team 20 strong—there’s an in-house architect, a graphic designer, a data analyst, and tech experts among them—Junzi is set to scale. They’re investigating cloud kitchens and have a cell phone-based rewards program that unlocks free bowls, house-bottled sauces, and access to after-hours events and parties for their most loyal guests. Focused and fully funded, Sin and Junzi will redefine Americans’ experience with Chinese food. 

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Tomato-Pork Noodles, Egg, Braised Pork, Green Cabbage, Pickled Daikon, and Cilantro
  • General Chu’s Fried Chicken with Fermented Chile-Sesame Sauce
Pastry Chef: Isabel Coss, Cosme

We know it’s transcendent, but thanks to Pastry Chef Isabel Coss, there’s more (much more) to dessert at Cosme than the husk meringue and corn mousse. Coss started working for Enrique Olvera at Pujol at 17, absorbing his ethos for sourcing and dish creation early on. After building her résumé stateside, Coss is back on team Olvera making pastry that feels at once hyper-modern and ancient. She toasts vanilla on a comal for a blue corn, yuzu, and persimmon-filled ice cream cone and uses cocoa and banana leaves as flavoring agents. It’s an ingredient driven-style that’s edited, visually spare, and deeply evocative of her roots. Coss’ work at Cosme adds to the rich narrative of Mexican (and New York) pastry.

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Butternut Squash Tamal and Banana Leaf Ice Cream
  • Mexican Chocolate, Acacia, and Chaga Mushroom
Pastry Chef: Eunji Lee, JUNGSIK

Eunji Lee left Paris for New York as a personal challenge. At Jungsik, in her first solo program, she’s proving to be a bold addition to the city’s pastry scene. Lee is the rare pastry chef whose desserts are as delicious as they are beautiful. Her trompe l’oeil “Baby Banana” has reached near iconic status—largely because it’s adorable but also because it’s heartwarming to any lover of banana pudding or cream pie. She also has a savory bent, blending white asparagus, black pepper, and strawberry (that she encases in a white chocolate shell that looks just like a dinner roll). It’s French technique with a Korean sensibility and an imagination run wild in New York. We’d love to keep her in in our fair city, but in wherever she calls home, Lee will continue to inspire and push forward her peers and diners.

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Baby Banana: Whipped Cream, Banana Custard, Banana Cake in a White Chocolate Shell
  • Bread And Butter: Greek Yogurt Mousse, Strawberry Cake, Wild Strawberry, Chocolate Shell, White Asparagus Ice Cream, Maldon Sea Salt, Macerated Strawberries, and Mint
Pastry Chef: Manuela Sanin, Eleven Madison Park

Colombiana Manuela Sanin always knew she wanted to work with her hands. Today, when she tastes an ingredient at Eleven Madison Park, she contemplates what it may become in those hands and intuitively actualizes it. Sanin also knows she’s on a stage, creating uncluttered, high contrast, sleek and sculptural desserts with drama. No time for duds or disappointments in the dining room of EMP. When she pulls the curtain back on a grayscale black sesame and Meyer lemon composition, only a diner’s spoon can reveal its bright, flowing core. Sanin doesn’t shy away from painstaking technique to achieve the desired effect, as with an artful roasted peach dessert where each peach shingle is delicately set in place. Although she has reached the upper echelon of pastry, Sanin keeps pushing, conjuring that intrigue that keeps guests flowing through the doors of one of the world’s most legendary restaurants.      

Dishes that clinched it:  

  • Barley Ice Cream, Cardamom Cream, Chocolate Shortbread Ring, Cacao Nib Syrup, Malt Ice Cream, Malt Shortbread, Malt Syrup, Cacao Nib Vinegar, and Malt Extract
  • Roasted Peach, Honey Custard, Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, and Peach Shingle
Artisan: Max Blachman-Gentile, The Standard

Max Blachman-Gentile wants to bake bread. Every day. In New York. The rest of his life. #DoughGoals. He’s chef de cuisine of The Standard, East Village, overseeing its F&B operations including Café Standard, Narcissa, and narcbar. Since 2018, he’s led a team of 60 in a casual, convivial revamp and launch of his bread program with a small retail and wholesale component he plans to grow. He creates breads imbued with personal flourishes such as the schmaltz and onion porridge bread inspired by one of his mothers’ Ashkenazi cooking. His “Glenn the Redeemer” country sourdough is named for the rye and wheat varieties it contains. His bread expansion will include a fermentation box built by Ariel Johnson, head of R&D at Rene Redzepi’s MAD, and with the resources of a powerhouse hotel group, this baker is poised to make an impact, giving New York more of the bread it deserves.             

Breads that clinched it:

  • Glenn the Redeemer Country Sourdough, House Butter, Chile Oil, and Mint
  • Poppy-Sesame Miche 
Brewer: Joey Pepper, Folksbier Brauerei

Take pride New York, you have your very own lagerhaus! If you haven’t held and sipped an icy Old Bavarian Lager from Folksbier yet, it’s only a matter of time. Brewer Joey Pepper is on mission to have the streets of the five boroughs run gold with lager. His former employer, Evil Twin Brewing, even named a beer after him (Joey Fucking Pepper blonde ale) and slapped  his face on the label, haling his “intellectual curiosity, impeccable perfection, and childlike excitement.” Pepper is brewing lagers in service of the city. In 2019, he’s set to increase production of his exceedingly clean, balanced, and delicious brews tenfold. The Carroll Gardens-based sudhaus is expanding to Red Hook, farming their own hops in Michigan, and growing their mix-fermentation roster, while also proliferating their lager list. Pepper is on a path to becoming lager legend.          

Beers that clinched it: 

  • OBL: Old Bavarian-inspired Helles Lager
  • Glow Up: Green Yuzu-infused Berliner Weisse
Roaster: Sahra Nguyen, Nguyen Coffee Supply

Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world. Yet, ask any coffee-loving New Yorker the last time they had a cup that originated in Vietnam, and more than likely they’ll be at a loss. Entrepreneur, roaster, and Vietnamese coffee pioneer Sahra Nguyen is changing that. With Pulley Collective-based Nguyen Coffee Supply, Nguyen has founded the only roastery in the United States importing Vietnamese green beans. All other Vietnamese coffees come from just two companies, pre-roasted and ground—and their souring is far from transparent. Nguyen is roasting arabica and robusta (sacré bleu!) to showcase the terroir of Vietnam—in all its chocolate-berry-citrus-nutty glory. She’s broadening the coffee market, creating new distribution networks, and giving the Vietnamese community, New York (and eventually the world!), an approachable cup they can be proud of.          

Coffees that clinched it:      

  • Pour Over: Courage
  • Vietnaimese Iced Coffee
Sommelier: Caleb Ganzer, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

Caleb Ganzer did all the right things to build his somm résumé: DBGB, Daniel, Eleven Madison Park. Now he gets to make the rules at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, an imported French wine bar that throws pretense out the window. Ganzer hosts regular Wine Bootcamps with “high-intensity interval drinking” and themes like “Ancient Wines: What Would Jesus Drink?” and “Greece Is the World.” You can drink an $11 Loire Muscadet or guess the daily mystery glass for $15. You can also reallocate your rent toward a $3,450 magnum of vintage Champagne (from a list of bubbles eight pages long). Ganzer has an Old World palate to pair with his New World attitude, and he has created a wine program with gravity and joy—which he’ll share and spread as he and Chef Eric Bolyard set out to expand the Compagnie brand.

Pairings that clinched it:  

  • Cured Raw Scallops, Shaved Roots, and Yuzu Kosho paired with Riesling, Kabinett, Von Schubert, Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany, 2015
  • Braised Octopus, Squid Ink Rice, Garlic, and Pimentón paired with Grenache, Domaine de l'Horizon, Rosé, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc Roussillon, France, 2016
Sommelier: Natalie Johnson, Loring Place

Natalie Johnson is a somm with a chef’s palate and an encyclopedic knowledge of grapes and terroir. After an early gig working as a line cook at Jim Lahey’s Pizzeria Co. and stints at Marta with Jack Mason as well as at Frasca with Bobby Stuckey, she chased down Dan Kluger to work at his solo debut, Loring Place. There, her wine pairings are like a final touch at the pass, adding new layers to Kluger’s bold, texture-packed dishes. Turned-up fluke crudo meets ripe, structured Austrian Riesling. Funky Pinot Gris from Alsace washes over sweet and savory charred leeks. Her wine list is a succinct two pages with a focus on Old World wines and accessibility. You can drink well at Loring Place for $60 and less. Let Johnson loose on the floor of any restaurant, and working with the kitchen and her team, she’s bound to turn it into a wine-drinking destination.

Pairings that clinched it: 

  • Fluke Crudo, Citrus, Chiles, Radish, and Poha paired with Riesling, Weingut Franz & Andrea Proidl, Hochacker, Kremstal, Austria, 2015
  • Charred Leeks, Sliced Pears, Yogurt, and Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette paired with Pinot Gris, Domaine Ostertag, Fronholz, Alsace, 2014
Bartender: Aidan Bowie, The Office

One of New York’s most creative cocktail dens sits atop Columbus Circle, and overseeing it is Bartender Aidan Bowie. From his Scotland origins, to running Dandelyan for Ryan Chetiyawardana, Bowie has introduced a UK sensibility to the Alinea Group’s first New York venture. Using spirits like mestiha, vetiver grass-infused gin (even more botanicals!), and smoked saline solution, Bowie crafts elegant, fragrant cocktails that playfully enamore the senses. He is also up to the challenge of running ambitious hotel bars, doubling down on leadership and staff education, and New York’s cocktail culture is all the better for it—now and for years to come.

Cocktails that clinched it:

  • Champagne: Cedar-infused Bertoux Brandy, Apricot Brandy, Louis Roederer Brut Champagne, Jasmine Syrup, and Orange Bitters
  • Grass: Vetiver-infused St. George Gin, JM Rhum Agricole, Italicus, Lime, and Pineapple
Bartender: Stacey Swenson, Dante

New York is an aperitif town and Stacey Swenson is pouring the Campari. Having mixed at Dave Arnold’s technical cocktail temple Booker and Dax and crushed it at the MSG/Penn Station-adjacent American Whiskey, Swenson combines precision and economy of space and movement with creative mojo at Dante. Her drinks have a professional wink, but never at the expense of accessibility—like her sangria with local Amaro and pomegranate vinegar, or a Blood and Sand riff with ‘fluffy’ blood orange juice. Beyond her bar, Swenson flexes her cocktail guns and applies her unpretentious style and expertise with Erick Castro and Chris Patino’s Simple Serve consulting group. She puts the pedestrian on a pedestal and takes lighthearted pleasures seriously, making every guest feel comfortable and special—defining the new fun-loving, openhearted, hospitality-driven bartender.     

Cocktails that clinched it:

  • Aztec Negroni: Montelobos Mezcal, Campari, Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Rubino, Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao, PX Sherry, Saline Solution, Birds Eye Chile Tincture, Mole Bitters, and House Spice Tincture
  • Bamboo Highball: Manzanilla Sherry, Carpano Dry Vermouth, Olive Bitters, Lemon Bitters, and Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic
Restaurateur: Sean Feeney, Misi

When you find something you’re passionate about, go all in. That’s what Sean Feeney did when he partnered with Chef Missy Robbins, working in finance by day and on the floor of Lilia at night. Alongside Robbins and her team, Feeney built a New York Times three-star, James Beard Award-winning restaurant on his first try. He learned fast, building a network of mentors and peers and establishing systems and leveraging technology to help the business achieve its goals. With the opening of their second restaurant, Misi, Feeney has moved into restaurant operations full-time with a focus on balancing art and commerce, all while creating a welcoming, safe environment for staff, family, and guests. When he was just getting started, Feeney knew Robbins’ talent was at a level that he would have to match as a business partner. Now he’s a model for aspiring and veteran restaurateurs alike.