31) Bryant Terry, 35
Bryant Terry is an eco-chef, food-justice activist and author of "Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine." He has worked to build a more just and sustainable food system for the past nine years, and has used cooking as a tool to illuminate the intersections among poverty, structural racism and food insecurity. His interest in cooking, farming and community health can be traced back to his childhood in Memphis, where his grandparents inspired him to grow, prepare and appreciate good food.
Terry is currently a fellow of the Food and Society Policy Fellows Program. He has garnered many honors for his work, including receiving the inaugural Natural Gourmet Institute Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Food Education, and being selected as one of the 2008 "Hot 20 Under 40" in the San Francisco Bay Area magazine 7×7. Terry's first book (co-authored with Anna Lappé), Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, is a winner of a 2007 Nautilus Award for Social Change.
Since the publication of Grub, Terry has traveled to dozens of cities, doing cooking demonstrations and speaking at public events as well as at universities and colleges. He contributes essays and recipes to a number of online and print outlets, and his work has been featured in Gourmet, Food and Wine, the New York Times Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, Domino and other publications. Terry also has a regular column, "Eco-Soul Kitchen," on TheRoot.com. He has made dozens of national radio and television appearances, including a guest appearance on the eco-reality series Mario's Green House and being a host on The Endless Feast, a 13-episode public TV series that explores the connection between the Earth and the food on our plates.
In 2002, Terry founded b-healthy! (Build Healthy Eating and Lifestyles to Help Youth), a multiyear initiative designed to empower youth to be active in improving their food system.
Terry completed the chef's training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. He holds an M.A. in American History from New York University and a B.A. with honors in English from Xavier University in Louisiana. He's currently working on his third book and a television project. He lives and creates in Oakland with his fiancée, Jidan, and their bird, Kiwi.
32) Jason Paskewitz, 37
Jason Paskewitz has more than a decade of experience creating renowned dishes in some of Chicago's finest kitchens (Pump Room, Wave and JP Chicago), as well as being nationally recognized on Food Network.
Paskewitz, a Queens native, has adopted Chicago as his hometown and is now a passionate proponent of his second city. His "contemporary Chicago cuisine" is inspired by French, Italian and American preparations, and as executive chef and partner of Gemini Bistro in Lincoln Park, Paskewitz brings his charming and hospitable personality to a neighborhood American bistro. The approachable cuisine (duck confit nachos, double-cut pork chop, crab cake benedict) and inviting decor at Gemini welcome guests for both dinner service and weekend brunch.
33) Alex Roberts, 38
Chef/owner Restaurant Alma, Brasa Rotisserie
Alex Roberts was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in Minneapolis, Minn., where he worked in local kitchens during high school and college. He moved to New York City in 1993, attending the French Culinary Institute and gaining experience with several renowned New York restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, Bouley and Union Square Cafe.
Roberts returned to Minneapolis and opened Restaurant Alma in 1999, a casual fine-dining restaurant dedicated to seasonal, organic and local foods. Don Roberts, Alex's father, also started a small organic vegetable farm the same year. Father and son have worked together closely ever since, supplying both Alma and a second restaurant concept Brasa Rotisserie that opened in 2007.
Roberts continues to advance his commitment to organic, sustainably produced food at Alma and Brasa and has received numerous accolades in the process. Restaurant Alma has been awarded four stars by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and has been featured in Gourmet, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit and the Washington Post. Roberts received the nomination for "Best Chef Midwest" from the James Beard Foundation in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
34) Slade Rushing, 35,
35) Allison Vines-Rushing, 34
Executive chefs, MiLa
New Orleans, La.
A Northern Delta Louisianan, Allison Vines didn't always envision herself as a chef. While studying biology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, she began working in the restaurant industry and cooking to entertain friends. Upon graduation, Vines decided to embrace her passion for food at the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan. Energized by the city and the intensity of working in a kitchen, a chef career presented the perfect fit.
After completing the program at ICE, Vines returned to Louisiana to familiarize herself with her own culinary heritage. She began working in the kitchen of Brennan's and later moved on to Gerard's Downtown, working under chef Gerard Maras. Not only was she inspired by his farm-driven cuisine and his love of classic interpretation, she also met her future husband, Slade Rushing, there as well.
Raised in the countryside of Tylertown, Miss., Rushing began his culinary journey as a young boy. Hunting and fishing were a way of life that taught him a respect for nature and a desire for fresh food. While cooking in the kitchen with his father, Rushing realized his talent and learned to appreciate the food from where he grew up.
After dropping out of the engineering program at Mississippi State University, Rushing decided to follow his true passion and enrolled at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. He graduated in 1996 and moved to New Orleans, working at Mr. B's Bistro and Chez Daniel under chef Daniel Bonnot, who proved to be an important influence early in his career. After Bonnot sold his restaurant, Rushing left for San Francisco, stopping at Jardiniere and a handful of other restaurants, including Rubicon, where he served as pastry chef. In the summer of 2000, he revisited his Southern roots by returning to New Orleans, where he worked at Gerard's Downtown and met Allison Vines.
Together the young couple decided to return to New York. Allison started at Picholine, later moving to the Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. Slade moved in 2002 from March Restaurant to Fleur de Sel, where he quickly moved up the ranks to chef de cuisine. It was here that he found a mentor in chef Cyril Renaud, with his inventive approach to French cuisine and daily trips to the Union Square Farmers Market.
In June 2003, with her wedding rapidly approaching, Allison gave her résumé to Jack and Grace Lamb, owners of top-rated sushi spot Jewel Bako. The pair hired her immediately as the chef for their new venture, Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar. On Valentine's Day of 2004, Allison and Slade joined forces to become co-chefs of the oyster bar. Recognition of their "marriage" of chef talent and cultivated Southern cuisine was immediate.
The couple headed back South a year later to open their own restaurant in Abita Springs, La., the Longbranch, which was named one of the Top Ten Restaurants in New Orleans by the Times Picayune. The Longbranch and the Rushings were also featured in publications such as Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, the Wall Street Journal and Art Culiniare.
With MiLa, the first and last letter of each of their homes states, the Rushings are striving to excite, surprise and lure taste buds to cultivated Southern cuisine as they've never been before. The restaurant, a fusion and evolution of Mississippi and Northern Louisiana Delta fare, with emphasis on provisions sourced from regional farmers, is located in a hip space in downtown New Orleans.
36) Jonathon Sawyer, 29
Chef/owner, The Greenhouse Tavern
Jonathon Sawyer, a Cleveland native, first learned to cook at the age of 13. After attending the University of Dayton and graduating from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, he went on to work at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. One year later, he was working alongside renowned chef Charlie Palmer in New York at Kitchen 22.
Following his work with Palmer, Sawyer moved back to his hometown of Cleveland to open Michael Symon's Lolita as chef de cuisine. This relationship opened many doors for him, and eventually led him back to New York City to open Parea, another venture of Symon. As executive chef at Parea, Sawyer built upon his culinary repertoire. After receiving a two-star review from the New York Times and a five-star review from Time Out New York for his work at Parea, Sawyer decided to move back to his hometown of Cleveland to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant.
In 2007, Sawyer became the chef/partner of Bar Cento, a modern Roman enoteca in Ohio City. He introduced the community to seasonal and affordable cuisine with traditional and modern pizzas, as well as entrees that focused on local proteins. His work at Bar Cento received many accolades, including Restaurant Hospitality & GAYOT's Rising Star Chef and Northern Ohio Live's Best New Restaurant. Sawyer left Bar Cento in 2008 to open his own restaurant, the Greenhouse Tavern, in downtown Cleveland.
The Greenhouse Tavern offers French-inspired dishes using local and sustainable ingredients, all created with the belief that the proximity of food to its source directly correlates to its quality. The Greenhouse Tavern was named one of the Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit Magazine, and Sawyer has also collaborated with the Green Restaurant Association to become the first certified green restaurant in Ohio.
Sawyer lives in Cleveland with his wife, Amelia, his son, Catcher and his daughter, Louisiana, and is involved in the cooking community both locally and nationally. He has appeared on Food Network's "Dinner Impossible" and "Iron Chef America," and his local culinary involvement includes organizations such as Slow Food USA, Countryside Conservancy, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association and the Green Building Coalition.
37) Barton Seaver, 30
Executive chef, Blue Ridge
Barton Seaver's résumé reads more like a classic adventure novel than the average chef, and the recent announcement of his re-entry into restaurants is only part of his journey. In March 2009, Eli Hengst, managing partner of Blue Ridge in Washington, D.C., tapped Seaver to be the executive chef of his new seasonal Mid-Atlantic restaurant in Glover Park. Seaver is also overseeing the menu direction and the new culinary team at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, Hengst's and Jared Rager's award-winning restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Seaver has been lauded as a leader in sustainability by Seafood Choices Alliance and was recently named a Food Fellow with Blue Ocean Institute for his efforts to help link the environmental community with real-life, delicious applications of an eco-friendly ethic.
Seaver's childhood in D.C. was centered around the dinner table, and emphasized the importance of community. Seaver attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where after finishing his formal education he stayed on as a graduate fellow in the meat and fish departments. With unlimited access to nearly every commercially available fish, he came to love the versatility of seafood. His restaurant experience also continued to grow, with positions at Tru in Chicago and Finch Tavern in New York.
Having been bitten by the travel bug, Seaver found himself in southern Spain as the chef of a family run resort. The casual, ingredient-based cooking would prove to be an important influence in his perception of food and community. When the off-season came, he hopped on a boat to Morocco and landed in the small seaside village of Essaouiera. There he took part in generations-old fishing methods and became part of a community whose survival was directly linked to the oceans. This had a great impact on his belief that sustainability is, at its root, a humanitarian issue, not only an ecological matter.
Upon returning to the States, Seaver worked with chef José Andres at Jaleo and then moved on to revamp the kitchen of Café Saint-Ex and open sister restaurant Bar Pilar. In 2007, he turned his sights to Georgetown and opened Hook, a restaurant focused on sustainable seafood. Throughout the course of a single year the restaurant served 78 species of seafood, and Seaver's devotion to the sustainable ethic earned him spots in the national media. Keeping with the momentum, he opened a New England-style seafood shack called TackleBox. While these restaurants provided an excellent stage to spread the word about the plight of our oceans, Seaver left in 2008 to pursue a wider audience for his message.
While sustainability has largely been assigned to fish and agriculture, Seaver's work expands far beyond the dining table to include socio-economic and cultural issues. Locally, he pursues solutions to these problems through DC Kitchen, an organization that fights hunger not with food, but with personal empowerment, job training and life skills. He's also developing an upcoming PBS series that helps tell the story of our common resources through the communion we all share: dinner.
38) Matt Molina, 32
Executive chef, Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza
Los Angeles, Calif.
A graduate of the Los Angeles Culinary Institute, Matt Molina began his career as a line cook at Campanile in L.A. and worked his way up to chef de cuisine. After six years at Campanile under the tutelage of Nancy Silverton, Molina went on to train at Del Posto in New York in preparation for his role as executive chef of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, both in L.A. and both co-partnered by Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich.
As executive chef at Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, Molina has received three stars from S. Irene Virbila, the Los Angeles Times food critic. In 2008, he was nominated as "Rising Star Chef" while Osteria Mozza was nominated as "Best New Restaurant" by the James Beard Foundation.
Given that both Mozza restaurants are Green Restaurant Association-certified, Molina works with organic and locally sourced ingredients in the kitchen and also complies with various energy, waste and water standards. What's more, waste grease from the Mozza kitchens is used to make the line of Further candles and soaps.
39) Derek Wagner, 32
Chef/owner, Nicks on Broadway
Derek Wagner opened Nicks on Broadway when he was 24, and almost eight years later in a new location, he's on the verge of opening a newly expanded version of the ever-evolving, grassroots startup restaurant.
From its modest 18-seat, breakfast-only beginnings to its current 40-seat, full-service version, Nicks has always focused on seasonally inspired, locally sourced food and service. With passion and close attention to detail, Wagner focuses on bringing gourmet food and attentive service to his customers in an unpretentious and upbeat atmosphere. Staying connected to the community and local producers and growers is paramount to Wagner, and it's the philosophy that's come to shape Nicks on Broadway. Starting years ago, he developed and fostered strong relationships with local growers and producers, in addition to setting up herb and vegetable gardens on the premises and planting fruit trees in his nearby yard. Whatever he can't produce or grow at Nicks, Wagner tries to source carefully, locally and thoughtfully. He aims for zero waste by drying, curing, pickling and making stocks, sauces, extracts and powders out of all trim, and composting the rest for the following year's gardens.
Wagner has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Award twice, and has been featured on the Food Network and in Food & Wine, Esquire, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the London Independent. Nicks on Broadway was also recently named "One of the World's Best Restaurants" by Fodor's Travel Guide.
40) Andrew Zimmerman, 39
Executive chef, Sepia
Growing up in New York in the '80s, Andrew Zimmerman's childhood goal was a fairly common one — he wanted to be a rock star. Though he played around in the kitchen, he pursued that goal into his early 20s, supporting himself by working in local restaurant kitchens. Over the years, he realized not only was he a better cook than musician, but that his true calling was in the kitchen. He began taking cooking seriously, and soon was working as sous chef under Renato Sommelia, whom he cites as one of his strongest culinary mentors. Zimmerman spent nearly three years working under Sommelia, and after learning all he could, enrolled in the prestigious French Culinary Institute, where he graduated first in his class.
Zimmerman continued working in the region for three years before deciding he was ready to make a move. Drawn to Chicago by the abundance of world-class restaurants, the food-centric nature and the fact that it's his wife's hometown, he accepted a position at the Park Hyatt Chicago and moved into the Bucktown neighborhood with his wife, Lindsey, a clothing designer and store owner.
In 2004, Zimmerman met restaurateur Terry Alexander, who was impressed and hired him as executive chef at MOD. From there, the business pair opened del Toro, and although Alexander became a professional mentor to Zimmerman, the restaurant ultimately closed. Zimmerman returned to the Park Hyatt, as chef de cuisine at NoMi, working with Christophe David. He was introduced to Emmanuel Nony in early 2008, and early the following year, Nony offered him the executive chef position at Sepia. In addition to influences such as Sommelia and David, Zimmerman's style of cooking — direct, seasonally based and primarily Mediterranean-influenced — echoes the styles of Fergus Henderson, Thomas Keller, Judy Rodgers, Alice Waters, Charlie Trotter and Paula Wolfert.
Did we miss one? Enter a comment below on a chef you think should have been nominated, and we'll consider him or her as part of a future feature.
All photos courtesy the chefs pictured, unless noted otherwise below: