Rob McDaniel, 32
Executive chef, SpringHouse
Alexander City, Ala.
After graduating from Auburn University with a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management in 2002, Rob McDaniel headed north to Montpelier, Vt., where he studied at the New England Culinary Institute. During his time at NECI, he began to appreciate sustainable living and cooking, supporting local and organic farmers and the importance of using local resources. Before leaving NECI, McDaniel moved to Grayton Beach, Fla., where he worked for chef Johnny Earles at Criolla's. Upon graduating from NECI in 2004, he moved back to the South, where he worked as sous chef for Chris and Idie Hastings at their Birmingham-based Hot and Hot Fish Club. Taking the skills that he learned at NECI, and the Hot and Hot style, he began to realize Southern food and sustainability are intricately tied.
In 2007, McDaniel left the Hastings to continue his culinary path with Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Q as a chef. Two years later, he got the opportunity he had been looking for when Russell Lands on Lake Martin asked him to be the executive chef at the SpringHouse restaurant. SpringHouse has allowed McDaniel to express his love for sustainable Southern food and the preservation of its methods.
SpringHouse has forged lifelong relationships with many local farmers during its first year of existence, and already has plans to start a community garden. Through the garden, SpringHouse hopes to create a sense of ownership for people in the crossroads community. Not only will they be helping supply the restaurant with fruits and vegetables, but they'll also know exactly where it came from. McDaniel is a member of Slow Food and is in the process of starting a local chapter at Russell Crossroads. He hopes to create an even stronger sense of community and educate those in the area about sustainable living through a local Slow Food chapter.
Lachlan McKinnon-Patterson, 34
Chef/owner, Frasca Food & Wine
Recipient of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for "Best Chef: Southwest," chef Lachlan McKinnon-Patterson's burgeoning culinary career began at the Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. In 1999 he moved to Paris to obtain his "certificate d'aptitude professionnelle" at the prestigious Ecole Gregoire-Ferrandi. After completing his training, he apprenticed with Benoit Guichard at the famed Jamin, a Michelin two-star restaurant renowned for its classic French cuisine. He then continued honing his culinary skills working under owner and chef Guy Guilloux at La Taupiniere, a Michelin rated one-star restaurant in Pont Aven, Brittany.
Lachlan moved back to the States in 2001 to join the staff of the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., as chef de partie under Thomas Keller. His international experience and expertise in this role contributed to the restaurant's innovative menus and numerous awards. It was here that he also met his future business partner, master sommelier Bobby Stuckey.
Lachlan moved to Boulder, Colo., in the fall of 2003 to help Stuckey open a neighborhood restaurant reminiscent of the Frascas they had visited in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. Having researched and traveled throughout Italy many times, both were deeply inspired by this region in particular — the international influences of its cuisine, the profusion of local ingredients in its rustic yet elegant dishes, its passionate relationship between food and wine, and the gracious hospitality of the locals.
In 2005, Lachlan was named one of Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" in America and was also recognized by the James Beard Foundation as the first-ever "Rising Star Chef" nominee in Colorado. Frasca Food and Wine was also cited on the 2006 Conde Nast Traveler Hot List, it was the only Colorado restaurant to appear on the 2006 Gourmet "Top 50 Restaurants in the U.S." list, and USA Today's Jerry Shriver voted it as serving the 2007 "Meal of the Year," topping some of the best restaurants around the world — from New York City to Paris. In addition, Frasca Food and Wine was named Colorado's top-rated restaurant in the 2008 Zagat. In 2009, Lachlan appeared on Bravo TV's hit show "Top Chef Masters," where he competed with some of the nation's finest chefs to raise money for local charities.
Michael Moore, 31
Chef/owner, Northwest Food Works
The evolution of Michael Moore's career led him from the hills of Colorado to the Pacific Northwest for the pursuit of flavor and the knowledge of "you are what you eat." From his vast experience working in a variety of multicultural cuisines, through training under three master chefs and many other culinary educators, Moore says owning his own kitchen became the ideal progression and has provided great fortune in dining choices for his clientele.
Northwest Food Works is a collaboration to fulfill the need for a value-added production facility in rural Washington. Acting as a commissary, caterer, bakery and deli, it produces artisan breads, full-service meals, wholesale desserts, fresh ground sausage and a variety of other local and in-season treats. Working with local farmers and ranchers such as Black Sheep Creamery, Newaukum Valley Farm and the Chehalis Community Farmers Market, Moore's business emphasizes growth in foods connected to the land.
Moore first became aware of organic, sustainable and local foods in high school while working in a natural foods restaurant in Evergreen, Colo. He moved to Seattle in 2001 from Denver, and after a three-year apprenticeship and two additional years as sous chef at the Del Mar Crab House, he worked for sister restaurants in Lower Queen Anne. Serving as a pastry chef and line cook, Moore eventually accepted a position as the chef for a bed-and-breakfast in Sandpoint, Idaho. His ambition outpaced the rural Idaho life, so he returned to Seattle in search of more ways to expand his skill set.
Before starting Northwest Food Works, Moore owned a similar catering business and restaurant in Centralia, Wash., and worked with his now business partners to reclaim a once-feral farm on the Chehalis River. He's dedicated to a sustainable business model, preparing take-home meals in recyclable, compostable or reusable glass baking dishes. He provides nutritious local foods to the people of the Pacific Northwest, showing that "gourmet" doesn't have to come on an expensive white plate. With simple programs based on efficiency, attention to tradition and innovation, reduced waste commitments, full composting and recycling, Moore uses exemplary food and impeccable service to create "extraordinary food for everyday people."
Dean Rucker, 38
Executive Chef, The Golden Door
Dean Rucker's culinary journey has taken him coast to coast, from his birthplace in Maryland to his current home in San Diego, where he serves as executive chef at the renowned Golden Door spa. His interest in food began at an early age: "As a child I was interested in food and cooking — going to the local roadside farmers' stands for tomatoes and silver queen corn, trips to the Eastern shore to buy live blue crabs from the local watermen along the Chesapeake. As a kid I could barely wait to get home to steam the crabs and shuck the corn. I guess it was natural for me to take a path to becoming a chef."
Rucker spent a nearly a decade honing his practical culinary skills in Baltimore-area restaurants, and then moved west to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, graduating in 1998. His professional career started in San Fran at the acclaimed Waterfront and Aqua restaurants, and he then moved to San Diego to serve as the chef de partie at the Prince of Wales restaurant. In 2000, he took the position as sous chef at the Golden Door, where he applied his classical training and quickly learned the fundamentals of spa cuisine and the unique challenges that working at a destination spa, and specifically the Golden Door, can bring. His appointment to executive chef came in 2005 and his bold New American cuisine has been met with accolades from guests and press alike.
Integrating a balance of haute and comfort cuisine to please the variety of guests for whom he cooks, Rucker infuses his passion for healthy, delicious cuisine into every dish he prepares. "Becoming the chef of the Golden Door has completely changed the way I view cooking and eating," he says. "That a dish tasted great and looked awesome used to be my main focus, not whether it was truly healthful, balanced and nurturing. While presentation and flavor are still very important to me, where the ingredients come from, how they were grown or raised, the quality of ingredient and overall healthfulness of the dish are just as important."
Drawing inspiration from Golden Door's organic garden, Rucker uses the freshest fruits, vegetables and herbs, in addition to lean meats, poultry and fish cooked to perfection and paired in creative ways without excessive oil and fat. "I focus on vegetables as my inspiration of most dishes, even meat and seafood ones," he explains. "Instead of thinking, 'What can I do with this halibut?' I think, 'What can I do with all these beets?' and go from there."
Rucker's weekly cooking class has become popular among customers, offering them an additional way to implement the Golden Door program into their daily lives. His first cookbook, Golden Door Cooks at Home; Favorite Recipes From the Celebrated Spa was published in April 2009.
* Note: Rucker recently left the Golden Door to work as a private chef. Following in his footsteps is the equally talented, 26 year old Kayla Roche, the first female executive chef at the Golden Door in more than two decades.
Jeremy Sewall, 38
Chef Jeremy Sewall is a native of upstate New York, but he spent his childhood summers in Maine with family, feasting on lobsters, clams, chowders and other New England specialties.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America with honors, Sewall returned to Maine and worked at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, where he says the European values made his subsequent move to Europe a natural next step. After working for Albert Roux in London and Amsterdam, though, he eventually returned to the States, where he began working at L'Espalier in Boston, known for its exacting standards and classic French applications. After a stint as an executive sous chef for a Fortune 500 company's executive dining room, Sewall was on the move again, this time to the West Coast. There, he was recognized for his technique and passion by Bradley Ogden, the chef and owner of the Lark Creek Inn, in Larkspur, Calif. Hired as sous chef, he was quickly promoted to chef in 1999.
In 2000, Sewall was one of five chefs in the nation nominated as a "Rising Star Chef" by the James Beard Foundation. He moved back to the East Coast to open Great Bay restaurant at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston, where he and the restaurant won high praise from the New York Times, Esquire, Gourmet and the Boston Globe.
Sewall soon left Great Bay, however, to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant. He and his wife, Lisa, a former pastry chef at L'Espalier, opened Lineage in February 2006. Located in the heart of Coolidge Corner in Brookline, Mass., the name is based on Sewall's own ancestor, Judge Samuel Sewall of Salem Witch Trials fame, who owned most of what is now called Brookline in the late 17th century.
The Sewalls use their appreciation for fresh ingredients to create a personal interpretation of modern American cuisine. In the short time Lineage has been open, it has received local and national praise, including "Restaurants Top Tables" in Bon Appetit and best dessert from Boston magazine. Jeremy Sewall was also recognized as "Boston's Best Rising Star" by the Improper Bostonian, and in 2009, Boston magazine named Lineage one of the city's top 50 restaurants.
Adam Sobel, 29
Executive chef, RM Seafood
Las Vegas, Nev.
Las Vegas-based chef Adam Sobel was raised on Long Island, where his family fostered his talent and desire to work in the culinary arts at an early age. He credits his family for pushing him in the right culinary direction, including the many hours spent in the kitchen learning hands-on with his grandmother. He began formal culinary training as a high school student at Votech School for Culinary Arts, and later worked as a commis for certified master chef John Johnstone before furthering his skills at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where he graduated with honors.
Sobel was most recently the executive chef of Company American Bistro, located inside the Luxor Casino Resort. Under Sobel's direction, Company American Bistro was regarded as one of the city's newest culinary hot spots, receiving stellar reviews by local press. Prior to that, Sobel served as chef de cuisine at Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace. During hid tenure there, the restaurant was bestowed with national critical acclaim from publications including Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, GQ, Vogue and Food Arts. It was named to the 2007 Condé Nast Traveler "Hot 100 List" and listed as one of the top new restaurants of 2006 by Esquire and Travel + Leisure.
As a member of the Bradley Ogden opening team, Sobel was part of another award-winning kitchen staff that took home the 2004 James Beard Foundation Award as the country's best new restaurant. Working alongside chef Ogden, Sobel helped devise and execute a farm-fresh menu that paid homage to simple- yet-refined flavors paired with only the most seasonal ingredients. Ogden's was regarded as one of the finest restaurants in America under Sobel's guidance, receiving Mobil 4 stars and numerous honors from the Robb Report.
Sobel currently holds the position of executive chef at RM Seafood in Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. RM is known for its sustainable practices and innovative cuisine split between two restaurants. Sobel's other professional experience includes Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and Parcel 104 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Chef/co-owner, Noble Rot
Leather Storrs is the chef and co-owner of Noble Rot wine bar in Portland, Ore. Storrs is a graduate of both the University of Colorado and the Culinary Institute of America; his formative culinary work includes Chez Panisse, the Greystone Restaurant in St. Helena, Calif. and the French Laundry.
Noble Rot is housed in a LEED platinum building that features a 3,000-square-foot rooftop garden irrigated by an aquifer beneath the building. An Oregon native, Storrs grew up gardening grudgingly, but an interest in food and his experience at Chez Panisse — head lettuce washer — gave Storrs a deeper understanding of the relationship between top-quality raw materials and the finished dish. The food at Noble Rot is served mainly on small plates and focuses on seasonality, locality and wine-friendliness.
Storrs is eagerly plotting the 2010 garden, and continues to steward the kitchen at Noble Rot, which was named Sunset's "Wine Bar of the Year" for 2009. He's married to Courtney Storrs, a co-owner of Noble Rot along with Kimberly Bernosky. The couple has two children, Rye and Charlotte, which he says are the best things he's ever made.
Giuseppe Tentori, 38
Corporate/executive chef, Boka
Giuseppe Tentori considers himself lucky to have fallen in love with cooking at a young age. At 14, he knew he wanted to be a chef. After finishing his culinary studies at Antica Osteria la Rampina in Milan, Tentori was invited by chef Gabriel Viti to work at his restaurant in Highland Park, Ill. Without speaking any English, the then-19-year-old Tentori "jumped on a plane" and started working at Gabriel's. From there, he went on to become sous chef at the Metropolitan in Salt Lake City, Utah. Two years later, he returned to Chicago and began working at Charlie Trotter's, which has become a launching pad for some of the country's most innovative chefs, including Graham Elliot Bowles and Homaru Cantu, both of whom worked with Tentori. He spent nine years at Trotters and was elevated to chef de cuisine his last two years.
In 2008, Tentori was named Food and Wine's "Best New Chef in America." He has also been named a "Rising Star" by Restaurant Hospitality and Star Chefs, and has been a James Beard semifinalist the last three years.
In addition to his current position as Boka Group's corporate chef, Tentori adds his unique style to the progressive American cuisine for which the five-year-old restaurant has become well-known. Along with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients — Tentori is a regular at the city's farmers markets — he's also known for his innovative pairings, which have become his trademark.
David Varley, 29
Executive chef, Bourbon Steak
David Varley developed a passion for the culinary arts at a young age while watching his mother tend the family's organic garden, which served his family and the local restaurants of Sussex, N.J. During his formative years, Varley was educated in the true meaning of eating locally and seasonally, and this approach is now instrumental to crafting his menu at Bourbon Steak, which is located within the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.
"During the season, most of our meals were grown in our own back yard, and the surplus was sold to local restaurants," Varley says. "I also grew up hunting and fishing, which helped me understand the cycle of food and production. At a young age, I realized that a life in food was the only thing I wanted to pursue."
Over the years, Varley has differentiated himself from his peers by using innovative techniques and a modern approach to make food fun, exciting and delicious. At Bourbon Steak, he incorporates top-notch ingredients that serve as the benchmark for his delectable, contemporary cooking.
"Seventy-five percent of the menu is based on local product, and the concept at Bourbon Steak is derived from the sense of place," Varley says. To this end, guests are offered a menu, which focuses on corn-fed, all-natural meats and line-caught seafood available both locally and worldwide. Under Varley's tenure, Bourbon Steak was included in Washingtonian magazine's "Top 100 Very Best Restaurants" in 2010.
Varley earned a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He has cooked all over the country since 2001, honing his skills in various top-tier restaurants including Clio in Boston, the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse, N.J., and Parcel 104 in Santa Clara, Calif. He moved to Las Vegas in 2005 to work as chef de cuisine for Bradley Ogden at Caesar's Palace, where he led his team to back-to-back Mobil four-star reviews, five-diamond awards and, in 2007, Bradley Ogden's first Michelin star.
Varley was most recently the chef de cuisine of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas, a position he accepted to launch the food and beverage program for the 1,232-suite property. Prior to this appointment, he served as chef de cuisine from July 2007 to March 2008 for Pure Management Group, overseeing the creation of the Company American Bistro brand in Las Vegas. During this time, he was named "Chef to Watch, Up & Coming Rising Star," by Vegas magazine.
Eric Warnstedt, 34
Chef/owner, Hen of the Wood
Chef Eric Warnstedt, a graduate of Johnson and Wales Culinary School and a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., opened Vermont's award-winning, farm-driven Hen of the Wood restaurant in 2005 as an "opportunity to put together a restaurant that would be the culmination of everything I had casually discussed for several years: a warm inviting atmosphere, a historic and visually appealing setting, seamless service and, most importantly, outstanding wine and beautiful food."
Previously, Warnstedt worked in the kitchens of restaurants such as the Mark's Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, Wildwood Restaurant in Portland, Ore., and the Inn at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vt. Since opening, both Hen of the Wood and Warnstedt have garnered numerous accolades, including Food & Wine's "Best New Chef of 2008" and Gourmet's "Top 100 Farm to Table Restaurants," as well as mentions in the New York Times, USA Today and Yankee magazine.
Warnstedt's unfussy, down-to-earth menu at Hen of the Wood, located in Waterbury's Mill Village Historic District, changes frequently as it focuses on premium ingredients sourced just miles from the restaurant.
"Our focus is to showcase the region's most vibrant foods at any given time of year," he says, "from source-specific honeys, artisan cheeses, vinegars and four-season vegetable farmers to a myriad of ranchers, growers, producers, wild craft foragers and artisan bakers. Our menus are printed daily to always reflect a snapshot of that day in Vermont."
All photos are courtesy of the chefs pictured unless noted otherwise below:
- Kate and Matt Jennings: Wyatt Counts
- Lauren Kiino: Michael Silva