11) Sam Kass, 29
Assistant chef/food initiatives coordinator, the White House
Founder, Inevitable Table
Sam Kass, a Chicago native and 2003 University of Chicago graduate, cut his culinary teeth in Europe before returning to his hometown to work in the kitchen of Mediterranean wine bar/restaurant Avec. Kass also oversaw the kitchen at the James Addams Hull House, Chicago's historic community center, where he introduced fresh produce and wholesome foods into the traditional soup-kitchen concept. Still hungry for more, Kass founded Inevitable Table, a personal chef/shopping service that focuses on providing clients with the freshest, healthiest dietary options available.
But it was one of the young chef and entrepreneur's other gastronomic gigs — personal chef to then-Sen. Barack Obama and his family in their Hyde Park home — that led to his current position as assistant chef and food initiatives coordinator at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. When President Obama and the first family relocated from Chicago to Washington, D.C., Kass joined them — after applying for the position — and now works alongside White House executive chef Christeta Comerford, who served as chef for the Bush family and was retained by the Obamas.
Upon Kass' hiring, Michelle Obama spokeswoman Katie McCormick-Lelyveld remarked that Kass "knows what they like, and he happens to have a particular interest in healthy food and local food."
In his addition to his work in the White House kitchen, Kass is also known for spending time outside the kitchen — in the White House garden, to be precise. Working with Michelle Obama and the White House garden staff, Kass has helped turned the small, presidential plot filled with cucumbers, herbs, tomatoes, salad greens, peppers and more into something much more dynamic: An avatar for the local and organic food movement and the shift toward enjoying and respecting nutritious, sustainable foods. Thanks to his eco-epicurean presence at the White House, Kass isn't just helping the Obama family and their guests eat well ... he's helping America eat well, too.
12) Tarsha Gary, 39
Chef/owner, CRAVE Gourmet Bakery & Catered Café
A Connecticut native and former radio talk-show host and journalist, Tarsha Gary sharpened her culinary skills at Houston Community College's pastry program, alongside internationally acclaimed pastry chef Eddy Van Damme, aka "The Prince of Pastry." During her formal training, Gary also worked at Noe Restaurant & Bar under the tutelage of one of Houston's top chefs, Robert Gadsby, who remains an important mentor to her. After graduation, Gary worked at the Houston Downtown Aquarium planning and plating desserts for banquets, and then worked alongside chef Scott Tycer at the upscale restaurant Aries. Next, Gary decided to branch out and start her own venture, CRAVE Gourmet Bakery & Catered Cafe, a full-scale catering and event-planning company.
With noted skill — especially in the desserts department — and an entrepreneurial spirit, Gary hopes to eventually start a restaurant offshoot of her catering business. In the meantime, she has begun two novel programs: In July 2008, she founded Community Kids Cook w/ Chef Tarsha, a hands-on, month-long summer cooking camp for youths that aims to curb childhood obesity and promote healthy food education. And in January of 2009, Gary soft-launched an urban agricultural/community-building effort called ECOTONE. The venture is described as "a 'green' vision catalyst offering sustainable solutions via organic approaches to meeting the needs of urban communities, organic commerce and ecological global enrichment."
Gary has received numerous accolades from both her well-fed catering clients and from the Houston community. She was a 2008 Pinnacle Award finalist, an honor granted by the Houston Citizens' Chamber of Commerce, and was also identified as one of Houston's top business professionals in the Houston Business Journal's "40 Under 40" in May 2009. Additionally, Gary has served as a demonstration chef for more than five years for the American Heart Association's "Cultural Initiatives African-American Outreach Taskforce" and the "Go Red Women Campaign."
13) Jeremy Barlow, 37
Spending his childhood summers in Nantucket, Mass., Jeremy Barlow discovered the food business early, washing dishes at the White Dog Cafe. He moved quickly to cooking and continued working summers while attending Vanderbilt University.
After graduating with a degree in psychology, Barlow attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He graduated with honors, receiving the Francis L. Roth award of excellence for academic and extracurricular performance, and went on to intern at the Inn at Blackberry Farm with John Fleer. He returned to Nashville upon graduation, working at the Trace and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse before eventually taking the chef's position at the Midtown Cafe from 2000 to 2002.
In February 2004, Barlow opened his own restaurant, tayst, just south of Hillsboro Village in Nashville. In the five years since opening, Barlow has explored playful American cuisine and expanded his work to include the Nashville Originals, a local chapter of Dine Originals. By participating as a member of the inaugural board as well as chair of the event and marketing committees, he is dedicated to sustaining the independent restaurateur.
Tayst received its certification as a green restaurant in April 2008, becoming the first in Nashville to do so. It represents Barlow's dedication to sustainability — an emphasis on local food served in a restaurant operating with environmentally responsible practices. In September 2009, tayst achieved Three-Star Certified Green Status, making it one of only six restaurants nationwide reaching this level of sustainability.
Also in 2008, tayst was chosen as "Best Restaurant" by Nashville Lifestyles magazine, and as "Best Trendsetter" and "Best Environmentally Friendly Business" by Nashville Scene. Earlier this year, Barlow won Nashville's 2009 Iron Fork competition.
14) Shannon Galusha, 34
Executive chef, Bastille Café & Bar
A native of the Pacific Northwest, chef Shannon Galusha's philosophy of "eliminating the unnecessary to obtain simplicity" results in exquisite culinary magic. His cuisine is inspired by the region's bounty of seafood, artisan products and local farmers. Galusha polished his kitchen skills at the New England Culinary Institute, and upon graduating, took on residency for three years at the world-renowned French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.
In addition, Galusha has traveled to France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, working with various chefs while enjoying a six-month gastronomic tour. His local résumé includes a stint as executive sous chef at the since-closed Fullers in the Seattle Sheraton, executive sous chef at Campagne and Café Campagne, executive chef at 727 Pine (formerly in the Seattle Grand Hyatt) and chef/partner at Veil Restaurant and Lounge.
At Bastille Café & Bar, Galusha incorporates seasonal produce from the 2,500-square-foot rooftop garden tended by Seattle Urban Farm Company, which helps with growing vegetables, herbs and salad greens for the restaurant kitchen.
15) Will Gilson, 26
Cambridge, Mass., and Groton, Mass.
William Gilson was born in Groton, Mass., and was raised on the main-street property formerly known as Gilson Farm and currently as the Herb Lyceum. In 1999, Gilson took over the reins as the chef of the Herb Lyceum, an establishment that serves farm-fresh food in the form of five- to six-course tasting menus, focusing on the food and seasons of New England.
Garden at the Cellar was established in 2006 as a collaboration between Gilson and the owners of a Harvard Square bar, the Cellar. Gilson moved into the space and renovated the kitchen to offer food for the bar and to create the ground-floor restaurant that would become Garden at the Cellar. The concept was to create two menus — one that would offer bar food to accompany the atmosphere and likes of the patrons who were inherited after the addition of the kitchen, and to create a local, neighborhood restaurant that would serve European-style food, inspired by New England's seasonal ingredients.
As Garden at the Cellar grew in size and popularity, Gilson boosted his ability to market his goals as a chef with commitments to local food, sustainable practices and charity outreach. As a small restaurant, the "green" practices of Garden at the Cellar are remarkable — recycling efforts include the composting of 14 tons of food waste, 350 cubic feet of recyclable containers and 3,000 pounds of cardboard per year.
During the Massachusetts growing season, Gilson sources 75 percent of his produce from farms within a 100-mile radius of his restaurants. During the non-growing months, he supports local meat and dairy farmers with 100 percent of his dairy coming from local farms, and 10,000 pounds of ground beef coming from New England. All meats and seafood served in both restaurants come from only humane or sustainable sources.
Gilson has received numerous accolades for his cuisine and charity work. In the past three years, he has helped raise funds for several organizations, including Share Our Strength, the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Tap Project. Locally, he helped raise money for such organizations as the New England Aquarium, the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets and Chefs Collaborative. In 2009, he was named as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef in America" award.
16) Kin Lui, 29
Chef/partner, Tataki Sushi Bar
San Francisco, Calif.
Chef Kin Lui was born in Hong Kong, but has spent most of his life in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has a deep passion for the ocean and its myriad creatures, and has spent the majority of his culinary career focusing on sushi.
Lui is not interested in conventional, exploitative seafood. He refuses to serve many common sushi items: unsustainably farmed salmon and hamachi are never found on his menu, nor are endangered fish like freshwater eel or bluefin tuna. Instead, he has devoted himself to exploring the potential of sustainability in sushi. His goal is to find ways to represent and interpret the bounty of the ocean without causing harm to our planet.
Lui opened San Francisco's Tataki Sushi Bar, which he calls the world's first sustainable sushi restaurant, in February 2008 with the help of his two partners, Raymond Ho (also a sushi chef) and Casson Trenor (an environmental activist and author). Tataki has gained not only a local following, but has helped inspire other sushi chefs as well. Lui says he hopes more sushi chefs begin shifting toward sustainability — it's the only way to preserve the art of sushi, he points out, not to mention the fish species themselves.
17) Adam Howard, 29
Executive chef/co-founder, Street Foods LLC
Adam Howard, a native of Charlotte, N.C., and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., co-founded Charleston's Street Foods with former partner Christopher "Chappy" Chappell in the spring of 2009. Howard brings expertise gained from working in some of New York's top kitchens to this new venture, which is modeled after the inexpensive and diverse range of ethnic cuisines served by NYC's street food vendors. Howard gives the mobile-kitchen fad an eco-exotic twist, however, by focusing on organic, local and healthy ingredients.
"Our concept is similar to that of street vendors in large northern cities," Howard says. "For example, in New York City, you can taste inexpensive foods from around the world, sold by street vendors. Locally, we've served grilled shrimp on a sugarcane with a maderia mirin glaze, along with a number of Middle Eastern and regional Mexican dishes. The goal is to bring creative flavors to the Lowcountry that a lot of local people are not familiar with."
Howard works directly with regional nonprofit food alliance Lowcountry Local First to ensure ingredients are locally sourced and organic when possible; he also responds to customer demand by occasionally offering standard, non-ethnic street food fare like hamburgers. Howard keeps hungry, adventurous patrons on their toes by offering a constantly rotating menu that's primarily based on what's fresh and seasonal that day.
The Street Foods cart is anchored at North Charleston's Navy Yard and is open for lunch five days a week. In the evening and on the weekends, Howard and his bright red cart relocate to special events and venues in the greater Charleston area; he can also often be found feeding Charleston's ravenous nightlife crowd near nightclub- and bar-heavy areas. Patrons can keep up to speed with the Street Foods cart's nightly whereabouts on the Street Foods Twitter page. Howard's wife, Alicia, works as director of sales for the new venture.
18) Colby Garrelts, 35
Kansas City, Mo.
Chef Colby Garrelts was nominated in 2009, 2008 and 2007 for "Best Chef Midwest" by the James Beard Foundation and was named by Food & Wine as one of the "Top 10 Best New Chefs" in 2005. A native of Kansas City, Garrelts cooked at two local private clubs while attending culinary school, but says his education came largely in kitchens across the country.
Garrelts moved to Chicago in 1999, where he became the senior sous chef at the five-star, five-diamond restaurant TRU. Here, Garrelts honed his technical skills, developed his culinary style and met his future wife/partner and pastry chef, Megan Schultz.
Colby and Megan Garrelts, now married, moved to Kansas City, Mo., in 2003 and opened bluestem in March 2004. The restaurant showcases Colby's progressive American cuisine (farm-to-table and perennial), including locally and organically grown vegetables, meats and cheeses whenever possible. Megan's new varieties of American desserts are the icing on the cake, so to speak. A highlight of dining at bluestem is savoring the three- to 12-course tasting menus, including one dedicated entirely to desserts. Colby and Megan have recently inked a deal with Andrews McMeel publishing for a cookbook to be published in 2011.
19) Anthony "Travis" Kukull, 29
Chef, Solo Bar
Travis Kukull was raised in Shoreline, Wash., and started cooking in high school as a way to entertain friends when his parents went out of town. While some kids threw keggers, Kukull hosted dinner parties with his brother and charged $10 a head.
Culinary school seemed to be a natural progression out of high school for Kukull, but he found the pace of learning too slow, so he transferred to the University of Washington. While earning a degree in English literature and creative writing, he cooked at Mona's Bistro and Lounge. By the time gradation rolled around, Kukull was offered a sous chef job at Mona's. From Mona's, he moved to Mandalay Café.
Kukull eventually relocated a couple thousand miles westward to Maui, where he worked at Pacific'O as second sous chef. From there he moved back across the ocean to Haines, Alaska, where he worked as sous chef at the Hotel Halsingland. Kukull developed an affinity for mushroom foraging and beer making while in Alaska, as well as for his future wife, whom he met there. When fall came and business left town, Kukull moved to Brooklyn, where he worked at Stone Park Cafe under chef/owner Josh Grinker and chef de cuisine David Rothstein. Kukull says his tenure at Stone Park Cafe taught him how to focus his cuisine into something extraordinary. Since then, he's moved back to Seattle and started his current position as chef for Solo Bar.
Upon starting, Kukull viewed Solo as a challenge, since he had to make customers recognize that great food in an unpretentious bar atmosphere was a possibility.
"It seems to all be coming together recently as business is strong and the public is satisfied," Kukull says. "People seem to be surprised at how affordable the food is, and they ask how we can do it. It's simple: I get up every morning and shop at the markets for the most fresh and local ingredients. ... We also don't have a million dollar kitchen that we are trying to pay off — it's just me with a $75 dollar Jen Air electric oven with grill attachment we bought on Craigslist, two portable butane burners and a microwave. All the rest of my equipment has been acquired over the years as presents from birthdays, Christmas and my wife's wedding shower."
While keeping the food at Solo affordable, unique and locally sourced (and making homemade sodas for the cocktails at the bar), Kukull is starting his own microbrewery, Dandyswine Brewery, with his friend and business partner Ethan Baker.
20) Greg LaPrad, 27
Chef Greg LaPrad began his culinary career as a dishwasher in 1998, when he was just 15, and he's been in the kitchen ever since. In 2002, LaPrad pursued a formal education at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and he graduated at the top of his class with a 4.0 GPA and summa cum laude distinction.
Over the past eight years, LaPrad has worked in kitchens in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Alaska and Arizona. Originally from Connecticut, he moved to Phoenix in 2004 to work with Michael DeMaria of Michael's at the Citadel.
LaPrad has traveled extensively through Europe and spent a summer in Africa, which helped him develop an understanding of those continents' cultural cuisines. He also spent time in Italy working at Il Bottaccio in Tuscany, a Relais & Chateaux-rated restaurant.
As executive chef at Quiessence Restaurant & Wine Bar, LaPrad is committed to seasonal, local, organic produce and he enjoys changing the menu every day to reflect the freshest local produce available. And unlike many restaurants that use only a tiny handful of major food partners, LaPrad's growing list of purveyors is currently about 80 deep. Rather than dealing with just a few major companies on a daily basis, he works with dozens of smaller, local vendors.
"Our food is soulful because the people who grow it truly care about good eating," he says. "I think that's why [guests] keep coming back ... the soul of the food stays with it onto the plate."