Justin Everett, 33
Executive chef, El Dorado Kitchen
Justin Everett, executive chef at Sonoma's recently green-certified El Dorado Kitchen, describes his food as "farm-driven." His menu is a collection of earthy yet sophisticated, straightforward dishes that showcase the essence of fresh seasonal produce.
Like so many of today's top chefs, Everett started at the bottom and worked his way up to executive chef. His first foray into cooking began with a dishwashing gig 15 years ago; from there he moved from kitchen to kitchen, learning everything he could in wine-country establishments such as Bouchon and Auberge du Soleil.
Throughout his professional training and experience, Everett has developed a respect for the growing seasons, and thus focuses on using produce when it's at its peak and most flavorful. His wine-country experience is reflected on his menu, which successfully pairs locally produced ingredients to renowned wines from Sonoma, Napa and beyond.
Everett is committed to the local Sonoma community, and strives to "employ, feed and support" locally. He mentors youth in the kitchen and works with Benziger Family Winery to foster an appreciation and respect for farming the land.
Andrew Feinberg, 35
In 2004, French Culinary Institute-trained chef Andrew Feinberg opened franny's with his wife and co-owner/manager, Francine Stephens, in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn. Feinberg already had more than 10 years experience in the New York City restaurant business under his belt, working at Gramercy Tavern, Veritas and Savoy. Prior to franny's, Stephens worked with nonprofits such as the Rainforest Alliance and Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet.
Since its opening, franny's — a casual Italian restaurant with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced, and/or organic ingredients and sustainable business practices — has appeared on virtually every "best restaurant" list in New York City (New York Magazine, Time Out New York), as well as "Best Pizza in New York City" (the New York Times, New York Magazine, New York Daily News). Franny's has received reviews and articles in numerous international, national and local publications including Gourmet, Conde Nast Traveler and USA Today. Feinberg was also was featured in the New York Times in 2005, with four consecutive articles on him and his cooking.
Ingredients at franny's come from an array of New York purveyors such as Sunrise Farms, Satur Farms, Maple Hill Creamery, Evans' Farmhouse Creamery and Salvatore Brooklyn. "The menu at franny's is based on leaving out that 'extra' ingredient rather than putting it in," Feingold says. "I want people to taste the purity of each ingredient in every dish. Everything that I cook has got to be true to where it comes from."
Additionally, franny's is powered by renewable energy purchased from Con Edison Solutions (35 percent wind, 65 percent small hydroelectric), the cleaning and dishwashing products are eco-friendly, kitchen grease is converted into biofuel, and to-go containers are biodegradable. In June 2009, Feingold and Stephens opened Bklyn Larder, a specialty shop committed to selling hand-crafted cheeses, homemade foods and sustainably produced groceries from New York and around the world.
Ashley Quick, 35, executive chef
Jen Franzen, 35, chef de cuisine
Although the jet-set-friendly menu at Flyte World Dine & Wine is "world-inspired," diners at this acclaimed Nashville restaurant will be pleasantly surprised to find that the food itself — overseen by executive chef Ashley Quick and chef de cuisine Jen Franzen — is primarily fresh, organic, humanely raised and sourced seasonally from small, local producers.
Hailing from upstate New York, Franzen has been with Flyte from the beginning. Largely self-taught, she celebrates food that originates from her cultural heritage — Italian and German. The daughter of a vegetarian, she's also devoted to making sure Flyte offers serious, balanced vegetarian and vegan meals that aren't merely afterthoughts on a meat-centric menu. As a chef she strives to play a part in bringing more sustainable products to Nashville, and in continuing to build on the chef-farmer relationships that are essential for regional cooking.
Quick joined Franzen, pastry chef Erica Waksmunski and the rest of the team at Flyte in the summer of 2009 after working with chef Tyler Brown at Nashville's Capitol Grille and serving as executive chef at 360 Bistro. Quick, a Charlotte native who grew up cooking with his grandparents, apprenticed with the 2000 Culinary Olympic team, and further honed his skills at London's Fat Duck, Clio in Boston and Bouchon in California's Napa Valley. He brings to Flyte's kitchen a devotion to fresh, local food as well as the desire to promote the use of sustainable and seasonal food in Nashville.
Scott Gottlich, 34
Despite a career working alongside some of the world's top toques, chef Scott Gottlich credits his initial love of cooking to childhood dining experiences. He saw dining as an experience best spent with family and friends, whether enjoying his mother's home cooking or eating out at a restaurant. Growing up in this environment, Gottlich says it wasn't hard to decide food was his passion and that his life's work should be performed in the kitchen.
After graduating with a B.A in history from the University of Oklahoma in 1999, Gottlich enrolled in culinary school and received his associate's degree in culinary arts from Johnson and Wales in Vail, Colo. Upon graduation in 2000, Gottlich moved to Southern California and worked under chef Tim Goodell at Aubergine. On Goodell's original stage, the highest-rated restaurant in Southern California at the time, Gottlich spent two years fine-tuning his French cooking techniques and learning his mentor's art of creating a memorable tasting menu with fresh, unusual ingredients. Following his time in California, Gottlich moved to New York to work as a line cook under chef Eric Ripert at the acclaimed Le Bernardin. During his time under Ripert, Gottlich learned how to manage a large kitchen and saw firsthand how to delegate and orchestrate the workflow on a daily basis. Gottlich then returned to California, where Goodell entrusted him to run the Aubergine kitchen while he pursued other ventures.
After seeing how the best chefs of French cuisine operate, Gottlich returned to Dallas in 2003 to become the executive chef of Lola the Restaurant, where sales grew nearly 30 percent during his tenure. After doing some consulting work, he decided to pool all his experiences into his own restaurant, Bijoux, an upscale eatery where, although the menu is contemporary French, the ingredients used are Texan in origin whenever possible. In an effort to keep quality high and the cuisine fresh, Gottlich works with various local purveyors of everything from goat cheese to Texan quail.
Since its 2006 opening, Bijoux was named one of the "Top 10 Hottest New Restaurants in America" by Bon Appetit magazine, and has maintained a five-star rating by the Dallas Morning News. While Gottlich handles all day-to-day operations at Bijoux, he's also the managing partner and culinary director of the Second Floor Restaurant at the Dallas Galleria. He contributes to the world of culinary education by sitting on an advisory committee for Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas, and is also the recipient of a "Rising Star Chef" award given by StarChefs.com. With Bijoux and the Second Floor, Gottlich still cherishes his childhood love of cooking and dining, which still reign as his two favorite pastimes.
Scott Hemmerly, 32
Executive chef, NEO at the Mansion on Peachtree
The executive chef of NEO and head of catering for the Mansion on Peachtree, Scott Hemmerly offers more than a decade of experience in culinary arts. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he's passionate about supporting local agriculture and sustainability, and works closely with local vendors to obtain only the freshest ingredients available. Local farms he features on the menu include Dillwood Farms, Moore Farms and Friends, Sweetgrass Dairy and Walker Farms.
Prior to NEO, Hemmerly served as banquet chef and sous chef at the Buckhead Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, as sous chef at the Club at the Strand and as chef de partie at Lafitie, both in Naples, Fla. He has also worked in establishments such as Perona Farms and Dexter's Wine and Bistro. Hemmerly is a member of Georgia Organics and is involved in community events such as Les Dames d'Escoffier's "Afternoon in the Country" at Serenbe Farms. Hemmerly has been featured in Nation Restaurant News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and was named a rising culinary star by Atlanta Magazine.
Hemmerly's success at NEO has come from his farm-to-table menu, creatively selected and prepared, and his simple and elegant catered events for the Mansion. A signature event is the monthly evening of "NEO Unplugged," where guests are asked to "unplug" and turn in all cell phones and other electronic devices for the evening — letting them focus on their company and the food before them in a dining room lit solely by candles. A certified sommelier, Hemmerly's innovation and originality helped him join an elite group of award-winning Rosewood chefs, known for creating a unique dining experience in Rosewood Hotels & Resorts' restaurants around the world.
Maria Hines, 37
Winner of the 2009 James Beard Award for "Best Chef Northwest," Maria Hines has been turning heads and palates on the national culinary scene since she took the helm at Earth & Ocean in 2003. She was named one of Food & Wine's 10 "Best New Chefs" in 2005, and opened her own restaurant, Tilth, a year later. Tilth's New American cuisine is certified organic, and in 2008, the New York Times named it one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country.
Raised in Bowling Green, Ohio, Hines' interest in food began at an early age, with creativity and imagination driving her to seek out new and different ways to cook. After receiving her associate's degree in culinary arts, she pursued a variety of opportunities to learn more cooking styles and work with diverse ingredients. Her travels took her from California to New York to France to Seattle and then back to the East Coast, before she finally returned to one of her favorite places on Earth — the Pacific Northwest.
With a longstanding commitment to preparing New American cuisine using seasonal and organic products from around the Pacific Northwest, Hines' commitment and passion has led her to receive numerous awards and accolades for cooking. She now brings her true passion to life at Tilth, which in September 2006 became just the second restaurant in the United States to receive organic certification from Oregon Tilth, after Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., did so in 1999.
James Holmes, 39
Executive chef/owner, Olivia
Despite a résumé full of experiences with top chefs, renowned restaurants and a stint in Strasbourg, France, James Holmes credits his culinary inspiration to "fork marks." His first memory is making such marks with his mother on peanut-butter cookies, a memory that also made a mark on him: "Mom was my first inspiration," he says, "and is still very important to me today." Holmes now draws inspiration from throughout his long memory to cook high-quality cuisine and offer a memorable experience for diners at his first restaurant, Olivia.
A fifth-generation Texan, Holmes grew up with a father and grandfather working in the oil fields, and says he was raised with a work ethic available only in West Texas. He left Texas to attend college but didn't stray far, and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1991. Always thinking back to his mother's fork marks, he took off to New York to attend the Institute of Culinary Education, where chefs such as Julia Child, Jacques Pépin and James Beard were frequent guest instructors.
Holmes began his career working at Joseph's Table in Taos, N.M., where executive chef Joseph Wrede was named one of Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" in 2000. To this day, Holmes credits Wrede as an inspiration and the one who turned him on to cooking as an art form. Holmes later returned to New York, where he worked at Tom Colicchio's Craft and Terrance Brennan's Picholine before relocating to Strasbourg and working at La Panier du Marche. Embracing the life of a French chef, he biked to work in the mornings and hit the markets with the restaurant's head chef, searching for the best produce, meats and cheeses for that night's menu — a practice he still uses today at Olivia.
Holmes eventually returned to Texas and opened Rose-Hill Manor in Fredericksburg. He then settled in Austin and worked for the Texas Culinary Academy, serving as the nighttime chef instructor for Ventana Restaurant. Next, he helped open the South Lamar location of Austin favorite the Alamo Drafthouse, before switching to catering for various Austin music venues. He often cooks for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where he has pleased the palates of Willie Nelson and his crew.
Now, with Olivia named one of the "Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America" by Bon Appetit, Holmes has harmonized all his culinary teachings and experiences into one place. Drawing inspiration not only from his own passion but also from everyone in his kitchen, he keeps a busy daily routine of writing menus, tending to the restaurant's garden, managing his staff of 30 and running the line every night.
Trevett Hooper, 34
Sarah Hooper, 33
"Legume is a learn-as-we-go kind of place," says chef Trevett Hooper of the restaurant he runs with his wife, Sarah. While the Pittsburgh-based chef has been cooking in other chefs' kitchens for years, he and Sarah started Legume with very little knowledge about how to run a restaurant.
Trevett doesn't have formal training as a chef, but has spent more than a decade learning the craft on the job. He began cooking professionally to make money for college at Ohio's Oberlin College, and managed to gain enough experience to talk his way into the kitchens of several inspired chefs in Pittsburgh, Boston and San Diego. Trevett and Sarah both studied (but didn't major in) sustainable agriculture at Oberlin. Trevett says his exposure to writers such as Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson was as influential in his day-to-day decision-making at Legume as all his professional restaurant training.
"At Legume, we write the menu each day, and we taste new things all the time," Trevett says. "They're not always perfect, but we try to use whatever we can get that is best and create delicious things. ... We have found amazing food in the western Pennsylvania area — a tiny farm in the city run by two passionate farmer-nurses; a more conventional farm with the best apples we've ever had; excellent, humanely raised lamb an hour away; and many interesting people trying to make a living by raising food in a sensible way. What they do informs our food greatly."
In 2009, Legume stopped using factory-farmed beef and pork because of the environmental and social impacts involved. It now gets all of its chicken, lamb and goat from family farmers in western Pennsylvania, while 20 percent of its beef and 40 percent of its pork is from local farms; the rest comes from Niman Ranch. Trevett's goal for 2010 is to transition to using even more quality local beef and pork at Legume, though there are many logistical challenges in getting meat from the farms to restaurants in western Pennsylvania.
Trevett strives to keep the menu at Legume comforting and nourishing — not "fussy" — with constant experimentation and inspiration gleaned from his surroundings. Keeping the food democratically priced is important, too. "While our goal is to cook food grown by people we know as much as possible, we are still dependent on many conventional sources of food, especially in the winter," he says. "As our network of small farmers and artisans grows each year, we are gradually becoming more independent from industrialized sources of agriculture. It is a work in progress, always evolving, and it is great fun to be part of the transition here in Pittsburgh."