Todd Hudson, 27
Chef/owner, Wildflower Cafe and Coffee House
Chef Todd Hudson and his wife are both from Fairfield, Ohio, and Hudson says only his tenure working in restaurant kitchens (12 years) rivals the length of time he's been with his wife (13 years). Hudson, who has a business degree from the University of Miami-Ohio, served as chef and general manager at Cincinnati's Glendale Pub before opening his current restaurant. While there, he moved from line cook to executive chef to GM, and finally to managing partner. He oversaw more than 50 employees and doubled sales in 10 months, all at the tender age of 22.
Hudson opened the Wildflower Cafe and Coffee House in 2008. After a year of remodeling a 101-year-old farmhouse and a year of business, the Wildflower introduced Hudson as a "local" chef of great notice. It was the first restaurant to go all-in with the local and organic aspect in southwestern Ohio, and remains one of the few in Ohio. Hudson and the Wildflower were featured in more than 37 media insertions in 2009, outlets ranging from Cincinnati magazine to the local evening news. Hudson is also a member of the Chefs Collaborative and speaks monthly at many different events. He does demonstrations around Cincinnati and has fed many people, from the governor of Ohio (in his first few weeks of business) to the folks at local farmers markets.
At Wildflower Cafe, diners will find an absolute commitment to sustainability in every aspect. Hudson purchased most of the silverware, shelves and equipment from other restaurants that had closed, while paper products are from recycled sources and are composted or recycled after their use. Hudson recycles or composts 70 percent of his waste at a local facility, and uses much of the rest as compost for the restaurant's garden and landscaping. He can often be found in the fields of local farms from which he buys food, and says that for him, "local" means about 15 minutes from his restaurant, although he supports local purchasing in all its guises. Of his food, almost every item on the menu is either local or organic, and often both. Hudson makes everything from fresh and from scratch, doesn't use a freezer and performs his magic from a 100-square-foot kitchen, which he designed and built himself.
Randal Jacobs, 36
Executive chef, Elate
A native of Baltimore, Randal Jacobs grew up in a large family that often gathered over big communal meals. That feeling of nourishment — not just eating, but the sense of community — is what led him to the restaurant industry. "Even before I started working in restaurants, I had always gravitated toward the hospitality industry," he says. "Kitchens have always felt right." In the decade-plus since he first took a kitchen job, Jacobs has worked in professional kitchens across the country, and brings a diverse culinary background to Elate, a farm-driven restaurant adjacent to Chicago's first LEED-certified hotel, the Hotel Felix.
Working as a cook was initially a means of support for Jacobs while attending Northern Arizona University, but once he realized that working as a chef was his calling, he invested in his passion by seeking out culinary mentors. He worked closely with James Beard nominee James Boyce, both at Mary Elaine's and Studio Restaurant, who taught him what it takes to be a chef, including exposing him to the business side of running a kitchen. In Chicago — where he relocated after experiencing the city's renowned culinary scene — Jacobs worked at de la Costa under Douglas Rodriguez, who helped him hone his culinary skills, and at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he developed his management style. While at de la Costa, Jacobs met Anthony Fiore, and the two began collaborating on Elate.
Jacobs' approach as executive chef of Elate ("get back to simple cooking; let the good qualities of food speak for themselves") and his seasonally driven menu is rooted in market-fare American cuisine. Jacobs says he strives to continue his learning process, traveling when he can and seeking out new ingredients and techniques to implement into his menu at Elate. A perfect example came in 2008, when Jacobs had the chance to cook at the Beijing Olympics; his opening menu featured the appetizer "hibachi chicken wings, Beijing-style." It's his thirst for knowledge and passion to grow as a chef that keeps him challenged, Jacobs says, and keeps his menu interesting and evolving.
Kate Jennings, 31
Matt Jennings, 33
Chefs/owners, Farmstead, La Laiterie at Farmstead, Farmstead Downcity
Matt and Kate Jennings fell in love over stinky cheese and cured meats. Originally introduced during the time they shared in 1999 at Formaggio Kitchen, in Cambridge, Mass. — where Kate was working as the catering manager and Matt as the cheese buyer — the couple has a history of food appreciation and professional culinary accomplishment that far surpasses their years.
Matt attended the New England Culinary Institute, receiving both his associate's degree in culinary arts, as well as his bachelor's degree in food-service management. Since then, he has worked as chef for more than 12 years from the East to West Coast, and has traveled extensively throughout Italy, France and the U.K., working with cheesemakers and affineurs, in appreciation for his true passion for artisan cheeses, and honing his skill as a professional cheesemonger and affineur.
Kate attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley to receive her degree in baking and pastry arts in 2001. During this time, the couple both lived in Napa and immersed themselves in the culture of California farm cuisine, gaining a broader appreciation for sourcing locally and cooking what they call "honest, seasonal, handmade food."
Upon a return to New England in 2003, Matt and Kate opened Farmstead — their urban artisan cheese showcase in Providence, R.I., a city already thriving on a strong local arts, music and food scene. The flagship location boasts more than 100 artisan cheeses, specialty and house-cured meats, salumi and pantry essentials including rare honeys, vinegars, olive oils, pastas, condiments and more. In 2006, Farmstead's walls came down as it expanded into the space next door to create its 'French-inspired, New England bistro' — La Laiterie at Farmstead — to address customers' requests to nibble some of Farmstead's cheeses along with a glass of boutique wine or craft beer. La Laiterie's concept grew and soon offered a full bistro-inspired menu, focusing on local relationships with area growers, locally sourced meats and fish, and a desire to have ingredient-focused cuisine.
2008 saw the opening of the Jennings' second location "Farmstead Downcity," in the Downcity shopping district in downtown Providence. This up-and-coming area of the city was the perfect spot to offer a unique and inspiring, yet scaled-down version of their flagship location. Farmstead Downcity offers a small, handcrafted menu of artisan sandwiches and gourmet prepared foods to go, including Kate's house-baked goods.
Farmstead and La Laiterie have been recognized by local and national publications alike, including Rhode Island Monthly, Yankee, Saveur, Travel & Leisure, Bon Appetit, Food Arts, and Food & Wine. Matt and Kate have both made appearances on PBS cooking shows as well as numerous culinary festivals across the country, and are proud members of organizations such as Share Our Strength, Chef's Collaborative, Oldways Preservations & Trust and Slow Food USA.
Angela Karegeannes, 32
Chef/owner, A Fork Full of Earth
San Rafael, Calif.
"I always thought everyone was obsessed with food," says chef Angela Karegeannes. "It wasn't until college that I learned it wasn't normal for a 10-year-old to want to walk around a produce market and just stare."
Karegeannes is owner and head chef at A Fork Full of Earth Organic Catering, a Marin County, Calif.-based business whose staff is passionate about creating wholesome dishes using products that are sustainably produced and mindfully cultivated. "Our passion for sustainability really stems from our desire to sustain humans," Karegeannes adds, "to inspire them to investigate what their own bodies truly need to thrive."
At 22, after earning her degree in human biology from Colorado College. Karegeannes began her career as a chef at the Esalen Institute, cooking directly from the farm and garden. Since leaving in 2005, she has worked closely with many Marin and Sonoma farming communities in pursuit of understanding the traditions embedded in sustainable farming, and says her academic as well as professional endeavors have taught her that inspiring someone to eat well can dramatically change his or her quality of life. More and more convinced that catering offers a unique forum for education, Karegeannes decided not to go the restaurant route and became an enthusiastic advocate for the sustainable agriculture movement.
In 2007, in addition to creating farm-fresh, "wine-country rustic" menus for her events, Karegeannes began producing "educatering" events that combine the pleasure of eating local food with an opportunity to learn about the dish's healing components. Guests at these events also receive literature about how making sustainable choices is an important lifelong opportunity, not just a fleeting trend.
As an intern at the WorldLink Foundation, Karegeannes is currently working on the Nourish Initiative, a national project whose goal is to use high-quality media, the Internet and school curricula to encourage conversations about where our food comes from. Karegeannes also works as a staff member at Ecological Farming Association, where she co-produces the annual Eco-Farm Conference. Farmers and advocates convene annually to discuss issues current to environmental advocacy.
"The food at Fork Full focuses on the alchemy of the eating experience," Karegeannes says. "Our cuisine seeks to honor the hard work of the farmer on every plate. We invite people to relax and enjoy the process of eating, which has recently been proven to have profound effects on health. If our bodies could talk, they'd say it's better to truly enjoy a piece of cheesecake rather than settling on a tofu stir fry that doesn't interest them. The legacy of dining in our country is built on simple, wholesome foundations that are vastly undervalued in our current culture."
David Katz, 33
At 33 years old, David Katz has been cooking for 19 years and is still in pursuit of perfection. Perfection may remain elusive, but the will to try is what makes him so passionate. At Mémé Restaurant in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, Katz and his crew are always trying to gather as much local produce as is available. "Quality ingredients at the most reasonable price is what customers will come back for," he says.
Being in the Northeast part of the country makes sustainability somewhat challenging during certain months, but Mémé tries. The food is New American with a major focus on being rustic and not too fancy. The menu is usually a little meat-heavy, especially in the winter months. With solid cherry wood tabletops and mustard colored walls, Mémé, named for Katz's grandmother, exudes a very personal, welcoming vibe. "No frills, just good food and wine delivered with a smile" is Katz's goal for Mémé's dining experience. Food doesn't get invented at Mémé, just good ingredients with simple flavors that work.
Lauren Kiino, 37
Chef/partner, Cane Russo, chef/owner Bracina
San Francisco/Oakland, Calif.
Chef Lauren Kiino was born in California and raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., where her mom gave Kiino and her sister an early appreciation of eating and cooking. After attending Amherst College and graduating in 1994 with a BA in geology, Kiino worked in Chicago and Boston as an environmental geologist, but she dreamed of cooking for a living. She received her first culinary break in 1997, when she went to work at Chris Schlesinger's East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Mass., first as an unpaid "volunteer," and eventually as a paid line cook. Once she started cooking, she knew she had found her true calling.
Kiino relocated to San Francisco in 1998, where she quickly found a job at LuLu. In 1999, she moved to Delfina, where, under chef Craig Stoll's guidance, she fell in love with Italian cuisine. She worked her way up to chef de cuisine and added a rustic and market-driven sensibility to her food. While at Delfina, Kiino staged at Da Delfina and Da Caino, both Michelin-starred restaurants in Tuscany. After leaving Delfina at the end of 2007, she staged at Boulette's Larder, Rubicon, Coi and the French Laundry. Working at these restaurants, with their diverse and distinctive approaches to food, helped Kiino further develop her technique and personal cooking style.
In July of 2009, Kiino and her business partner Daniel Patterson opened Cane Rosso, a casual Italian-inspired rotisserie and sandwich shop in San Francisco's historic Ferry Building. Her cooking embodies the Northern California culinary style. She has a strong affinity for cooking over a live fire, which she first came to appreciate at the East Coast Grill. Her food allows the clean, bright flavors of the ingredients to shine and is informed by European and American culinary traditions.
Kiino's latest venture with Patterson, Bracina, (Latin for "restaurant") will open in the coming months on the ground floor of the new Jack London Market in Oakland, Calif., with Kiino serving as executive chef. She takes a casual approach to fine dining, with moderate prices and a menu that reflects a Northern California sensibility, highlighting the best local and seasonal ingredients. The cuisine has broad influences, as Kiino doesn't want to be restrained by any particular culinary tradition. Her menu features dishes like pickled herring, grilled calf's liver with bacon and sage, and endive salad with Asian pear, Point Reyes Blue cheese and buttermilk dressing.
Jason Knibb, 39
Executive Chef, NINE-TEN
La Jolla, Calif.
Jason Knibb joined the staff of NINE-TEN Restaurant in La Jolla, Calif., in September 2003. Knibb was formerly with Robert Redford's Sundance Village, where he served as executive chef for all food and beverage operations located on the resort property, including the Foundry Grill and the renowned Tree Room restaurant.
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and raised in Southern California, Knibb has trained under some of this country's most celebrated chefs. He began his career working with Wolfgang Puck at L.A.'s Eureka. He then assisted Roy Yamaguchi with the opening of Roy's Kahana Bar & Grill in Maui. After returning to California, he accepted the position of chef tournant under Hans Rockenwagner at Rockenwagner's in Santa Monica and Rox restaurant in Beverly Hills. Venturing north, Knibb took over as sous chef at the San Francisco eatery, Moose's Café. He left San Francisco to oversee the opening of Malibu in Warsaw, Poland, where he trained the restaurant's kitchen staff and created its California Cuisine menus. Knibb returned to the States in 1996 to become sous chef at Joe's Restaurant in Venice, Calif. Following a successful two-year endeavor at Joe's, he moved to Sundance, Utah, in 1998 to work under La Jolla's own Trey Foshee at the Tree Room. Knibb took over as the resort's executive chef upon Foshee's departure.
"Each of my mentors has a simple common philosophy about cooking," Knibb says. "They create regional cuisine using the freshest local products available. This is perfectly in synch with NINE-TEN's 'earth-to-table' approach."
A recognized name in culinary circles across the country, Knibb has amassed many awards and accolades for his style and cuisine, including the following: 2010 "Rising Star Chef" by StarChefs.com, 2009 San Diego Chef Hall of Fame inductee, 2009 Zagat Survey food score of 26 ("extraordinary to perfection"), 2009 "Editor's Choice for Best American Restaurant" by San Diego Magazine, and a 2009 "Silver Fork Award" by San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine, to name a few. He has also been featured in Food & Wine and has appeared as a guest chef at the James Beard House and on Food Network's "Cooking Live with Sara Moulton," and he was a featured chef on Bobby Flay's "Food Nation: Best of Utah" program.
Jill McClennen, 31
Stephen Wilson, 28
Pastry chef/general manager/owners, The Sweet Life Bakery
Jill McClennen and Stephen Wilson met at the Culinary Institute of America and have been inseparable ever since. After graduating they moved to San Francisco, where they lived and worked for three years. The culture of seasonality and farm-to-fork in the Bay Area had a strong influence on their culinary philosophies, but they had the itch to move back to McClennen's hometown in southern New Jersey to open a small-town bakery with big-city quality and service.
After marrying in Berkeley and taking a backpacking honeymoon through Europe for six months, they moved to Vineland, N.J., to start the Sweet Life Bakery in September 2007. The two have enjoyed making the bakery a destination in downtown Vineland by serving wholesome seasonal pastries that feature fruits and vegetables from local farms, as well as organic coffee and espresso from a local roaster. Local eggs and honey are also used in the production of their baked goods.
McClennen and Wilson also try to reduce their environmental impact in more modest ways, such as by composting food waste, using LED lights, printing menus on 100 percent recycled paper and recycling milk jugs, cans and cardboard. Leftover foods are either eaten or donated to the local fire hall or soup kitchen. Wilson also heads up a group that focuses on environmental improvements to Vineland revitalization efforts, and his group has gotten grants to install benches and bike racks made from recycled materials, as well as a downtown "eco-walk."
Since opening, the Sweet Life Bakery was given the "Success Award 2009" by the New Jersey Small Business Development Center and was named by SJ Magazine as having the best muffins (2008) and best chocolate chip cookies (2009) in south Jersey. Edible Jersey also named the Sweet Life Bakery as a "special place to get the dessert of your dreams."