The San Francisco Chronicle has released its annual list of Rising Star Chefs and it’s an exciting group of young talent that reaffirms the city’s growing reputation as one of the culinary hubs in the US.
With a forward by the SF’s restaurant critic Soliel Ho, this year the publication claims that the Rising Star Chefs are ones that ‘changed our minds’. That is changed assumptions about Thai food, barbeque and California cuisine.
As in previous years, the list is comprised of chefs with five years or fewer of top-of-the-chain management. While they may not be on the traditional trajectory to the top of the tree in fine dining many of them are forging their own paths in an industry that has experienced real disruption of late.
However they are choosing to make their mark in the service industry, these young chefs are ones to keep an eye on and great things are expected of them.
Megan Clarke, Nari
Megan Clarke is chef de cuisine at Nari, in Japantown, a restaurant owned by Thai chef Pim Techamuanvivit of Bangkok institution Nahm. Clarke has an eclectic background with previous experience with Mediterranean, Californian and Italian food. Thai food, however, has her full attention right now. “I bore easily,” she tells the SF Chronicle. “But Thai food is a rabbit hole: Every time I think I have a grasp on what Thai food is as a whole, I learn about a new region that does things very differently. I’m still as infatuated as when I first started eating it.”
Vincent Medina & Louis Trevino, Cafe Ohlone
Medina and Trevino serve California cuisine in their year-old pop-up Café Ohlone to wide acclaim. With a strong respect for native ingredients and native culture, they work as hard at developing a community around their restaurant and preserving native Olhone traditions as they do in serving great food. Relaying on a four-day week structure their restaurant serves the likes of acorn breads, foraged salads and smoked mushrooms served in the back of a bookstore in Berkeley and educate diners on the proud history of the Ohlone people.
“What we’re trying to do is educate people by showing how much we love and respect our culture — and showing that unabashedly,” Medina says. “There’s more to this story than what they’re being told. It’s the first culture of this place, and a testament to our strength.”
Laura & Sayat Ozyilmaz, Noosh
The husband and wife team behind Noosh have between them an impressive CV with stints at Café Boulud, Eleven Madison Park, Mugaritz, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Le Bernardin, Husk and Pujol. Making a name for themselves with a pop-up called Istanbul Modern the pair now run a restaurant that is a model for the future with vegetable-centric menu, Georgian wine list, online ordering and delivery to boot.
Joyce Conway & Mel Lopez, Pearl 6101
Two friends Lopez and Conway’s personality is all over this small yet perfectly formed Outer Richmond restaurant. A small crew of dedicated staff work multiple roles in the restaurant to turn out exciting, innovative and familiar cuisine that keeps locals coming back and foodies crossing town to try.
Matt Horn, Horn Barbecue
Horn’s hugely popular Bay Area barbecue will shortly have a bricks and mortar home in Oakland where devotees of the California’s smoke and fire, Texas-influenced cuisine can dine for years to come.
“This is a new chapter and it’s something I’ve always wanted,” Horn says. “There’s history in the space, there’s history in the area because it’s where I had my start at one point. It all just makes sense.”