After briefly switching up the format last year and bestowing the annual Rising Star accolades on five pastry chefs, the Chronicle has returned a 2016 lineup that is a little more diverse by any measure.
"More than ever," the Chron's Paolo Lucchesi writes, "dining in 2016 is an event." So, naturally, the six winners are all about putting on a show — even if that show is just slicing fish, in the case of Ju-ni's Geoffrey Lee (coincidentally also the first sushi chef to get a Chron Rising Star) or "understanding how simple cooking can find a stage," in the case of Mister Jiu's Sara Hauman, who also made Eater's Young Guns list last year.
This year's six Rising Stars:
- Val Cantu, Californios
- Sara Hauman, Mister Jiu's
- Geoffrey Lee, Ju-ni
- Laura Meyer, Tony's
- Ryan Pollnow, Aatxe
- Pierre Tumlin, Hog & Rocks
- Val Cantu originally wanted to be a lawyer but bailed when he "saw a bunch of people who were really unhappy." Instead of signing his life away to a law firm, Cantu moved to the Bay Area and emailed his resume to the French Laundry every day for a month. He didn't make Keller's team, but he did eventually land a stage at Benu.
- Although she's still on the James Beard shortlist for Huxley and just took the opening chef position with Brandon Jew's forthcoming Mister Jiu's, Sara Hauman already has her next project in the works: a wood-fired Basque-inspired partnership with "a high-profile restaurateur" in the Mission. (Bonus: here's the recipe for Hauman's excellent Uni Avocado Toast.)
- Geoffrey Lee left a computer engineering program to embrace the sushi chef's life after making Dragon Rolls for his Cal Poly frat brothers at Tsurugis in San Luis Obispo.
- Laura Meyer started working with pizza legend Tony Gemignani at his shop in Castro Valley when she was just 16 years old. She's now the head chef of Tony's flagship in North Beach, "the first American woman to win an Italian pizza making competition," and an instructor at Tony's pizza school. (Bonus recipe: Meyer's spicy braised lamb pie.)
- The spirit of Aatxe came to Pollnow early in his career while he was working for Mugaritz in San Sebastian, but actually dining at the "dirt-cheap, deeply casual tapas bars" around town.
- Pierre Tumlin was a star athlete who was recruited to play college football, but his love for Jacques Pepin and cooking shows drove him to culinary school in San Francisco instead of the sporting life.