Every year, Eater seeks out talented up-and-comers in the restaurant industry from all across the country and names a select group the Young Guns. To be considered, the chefs, restaurateurs, bartenders, sommeliers, and other contenders must be under the age of 30 or have less than five years of experience in the bar and restaurant world.
For 2018, Eater editors combed through thousands of reader-submitted entries for more than 600 nominees and worked with a committee of esteemed industry veterans and local city editors to narrow the field down to 54 semifinalists and, now, 18 winners. Among those winners: Nite Yun, chef and owner of Cambodian restaurant Nyum Bai in Oakland.
Yun, 35, didn’t get her start in the restaurant industry until four years ago. After dropping out of nursing school, Yun, who was raised in Stockton, California, traveled to Cambodia to learn more about her culture and how her parents escaped from the country — she was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1982 and moved to the U.S. two years later.
Back in Oakland, Yun worked with food-business incubator La Cocina and cooked from a kiosk in the Emeryville Public Market before opening her first standalone restaurant in the Fruitvale neighborhood earlier this year.
“I hope that this is a space where first- and second-generation Cambodians can come and reconnect with their heritage and country,” Yun told writer and novelist Rachel Khong for her Eater Young Guns profile:
Yun realized that nursing wasn’t her true calling, but wasn’t sure what was. In San Francisco, she loved walking around the city — namely, to eat. “I could walk into any neighborhood and go to any dumpling stop, any barbecue place,” she remembers. “There are so many different types of food.” And yet, the food she’d eaten growing up wasn’t as readily available. “That’s when I came to the realization, Oh my gosh, there are no good Cambodian restaurants. I was craving my mom’s cooking, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.”
Read about all the 2018 Eater Young Guns winners here.