Published May 31, 2018
Every year, Eater kicks off a quest to recognize and honor the best new talent in the restaurant industry. Eater Young Guns highlights front- and back-of-house rising stars who are early in their careers but already exhibit the drive, ambition, thought, and care necessary to take on the restaurant world. The criteria is simple: Young Guns must be under 30 or have less than five years of experience in the industry. They all work hard and excel in their field, have gained deep respect from their peers, and hope to change the restaurant world for the better.
Narrowing the nominees to a list of 50 semifinalists is never an easy task: In 2018, Eater received 2,054 entries for 623 nominees across the United States. One hundred and forty head chefs received nominations, 36 came in for general managers, and 16 went to sommeliers. A “secretary of carrots” and a “head alchemist” each received a nomination; nine nominations were submitted by someone’s boss, and 22 referred to a nominee as “a boss.”
Once nominations closed, we pored over submissions and reached out to the nominees themselves to learn more about how they see their careers and their place in the restaurant industry. From all across the country, Eater editors, past Young Guns winners, and a stellar judging committee of industry leaders provided insight into their communities and these nominations. Eventually, the list was whittled to 50 semifinalists (54 total, including four teams of two), and next month 2018’s Eater Young Guns will be announced.
These 50 semifinalists represent the best of the restaurant world. They are leaders and trailblazers who are running strong kitchens; crafting excellent, innovative bar menus; and cultivating the impeccable dining experiences out there — and they’re doing it with a focus on culture, community, and mentorship. They will continue to push to make themselves, their businesses, and the restaurant world better. They are names you are going to want to know, so please join us in congratulating them.
Becca Hegarty, 28, is the chef-owner of Pittsburgh’s Bitter Ends Garden Luncheonette, a 10-seat breakfast and lunch counter that serves the vegetables they cultivate on an acre of land and which she opened for under $20,000 in late 2017. “We’re a farm with a lunch counter,” Hegarty says; the two-time semifinalist for the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award wakes up at 3 a.m. to shape baguettes and cut doughnuts, which she later tops with inventive finishes, like bronze fennel and mint oat dust. As Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer (and former Eater editor) Melissa McCart says, Becca “pairs her pastry chef skill and her passion for farming esoteric vegetables (chicories, rutabaga) on the menu for her quirky new restaurant she opened in the fall.”