It's time again for the Chronicle's own list of Rising Stars in the Bay Area culinary scene, a list which often presages bigger national honors like James Beard Awards, and Food & Wine's annual Best New Chef list. This year's list, published today in the Chronicle, includes six chefs, and knowing that he's faced criticism in the past when the list has been all-male and heavily white, Michael Bauer looks to have turned over the task to others in the food department, including Paolo Lucchesi and Jonathan Kauffman. This year's list is successfully diverse, including two female chefs even though one is technically not working in a currently open restaurant.
From left to right in the above photo: Geoffrey Lee of Ju-Ni, Val Cantu of Californios, Laura Meyer of Tony's Pizza Napoletana, Pierre Tumlin of Hog & Rocks, Ryan Pollnow of Aatxe, and Sara Hauman of the upcoming Mister Jiu's, formerly of Huxley.
Says second-generation SF native Lee about opening Ju-Ni, his first solo sushi restaurant which just opened in February and, notably, hasn't gotten a full Chronicle review yet from Bauer "I believe thoroughly that I know what I’m doing. And I’m really, really excited to open in my hometown." Lee trained at Tsurugis in San Luis Obispo and at Sushi Ran in Sausalito.
The paper notes that Meyer has been serving as head chef at Tony's in recent years, after working for Tony Gemignani for the last 11 years, starting when she was 16 at his Castro Valley pizzeria, and now running the show as Gemiganani spends more time traveling the world participating in competitions, etc.
Tumlin, meanwhile, has only been running the kitchen at Hog & Rocks since December, but is introducing some haute elements to the menu, like a Bolognese made with sweetbreads and served with horseradish breadcrumbs; and an asparagus salad with avocado-tofu purée.
Cantu, who got his first cooking job in Texas and who's family owns a Mexican restaurant there, has been widely praised for his subtly Mexican-influenced take on a tasting menu experience. Pollnow has also won plenty of praise since the opening of tapas-focused Aatxe last year, including mentions in Bon Appetit and elsewhere. And Hauman, while she's left the post that got her first noticed at the tiny Tenderloin spot Huxley, nonetheless made it on the James Beard Award semifinalist list this year for Rising Star likely due to Michael Bauer's own cheerleading.
Now, Mr. Bauer is in the home stretch of revising his annual Top 100, which we can expect to appear in the paper in about a month.