Greater Los Angeles is looking good in this year’s Eater Young Guns semifinalist list, netting some six nominations from the round-up released today. There are 50 semifinalists in total, spanning jobs and cultures across the country, making this one of the most robust under-30 Young Guns lists in a very long time. Let’s see who made the cut:
Francesco Allegro, 29, is the sfoligno at Los Angeles stunner Rossoblu, where he uses just a rolling pin to make pasta for 300 covers a night. Born and raised in Canosa di Puglia, he hopes to turn to ancient grains “to introduce new pasta consistencies and flavor combinations for pasta to the city of Los Angeles.”
Sumi Ali, 27, roasts coffee at Yes Plz, where he is a co-founder. He’s translated his long history of coffee jobs — from Atlanta to Los Angeles and from barista to consultant — into the direct-to-consumer company that hopes to “push the culinary limits of coffee roasting” and bring the best coffee available into people’s homes. In Yes Plz’s first iteration, the company sold $1 cups of coffee at Roy Choi’s socially conscious restaurant Locol. Now, with the new subscription model, Ali and co-founder Tony Konecny hope to break down the exclusionary barrier of entry to good coffee. As Ali puts it: “I hope we can start to close the gap between the hyper-niche coffee stuff that often turns people off and the second-rate coffee that’s still in most people’s homes.”
Nico de Leon, 29, hustles. Before LASA opened, he was working in San Francisco and driving down to LA every weekend for the restaurant’s Sunday night pop-ups. Now, he’s moved to Los Angeles full-time and is the sous chef at the Filipino restaurant, where he helps with recipe, dish, and culture development and is eager to connect to his roots, represent his community, and expose Filipino food to the masses.
Joseph Johnson, 29, is the chef de cuisine at Charcoal Venice. After culinary school, he took a job at Josiah Citrin’s Santa Monica restaurant Mélisse as garde manger, and was soon promoted to sous chef. When Citrin opened Charcoal Venice at the end of 2015, Johnson was promoted into a new role there, and he now helms a kitchen centered around live-fire cooking. It’s not just meat, either — “the best dish in the restaurant may be the wedge cut from a whole cabbage roasted on the coals, outside leaves burnt and crumbling, inside steamy and sweet,” LA critic Jonathan Gold writes in a review. “The cabbage is served with tart yogurt and sumac, but the overall effect still manages to be more Mitteleuropa than Middle East, its char and wine-like complexity alluding to something like a Romani campfire dish best enjoyed in the bitter cold.”
Christine Larroucau, 28, is general manager of Majordomo, one of the country’s biggest openings of the year. Eater LA editor Farley Elliott calls her a “front of house wizard,” saying, “It’s the hardest table to get in Los Angeles at the moment, and she oversees it all.” Prior to joining the Momofuku team in 2017, she was the general manager of Pizzeria Mozza.
Jordan Thomas, 29, is the pastry chef for McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, which means she’s in charge of the non-ice cream sweets. For the company’s scoop shops and for the pints of ice cream they sell across the country, she makes cookies, churros, pies, all toppings, sauces, and more. She thinks a lot about how to make flavors work when people think they can’t be done, and how to scale up innovative, high-quality ice cream to a nationwide scale.
This year’s judging committee is also packed with powerhouse names, including Marcus Samuelsson, Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, Nyesha Arrington, and Nina Compton. Winners will be announced in late June.