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Meet LA’s Two Eater Young Guns 2019 Winners

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Max Boonthanakit from Nightshade and Kae Whalen from Kismet

Max Boonthanakit, Nightshade
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

This year’s crop of Eater Young Guns winners for 2019 is possibly better than ever before. At the very least these 12 national winners represent the best in what’s happening right now across America, from comfort dishes in Brooklyn and seafood in Portland to high-minded desserts and thoughtful natural wines in Los Angeles.

Locally, Eater has awarded two winners from the ’19 crowd, Max Boonthanakit of Nightshade and Kae Whalen of Kismet.

Max Boonthanakit, 27, is the chef de cuisine of fellow Eater Young Gun (‘14) Mei Lin’s lauded Arts District restaurant Nightshade, but his shining star moment doesn’t really hit the table until dessert. Boonthanakit’s beautifully-structured sweet courses are a master class in surprise flavors and elegant designs, and the restaurant has attracted a following for his tropically-tinged desserts alone. Boonthanakit plans to eventually open his own restaurant, but for now look for those striking desserts at Nightshade and, soon, his own grocery store line of Boon Sauces.

Kae Whalen, Kismet

Kae Whalen, 27, is the sort of rising star in the natural wine world that has the ability to open up the scene for many, many others. They often appear on Kismet’s busy Instagram feed to demystify the restaurant’s sometimes offbeat offerings, talking through producers, growing processes, and tasting notes with a glass in hand and a smile. Whalen can usually be found working the floor as well, spreading that same passion and attention to detail to every table they touch. With a restaurant as popular as Kismet, that’s a lot of time spent spreading the natural wine gospel, one tasting note at a time.

Be sure to check out all 12 Eater Young Guns winners for 2019 here, and congrats to local winners Max Boonthanakit and Kae Whalen.