Tastemaker Awards '05
Produced by Kate Krader. Written by Ratha Tep, Jen Murphy, Rob Willey, Anna McDonald, Chris Quinlan, Ann Pepi, Kristin Donnelly, Emily White, Fredrick Bensch and Kevin McNerney
A Panama La Torcaza bean roasts in 15.1 minutes, but a Guatemala La Flor Del Café won't reach perfection until 15.4. It's this kind of precision that Craig Min is fanatical about. At 19, Min skipped college to revamp his father's bankrupt coffee business—La Mill in Alhambra, California. Now 27, Min scours the globe to source worthy beans from 16 countries. Batches are slow-roasted in state-of-the-art German machines on low heat, producing coffees like his bold Black Velvet, a full-bodied brew with deep chocolate tones, and his best-selling blend Royal Supreme. Within a year La Mill will open a store in L.A. "Everybody is so focused on where their chicken or tomatoes come from," Min says. "That mentality needs to apply to every part of the meal, including the coffee" (lamillcoffee.com).
Fredrick Bensch and Kevin McNerney
SweetWater's founders, Frederick Bensch and Kevin McNerney, both 34, brought microbrew to Atlanta in 1997 and, without a single ad, quickly became the Southeast's second-largest craft-brewers. The two met in 1991 at college in Boulder, Colorado, where they spent a lot of time washing kegs at the Boulder Brewing Company in exchange for beer. They split up to study beer making (working at eight West Coast breweries between them), then moved to Georgia and began producing signature blends like blueberry-infused ale Blue and chocolaty porter Exodus. SweetWater recently expanded capacity more than 25 percent to 25,000 barrels. Bensch says their distribution strategy is simple: "We keep it local—plus the towns where we like to go fishing."
ICE CREAM ARTIST
A lot of chefs preach the gospel of local ingredients. Jeni Britton, 32, is bringing the word to Columbus, Ohio, through (of all things) ice cream. At her three-year-old shop, Jeni's Ice Creams, Britton creates vibrant flavors like sweet summer corn with blackberry and, for fall, Ohio black walnut. And Britton has become the local chef-chair of Chefs Collaborative, an organization that brings chefs and farmers together (jenisicecreams.com).
In 2001, cookbook wunderkind Aaron Wehner helped transform Ten Speed Press from a small, eclectic publisher to a heavy hitter with just one book—The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, which became a best seller. Wehner started at Berkeley-based Ten Speed in 1997 as assistant to the publisher; now he's 33 and editorial director. Among the extraordinary cookbooks he's edited: the U.S. edition of David Thompson's encyclopedic Thai Food. Wehner's secret? A knack for spotting great potential authors and then selling them on Ten Speed Press's approach (tenspeedpress.com).
MAKING SERVICE HIP
Jeff Klein, 35, is bringing something radical to boutique hotels: service. By creating, as he puts it, "a place where they know your name," he made Manhattan's City Club Hotel a hit as soon as it opened in 2002. Now Klein is doing the same for L.A.'s 1929 Argyle Hotel, renaming it the Sunset Tower Hotel. Next year Klein will begin work on a project in Paris, another city he thinks has been hurt by hipsterism.
The Web isn't lacking for food blogs, but none has the scope of Josh Friedland's thefoodsection.com. Friedland started the pioneering site in 2003 to track "all the news that's fit to eat," linking to magazines, newspapers, Web sites and other blogs in 60 categories like gadgets, trends and news. Friedland works full-time as director of communications at a New York City hospital yet finds 20 hours a week to update the blog, where he also posts musings on recipes he's tried and chronicles his latest culinary adventures. The site's Moveable Feast links to food news in cities around the globe like Saigon and Florence.
Ryan and Travis Croxton
p>In 2004 cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton drove from Virginia to New York City with a Zagat guide and coolers full of their Chesapeake Bay oysters. They visited the top-ranked restaurant at the time, Le Bernardin, and, amazingly, got their first customer. Now the Croxtons' oysters are served at dozens of the country's best restaurants, including Alan Wong's in Honolulu. The pair relaunched Rappahannock River Oysters, the Virginia-based company founded by their great-grandfather in 1899. Like other oystermen of his era, "he dredged the bay bottom, essentially destroying the environment," explains Ryan. Instead, Ryan, 35, and Travis, 30, farm their oysters in cages a foot off the sea floor, preserving the habitat. Their eco-consciousness is good for the oysters: sweet York River, buttery Rappahannock and boldly briny Olde Salts (rroysters.com).
Last year Louella Hill, then 23, set off to rescue the entire Rhode Island farming system. The colorful Brown alum, who once brought a cow on campus to spotlight a local milk cooperative, aims to make the school a forerunner in the sustainable food movement. Hill runs Farm Fresh Rhode Island (an organization she founded in 2004 with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Rhode Island Foundation), which links small growers with corporate customers like Brown; manages the new Providence farmers' market; and takes students and teachers off-campus to pick vegetables and fruits from farms (farmfreshri.org).
SPARKLING WINE SEER
Ludovic Dervin, 35, has made it his mission to produce quality sparkling wines that are also accessible—astonishing for someone who was born and raised near France's Champagne region. Since arriving at Mumm Napa in 2002, Dervin has debuted the fruit-forward Cuvée M Red ($18) and the Santana DVX ($55), an irreverent venture with musician Carlos Santana (mummnapa.com).
With Dagoba, Frederick Schilling, 34, has created the first American line of premium all-organic chocolate. Ironically, he wasn't a fan of chocolate as a kid—he found its sweetness cloying. His opinion changed when he became a chef and tasted good-quality dark chocolate. Schilling launched Dagoba in 2001, with eco-minded confections like the Single Origin Milagros chocolate bar, a blend of cocoa beans from the edge of the Peruvian Amazon. Not only is it delectable, it's also Fair Tradecertified (dagobachocolate.com).
VISIONARY IN WHITE
By the time she was 28, Fernanda Bourlot had already made a name for herself as one of the top interior designers in hyper-stylish Buenos Aires. Now Bourlot, 35, is setting tabletop trends in the U.S. Her Boston housewares line, Simplemente Blanco, has the sensibility that the name implies—simple shapes dominated by the color white. But by incorporating playful touches like dandelion silhouettes and spiky sweetgum balls, Bourlot's hand-painted porcelain plates and linen napkins strike a fine balance between elegance and fantasy. Her South End showroom opened last year; Bourlot is making plans to sell her wares in New York and Miami and is thinking about a line of baby accessories, called "La Inocencia" (simplementeblanco.com).
At 25, Dave Lieberman is the youngest host on Food Network, and the April launch of his series, Good Deal, was one of its highest-rated premieres ever. Lieberman got his start on TV when he was a senior at Yale. The idea was hatched after a spring break in Fort Lauderdale when a buddy told him that the food he'd been serving their friends that week was better than some star chef's. Now he uses kitchen skills gleaned from watching his stay-at-home dad to inspire other twentysomethings to trade in their take-out menus for simple, inexpensive home cooking. This month Lieberman will begin hosting the network's first foray into Web-based programming; he's also working on a follow-up to his first cookbook, Young & Hungry, that will be published in 2006.
Andy and Mateo Kehler
Although it's been only two-plus years since Andy and Mateo Kehler produced their first wheel of cheese, Jasper Hill Farm is already making some remarkable innovations—and helping to revitalize New England's ailing dairy industry. After the Colombian-born brothers bought the run-down Greensboro, Vermont, property in 1997, Andy, 34, restored it while Mateo, 35, apprenticed with notable cheesemakers, including London's legendary Neal's Yard Dairy. The brothers sell their five raw cow's-milk cheeses—which include the mellow, cheddarlike Aspenhurst—to places like Napa Valley's French Laundry and Manhattan's Gramercy Tavern. As experimental as they are precise, the Kehlers devised their new Winnemere—a soft cheese brushed with mildly bitter beer—after "drinking a bunch of beer," Mateo says. Versions based on Canadian ice wine and French cider are in the works (jasperhillfarm.com).
Adam Farmerie, Kristina O'Neal, William Harris, Greg Bradshaw
AVANT-GARDE DESIGN TEAM
It's almost impossible to classify the New York architectural and design firm Avroko—and that's what makes them such a creative force, with projects that range from running a restaurant to designing and selling apartments. Adam Farmerie, 33, Kristina O'Neal, 32, and William Harris, 32, launched Public restaurant in downtown Manhattan in 2003 with partner Greg Bradshaw. The group did everything from developing the idiosyncratic style (wine bottles stored in bronze mailboxes), to hiring a chef (Adam's brother Brad), to working the floor. Public's success has spawned six more restaurant commissions in New York, Las Vegas and Honolulu, and they've designed two Manhattan apartments, complete with wine bottles in the kitchen (avroko.com).
Beth Ferguson and Roxie Mae Lackman
EAGLE-EYED DESIGN SCOUTS
2Jane owners Beth Ferguson, 35, and Roxie Mae Lackman, 34, are phenomenal talent spotters—scouting small design shows, often by recent design-school graduates, for works that are later picked up by the likes of the Museum of Modern Art. Named after a street address the two shared in New York City, the Tampa, Florida, company imports tabletop items mostly from Britain: the silver Lehti Tray by Maria Jauhiainen, now part of MoMA's collection; and Jenny Wilkinson's bold paint-by-number wallpaper, now available at Target (2jane.com).
DOWN UNDER IMPORTER
Americans are already smitten with Australian wines; now Lieberman, 34, is bringing us Australia's best artisanal foods. The Connecticut native studied to be a diplomat in Sydney 10 years ago. "Now in a way I am one," he says. After working with a European foods importer, he launched 34 (named for Sydney's degree of latitude) in 2003, bringing in excellent foods like crispbreads and fruit pastes. His newest items come from Tasmania, like buttery farm-house cheeses and Pinot Noirpreserved cherries, and from central Australia, including native mint and mountain pepper (34-degrees.com).
RED WINE GURU
At 32, Joshua Maloney is the youngest person ever to be named red winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of Washington State's oldest and largest wineries. It's no small job—Ste. Michelle produces around 400,000 cases of red wine annually, from fruity Cabernet that costs less than $15 to elegant Artist Series Meritage that goes for $50. Maloney arrived at Ste. Michelle just last April but he already knows what he wants to achieve: "My goal," he says, "is to make wine that's approachable without dumbing it down" (ste-michelle.com).
It's not easy to appeal to design snobs and comfort seekers. But Jason Pomeranc, 34, satisfies both groups with his boutique hotels: Sixty Thompson in New York City, Miami's Sagamore and the Hollywood Roosevelt. Pomeranc, a former real estate developer, puts Bose stereos and Frette linens in the rooms and hip restaurants and bars in the lobbies or on the roofs. Next up: 6 Columbus on New York's Central Park, set to open next year (thompsonhotels.com).
Daniel Michalik, 32, is fashioning cork—discarded material from the wine industry—into gorgeous furniture. Providence-based Michalik, who's trained as a woodworker, creates three-dimensional wave-shaped Onda wall paneling and Cortiça chaise lounges; his Sway stool even flexes around the sitter's body. His creations have attracted the attention of Amorim, the world's largest cork producer, which has agreed to send materials his way (danielmichalik.com).
GO-TO WINE WOMAN
When she discusses her job, Danielle Price, 32, director of wine at Wynn Las Vegas, repeats something Steve Wynn told her: "Danielle, I hold you responsible for every bottle of wine on the property." It sounds reasonable, except that Price manages the lists for 18 dining venues—an inventory of over 100,000 bottles, including a $50,000 six-liter 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne. Price, who started as an assistant at Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, is unstoppable: She's even persuaded world-renowned producers like Angelo Gaja, Joseph Phelps and Bill Harlan to sell her rare bottles.