Now more than ever, we need to invest in strong leaders—both in and out of the kitchen.

Imagine walking down a street in New York City in 1988, stopping at an unassuming restaurant for lunch, and tasting the future. That’s what former Food & Wine senior editor Malachy Duffy did while scouting the first class of Best New Chefs. The restaurant was Rakel, the chef was Thomas Keller, and with the BNC award (his first accolade), Keller’s star was born.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Best New Chefs. To celebrate the occasion, writer Hugh Garvey traces the history of the franchise and the role BNCs have played in America’s culinary awakening. We’ve also launched F&W’s Best New Chef mentorship program, which pairs the class of 2018 with past BNCs, because now more than ever, we need to invest in strong leaders—both in and out of the kitchen. And, of course, we threw a party. Well, actually, two: In partnership with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, we flew the 2018 class of BNCs to Las Vegas for a photo shoot. Our host hotels, The Venetian and El Cortez, brought the glitz; we brought the cake and the Champagne. Then it was on to Manhattan to fete the chefs at the big reveal party. Flip this issue to meet the inspiring new class of BNCs and cook their recipes.

Much has changed in American cuisine in 30 years, yet our annual BNC list still begins with something undeniably delicious on the plate, an aha moment that extends outward to showcase a chef’s singular vision and mastery of ingredients and techniques. Taken together, those qualities honor past influences and mentors while illuminating new and innovative ways forward. And the lights of this year’s class, presented by our ace Restaurant Editor Jordana Rothman, burn just as brightly as the first.

Is there another Keller in the mix? Or Nancy Silverton? Or Edouardo Jordan? More like the next Katianna Hong, Diana Dávila, and Kevin Tien. As we look ahead to the next three decades of dining out, one thing’s for certain: With the level of pioneering talent in these pages, we’re in for a delicious future.