Mike Friedman

Restaurant: The Red Hen (Read a review)

Location: Washington, DC

Why He's Amazing: Because he's applying his top-of-his-culinary-class know-how to simple yet soul–satisfying Italian classics, like fried brussels sprouts with dill and anchovy aioli.

Culinary School: The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)

background: Proof, Zaytinya, Jaleo (/sites/default/files/ashington, DC)

Quintessential Dish: Mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragù

Italian Influence: Friedman is from Westfield, New Jersey, which had a large Italian community when he was growing up there. He says going out to restaurants when he was a child "was like going to the carnival; it was so magical for me…I really tried to create that magic here."

What Led Him into the Kitchen: Cookbooks. "I hated my cubicle job. I was selling radio airtime in Boston and it was not for me. I quit and I ran out of money and I had to move home. In my room in my parents' apartment, I started looking at my mom's cookbooks. They helped me to relax and they intrigued me. At the time I was 22. Then I went to Mon Ami Gabi [a French bistro in Bethesda, Maryland] and they accepted me without any experience."

Favorite Cookbooks: In the Charcuterie, by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller; A Girl and Her Pig, by April Bloomfield; anything by Thomas Keller; Plenty, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi; Chris Cosentino's book Beginnings. "Marcella Hazan was also a huge inspiration for me."