Bellwethr Magazine

5 Foodies To Watch

These millennials are reinventing the way we think about dive bars, chocolate, grilled cheese, and cafeterias.

WORDS BY Chris Landers

Corey Cova, Dough Loco, New York City

Cova, 28, has always excelled at doing more with less. From his days as a cook on a Navy submarine to his time as a chef at the East Harlem dive bar Earl’s Beer and Cheese where he turned a hole in the wall into a The New York Times Critics’ Pick in 2011 with left-field spins on classic comforts – he’s managed to make simple seem extraordinary. So it shouldn’t be surprising that his latest venture, the doughnut shop Dough Loco, which opened down the street from Earl’s almost a year ago, had humble beginnings.

“There really isn’t a place to get a decent cup of coffee around here,” Cova says of Loco’s birth in a Village Voice feature last September. He reinvented dishes at the classic coffee shop as he did for bar food at his earlier joints, Earl’s and ABV. He mashes together incompatible ingredients, rearranging them into bizarrely beautiful combinations. (One of ABV’s signatures is a foie gras fluffernutter. We can’t make this up.) With doughnuts like a raspberry Sriracha and a blood orange that begs for a stout espresso, Loco seems to be upholding that grand tradition in style.

Nathaniel Ru, Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, Sweetgreen, Washington, D.C.

On its surface, you would think Sweetgreen couldn’t possibly be serious. The salad chain hands out free meals daily, created a Random Acts of Sweetness program that has spread throughout the company, and convinced us that greens actually can be pretty enjoyable. It’s a schtick that would be unbearable if it didn’t seem like its 27-year-old founders meant every word. “Usually notions of fun and health are mutually exclusive,” Neman, who along with Jammet and Ru came up with the idea while the three were business majors at Georgetown, told Fast Company last May. “We want to have a really big impact.”

The food certainly helped. Sweetgreen’s best-seller is Guacamole Greens ($9.65 in Manhattan), a mix of chicken, tomatoes, avocados, and crushed tortilla chips in a bowl robust enough to make salad satisfying. That blend of atmosphere and flavor led to a remarkable expansion: 27 stores and counting across six states, including new locations in Tribeca and a music festival in D.C. that brought in Lana Del Rey and Foster the People this year, promoting healthy eating.

Jonathan Grahm, Compartés Chocolatier, Los Angeles

With profiles in Forbes and Zagat, a gushing review from Oprah, and the only chocolate, ever, to receive a perfect score from Bon Appétit’s tasting panel, Grahm has put together a lifetime’s worth of achievements, and he’s only 29 years old.

The man who makes dessert for Hollywood’s stars (Teri Hatcher once dubbed him “chocolate boy,” and the name has more or less stuck) began making chocolate at 14, without even so much as a cooking class. Nearly everything about the Compartés experience is unique, from the poems emblazoned on the back of each of their 28 chocolate bars all written by Grahm himself – to flavors like green tea and white chocolate. Grahm draws inspiration from just about everywhere, making full use of exotic ingredients he’s encountered in L.A. and his years spent traveling.

“I travel as often as I can and am always scouting out new interesting foods, ingredients, flavor profiles,” Grahm told Lifestyle Mirror last year. “I once took a trip to Venezuela to see the cocoa grown there and took a photo on the Amazon River that ended up [on a chocolate bar wrapper].” Compartés will give Grahm plenty more opportunity to see the world. They opened seven shops in Tokyo and have more locations in China and throughout the U.S. in the works.

Steve Yamada, Latitude 29, New Orleans

Yamada’s story is part talent, part blind luck. While an undergrad at Tulane, he found himself a bit short on cash and picked up bartending part-time to help cover his bills. Now, he consults both locally and nationally and has become one of the most inventive cocktail artists in the country. In April, he advanced to the regional finals of the Diageo World Class, an international bartending competition.

Yamada’s signature is the Jitterbug Perfume – a blend of gin, beet lemonade, peppercorn syrup (with peppercorns from Java and Africa), and dragon pearl tea. It’s a drink he created for Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Imaginative Bartender” competition last fall that earned him a spot in the national finals in Las Vegas this September. But Yamada excels at being a sort of cocktail chameleon, adapting to whatever menu he’s working with. “When the cocktails change up on a regular basis, it’s not only challenging, but fun,” he told the Times-Picayune last year. He’s worked with everything from gin to rye whiskey or whatever the food commands. And later this year, he’ll be curating drinks and running the bar at Latitude 29, a new restaurant in the French Quarter.

Adrienne Lo, Fat Rice, Chicago

Everything about Lo, 30, is an anomaly. In the midst of one of the most accomplished food scenes in the country, she’s become one of its brightest stars after years running X-Mark – an underground dining club whose email list reached as high as 5,500. Fat Rice, which she opened with her partner Abraham Conlon without so much as hiring a publicist, was named one of Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants of 2013. The long wait lines became so legendary that Eater ran an entire article on them in March.

Fat Rice serves Macanese cuisine, which you probably hadn’t heard of until this sentence. It hails from Macao, an island just south of mainland China that the Portuguese occupied from the 16th century until 1999. Macanese food blends the two cultures with dishes like Portugese sausage and chili cabbage, sweet and sour pork bellies with chicharrones, and the signature “arroz gordo,” a paella-like rice dish with Portuguese sausage, chicken thighs, and  prawns. Even in this age of endless culinary fusions, it’s something not found in Chicago – or anywhere else, really. “A big part of Fat Rice is [cultural] preservation,” Lo, who drew inspiration from a 2012 trip to China (her parents are Chinese), told NPR’s  The Splendid Table. “We witnessed this when we were in Macao – this culture and this food that is just disappearing. It’s really saddening.”

Additional reporting by Vekonda Luangaphay.

Passport To Flavor: “I travel as often as I can and am always scouting out new interesting foods, ingredients, flavor profiles,” Grahm told Lifestyle Mirror. PHOTO FROM NEILYTICS.COM.
Passport To Flavor: “I travel as often as I can and am always scouting out new interesting foods, ingredients, flavor profiles,” Grahm told Lifestyle Mirror. PHOTO FROM NEILYTICS.COM.
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Cova Loco: Chris Cova combines incompatible ingredients into surprisingly delicious concoctions such as a foie gras fluffernutter. PHOTO FROM NY.EATER.COM.
Cova Loco: Chris Cova combines incompatible ingredients into surprisingly delicious concoctions such as a foie gras fluffernutter. PHOTO FROM NY.EATER.COM.
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Rice Rice Baby: Lo’s restaurant serves Macanese dishes, a blend of Portuguese and Chinese cuisines. “A big part of Fat Rice is cultural preservation,” Lo told NPR’s The Splendid Table. PHOTO FROM CHICAGO.EATER.COM.
Rice Rice Baby: Lo’s restaurant serves Macanese dishes, a blend of Portuguese and Chinese cuisines. “A big part of Fat Rice is cultural preservation,” Lo told NPR’s The Splendid Table. PHOTO FROM CHICAGO.EATER.COM.
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Shake It Up: Yamada’s signature drink, the Jitterbug Perfume, gets its name from a Tom Robbins novel. It blends gin, beet lemonade, peppercorn syrup, and dragon pearl tea. PHOTO FROM BESTOFNEWORLEANS.COM.
Shake It Up: Yamada’s signature drink, the Jitterbug Perfume, gets its name from a Tom Robbins novel. It blends gin, beet lemonade, peppercorn syrup, and dragon pearl tea. PHOTO FROM BESTOFNEWORLEANS.COM.
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Sustainable Salads: (From left to right) Nathaniel Ru, Jonathan Neman, and Nicolas Jammet founded Sweetgreen in 2007, combining healthy options with charitable motivations and green inspirations. PHOTO FROM FOODREPUBLIC.COM.
Sustainable Salads: (From left to right) Nathaniel Ru, Jonathan Neman, and Nicolas Jammet founded Sweetgreen in 2007, combining healthy options with charitable motivations and green inspirations. PHOTO FROM FOODREPUBLIC.COM.
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