Meet the leaders of tomorrow… or at least the shortlist for next year’s hottest chef lists. Zagat has published a list called 30 Under 30: Chicago’s Hottest Up-and-Comers, calling out 30 young people who have notable positions around Chicago’s food scene. In other words, there are a lot of chefs de cuisine and sous chefs under a more famous guy, a fair number of pastry chefs and mixologists, no fewer than four Paul Kahan proteges (David Posey at Blackbird, Elliott Green at Avec, and both Erling Wu-Bower and Cosmo Goss at Publican Quality Meats), and of course a couple of high-profile younger halves of father-and-son teams (Bannos and Melman). It’s a worthy bunch, no question, but it does raise the question: are you the hottest up-and-comer if you have a job at a top level place working for somebody else, or are the real up-and-comers the ones making their own way at lower-profile places of their own right now? (Assuming the Ruxbin team is still mostly under 30, for instance, I’d bet on them at least as much as anyone here.) On that basis, the one we were happiest to see on the list was the very last one alphabetically and probably the youngest one numerically— Jonathan Zaragoza, who got his start with his family’s much-acclaimed south side birrieria but is now working under Andrew Zimmerman at Sepia to learn the high end of the business. If we could invest in chef futures, he’s the kind we’d be buying right now.
Zagat’s 30 Photo: courtesy Zagat