Behind every great chef is another great chef. Even if it’s the top toque who gets the glory, it’s the hard-working pair of hands next to the big cheese that feeds us like royalty. These No. 2s on the kitchen ladder are all under 30, overflowing with talent, and as humble as they come, so next time you’re dining in their abode, seek them out to lavish some much-deserved praise. They’ll be the ones with their noses (and knives) to the grindstone.
Loren Mendosa, tavola
Nelson County native Loren Mendosa, 28, brings farming connections and a local sensibility to New Englander Michael Keaveny’s kitchen. The two chefs have a similar cooking style: use high-quality ingredients and simple techniques to make deliciously rustic and craveable food.
Mendosa got his start in the biz at 16, when a dishwashing position at The Mark Addy Inn turned into a chef’s apprentice position towards the end of his five years there. The chef at the time, Gail Hobbs-Page, took Mendosa to MAS Tapas one night after service and his eyes were opened to our lively and growing culinary scene. Taking Hobbs-Page’s advice to work instead of going to culinary school, he moved here on his 21st birthday, buying a house with the money he’d saved. Mendosa cooked at the C&O before spending five years on the team at MAS.
He’s been front-and-center in tavola’s open kitchen for two years now—first, alongside Keaveny, and now with his own sous chef next to him. Dish creation is an open exchange between him and Keaveny, but Mendosa tends to duck the spotlight. “I don’t mind someone else getting credit as long as people enjoy themselves,” he said.
If the hour-plus waits are any indication, tavola’s here to stay and Mendosa is too.
Tyler Teass, The Clifton Inn
While Executive Chef Tucker Yoder is still in the kitchen most nights, he couldn’t do it without 26-year-old Tyler Teass. Yoder’s the kitchen’s creative force, always foraging for product and thinking of unique ways to use it, while Teass’ strength is the large scale/long-term organizational planning—particularly important with all the weddings they cater at Clifton.
Teass’ foray into restaurants was as a server through his high school days in Roanoke, but he was always more interested in what was going on in the kitchen. While pursuing American studies and music at UVA, he cooked at enoteca and l’etoile, loving the rush of “getting your ass kicked on Friday and Saturday nights.” After a stint at the Red Hen (where he met Yoder), Teass moved to New York to work as a publicist for chefs and restaurants. It wasn’t long before he missed being behind the line, so when Yoder was hired at Clifton and asked Teass to be his second in command, he reached for his whites again.
Eventually, Teass would like to have a restaurant of his own, but for now he’s learning everything he can from his boss and just enjoying the process of making good food and feeding people.
Ian Redshaw, l’etoile
With the exception of owner Mark Gresge, the entire kitchen staff at l’etoile is under the age of 25. Among them is Adam Clark, 24, who handles lunch service and Ian Redshaw, 23, who’s the dinner chef or, more appropriately since the restaurant’s style is Virginia cuisine interpreted through fine French technique, chef de cuisine. Gresge spends more time on the restaurant’s catering arm these days, so he’s always sure to keep credit where it’s due —with Redshaw, who, despite his youth, has a decade of cooking experience under his apron strings.
After growing up working in the industry in the Midwest, Redshaw attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, graduating in 2009 and then going on to cook in the Hamptons and upstate New York. He moved to Charlottesville in 2011, took a job at l’etoile, and soon became indispensable in his ability to take Gresge’s ideas and turn them into well-executed realities.
Redshaw’s talent is undeniable, but it’s hard work and a lack of ego that really sets him apart. “I’m just happy putting out good dinners,” he said.
While a simple Italian restaurant serving authentic Roman food is in Redshaw’s five-year plan, his motto will always remain the same: “Work hard and keep your head down.”