On watch - New York

10 May 2016
by Jordana Rothman • In partnership with FOOD & WINE



FOOD & WINE Best New Chef Alex Stupak of Empellón Taqueria, Cocina and Al Pastor names the up-and-coming New York chefs currently tripping his radar.


Angela Dimayuga, Mission Chinese Food

The San Jose native worked under Jean Adamson at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn and was a sous chef at the original New York location of Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food on Orchard Street. But Angela really came into her own when MCF relocated to East Broadway, and she took on the role of executive chef. “Mission Chinese and Danny are very well known in this industry,” says Alex. “So, it is a testament to Angela as a very strong, very charismatic person that she could take control of the kitchen, inject her own sensibilities and be recognized for her own merit.” In addition to nailing MCF classics like Kung Pao pastrami and salt cod fried rice, Angela also channels her own Filipina heritage in dishes like Josefina's house special chicken—her grandmother’s recipe for egg-and-sausage–stuffed fowl. Mission Chinese Food: 171 E Broadway, New York, NY; 212-529-8800; mcfny.com


José Ramírez-Ruiz, Semilla

The celebrated vegetable-focused Semilla in Williamsburg, Brooklyn started life as a pop-up—the original Chez José served just a few guests per seating, but quickly outgrew its tiny space. A veteran of Per Se and Brooklyn Fare, José and his partner, pastry chef Pam Yung, racked up a Michelin star and a Best New Restaurant award nomination from the James Beard Foundation for their tasting menus, highlighting the range and beauty of mostly-meatless fare. “José and I used to work together back in the day at Clio in Boston,” Alex remembers. “I really respect him for holding out as a constant pupil—he stayed high end, worked with the best people to really grow as a chef, and eventually went off in his own direction.”

Semilla: 160 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn, NY; 718-782-3474; semillabk.com


Jonah Miller, Huertas

Directly next door to Empellón Cocina, Huertas channels the flavors of Basque country in a space that feels imported, brick-by-brick, from the shores of San Sebastián. Jonah is a native New Yorker who got his start in the professional kitchen early—by 14 he was already spending his summers on the line at David Waltuck’s legendary Chanterelle. “Spanish food is challenging to take on, particularly because a lot of it is based around what I call ‘uber product’—expensive ingredients like Iberico ham and percebes, that tighten what are already very thin margins,” says Alex. “But this is the cuisine that Jonah responds to and he does it with so much earnestness. I think that’s super impressive.”

Huertas: 107 1st Avenue, New York, NY; 212-228-4490; huertasnyc.com


Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, Contra and Wildair

Co-chefs Jeremiah and Fabian subvert expectations around tasting menus at their tiny degustation restaurant, Contra, on New York’s Lower East Side. Their affordable, even populist, multi-course menus change each evening, and refract their backgrounds in modernist kitchens. The two have a more casual approach at their a la carte wine bar, Wildair, where the beef tartare is mixed with smoked cheddar and the radishes are served with seaweed butter. “I love the entrepreneurial spirit of these guys,” says Alex of the duo, who were recently named Food & Wine Best New Chefs. “They have the courage to do high-end food in humble settings.”

Contra: 138 Orchard St, New York, NY; 212-466-4633; contranyc.com

Wildair: 142 Orchard St, New York, NY; 646-964-5624; wildair.nyc


Brooks Headley, Superiority Burger

Back when they were both pastry chefs, Alex and Brooks had a false start as colleagues at wd~50—an experience Brooks describes in his book, Fancy Desserts, in a chapter titled “Alex Stupak Scares the Sh*t Out of Me.” The professional relationship didn’t pan out, but Brooks went on to earn a James Beard Award for his work in the pastry kitchen at Del Posto, before peeling off to open his veggie burger spot Superiority Burger in the East Village. It was a courageous move—a 180 that Alex identifies with. “For almost any other individual, being talented enough and working hard enough to become the pastry chef at Del Posto would be the end game,” says Alex. “Brooks could have stayed there forever, but instead he did something very unusual and unexpected, and he’s been extremely successful.”

Superiority Burger: 430 E 9th St, New York, NY; 212-256-1192; superiorityburger.com

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