1. Shirley Chung
This Top Chef alum is the talent behind Twenty Eight Dine + Drink. Her Duck 2 Ways is simply sumptuous, with duck leg confit and seared duck breast. It’s citrusy and spicy, and the duck fat toast takes it over the top. So what’s in the name? Chung changed careers at the lucky age of 28. Her secret for success: Surround yourself with people who have the same drive and passion, be yourself, and “always strive for a better you.”
2. Rachel Haggstrom
She helms Balboa Bay Resort’s Waterline and A&O, steering the menus forward with innovative dishes (try the Wild Isles salmon, with its egg cremeux gnocchi). So, what does she have to say? "If you want to be taken seriously, work hard and prove yourself—man or woman, this applies."
3. Cathy Pavlos
The seared whole boneless trout she serves at Provenance is a plate of mouthwatering deliciousness—the fish is stuffed with herbs and citrus, and comes with a green bean medley. Take a word from the wise woman in the kitchen here at Lucca Cafe: “This is a hard job. … It is not as glamorous as the Food Network would lead you to believe. Get over that. Then get down and dirty in the kitchen; learn from everyone; respect everyone; volunteer for every job the chef throws at you; go home exhausted; and start over the next day.”
4. Deb Schneider
This is a gal who quips, “No one sane wants to be the chef.” But she did—and she runs not one but two hot spots (Sol Cocina and solita tacos & margaritas) and has written a slew of spicy cookbooks too. It’s no surprise, then, that she suggests reading such books: “Read the recipes; cook in your head; absorb someone else’s philosophies and techniques; and learn about the great culinary culture that pre-dates Instagram.”
5. Niki Starr Weyler
She’s a shining star at Mesa, and she got there, she says, by never giving up: “Lots of times you’ll see your male peers promoted before you… but if you keep your head down, work hard, show up early and leave late, you will go just as far—if not further.” Out of this world, just like that savory wine-braised short rib we dream about.