Eddie Acevedo, Francesco Balli, and Ignacio Garcia-Menocal, Grove Bay Hospitality, Miami
This 12-year-old company operates a variety of chef-driven restaurants in South Florida, including Stubborn Seed, Stiltsville, Bayshore Club, Glass and Vine, Beauty & The Butcher, Ch’I, Mi’talia, Root & Bone, The Hangar at Regatta Harbour, and Red Rooster Overtown.
José Andrés, ThinkFoodGroup, Washington, D.C.
José Andrés is mostly known these days as a philanthropist, which might cause some people to lose sight of his restaurant group that is not only very successful, but serves excellent food with great service across the country, with 19 concepts, from fine-dining to fast-casual vegetarian food to a food truck selling Spanish flautas, in seven markets.
Lauren Bailey, Upward Projects Restaurant Group, Phoenix
Bailey and her team operate Federal Pizza, Churn, Windsor and two Joyride locations in the Phoenix area as well as Postino, a 21-unit wine bar with locations in Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Arizona, with more to come.
Andrew Black, Culinary Edge Concepts, Oklahoma City
Black owns and operates Grey Sweater and Black Walnut, both next door to each other in Oklahoma City, offering bespoke creative meals for the city’s increasingly cosmopolitan diners.
Frank Bonanno, Bonanno Concepts, Denver
Fine-dining restaurants, a noodle bar, deli, cocktail lounge, and a food hall are all part of Bonanno’s restaurant empire in Denver, which includes Mizuna, Luca, Osteria Marco, Green Russell, Russell’s Smokehouse, Vesper Lounge, Salt & Grinder, French 75, Lou’s Food Bar, and Denver Milk Market. Bonanno has also been instrumental in allowing Colorado restaurants to make their own charcuterie legally, and he looks out for his team, by, among other things, having a therapist on staff.
Maneet Chauhan, Morph Hospitality Group, Nashville
The operator of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Chaatable Indian Street Food, The Mockingbird, and Tànsuŏ, all in Nashville, has helped diversify the culinary offerings of Music City with her take on Indian and Chinese food. In the past, Chauhan also has made efforts to brew beer with Indian spices as well as hops.
Ashley Christensen, Ashley Christensen Restaurants, Raleigh, N.C.
This award-winning chef operates Raleigh venues including Beasley’s Chicken & Honey, Death & Taxes, Fox Liquor Bar, Poole’s, and Poole’side Pies
Tyson Cole, Hai Hospitality, Austin, Texas
This chef and restaurateur opened Uchi in Austin in 2003 and since has expanded his empire to five Uchi locations, two more casual Uchiko restaurants, a bar in Dallas called Uchiba, and Loro, a three-unit Asian smokehouse made collaboration with Aaron Franklin of Austin landmark Franklin Barbecue.
Rachel Cope, 84 Hospitality, Oklahoma City
This Oklahoma City, Okla., entrepreneur started with Empire Slice House in a converted Laundromat in 2013 and now has three of those restaurants, two limited-service Empire Slice Shops, as well as Rev Tacos & Good Times, Gorō Ramen, Burger Punk, and Neon Coffee Bar, all in the Oklahoma City area except for one Empire Slice House in Tulsa, Okla.
Gerard Craft, Niche Food Group, St. Louis
Craft opened his first restaurant, Niche, in 2005 at age 25. Although that upscale restaurant has since closed, he now is offering French bistro fare at Brasserie by Niche, casual Italian at Pastaria, lunch and retail goods at Pastaria Deli & Wine, burgers and brats at brassWELL at Rockwell Beer Co., brunch at Bowood by Niche in Bowood Farms Garden Center, brasserie food and drinks at Brass Bar, and South American-inspired cuisine from a wood-fired grill at Cinder House at the Four Seasons Hotel. He also curated the restaurants at STL Food Hall, where he operates The Kitchen Bar and Fordo’s Killer Pizza.
Lisa Dahl, Dahl Restaurant Group, Sedona, Ariz.
The chef and cookbook author operates six restaurants in Sedona: Butterfly Burger Couture Burger Lounge, Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano, two-unit Pisa Lisa Pizzeria Autentico, Cucina Rustica Rustic Italian Grill, and Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill.
Renee Erickson, Sea Creatures, Seattle
Renee Erickson operates 12 restaurants in Seattle: Grass-finished-beef-focused Bateau, Wilmott’s Ghost which focuses on the food of Rome in particular and Italy in general, travel-inspired The Whale Wins Larder & Café, seafood restaurant The Walrus and the Carpenter, Italian aperitivo bar Barnacle, the wine bar Bistro Shirlee, cocktail-oriented Deep Dive Bar at the Spheres, Bateau Boat Bar serving French accented seafood, waterfront restaurant Westward, and a three-unit doughnut shop called General Porpoise.
Sam Fox, Fox Restaurant Concepts, Phoenix
This legendary restaurateur creates restaurant chains and one-off concepts, spins them off and then keeps on developing new ones. Currently with more than 50 restaurants in operation, the brands he operates include casual farm-focused Flower Child, pizza & chicken concepts Flybye and Dough Bird, all-day classic American restaurants the Henry and Culinary Dropout, Mexican cantina Blanco, Mediterranean restaurant Olive & Ivy, The Green House which focuses on California cuisine, upscale concept The Arrogant Butcher, new American restaurant Wildflower, and Zinburger, which pairs burgers and wine.
José Garces, Garces Group, Philadelphia
This chef and restaurateur has had his ups and downs, including a bankruptcy, but now he’s partnered with New Orleans-based Ballard Hospitality to operate eight mostly Latin-American concepts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York: Two-unit Amada, with a third set to open in early 2023, three-unit Buena Onda Baja Taqueria, two-unit Distrito, Garces Eats, Garces Trading Company, The Olde Bar, Village Whiskey, and Volvér.
Troy Guard, TAG Restaurant Group, Denver
Guard grew up in Hawaii, but he has called Denver home for the past couple of decades, and has a prolific roster of restaurants including four-unit Mexican concept Los Chingones, four-unit fast-casual bowl concept Bubu, Guard & Grade steakhouse with locations in Denver and Houston, breakfast concept Hashtag, and a food hall called Grange Hall.
Jennifer Jasinski, Crafted Concepts, Denver
This pioneer in the Denver food scene operates some of the city’s most beloved restaurants, including Rioja, which reflects the food of her Santa Barbara, Calif., roots, French concept Bistro Vendôme, Stoic & Genuine Seafood and Oyster Bar, and tapas and gin bar Ultreia.
Thomas Keller, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Yountville, Calif.
Keller raised the bar of what American fine dining can be with his landmark restaurants The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Per Se in New York City, but more than that he has set a standard for always trying to do better, not only at the high end of the restaurant would, but also at his more casual concepts: Two Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery locations in Yountville and Las Vegas, Ad Hoc + Addendum, La Calenda, and Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge in Yountville and The Surf Club Restaurant in Miami.
Nick Kokonas, The Alinea Group, Chicago
At Alinea, in partnership with chef Grant Achatz, Kokonas helped make Chicago the American center of avant-garde cooking, and he has helped transform how restaurant reservations are made with his Tock App, that allows for pre-paid booking for dinner just as one would book concerts and other performances. The group now also operates Next, a restaurant whose concept changes with each new menu, The Aviary cocktail lounge and its speakeasy called The Office, open-kitchen concept Roister, and The St. Clair Supper Club, which is entered through Roister.
John Kunkel, 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, Miami
The founder of the Lime Fresh Mexican chain now operates Wakuda in Las Vegas and Singapore, Chica in Las Vegas, Miami, and Aspen, Colo., eight-unit Yardbird, Spring Chicken in Miami and Los Angeles, and Capri and Spritz, both in Las Vegas.
Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality, New York City
This hospitality icon is known for running restaurants with great service and a focus on treating staff well — an approach that’s part of his “Enlightened Hospitality” approach that also extends to Shake Shack, the fast-casual burger chain he founded and has since taken public.
He and his team currently operate Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern, Ci Siamo, Maialino, Porchlight, Daily Provisions, Manhatta, Marta, Tacocina, and Cedric at The Shed.
Cameron Mitchell, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Columbus, Ohio
This Columbus, Ohio, powerhouse operates 16 standalone restaurants in and around Ohio’s capital, as well as 17-unit Ocean Prime, and Del Mar in Naples, Fla..
New openings are planned for Las Vegas and Tampa, as well as more in Columbus.
Barbara Lynch, The Barbara Lynch Collective, Boston
This pioneering chef and restaurateur who takes pride in her working-class roots runs a cocktail bar with the straightforward name Drink, a 10-seat demonstration and cookbook store called Stir, and five restaurants: B&G Oysters, seasonally focused The Butcher Shop, fine-dining Menton, her flagship and landmark No. 9 Park, and an Italian trattoria called Sportello.
Michael Schlow, Schlow Restaurant Group, Boston
Schlow commutes a lot between Boston and the Washington, D.C., area, where he operates Nama Sushi Bar and Nama Ko, the latter serving Japanese-inspired food and craft cocktails, and two locations of his six-unit Italian concept Alta Strada. In Boston he runs another Alta Strada at Logan Airport, as well as Michael Schlow’s Italian Kitchen, Monti Roman Pizzeria, and Sauce Burgers. He also operates The Hermitage Inn in West Dover, Vt., and Alta Strada locations in Wellesley, Mass., and at Foxwoods Casino.
Hollis Silverman, Eastern Point Collective, Washington, D.C.
This former chief operating officer of José Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup established her own foodservice stronghold in Washington, D.C., during the pandemic with New American restaurant The Duck & The Peach, Italian restaurant La Collina and a gin bar called The Wells, with more to come. The three restaurants are all in a row on Capitol Hill and share one kitchen — a sign of the efficiencies that operators have figured out over the past few years.
Nancy Silverton, Mozza Restaurant Group, Los Angeles
This Los Angeles industry veteran was the mastermind behind La Brea Bakery and Campanile Restaurant. Under the Mozza Restaurant Group she now operates Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, and Mozza2Go all at the corner of Highland and Melrose in Los Angeles, and she also operates Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach, Calif.
Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia
This former entertainment impresario has taken his eye for talent and beautiful interiors and brought it to bear on the restaurant world with great success. His 21 restaurants in Philadelphia include lavish restaurants like Morimoto and Buddakan, but also Jackass Burrito and The Burger that Ate Philadelphia. He also has nine restaurants in New York City, including Buddakan, Morimoto and Jackass Burrito, but also other critics’ picks such as Pastis and Le Coucou. He has three restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area, and a Pastis is in the works there, as well as in south Florida, where he already operates two restaurants each in Fort Lauderdale and Bal Harbour.
Adam Hegsted, Eat Good Group, Liberty Lake, Wash.
Hegsted and his team operate nine free-standing restaurants in Eastern Washington and Idaho, including Gilded Unicorn, Baba, Yards Bruncheon, de España, and Française in Spokane, Wash.; Republic Kitchen & Taphouse in Post Falls, Idaho; Honey Eatery & Social Club in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Doughlicious Bakery in Liberty Lake, Wash., as well as their own marketing agency and meal kit service.