Eater scours the country every year for rising up-and-comers in the restaurant industry to compile its selective Young Guns list. Chosen chefs, restaurateurs, bartenders, sommeliers, and other contenders must be under 30 or have less than five years of experience in the bar and restaurant world.
For 2018, Eater editors sifted through thousands of reader-submitted entries for more than 600 nominees and recruited a committee of esteemed industry veterans and local city editors to narrow the field down to 54 semifinalists and, now, a final roster of 18 rising stars. The D.C.-based winners are Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod, childhood friends-turned-business partners of Navy Yard’s fast-casual Indian restaurant Rasa.
The second-generation restaurateurs’ debut eatery near Nationals Park opened in December 2017, receiving high praise in the form of two-and-a-half stars from The Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema. Customers are transported to India even before they enter the 2,300-square-foot cavernous and colorful space, via an ornate door created by Rahman’s aunt in India.
The duo’s DIY bowls integrate flavors from Keralite cuisine (Vinod’s family is from the Southern coastal state of Kerala) and Northern India via chicken tikka.
Most everything is cooked from scratch each morning, meats are sourced from local farmers, garam masala is ground and mixed in-house. It all comes together in cooking that’s sophisticated and playful (as seen in bowls named “Tikka Chance On Me” and “Aloo Need Is Love”), and that sense of whimsy comes through in the restaurant space: It’s eye-poppingly polychromatic, with swinging pod chairs, modernist artwork, and a color scheme with the saturation level dialed up to 100.
There’s also a Baltimore-based Young Guns winner on the list this year: Chelsea Gregoire, bar manager at the new Hotel Revival and founder and owner of Drinkable Genius — a consulting firm that hosts events, teaches classes, and covers all aspects of the beverage space. Gregoire, a well-known advocate for women and LGBTQIA professionals in the food world, also has two theology degrees including a bachelor of science in religion.