Food & Wine just announced its “Best New Chefs 2021” list with awards for two big DC talents: former La Bodega/Maydan/Compass Rose pastry chef Paola Velez, who co-founded Bakers Against Racism, and Angel Barreto, head chef at Dupont Circle Korean restaurant Anju.
This is the 33rd year of Best New Chef awards for the glossy culinary mag, and as Restaurant Editor Khushbu Shah notes: “What it means to be a chef has changed.”
“This is an industry that was built on a shaky foundation, and the global pandemic put a spotlight on every single crack. But through these cracks, real leadership emerged. Leadership that prioritizes the safety and needs of employees over the whims of customers. Leadership that centers local communities, providing groceries and hot meals for those in need. Leadership that still turns out exceptional cooking that manages to comfort and delight even when the odds are stacked against them. This year’s class of Best New Chefs exemplifies this approach to leadership.”
To that end, Shah not only celebrates Velez’s piña-colada doughnut but also her role as “one of the most vocal and trusted chefs in the culinary industry, speaking out against toxic kitchen culture, racism, wage disparity, and the lack of equity in the culinary world—especially for marginalized groups.” Barreto is lauded for his mandu (dumplings) and fried chicken, but also for bucking stereotypes as a half Puerto Rican, half Black chef who recreates the Korean flavors he grew up with as a child of military parents stationed overseas.