March 2018 // FSR Staff
Chefs, owners, bartenders—some barely in their 30s—fill this year’s list of Rising Stars, the folks to watch in 2018. This list shows stars can be born anywhere, in as expected a place as under the tutelage of Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin or, quite the opposite, washing dishes in a family restaurant or taking a job bussing tables just to break into the industry.
Take note, this year in particular, of how these chefs and restaurateurs embody a new wave of restaurant professionals. They are more creative, innovative, and bold than ever before.
When Cynthia Velasco embarked on her career with Native Grill & Wings, the Arizona-based concept was a struggling 19-unit brand. Velasco helped to transform it into a family-friendly sports grill with more than 30 locations. She introduced new brand guidelines, modernized marketing campaigns, and initiated a new fan base that turned into a loyal following.
“Evolving a brand involves taking risks, and [that] gave me the determination and persistence to stay true to course,” she says. “Native Grill & Wings provides a great balance of collaboration and autonomy, which fuels innovation and keeps the brand evolving. I’m constantly challenged, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.”