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These are Atlanta's 500 most powerful leaders. We spent months consulting experts and sorting through nominations to get a list of the city's most influential people—from artists to chefs to philanthropists to sports coaches and corporate CEOs. In this section, we focus on food, restaurants, chefs, hospitality, and tourism.
Maricela Vega's complex "modern Mexican" dishes are often entirely plant-based and always Instagram-worthy. She currently hosts pop-ups at the Spindle and LottaFrutta, and hopes to eventually open a bodega where she can give back to her community.
Ever since I arrived in Atlanta nine months ago, I've been wondering: Where are the female chefs? Long have professional kitchens employed women as pastry chefs, but there are still relatively few female headliners, here and elsewhere.
“You must embrace change to be a really good chef or restaurateur,” says the Bacchanalia chef. “You have to be flexible, and then you also have to always be positive that the change is going to be better than it was before.”
When Brian Jones left his position as executive chef at Restaurant Eugene, he didn’t jump to another fine-dining institution. He joined the kitchen at Kennesaw State University as a chef de cuisine.
Most pop-up restaurants—in which a chef typically takes over a professional kitchen for a night or two—serve as incubators or showcases. Traveling toques may want to drum up attention away from home, or cooks who dream of starting their own place might take over a friend’s stoves to grandstand their food. But Jarrett Stieber is the only chef in the city who makes running pop-ups his full-time living.
Culinary students may still squeeze themselves into the stiff white chefs coat, long the industry’s de rigueur uniform. But the new must-have garb, particularly among Atlanta’s male chefs who have made it to the top of the food chain, is the designer apron.