Recognizing America's Best Sous Chefs

Where would Holmes be without Watson? Batman without Robin? Sidekicks play a vital part in every great story. In the restaurant world, that's the sous chef. Although rarely credited, the sous chef plays an integral role in every kitchen. Here are four of the best sous chefs to watch.

Christian Aguilar, sous chef, Quality Meats (New York, New York)

After studying business at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Christian Aguilar took an opportunity to go to New York. He "fell into" the culinary world and "took the long way — from the bottom up," he explains. His first job was as a dishwasher. He advises newcomers to always help out and ask lots of questions. "Never say 'no' to anything," he says. He didn't, and his responsibilities increased with each new job.

At one point, he took a break from the kitchen to work front-of-house but discovered it wasn't for him. Cooking is serious to Aguilar. "I see food as art," he says. "I believe if you're inspired by anything, you always cook good food. We need to respect our food and what we eat."

Joe Beninato, sous chef, Ursino (Union, New Jersey)

If you know the phrase "maybe they're born with it," you can apply it to Joe Beninato. Cooking's in his blood. Growing up, his mom, Denise Gallo, was pastry chef at The Frog and The Peach in New Brunswick, New Jersey. While most people take only memories from past relationships, his career started with an ex-girlfriend's suggestion. Although the first thing you may notice are his tattoos, the second thing has to be his kitchen expertise. As sous chef at Ursino, he is on the list of 2015's best sous chefs in New Jersey.

Torrey Solomon, sous chef, Red, the Steakhouse (Miami, Florida)

Throughout high school, Torrey Solomon worked full-time at a restaurant in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, moving up the ranks. Though he isn't currently in the dessert business, he once worked unpaid at a bakery for months just for the experience, which impressed employers. He attended culinary school in New York and got hands-on training at Red, the Steakhouse in Ohio. When Solomon was 22, Red awarded him the sous chef position in the Miami location. Zagat recognized him, too, as a standout in the culinary world at the age of only 24.

Julia Sullivan, former sous chef, Pinewood Social (Nashville, Tennessee)

Julia Sullivan was named by Forbes Travel Guide as one of the best sous chefs to watch. A personal mission to find the best oysters and po'boys in New Orleans, Louisiana (she studied finance at Tulane University) set her on the path to a culinary career. As most chefs realize, she discovered experience, continued learning, drive and passion lead to culinary success. She worked at several top eateries in the Big Apple before returning to her native Nashville and working at Pinewood Social, a 2014 James Beard semifinalist for best new restaurant. Most recently, she and a former colleague filed a business permit to open Henrietta + Red — an oyster bar and restaurant, of course.

The future looks promising for these four who worked up the ranks and are now among the best sous chefs. It's not easy — and is often thankless — yet the best sous chefs of today often go on to become top chefs of tomorrow.

Photo Credit: Flickr