Eater Young Guns aims to identify the most promising up-and-comers in the restaurant and nightlife world. Andrew McCabe, Proof on Main's chef de cuisine, and MilkWood's executive chef Kevin Ashworth are Louisville's two representatives among the 50 Young Guns 2013 semi-finalists nationwide, selected from thousands of nominees. Earlier this month, Eater Louisville asked for testimonials about both chefs. Here excerpts from just some of the responses we received about McCabe.
·"The guy is a complete badass. He's one of the most soft spoken guys in a kitchen, but when he talks to you or gives you advice, you stop what you're doing and listen, he's like a kitchen zen master. The guy is a beast in the kitchen too. He'll show up hours before you, work harder than you and later then you, then go out and still have beers with the kitchen."
·"In positions ranging from dishwasher to GM, I have rarely if ever had the opportunity to work with someone with the talent, humility or commitment to sustainability that Mr. McCabe possesses. I consider Chicago to have one of the great food scenes anywhere in the world and I wonder whether the time he spent working there changed him or he changed it, and I would not be surprised if it were a bit of both...[He] is as close as a person can come to being one of a kind and is fully deserving of any and all recognition for the great contributions he has made to ensuring that we all eat a bit better, and make the planet a better place in doing so."
·"I am technically part of FOH, but work closely with the kitchen as well, which has enabled me to learn more about how much energy, creativeness, and self-sacrifice goes into the dishes that have been created at Proof on Main. McCabe has dedicated himself to his craft, and it shows not only in the dishes creates, but in the way he commands the kitchen while maintaining high respect from each and every one of his coworkers, both BOH and FOH. He not only holds himself to high standards, but expects the same from every other chef, and he is absolutely amazing at teaching them exactly how to live up to these standards so that each of his "students" can be proud of what they do and what they are capable of achieving. He has a genuine interest in the natural world which shapes his dishes, and gets pure joy out of exposing not only his palette to new things, but the palette of his coworkers and the patrons that dine at Proof."
·From Sam Cruz, managing member of Against the Grain: "Here at Against The Grain we take a great deal of time in exploring non traditional brewing ingredients and practices, to create innovative and new beer concepts. With that said, Andy is often a resource and guide with flavor profiles and ideas that provide us with information when formulating some of our beer recipes."
·"After staging at Proof with Chef McCabe, I see how high he sets his standards for his cooks. But he, unlike a lot of chefs, does not scream and yell to get a point across. He takes the time to teach his cooks to help them grow in and outside of the kitchen. I have worked for many chefs that I never felt like they cared about what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go. But Chef McCabe challenges his cooks, and he even challenges me and I don't even work with him! One of the ways he challenges his cooks is to teach them the importance in this history of great American cuisine. Chef McCabe's greatest asset is his humbleness. You would have never guessed he worked at L2O and Blackbird in Chicago. Many chefs are arrogant because this industry almost drives us to be arrogant. It drives us to brag about the best things we have done with food or to talk about out accomplishments. Andy doesn't talk about his accomplishment but he always strives to be better for the future."
·"McCabe is who I hope to be when I grow up and learn how to cook."
[Photos: Ted Tarquinio]