A thriving food ecosystem goes far deeper than the awards, media accolades, and the kind of buzz Pittsburgh’s food scene attracts these days. Yes, it’s about making Instagram-worthy cocktails and creating exquisite meals, but it’s also about ensuring access to fresh foods and diverting food waste. It’s about highlighting underrepresented wine makers while also making space for those who don’t drink alcohol.
These 11 Pittsburghers are doing just that and so much more. They’re the chefs, sommeliers, activists, urban farmers, sustainability pros, and big thinkers putting Pittsburgh’s food and beverage scene on the map.
For our latest Who’s Next class, we’re proud to spotlight these under-40 rising stars working in kitchens, opening restaurants, increasing access to food, making food sustainability a priority, focusing on health, and pouring drinks. Who’s Next, presented by S&T Bank, is our chance to recognize up-and-coming dynamos in Pittsburgh and to introduce you today to tomorrow’s leaders and influencers.
Meet them here and then get your ticket to join us at a happy hour in their honor on Monday, Sept. 30.
Qaadir Q. Anderson-Perry
Board member, Sankofa Village Community Garden
Zucchini, tomatoes, mint, beets, strawberries, and raspberries grow in 17 raised beds in what used to be a vacant lot on North Braddock Avenue in Homewood. Called Sankofa Village Community Garden, it provides food for people in the neighborhood and teaches children about the importance of urban agriculture. Qaadir Q. Anderson-Perry serves as a board member for the garden, striving to eradicate food apartheid in Pittsburgh. Drawing on a background in public health and experience in food security policy, Anderson-Perry approaches this mission from what he describes as “a holistic anthropological perspective.” He strives to engage the community through food provisions, the arts, history, urban agriculture, and health education .
In his day job, Anderson-Perry serves as fatherhood engagement specialist for the Allegheny County Health Department. A resident of Pittsburgh’s East Side, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Slippery Rock University and a master gardener certification from the Penn State Extension.
Keyla Nogueira Cook
Head Chef and Co-Owner, Casa Brasil
Keyla Nogueira Cook describes herself as “a chefpreneur” — that’s one part chef and one part entrepreneur. It’s a journey that started in Brazil and ended up here in Pittsburgh.
All three of her businesses — Feijoada To Go, Keyla Cooks, LLC, and Casa Brasil — have focused on “giving Pittsburghers a chance to try authentic Brazilian cuisine,” she explained. Her current endeavor is Casa Brasil, a restaurant in Highland Park that she describes as representing “authentic home-style cooking of Brazilian cuisine, culture, and music.”
“She rolled up her sleeves (and) showed the guts that many entrepreneurs didn’t have — while managing a full-time job and motherhood — to open the first Brazilian restaurant in town,” her Who’s Next nominator wrote.
Cook attended Clarion University and lives in the North Hills.
Operations Program Manager, 412 Food Rescue
Mel Cronin’s passion is exploring human relationships, systems, and structures, so devoting her career to the inequities of the food industry is a natural fit. At 412 Food Rescue, a nonprofit dedicated to ending food waste, Cronin coordinates distribution networks. It’s a huge feat, her nominator explains: She manages the “logistics of 1,500+ donations per month, involving over 1,000 organizations, and develops and implements management plans that include over 950 volunteers and 600 nonprofit partners,” her nominator explained.
Cronin told The Incline that she “truly believes that the work being done at 412 Food Rescue is having a long-term impact — by taking perfectly good food that would have otherwise been thrown out and delivering it to nonprofits and places individuals experiencing food insecurity already are, we are eliminating so many barriers, the biggest being transportation.”
Before 412 Food Rescue, Cronin worked at an urban garden and at a food pantry. A central Pennsylvania native, Cronin earned a bachelor’s degree at James Madison University and a master gardener certificate from the Penn State Extension. She now lives in Wilkinsburg.
Program Director, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh
Through his role at the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Jose Diaz oversees the Hope for All (HFA) food pantry at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA. About 350 people visit this bi-weekly food distribution and emergency food service each month for non-perishable food items, produce, and even pet food and supplies.
Last year, 55 percent of all visitors to the Homewood YMCA indicated this was their first time using a pantry. That means, his nominator explained, that this program is able to “meet community members where they are and in the ways they need it most.”
Diaz earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. A proud Brooklyn native, he now lives in Friendship.
Executive Chef, Duquesne University for Parkhurst Dining
Chef Tim Fetter oversees a busy kitchen — a kitchen so busy it whips up 10,000 meals every single day. As executive chef at Duquesne University, he leads the culinary team responsible for a dining hall, multiple retail outlets, a Starbucks, a Coffee Tree Roasters, The Red Ring Bar & Grill, and campus catering.
His passion for cooking and helping others extends far beyond the kitchen. “Not only does he provide leadership in the kitchen for a large university environment but he stays engaged with the school and his community through a number of volunteer events,” his nominator wrote.
Fetter helped establish and now serves as co-chair for “Cops & Chefs,” a United Way program where he and his cooks collaborate with campus police for a cookout on campus. He also volunteers with local elementary schools through Grow Pittsburgh’s Edible Schoolyard program and Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program to plant gardens and teach kids how to cook what they grow.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Fetter lives in Greensburg.
Founder, Empath Sober Bar & Social Events
Sober for almost four years, Carolyn Hilliard “realized how difficult it was to stay on the sober path when mostly all nightlife and social events that I previously enjoyed revolved around alcohol.”
So she decided, along with her partner and fellow Dinosoul bandmate Donny Donovan, to do something about that.
“There are hardly any alcohol-free spaces for artists,” Hilliard told The Incline. “We really struggled with this and yearned for a safe space that gave the social nightlife feel without the influence of alcohol.”
Operating as a pop-up bar for now, Empath seeks to open a permanent space for its sober bar/venue. Hilliard’s vision is to “create a safe, fun, comfortable and connecting environment with a sober bar that serves delicious and creative mixed drinks” and to host events from music to poetry to yoga.
A Pittsburgh native, Hilliard lives in Stanton Heights.
Owner, Soul & Sea
When Brittany Houser opened Soul & Sea in July 2017, it quickly became a staple for soul food and seafood. But just four months after opening, a fire damaged the restaurant, causing it to temporarily close its doors. Undeterred, Houser and her husband Jermaine were determined to rebuild and reopened in a year’s time.
In addition to running the restaurant, Houser gives back by donating holiday meals to a senior center and hosting a holiday toy drive.
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate lives in Penn Hills.
Dean of Drinking, Palate Partners & Dreadnought Wines
Adam Knoerzer speaks four languages — actually five if you count the language of wine. As Dean of Drinking, Knoerzer helps lead Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits with a focus on educating industry professionals and wine lovers.
A certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Knoerzer is known for what his nominator calls his “fun, in-depth and engaging teaching style.” He’s deeply committed to making wine accessible and inclusive for all and has created classes featuring women winemakers and black winemakers. “In an industry that was traditionally stuffy and exclusionary, Adam is a breath of fresh air committed to kindness, inclusion, and education,” his nominator wrote.
With a penchant for off-the-beaten-path regions and varieties, Knoerzer has a special passion for South African wines. He’s United States champion in the Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup 2019 and is competing in the international finals in Cape Town this month.
He also creates wine lists for local establishments and trains restaurant and bar staff on proper wine service.
A Friendship resident, Knoerzer graduated from Vassar College.
Olivia Jade Lindstrom
Sommelier and Assistant Manager, Spork; Bartender, Acacia
Olivia Jade Lindstrom quickly fell in love with the hospitality industry when she realized she was doing more than delivering food and drinks — “she was crafting exceptional, fulfilling guest experiences,” her nominator wrote. Her path has focused on the art of the beverage; she serves as sommelier at Spork and bartends at Acacia.
With a degree in biological sciences and chemistry, it’s not unusual to find Lindstrom experimenting with a food grade centrifuge to clarify bar ingredients, incorporating garden-grown ingredients into drinks, and connecting with guests over interesting conversation. At Spork, she curates the wine menu and provides custom pairings for special events.
Lindstrom also serves as president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartending Guild and is the youngest president to date. A Pitt graduate and a second-level certified sommelier, Lindstrom lives in Friendship.
Director of Photography, Adam Milliron Studio
From DeLallo and Kingfly to Bakn and Choolah, if you’ve seen pictures of delicious food and drinks in and around Pittsburgh, the person behind the camera was likely Adam Milliron. A self-taught photographer, Milliron came up in commercial product studios and now works with brands like Sarris Candies, Vocelli Pizza, Primanti Bros., Choolaah, Delallo Foods, Nike, Coke, and Marriott.
With his background as creative director for PPG Paints, Milliron thinks broader than just photography. He recently spearheaded the design of the Millie’s soft-serve ice cream pop-up in Bakery Square, and this whimsical pastel spot is definitely photo-worthy.
“The Pittsburgh food and drink scene wouldn’t be the same without his talents,” his nominator wrote.
Milliron lives in Lawrenceville.
Owner, Rolling Pepperoni
Katt Schuler’s pepperoni rolls come with a side of important dialogue. “Rolling Pepperoni is breaking bread across Appalachia to unite rural and urban communities,” her website proclaims. Schuler specializes in the humble pepperoni roll, a beloved West Virginian snack, and she also specializes in “connecting and empowering Appalachian culture.” Rolling Pepperoni is even collecting stories striving to answer the question: “What is Appalachia?”
“You can tell that she has given so much love and thought to her pepperoni rolls and does not compromise on staying true to the tradition and the integrity of her ingredients,” her nominator wrote. “She has made amazing progress in the last few years in getting her product into stores and the hands of those who have nothing but love for her rolls.”
Rolling Pepperoni can be found at a variety of local markets. A native of Elkins, W.V., Schuler attended West Virginia University and Point Park University. She lives in Millvale.