At the tender age of one, the Michigan-born and Florida-raised rising star was scalded by a pot of hot water, baptizing him into the kitchen world. Now he's the sous chef and Curtis Duffy's right-hand man at white-hot Chicago restaurant Grace, doing everything from baking, butchering, saucing, sashimi, and administrative work. According to photographer and Eater contributor Bonjwing Lee, who spent some time in the kitchen at Grace, Lienhard is "quiet, inquisitive, thoughtful, and projects a confidence that is much less showy than it is reassuring." Charleston chef Sean Brock, who oversaw Lienhard in his kitchens, notes, "You could immediately see something in his eyes. His eagerness is very very rare. He didn't have a lot of experience, but to me what matters is your attitude. You could tell right off the bat. He's going to be a very well-known chef probably very soon."
He was a shoe-in for the list of 50 Eater Young Guns semi-finalists, and ahead he chats about how he got into the business, why working with Curtis Duffy is such a dream for him, and what he's planning next.
How did you get your first restaurant job? I always knew that I wanted to be a chef. At the age of thirteen, I really wanted a cellphone. My parents told me if I wanted to get one I had to pay for it myself. I started washing dishes at a little Italian restaurant and just kind of fell in love with watching kitchen service and watching the cook. He started to let me prep food a little bit and from there I just kind of worked my way up through the kitchen. I didn't go to culinary school, and I'm kind of happy about that because I learned the hard way—coming up through the kitchen, the old school way.