Scratch cooking from local ingredients is imprinted in Nate Weir’s DNA. “I grew up in Haiti as a missionary’s kid, and my earliest food experience is going to the open markets with my mom. There were no packaged foods … everything had to be made fresh from scratch,” he says.

That early experience, along with his stint as chef for a farm-to-table fine-dining restaurant in Boulder, Colo., clearly shapes the health-focused, scratch-made menu at Modern Market, where Weir has been director of culinary for nine years. “I was inspired [by founder Anthony Pigliacampo] to take that ethos and replicate it in a fast-casual setting, adding seasonal flair,” he says. 

But Weir actually developed an affinity for the restaurant business as a server at Applebee’s. “My favorite part of the job was when the kitchen crashed and I would jump on the line and cook,” he says. That not only spurred Weir to attend culinary school after college, but it also grounded him in what it takes to run a consistent, efficient operation.

That combination of culinary and operational expertise has helped drive Modern Market’s success as it’s grown to 30 locations. When Weir started, he was a department of one. Now he’s “the center of a food web,” managing three chefs and two supply chain staff. “I hear a lot about how my energy and passion rub off on others,” he says. “A lot of my job is sharing our vision that better-for-you food can be craveable for a broad audience.”