Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame




Vintners

2020 Vintners

Katie Griesbeck
Cakebread Cellars
Rutherford, CA
National Sales & Marketing Director
Katie Griesbeck joined the Cakebread Cellars team in 2017 as the National Sales and Marketing Director.  Katie brings more than 15 years of marketing experience and a deep passion for wine to the team.  Originally born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Katie has since called many areas of the country home.  After earning her undergraduate degree in Communication at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, Katie moved to Washington, DC where she worked in public relations for the technology industry, including America Online where she even held the title of AOL Sommelier, providing wine and food pairing recommendations to newspapers and radio stations across the country.  It was this love of wine, first discovered during her studies abroad in the Burgundy region of France, that led Katie back to graduate school to hone her business and marketing skills before entering the wine industry full-time.

Upon graduating from the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business with her MBA, Katie joined E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, California where she helped build such wine brands as Barefoot Wine & Bubbly and Apothic, as well as helped expand Gallo's portfolio of spirits brands.  After seven years at Gallo, Katie joined Constellation Brands in San Francisco as Innovation Marketing Manager, launching new-to-world brands and leading all sales and marketing strategy.  Katie holds several wine and spirits certifications, including WSET II, Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS).

Katie enjoys exploring all that the Golden State has to offer, from coast to mountains and all cultural adventures in between.  True to her Memphis roots, she's an avid music fan and loves to attend concerts and collect vinyl records of all genres.  Her go-to favorite wine is Cakebread Two Creeks Pinot Noir.
Anthony Truchard
Truchard Vineyards
Carneros Napa, CA

Ever since Anthony can remember, he has been alongside his father working on the vineyards and in the cellar. Whether pruning vines or racking wines, Anthony has experienced every aspect of winemaking, from grape to bottle.

Anthony received his Bachelor's Degree from the University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied philosophy and biology and further developed his wine knowledge by working in boutique wine shops and restaurants. These experiences were his initial lessons in sales and marketing – by interacting with wine lovers in different milieu, Anthony honed the unique skill of discerning what a customer seeks when selecting a wine, either off a shelf or from a wine list.

Upon graduating from UCSB, Anthony returned to Napa and joined a vineyard management company with his brother, which he successfully managed for several years. Realizing the importance of developing his business and legal acumen, Anthony decided to return to school to obtain his law degree. Upon graduation cum laude from Cardozo School of Law, he practiced patent law in New York before his parents asked him to return home to Napa to help manage the winery.

As Sales and Marketing Director, Anthony has led the expansion of Truchard Vineyards into several markets, drawing on his legal foundation to develop new ideas and successfully manage all aspects of his family's business.

When he is not traveling the world sharing the beauty of Truchard wines, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends in Napa or simply relaxing at home with his Labrador Retriever, Jack.

Tim Duncan
Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars
Napa Valley, CA

It’s not a surprise to spot Tim Duncan out of his car at the end of Silver Oak’s Driveway, unassumingly offering a guest a helping hand shooting a photo. “Some people will only make it here once,” Tim Duncan. “It’s our job to make that one visit a great memory.”

For more than 30 years, Duncan’s humble nature and unrelenting focus on the customer experience have been driving forces behind the culture and success of Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars. Today, along with brother and fellow owner David Duncan, Tim develops business strategy for both wineries and brings his personal passion for building relationships to his role overseeing domestic and international sales.

Tim Duncan’s keep understanding of the customers and accounts that drive Silver Oak’s business thrust him into strategic roles. In 1999, he worked with his father Ray and then-winemaker Daniel Baron to start Twomey Cellars, which originally produced Merlot from vines at the family’s Soda Canyon Ranch – and in 2002 influenced its movement into Pinot Noir production. Duncan ahs spearheaded both wineries’ expansion into international sales. Along with his brother David, Tim Duncan promotes continuous improvement throughout both wineries – a principal that defines the company’s culture.

Tim Duncan lives in Sonoma with his wife Roo. Together they have five children, two of whom (Matt and Haley) have joined the Team at Silver Oak and Twomey.

Montes Alpha
Montes Alpha
Flora Springs
Flora Springs
Napa, CA

2019 Vintners

Allen Papp
Darioush Winery
Napa, CA
Director of Sales
As the Director of Sales for Darioush, people are both Allen’s job and calling. Though initially drawn to the securities industry after college, he became enamored with the quickly evolving American wine industry and more importantly, the growing community of wine enthusiasts nationwide which supported it. In 1999, Allen joined Darioush as one of the first employees - he poured some of the first wines to our very first clients, many of whom still remain loyal collectors and friends.

Allen pursued a more meaningful and family-oriented career in the wine business, where relationships, commitment and people are what truly matter. Over the past decade, Allen has risen to Director of Sales, having established thousands of relationships throughout the country with collectors and sommeliers who have come to not only trust and admire the wines, but Allen himself.
Guillaume Large
Maison Louis Jadot, Burgundy, France
Resonance Winery, Willamette Valley, OR
Winemaker
Guillaume Large was born in the heart of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation in 1982. After first studying public law, Guillaume decided to turn his passion into his profession. Growing up, his grandfather, who was a grower, shared with him his passion for vineyards and wine. He graduated with an Oenologist’s National Diploma of the Jules Guyot Institute of Dijon, and joined Maison Joseph Drouhin, in Beaune, before joining the Chateau de Vinzelles in Maconnais in 2009.

In 2011, Guillaume joined Maison Louis Jadot and became the Assistant Technical Director under Frederic Barnier. In August 2017, he moved to Oregon and joined Résonance as Winemaker, working under the advisement of Jacques Lardière. The beginning of an exciting adventure! Guillaume is married and is a father of one child, Augustin. He enjoys traveling with his family, cooking and pairing his dishes with fine wines. He loves mountain biking and has a great passion for History.
 
Jeff Flood
Silver Oak/Twomey Cellars
Napa, CA
Southeastern Sales Ambassador
Jeff has 35 plus years of experience in the wine business.  Representing Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars is the pinnacle of his years in the industry. Through his career he’s been involved in every aspect of wine, from vine to bottle to shelf. However, Jeff finds that with wine, there is always something new to learn. “Wine is a subjective product that is never the same twice”.

Covering the southeastern United States for Silver Oak and Twomey, Jeff loves working with fine wine shops and restaurants, educating customers about the wines and their origins. “People are so passionate about food and wine; it’s fun to share that with them.”

Jeff’s winery experience includes the Robert Mondavi family and Asheville, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate Wine Company.
 
Teresa D’Aurizio
ZD Wines
Napa, CA
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Teresa D’Aurizio has been with ZD Wines since 1998 and is currently the Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Prior to joining the team at the winery, she was a sales representative for an Aspen, Colorado wine distributor. It was there that she was introduced to ZD Wines, a family- owned and operated winery located in Napa. Soon enough the lure of wine country drew her and her husband, Dan, to Napa Valley, where she began her career at ZD Wines as National Sales Manager. Teresa’s motto continues to be “Have Wine, Will Travel.” Today, she is still doing what she enjoys most: meeting people, traveling, and talking ZD Wines!

ZD Wines is owned and operated by the deLeuze family who is dedicated to producing world-class wines, farming organically, and giving back to the community. The winery is located in the Rutherford region of the Napa Valley. Their hospitality center offers sweeping valley views of premium Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and the Mayacamas mountain range to the west.

The deLeuze family produces wines from their certified organic Napa Valley vineyards in Rutherford and Carneros, as well as organic vineyards in Napa, Santa Barbara, Monterey and Sonoma. With innovative winemaking practices, they produce wines of quality, consistency, and style. ZD Wines is currently celebrating 50 years of winemaking and can be found online at ZDWines.com and @ZDWines on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
 
Dave Persaud
Kobrand
Purchase, New York
Brand Manager
Dave Persaud serves as Brand Manager at Kobrand, which imports and markets a distinguished portfolio of hand selected brands representing virtually every major wine region of the world and its most iconic specialty spirits. The portfolio is a collection of gems of New World and Old, including American wineries such as Cakebread Cellars, Sequoia Grove and St. Francis as well as the wines of European masters such as Champagne Taittinger and Maison Louis Jadot and the Portos of Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft. The legendary Sassicaia from Italy’s Tenuta San Guido and the wines of Craggy Range in New Zealand are relatively new additions that will stand the test of time. The spirits portfolio includes the original Alizé liqueurs as well as fine Cognacs, Armagnacs and other premium spirits.
 
Dave has a broad-based marketing background but his passion for wine brought him to Kobrand. Dave received his MBA from the University of Connecticut and his BA from the University of Massachusetts. He was awarded WSET Level 3 by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling to wine regions globally, cooking, and the occasional round of golf when he’s not savoring a fine wine.
 
Craggy Range Vineyards
Craggy Range Vineyards
New Zealand

2018 Vintners

Robin Akhurst
Swanson Vineyards and Clos Pegase
Napa Valley, CA
Robin Akhurst’s road to Napa took him around the globe, through eight consecutive and exhausting harvests, picking up an impressive list of mentors along the way. He joined the Swanson Vineyards family in 2015, it’s thirtieth year, to lead a super power winemaking team poised to propel Swanson through its next thirty.

A native of Scotland, Akhurst graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in environmental sciences. What started as a casual interest in wine soon became a passion and following graduation, he took a job as a sommelier in one of Edinburgh’s most forward thinking wine-focused restaurants. Fate then took him to London to work for one of the city’s leading independent wine merchants, gaining additional on-the-floor experience selecting, selling and sampling wines from all over the world.

With a desire to get closer to the agricultural aspects of winegrowing, he moved to New Zealand and received a graduate degree in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch. He worked two harvests in Marlborough before continuing his international winemaking road trip, working at Burgundy’s famed Domaine Leflaive and in Australia’s Barossa Valley with Two Hands Winery.

A fortunate suggestion from Michael Twelftree of Two Hands led Akhurst to accept a harvest position in Napa valley with Thomas Rivers Brown in 2009, working with the team at Outpost Wines on Howell Mountain. Under Thomas’s guidance, he learned to create iconic wines including Schrader Cellars, Maybach and Rivers Marie. Following harvest, Akhurst took a position to direct the production team at Envy Wines, a winery and custom-crush project established by partners Nils Venge and Mark Carter. For four years, Akhurst crafted the Envy wines and worked alongside Mike Smith as assistant winemaker for the highly lauded Carter Cellars wines.

Swanson’s reputation provided sufficient appeal for him to make a move to join the team, stepping in to take the lead winemaking role as Chris Phelps transitioned to a consultant role after twelve years at the winery.

As lead winemaker, Akhurst is directly responsible for winemaking and winery operations, working closely with Assistant Winemaker Tony Herrera, Winemaker Emeritus Chris Phelps and Estate Director Pam Bond along with her vineyard team.
Tony Apostalakos
Masi Agricola
Italy

Tony Apostolakos comes from a family with a winemaking background, as they originally owned vineyards in Central Greece dating back to the early 1900s before emigration to Montreal in Canada. Apostalakos earned his degree in Economics at the University of Alberta before entering the wine trade, where he now has over 20 years of experience.

Apostolakos first represented Masi in Canada in 1999 before he switched his attention to the United States market in 2005. He has now been appointed Director of Marketing and Sales in USA for Masi and makes regular trips to the company headquarters in Valpolicella to spend time with the Boscaini family and the Masi Technical Group and ensure he is fully up-to-date with the company’s winemaking techniques and global strategy.

Tim Duncan
Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars
Napa Valley, CA

It’s not a surprise to spot Tim Duncan out of his car at the end of Silver Oak’s Driveway, unassumingly offering a guest a helping hand shooting a photo. “Some people will only make it here once,” Tim Duncan. “It’s our job to make that one visit a great memory.”

For more than 30 years, Duncan’s humble nature and unrelenting focus on the customer experience have been driving forces behind the culture and success of Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars. Today, along with brother and fellow owner David Duncan, Tim develops business strategy for both wineries and brings his personal passion for building relationships to his role overseeing domestic and international sales.

Tim Duncan’s keep understanding of the customers and accounts that drive Silver Oak’s business thrust him into strategic roles. In 1999, he worked with his father Ray and then-winemaker Daniel Baron to start Twomey Cellars, which originally produced Merlot from vines at the family’s Soda Canyon Ranch – and in 2002 influenced its movement into Pinot Noir production. Duncan ahs spearheaded both wineries’ expansion into international sales. Along with his brother David, Tim Duncan promotes continuous improvement throughout both wineries – a principal that defines the company’s culture.

Tim Duncan lives in Sonoma with his wife Roo. Together they have five children, two of whom (Matt and Haley) have joined the Team at Silver Oak and Twomey.

Miles MacDonnell
Round Pond Estate Winery
Napa, CA

Miles joined Round Pond Estate after a career in auditing with Deloitte. Originally a graduate of Southern Methodist University in psychology and economics, he returned to school in 2005, maintaining his responsibilities at the winery while pursuing his MBA at Boston College. His current role at Round Pond Estate includes heading up viticulture, wine production and wholesale sales. "Ryan and I are incredibly lucky to live and work with our family on family land," says Miles. "Basically, we grew up camping out in these vineyards, exploring the river and riding four-wheelers up and down the valley. AS a family, we enjoyed the farm-to-table lifestyle before it was fashionable. The philosophy is a perfect fit for our company, with its estate winery and olive mill."

Today, Miles lives on the estate with his wife, Katie, and their children, Robbie, Maggie and Ali. Ryan and her family lives across the vineyard and so do their parents – keeping the estate at center of the MacDonnell’s family life.

Megan Gunderson Paredes
HALL Wines and Walt Wines
Napa/Sonoma, CA

WALT Winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes began her career in the Napa Valley in 2001 when she moved from Colorado to California and worked as an intern at Robert Mondavi Winery. While at Mondavi, she discovered a passion for wine and viticulture and went on to become a Laboratory Manager for St. Supery Vineyards in Rutherford, then Dominus Estates in Oakville. At Dominus, she was able to refine her winemaking skills under the mentorship of Christian Moueix and Jean-Claude Barrouet, learning to hone her winemaking craft with unique methods.

Megan has made several trips to France to study wine-making techniques, the most recent to Burgundy. Megan’s multiple degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics have given her a unique and unmatched perspective into the scientific aspects of winemaking.

Sean Roney
BR Cohn and Delectus Winery
Napa Valley, CA

Born in the sprawling forests of New Jersey, Roney's family quickly moved west and settled in wine country where he grew up in the wine business. Between his family working in the business and going to school with kids also in the business, there was no escaping.

In high school and college, Roney forged his own path. Volunteering as a student attorney in a local Teen Court program and logging over 400 hours of community service in high school, he ended up working for a non-profit while going to college. He volunteered with at risk teens and volunteered at San Quentin State Penitentiary.

After college, Roney moved back to the east coast and attended Washington College of Law at American University. While at law school, people learned what his family did and how much cooler it is than studying writs of certiorari and comparative negligence. While at school, he was heavily involved with Mock Trial and the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic. The weight of law started to bring him down and he began to get more interested in wine as a way to relax. Roney began to suspect law wasn’t for him.

After graduation, he moved back to California – also the height of the recession. It was his father who asked him to work in the family business, "just for a little while."

As the "little while" became "a while" and now became his career, Roney felt the urge to be involved in law slipping away. He got involved with marketing and sales, getting to see the great land of ours. He found himself enjoying more wine and started doing some international sales as well as getting involved in production. Whether it was racking barrels or digging out tanks, he was hooked and thoroughly loving what he was doing.

2017 Vintners

Claudio Andreani
Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari
Italy
Luciano Castiello
Banfi Vintners
Glen Head, NY
Miles MacDonnell
Round Pond Estate Winery
Napa, CA
Chris Silva
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Sonoma, CA

2016 Vintners

William Barnes
Vins de Bordeaux
Bordeaux, France
Wine and fine spirits have been a passionate part of William’s life for over 25 years. Starting in restaurants and teaching others about wine and then moving on to over 15 years in distribution. During this time William travelled the world learning hands on about wine and spirits from all the great regions. He has gained several certifications with wine including becoming a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is the owner of a Webster Barnes Wine and Spirits with offices in Florida and Bordeaux. His company represents one of the largest inventories of Classified Vins de Bordeaux available anywhere in the world. Webster Barnes Wine and Spirits represents many other areas including Italy, Spain, Champagne, Armagnac, Cognac and American Craft Spirits.
Chris Benziger
Benziger Family Winery
Sonoma, CA
Still in high school when the Benziger family moved from White Plains, Benziger finished his senior year in wine country. He went on to earn a degree in marketing from the University of San Francisco while spending summers, weekends and every spare moment working at the winery. He officially joined the Benziger Family Winery in 1993 as a Brand Manager. In addition to sales responsibilities, Benziger also oversees the home ranch and its many farm related duties, i.e. shepherding the Benziger flock of sheep and cows, tending to the estate vegetable and fruit trees and producing the Biodynamic preparations for all the vineyards. Chris Benziger feels that the only way to communicate the quality of the wines he promotes is by having the soil from the vineyard in which he’s endorsing under his nails. The best impression a winemaker can leave on his wines are his footprints in the vineyards.
Bruce Cohn
B.R. Cohn Winery
Sonoma, CA

In 1956, the Cohn family relocated to the Bay Area and settled in Sonoma County. Bruce Cohn later attended the University of San Mateo and while at school, studying broadcasting and communications, he became intimately involved with the San Francisco music scene, running a music rehearsal studio by day and serving as a television engineer at night.

In 1974, Cohn purchased an old dairy in Glen Ellen which evolved into Olive Hill Estate Vineyard, so-named for the property’s grove of 140-year-old French Picholine olive trees. With drive to cultivate the existing vineyard, Bruce purchased books on viticulture and read them during long periods of traveling with the band. He soon became intensely involved with all aspects of growing grapes, from planting and pruning to grafting and trellising techniques. A decade after taking ownership of the land and having great success selling grapes to other wineries, Bruce founded B.R. Cohn Winery at Olive Hill Estate in 1984

After selling wine grapes for many years to August Sebastiani and Gundlach Bundschu and seeing the numerous awards the wines with fruit sourced from the Olive Hill Estate were receiving, Bruce took the advice of good friend and mentor Charlie Wagner from Caymus winery and began producing his own wines from the Olive Hill Estate in 1984. Charlie bestowed the greatest honor upon the winery, permitting the use of Caymus’ trademarked “Special Selection” on the best lots from B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate. B.R. Cohn Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the entire portfolio continues to receive amazing reviews and accolades. The B.R. Cohn library wines continue to impress our wine family members as well as the wine community as they compete with the best from Napa to Bordeaux.

In the 1990’s the family embarked on the journey of processing the olives at the Olive Hill Estate, creating California’s first single estate Picholine Olive Oil and B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company was founded. Today we produce some of the world’s finest Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

T.J. Evans
Domaine Carneros
Napa Valley, CA

Prior to joining Domaine Carneros in 2008, TJ Evans spent 10 years in a variety of winemaking positions around the world, during which he developed not only winemaking knowledge, but a deep love of Pinot Noir and the decision to make it the focus of his professional life.

Evans grew up in Northern California and completed his undergraduate studies at Amherst College, in Massachusetts. Early in his career, he landed winemaking internships at Robert Mondavi Winery and then Far Niente Winery, where his interest in winemaking was piqued. However, it wasn’t until a life-changing trip to the northern Rhône Valley and an apprenticeship that focused exclusively on Pinot Noir that he cemented his future in winemaking.

In 1997, after completing his master’s degree at UC Davis, TJ traveled to New Zealand to work harvest at Villa Maria Estate, and then to the Rhône Valley, where his time at 500-year-old Domaine Jean-Louis Chave put his winemaking life in perspective.

Justin King
King Estate Winery
Eugene, OR
Justin King is the oldest of the three King brothers. Growing up in an Oregon wine family Justin developed an appreciation for and understanding of Pacific Northwest wines, particularly those of the Willamette Valley. After moving to Brooklyn, NY Justin took up the position of Northeastern Area Manager in 2012. In 2015, he returned to Oregon to become the Northwest Area Manager. Justin brings his passion for the family business to his interactions with King Estate’s distributors and accounts.
Janet Pouchot
Craggy Range Vineyards
New Zealand

It was while living in Paris that Janet discovered a fascination and passion for wine. With visits to Champagne, Burgundy, the Rhone, the Loire and the Languedoc, she began her education. After two years abroad, Janet returned to New York and furthered her education, completing coursework into year two of the Diploma Level of the WSET, Wine and Spirits Education Trust, which trains Master of Wine Candidates. Further certifications were earned form The American Sommelier Association, The Sommelier Society of America, Windows on the World wine school (later assisting Kevin Zraly with the classes), and The New School Culinary Arts Wine Program (where she subsequently spent time lecturing).

After spending a year working at world famous wine retailer Sherry-Lehmann, Janet went to work for Restaurant Daniel as a cellar hand, working her way onto the floor where she became Sommelier. For eight years, she worked the floor assisting customers with wine parings and travelled several weeks a year to wine regions and wine shows all over the world, tasting and learning as much as possible. It was with the impending birth of her first little boy that she left Daniel and went to work for Negociants, an international wine importer and exporter which lead to a position as US Brand Development Manager for Peter Lehmann Wines, and then, for the past six years in the New Zealand wine industry as Campaign Manager for NZTE and now as Business Manager for the Americas for Craggy Range winery. Janet lives in Manhattan with her husband Charles, who is the East Coast Director of Operations for the Charlie Palmer Group, and their young sons.

2015 Vintners

Toni Apostalakos
Masi Agricola
Verona, Italy

As Masi’s Director of Marketing and Sales for the United States, Tony makes regular trips to Valpolicella, Italy and spends a good deal of time with the Boscaini family and Masi Technical Group to remain entrenched in their winemaking techniques and global strategy.

Born into a rich tradition of winemaking, Tony’s family owned vineyards in Sparta, Greece dating back to the early 1900’s before his family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Tony earned a business degree with a major in Finance at the University of Alberta and has over 20 years of experience in the alcohol beverage industry which he started as a restaurant owner.

It was in Canada where Tony was first introduced to Masi in 1999 as he sold their wine in his market for over six years. His innate knowledge of the Masi wine portfolio and family traditions, Tony was presented with the opportunity to work directly for the esteemed winery in the United States as the regional sales director and immediately relocated.

Today, when Tony is not traveling to local markets on behalf of Masi, he resides in Boulder, Colorado.

Kathie Lee Gifford and Heidi Scheid
GIFFT Wines and Scheid Vineyards
Monterey, CA

Kathie Lee Gifford has enjoyed a diverse and successful four-decade career as a television host, actress, singer, playwright, songwriter and author. Through best known for her 15 years on Regis and Kathie Lee (11 Emmy nominations), and currently acting as the three-time Emmy-winning co-host of the fourth hour of the Today Show with Hoda Kotb, Gifford has always pursued projects that inspire and challenger her. Gifford made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's 'Putting it Together' in 2000, then originated the role of Marta Dunhill in Rupert Holmes' 'Thumbs' and played Miss Hannigan in a record-breaking run of "Annie" at Madison Square Garden. In 2005 her first musical 'Under The Bridge' (book and lyrics, contributing composer) opened off Broadway. In November 2012 her musical 'Scandalous' (book/lyrics) opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater and received a Tony nomination.

She is the NY Times best-selling author of many books including "Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg-Life and Other Calamities," "Party Animals," and "The Legend of Messy M'Cheany." Her ninth book, "The Three Gifts," was released in November of 2012 with proceeds going to Childhelp. She started her own podcast, Kathie Lee & Company on Podcast One this past fall.

Gifford devotes much of her time to the Association to Benefit Children, which spawned the Cody Foundation. The resources from the Association continue to support Cody House and Cassidy's Place. Cody House provides a transitional home for infants and children who have severe disabilities and serious medical problems. Named for Gifford's daughter, Cassidy's Place, is the home of the Association to Benefit Children's (ABC) national children advocacy.

Heidi Scheid is Senior Vice President of Scheid Vineyards Inc. Scheid Vineyards has grown wine grapes in Monterey County since 1972 and farms approximately 4,200 acres comprised of ten estate vineyards. Scheid Vineyards also operates a state-of-the-art, 30,000-ton capacity winery facility in Greenfield. In addition to supplying wine grapes and contract wines to a wide spectrum of wineries, the Company produces a portfolio of fine wines under its Scheid Family Wines division, including GIFFT Wines, a joint venture with Kathie Lee Gifford.

Ms. Scheid joined Scheid Vineyards in 1992 as Director of Planning and served as the company's Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer from 1997 to 2001. Prior to joining Scheid Vineyards, she served as a senior valuation analyst at Ernst & Young, LLP and as an associate at the venture capital firm of InterVen Partners. Ms. Scheid has been a director of California Association of Winegrape Growers since 2007 and currently serves as its Chairman. She has served as a director of Wine Market Council since 1990, a wine industry association aimed at expanding the American wine consumer base. She holds an M.B.A. degree from the University of Southern California.

Molly Hill
Sequoia Grove Winery
Napa, CA

Winemaker Molly Hill oversees all winemaking and production operations of the winery as well as helping with grower relations and recommendations in the vineyards. Top-quality winemaking and grape growing, with passion, is her goal every step of the way. For Molly, balance is of utmost importance in making a great wine. “Balance to me means nothing stands out – not alcohol, not tannin, not acid, nor fruit nor barrel.”

Although Molly joined Sequoia Grove at the relatively young age of 24, she came with experience from quite a few wineries, large and small. She joined Sequoia Grove in 2003 as assistant winemaker and was promoted to winemaker in 2008.

Steve Leveque
HALL Wines and Walt Wines
Napa and Sonoma, CA
Born and raised in Napa Valley, Steve Leveque has earned a reputation for finely crafted wines that reflect the terroir and celebrate the varietal. His more than sixteen years of winemaking expertise started at Robert Mondavi Winery where he blossomed under the mentorship of Tim Mondavi and served as winemaker for most of his eleven-year tenure. Steve also served as executive vice president and winemaker of Chalk Hill Estate Winery in Sonoma where he hand-crafted a portfolio of small-lot Bordeaux varietals to critical acclaim. Steve's personal philosophy and professional history demonstrate the reverence for the land and devotion to excellence that HALL embraces.

"My goal is to be true to the fruit, let it express itself purely and fully. Working with such a talented team, with such excellent vineyards, and in such an exceptional facility is exciting and inspiring. HALL is truly devoted to making great wine and is going about achieving that in all the right ways: organically farmed vineyards, hand-sorted fruit, gravity-fed tanks, and native yeast fermentations." –Steve Leveque
Andy Niner
Niner Wine Estates
Paso Robles, CA

After studying economics at Colby College in Maine, Andy started his career working in finance for Cambridge Associates in Boston. He then moved to California and worked as a product manager in a small sunglass company in San Luis Obispo, earned his MBA from U.C. Berkeley and spent several years working in strategic planning for Levi Strauss & Company in San Francisco.

His love for the central coast and the importance of the family business ended up being the catalyst for joining the team. He joined the company full time in the spring of 2013. As president of Niner Wine Estates, Andy is responsible for making sure all of the different parts of the business are working together and moving in the right direction. From the vineyards to business structure to marketing and future planning.

Outside of work Andy bikes, climbs, wears a puffy vest and old raggedy New Balance shoes to Winemaker dinners, cooks and spends time at home with his wife Carolyn and newborn daughter Cora.

Richard Sowalsky
Clos Pegase
Napa, CA

The winemaking approach at Clos Pegase has been consistent since Jan Shrem founded the winery in 1984. The focus is on wines that are harmonious in every way, expressing the terrior of the estate vineyard where the grapes were grown. Careful crafting is used to accentuate the intricate delicacy of fruit rather than hide it behind overbearing winemaking techniques. We consider Clos Pegase to be in the tradition of the classic Napa style where wine balances with food in an elegant way.

Richard Sowalsky has been the Winemaker at Clos Pegase since 2010. Richard relies on extensive winemaking experience and a diverse educational background that includes enology, medicine, and the culinary arts to create estate wines of the highest quality. Before joining Clos Pegase, Richard was at Tetra and Expression Wine, brands of Hill & Wollack Wine Estates. Prior to his tenure with Hill & Wollack, he spent two years as the winemaker at William Hill Estate and six years at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville as associate winemaker for the Bordeaux varieties. Before joining Mondavi, Sowalsky was a research enologist for Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Winery in Lodi, production assistant at Handley Cellars in Philo, California, and harvest assistant at Truchard Vineyards in Napa.

When asked about the winemaking process Richard states, “My approach to winegrowing begins as an intensive learning process in the vineyard. Then I adapt all of my winemaking to realize the full potential of each site in the finished wine.” This is the same spirit that Clos Pegase was founded on in 1984 and continues to drive us through today.

Nate Weis
Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey Cellars
Napa, CA

A Napa Valley native whose father is also a winemaker, Nate grew up with wine on the table and a drawer full of t-shirts emblazoned with winery logos. Nate spent the 2003 harvest at two New Zealand wineries and when he returned home he worked harvest for Etude Wines before starting grad school.

Nate, joined Silver Oak in 2014, has a long list of things he likes about winemaking: “I love the uniform – jeans and boots. I love the physical nature of the work, coming home covered in muck and tired out from working hard. I love the setting and getting to play with heave equipment; one of my best memories is a harvest spent on a tractor spreading out pomace in the vineyard and watching the sunset. And I’ve grown to love the plant biology part of it – figuring out how to get the vine to do what we want it to do. It’s like unraveling a mystery. And of course I love the end product. I often see people when they’re happiest – at a great meal with a glass of Silver Oak in their hand.”

2014 Vintners

Chris Benziger
Benziger
Sonoma, CA
Chris Benziger officially joined the Benziger Family Winery in 1993 as a Brand Manager, though he grew up working summers, nights and weekends at the winery. In addition to sales responsibilities, Benziger also oversees the home ranch, producing the biodynamic preparations for all the vineyards. Chris feels the only way to communicate the quality of the wines Benziger promotes is by having the soil from the vineyard under his nails.
Régis Camus
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck
France
John Geber
Château Tanunda
Barossa Valley, Australia
Bruce Orosz
Hollywood and Vine Cellars
Napa, CA
Allen Papp
Darioush
Napa, CA
Dev Sidhu
Cakebread Cellars
Napa, CA
With 15 years of experience in the wine industry, Sidhu is a part of the dynamic and fast-paced, direct-to-consumer business for Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley. In his capacity, Sidhu is responsible for the company's Visitor Center, Wine Club, Customer Service and Logistics department in addition to Cakebread Cellars' web presence.

2013 Vintners

Luciano Castiello
Castiello Banfi and Vigne Regal
Tuscany, Italy

Luciano Castiello is the official ambassador for Castello Banfi and Vigne Regali, and unofficial ambassador for Italy's melody-filled, wine-charmed, "slow food" culture.

An industry veteran of over 30 years, Mr. Castiello leads sales of Castello Banfi and Vigne Regali's ultra premium wines to upscale restaurants and wine shops, focusing his efforts mainly in the leading metropolitan areas of the United States and the islands of the Caribbean, as well as international markets in conjunction with the Banfi sales team. As ambassador, Mr. Castiello is a passionate and inspiring spokesperson for these family wineries. The multi-lingual Mr. Castiello (he has fluent command of English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Punjabi and Creole) concentrates on building brands through personal contact with sommeliers and wine professionals, acting as a liaison between grower and consumer.

The consummate professional, Mr. Castiello possesses the unique ability to reach wine enthusiasts of all levels. His passion for international cuisine combined with his vastly extensive wine knowledge allows him to make wine approachable to any consumer.

Mr. Castiello attributes his passion for food and wine to his experiences growing up on the Italian Riviera, the son of a winemaker and a chef. Born on a small farm in Liguria, just nine hundred feet from the sea, Mr. Castiello worked in the fields harvesting olives for oil and grapes for wine with his father, and cooking in his family's restaurant-like kitchen with his mother and grandmother. These small family businesses inspired him to continue working with family wineries where the soul of the brand is always present.

Schooled in Italy and France, Mr. Castiello has worked in the UK and on the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten and has represented prestige champagne houses, as well as artisan Burgundy producers. His breadth of international wine experience allows Mr. Castiello to bring a unique perspective to his role, and his passion brings this experience to life. He is a graduate of the Armenise Business School, London, England and L'Istituto Italiano Alberghiero Hotel School, Alassio, Italy. Mr. Castiello is also a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

Castello Banfi is the first winery in the world to be awarded international recognition for exceptional environmental, ethical and social responsibility (ISO 14001 and SA8000) as well as an international leader in customer satisfaction (ISO 9001:2000). The signature wines of Castello Banfi and Vigne Regali include a Proprietor's Reserve Sangiovese called BelnerO, three Brunellos (single-vineyard reserve Poggio all'Oro, cru Poggio alle Mura, and the flagship Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino), as well as three Montalcino Super Tuscan cuvées: SummuS, ExcelsuS, and Cum Laude; San Angelo Pinot Grigio, the single vineyard Principessa Gavia, and the cru Rosa Regale, a unique and renowned sparkling red.

Count Patrick D'Aulan
Alta Vista Winery
Argentina

Count Patrick d'Aulan, Owner of Alta Vista winery, combines his love of terroir and family to produce old-world wines influenced by European inheritance.

As a descendent from one of the oldest families in Europe, Count Patrick d'Aulan may be a blue-blood, but he has wine flowing freely through his veins.

The d'Aulan family produces wines in several wine-growing regions around the world, from France - their country of origin - to Hungary and Argentina, where they created Alta Vista in 1998, in search of the greatest qualities of two emblematic varieties: Malbec and Torrontes. The result is the perfect combination of French savoir-faire and Argentinean passion.

After obtaining a Master's Degree in International Law, Count Patrick d'Aulan decided to follow family tradition by leaving his own indelible mark on the wine world. While visiting Bordeaux in 1997, Count Patrick d'Aulan met Jean-Michel Arcaute, at the time, one of the most prestigious winemakers in Bordeaux. Together, they decided to travel the globe in search of a place that would embrace their winemaking vision of integrating distinct expressions from various terroirs, resulting in the highest quality of wine.

The duo settled upon the Las Compuertas district in Argentina, where they infused native Argentinean knowledge of Malbec and essential French winemaking philosophy into the foundation of their winery, Alta Vista and ultimately their flagship wine, Alto.

At the time of Alta Vista's conception, the prevailing reputation of Argentinean wines was focused more on quantity than quality. In 1998, the release of their first effort, Alto, was a shining example of Argentinean excellence and considered a revolution in the local wine industry. All production of Alto 1998 was sold in just a few hours and is still considered by collectors as an iconic wine.

The groundbreaking efforts of Count Patrick d'Aulan appeared again in 2002 when he was the first winery owner in Argentina to release a single vineyard Malbec. This "single vineyard" wine became a benchmark for the Argentinean wine industry.

After the tragic death of Jean-Michel Arcaute in 2001, Patrick d'Aulan continued to follow his dream of establishing Alta Vista as one of the best wineries in Argentina. His dream came true only 8 years later, when the Parker guide, classified Alta Vista as one of Argentina's top 5 wineries. Today, Alta Vista wines are sold in 36 countries around the world.

In 2012, Count Patrick d'Aulan was honored with the Knight of Merit by the President of the Republic of Hungary for his dedication and promotion of the wines of Tokay.

Today, Count Patrick d'Aulan lives in London with his wife, Kristen and their four children. When taking a break from business, the Count, a professional certified pilot, can be found soaring to new heights in his helicopter.

Cynthia Lohr
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
San Jose, CA

As the daughter of wine industry pioneer Jerry Lohr, Cynthia Lohr spent some of her youth in the vineyards and at the wineries, absorbing aspects of the wine industry firsthand. As an adult, she chose her own path, establishing a reputation for excellence in strategic marketing and public relations, working with a who's who of leading Internet and technology companies. In 2002, Cynthia joined the family business as director of communications for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and in 2009 she was named marketing vice president.

In this capacity, Cynthia works with a dedicated marketing team, overseeing J. Lohr's advertising, public relations, editorial, promotional, Internet marketing, branding and communications initiatives, and is involved in direct-to-consumer strategy and partner sponsor relationships. Cynthia's unique background has enabled her to enhance J. Lohr's visibility while expanding overall brand recognition in both traditional and new media and throughout the marketplace. As one of three Lohr children to work actively in the business, Cynthia's perspective on sustainability starts in the vineyards and includes growing J. Lohr to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Prior to joining J. Lohr, Cynthia was a vice president at AlexanderOgilvy Public Relations Worldwide, where her division served an array of clients including Covad Communications, TurboLinux, HomePNA, iPIX, Preview Systems, and Vicinium Systems. In addition, while at technology public relations firm Niehaus Ryan Wong, Cynthia led Yahoo!'s pre-IPO strategic messaging efforts, helping to build the company's consumer brand throughout the mid-90s. She also directed strategic communications initiatives and executed numerous product launches for VeriSign, InsWeb and Organic Online. Before joining Niehaus Ryan Wong, Cynthia was the director of business development at PRx, a strategic marketing communications firm serving Silicon Valley technology clients. She was also an elementary school substitute teacher in Oakland, California, and was a program director for Saint Mary's College School of Extended Education in nearby Moraga.

Cynthia holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French with minor in psychology from U.C. Davis. Her diverse background also reflects her passion for family and community, leadership, the arts and education. She lives in San Francisco with her husband Sam Lucente and her two daughters, Annabella and Emily, and serves on the board of directors for Edgewood Center for Children and Families and Headlands Center for the Arts. Cynthia is also an experienced ethnic vocalist, who has performed in 19 languages and released CDs with local groups Kitka, Wazobia, Savina, Jou Jou, and Flying Without Instruments. Her vocal credits with Kitka include the film Jacob's Ladder.

René Schlatter
Merryvale Vineyards
Napa Valley, CA

René Schlatter proudly upholds his family’s integrity and commitment to excellence in his broad role as President of Merryvale Vineyards, a family-owned Napa Valley winery. A native of Switzerland, René has lived in the U.S. since 1987, completing his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and earning a Master’s Degree from Arizona’s Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management.

As a winery principal, René has held progressively more responsible positions at Merryvale since 1995.  He has made significant contributions in Merryvale’s sales management, marketing, finance and grape grower relations. In 2005, René and his family acquired a second estate vineyard with 50 acres planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah followed in 2006 by the construction of a second winery in the Napa Valley’s Carneros region. This state-of-the-art facility, called Starmont after the Merryvale wines of the same label, is extremely energy efficient using solar power and recycling 100% of winery process water.

As a result of these accomplishments under René’s leadership, Wine Enthusiast Magazine nominated him as Person of the Year for their Annual Wine Star Awards in 2011 with these comments: “Since 2008, the president of Napa’s Merryvale Vineyards has pioneered green initiatives while preserving the winery’s family legacy and excellence in producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.”

René and his family are very committed to protecting and preserving the Napa Valley for future generations using sustainable practices.  Both of Merryvale’s estate vineyards have been Napa Green Farm certified.  Both René and his wife Laurence are actively involved in the community of St. Helena, where they live with their three young daughters, Jenna, Jade and Corinna.

Christopher W. Silva
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Sonoma Valley, CA

As President & CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Christopher Silva has a specific focus:
crafting world class Sonoma wine. St. Francis uses 100% hand picked, Sonoma County grapes in all its wines, and is best known for rich, complex Sonoma County Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and "Old Vines" Zinfandel. Widely awarded as quality leader, St. Francis is committed to being the premier producer of Sonoma wines in each of its categories.

Chris is a fifth-generation Sonoma County native, from a family of Petaluma dairy farmers. A
1989 graduate of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, he retired from practicing law to join St.
Francis Winery in 1998. At the age of 38, Chris became President & CEO of St. Francis in 2003.

Under Chris' leadership, St. Francis has also been recognized for its many green practices. A
457 kilowatt Solar Energy System, installed in 2004, provides up to 40% of the Winery's energy
from the sun. St. Francis has taken aggressive steps in water and creek conservation, recycling,
eco-friendly packaging, and created an on-site sustainable vegetable garden to support its culinary programs. St. Francis received the Sonoma County Best Practices Award in 2009 for its
"environmentally sound business practices."

Chris served on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sonoma County, and is now on the
Dean's National Advisory Board of the UNLV Harrah College of Hotel Administration. In 2011
he was honored by UNLV as the "Food & Beverage Industry Executive of the Year." Chris
was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for 2011. His
son Joseph and daughter Sydney are sixth-generation Sonoma County natives and attend local
public school, where Chris served on their School District Foundation Board.

He has taught college classes in legal research and legal writing, and lectures nationally regarding wine, law, and business. Chris' life story and approach to running a business have been featured in The New York Times, Luxist, AOL Daily Finance, and Corporate Wellness Magazine.

"Our time at St. Francis will not be measured in years. It will be measured
by the contributions each one of us makes—as individuals—to constantly
improving the quality of our grapes and our wines. 'Good enough' is
contrary to our mission."
--Christopher W. Silva

2012 Vintners

Tony Apostolakos
Masi Agricola
Veneto, Italy

As Masi’s Director of Marketing and Sales for the United States, Tony makes regular trips to Valpolicella, Italy and spends a good deal of time with the Boscaini family and Masi Technical Group to remain entrenched in their winemaking techniques and global strategy.

Born into a rich tradition of winemaking, Tony’s family owned vineyards in Sparta, Greece dating back to the early 1900’s before his family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Tony earned a business degree with a major in Finance at the University of Alberta and has over 20 years of experience in the alcohol beverage industry which he started as a restaurant owner.

It was in Canada where Tony was first introduced to Masi in 1999 as he sold their wine in his market for over six years. His innate knowledge of the Masi wine portfolio and family traditions, Tony was presented with the opportunity to work directly for the esteemed winery in the United States as the regional sales director and immediately relocated.

Today, when Tony is not traveling to local markets on behalf of Masi, he resides in Boulder, Colorado.

Jac Cole
Spring Mountain Vineyard
Napa Valley, CA

After graduating from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in Biology in 1972, Jac followed his growing passion for winemaking to the Masters Program in Enology at California State University Fresno. Jac began his professional odyssey as an intern at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma County, and from there, wound his way through Napa Valley gathering expertise and experience with such prestigious wineries as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stags’ Leap Winery, and S. Anderson Vineyards.

Jac has had the rare fortune of acquiring a remarkable depth of knowledge and experience along his winemaking path, as well as his valued friendship with Spring Mountain Vineyard manager, Ron Rosenbrand. Together they are dedicated to the concept that the world’s greatest wines are the direct result of the work done in the vineyard. Their focus has been on the nuance of clone and rootstock, the balance of canopy and fruit, and the determination of the point of perfection for harvest. Armed with a combination of gleaned experience, passion and friendship, Jac comes to Spring Mountain Vineyard to lift wine quality to even greater heights.

Jac lives on a picturesque two-acre vineyard on Howell Mountain with his wife, Ami.

Laurent Drouhin
Maison Joseph Drouhin
Burgundy, France
Laurent Drouhin is the Director for the United States market. He lives near New York City. He manages the development of the market and the image of the brand in the United States and the Caribbean. The United States is Joseph Drouhin's top export market. Laurent graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Gestion in Paris and soon after became Joseph Drouhin's Marketing Director for the Paris market. He loves the sea and all aquatic sports.
Tom Johnson
Silver Oak Cellars & Twomey Cellars
Napa, CA

Tom has been working with Silver Oak Cellars for the past 14 years.

With 40 years in the wine industry, starting with working for a distributor and including time with Franciscan, Rutherford Hill, Inglenook, and Vias Imports. Tom worked for Justin Meyer and Ray Duncan, the founders of Silver Oak, when they were owners of Franciscan in 1976 – 1980. When approached by Justin Meyer to join Silver Oak, Tom agreed because he knew that joining Silver Oak meant becoming part of a very special wine family.

Tom has been married 43 years and has one daughter and two granddaughters, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dennis Koelewun
Bodegas Salentine
Mendoza, Argentina
Dennis Koelewijn passion for wine started while working in a wine shop in Amsterdam, The Netherlands while still in college. During that time he also started traveling extensively to visit as many wine regions as possible, from South Australia, Burgundy, Rhone, South Africa to Napa Valley. After that he spent several years representing South African, Australian and US wines for Great Grapes, a wine importer in The Netherlands. After moving to California, he had several positions with import and distributing companies. Representing Salentein Family of wines for the US market has given him the opportunity to exercise all of his experience in importing and distributing wine, and be a part of a dynamic family owned company with tremendous opportunity in the United States. 

Bodegas Salentein pioneered the development of premium wines in the Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina. The ideal conditions of the region for grape growing, combined with the unique qualities of the estates located between 3300 and 5500 feet elevation, together with the benefit of five different microclimates, result in wines of exceptional characteristics.

When he is not travelling Dennis likes to cook and spend time with his family
Clarke Swanson
Swanson Vineyards
Napa, CA

Clarke Swanson was born in Omaha, Nebraska, far way from the Napa Valley, which would beckon to him many years later in life.  Before reaching his present Oakville, California dwelling, Clarke lived in, and explored many areas of the United States, and the world.  After receiving a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Stanford, and a Masters of Science Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, he went on to pursue admirable careers in banking, radio broadcasting, cable television, and publishing.

In 1969, Clarke married Elizabeth Pipes of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Since then, they have been blessed with three daughters, Alexis, Veronica and Claiborne.

Clarke Swanson, a former resident of Naples, Florida, among other places, moved to Napa Valley in 1985 to start his most outstanding career yet, as proprietor of Swanson Vineyards.

Mr. Swanson is a Director of the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association, an overseer for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Vice President and Director of the Friends of the Lincoln Performing Arts Theater in Napa Valley and the former president of the Oakville Wine Grower’s Association.

Anthony Truchard
Truchard Vineyards
Carneros Napa, CA

Ever since Anthony can remember, he has been alongside his father working on the vineyards and in the cellar. Whether pruning vines or racking wines, Anthony has experienced every aspect of winemaking, from grape to bottle.

Anthony received his Bachelor's Degree from the University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied philosophy and biology and further developed his wine knowledge by working in boutique wine shops and restaurants. These experiences were his initial lessons in sales and marketing – by interacting with wine lovers in different milieu, Anthony honed the unique skill of discerning what a customer seeks when selecting a wine, either off a shelf or from a wine list.

Upon graduating from UCSB, Anthony returned to Napa and joined a vineyard management company with his brother, which he successfully managed for several years. Realizing the importance of developing his business and legal acumen, Anthony decided to return to school to obtain his law degree. Upon graduation cum laude from Cardozo School of Law, he practiced patent law in New York before his parents asked him to return home to Napa to help manage the winery.

As Sales and Marketing Director, Anthony has led the expansion of Truchard Vineyards into several markets, drawing on his legal foundation to develop new ideas and successfully manage all aspects of his family's business.

When he is not traveling the world sharing the beauty of Truchard wines, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends in Napa or simply relaxing at home with his Labrador Retriever, Jack.

2011 Vintners

Jac Cole
Spring Mountain Vineyard
Napa Valley, CA

After graduating from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in Biology in 1972, Jac followed his growing passion for winemaking to the Masters Program in Enology at California State University Fresno. Jac began his professional odyssey as an intern at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma County, and from there, wound his way through Napa Valley gathering expertise and experience with such prestigious wineries as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stags’ Leap Winery, and S. Anderson Vineyards.

Jac has had the rare fortune of acquiring a remarkable depth of knowledge and experience along his winemaking path, as well as his valued friendship with Spring Mountain Vineyard manager, Ron Rosenbrand. Together they are dedicated to the concept that the world’s greatest wines are the direct result of the work done in the vineyard. Their focus has been on the nuance of clone and rootstock, the balance of canopy and fruit, and the determination of the point of perfection for harvest. Armed with a combination of gleaned experience, passion and friendship, Jac comes to Spring Mountain Vineyard to lift wine quality to even greater heights.

Jac lives on a picturesque two-acre vineyard on Howell Mountain with his wife, Am

Blair Fox
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards
Santa Barbara, CA

Graduating from UC Davis in 1999 with a combined degree in Viticulture and Enology, Blair Fox gained winemaking experience at Sunstone Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley (1999-2001), and at Haselgrove Winery – a custom-crush winery in McLaren Vale, Australia (2003).

He also traveled through France’s Rhône Valley before returning to his hometown of Santa Barbara. He then joined Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard as Associate Winemaker, overseeing the Rhône varietal wines. Fox had previously consulted in the vineyard for the winery’s 2002 harvest.

“Having focused on the winery’s estate Syrah and Rhône varietal vineyards, I’m excited to add on the responsibility for Ashley’s and Bien Nacido vineyards and control the Burgundian part of our portfolio (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay),” said Fox. “The vineyards and clonal selection here are of such high quality, and the Parkers are a great family to work for.”

Fox continues the stylistic direction set by Eli Parker when capturing the terroir of the vineyards. He aims to continue raising the bar for the award-winning Fess Parker wines, such as the 2001 Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah (91pts, Wine Advocate), 2002 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir (93pts, Wine Spectator), and 2001 American Tradition Reserve Syrah, (92pts, Wine Advocate).

Kathryn Hall
Hall Winery
Napa Valley, CA

Kathryn Walt Hall is the proprietor of HALL Wines and has been involved in the California wine industry since her family first purchased a vineyard thirty years ago. She has had a distinguished career as a successful businesswoman, community activist, and most recently as the United States Ambassador to Austria.

Kathryn Hall and her family have been grape growers in Mendocino County since 1972. The Walt family owns 63 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc in the Redwood Valley and has sold their grapes to such wineries as Fetzer, Parducci and Beringer. Kathryn managed the family vineyard from 1982 to 1992. During this time she produced Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon under the label Walt Vineyards. Continuing her family tradition, she maintains a strong emotional attachment to vineyards, wine and the wine country.

Kathryn began her public career as assistant city attorney in Berkeley, California. Later she joined Safeway Stores, where she was responsible for developing and administering one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs. Subsequently she worked as an attorney and businesswoman in Dallas, Texas, where she was president of an inner city development company and partner of Hall Financial Group, Inc.

Long committed to social issues, Kathryn has served on numerous non-profit and institutional boards, addressing issues related to social care and mental health. She co-founded the North Texas Food Bank, served on the U.S. House of Representatives Hunger Advisory Committee, and was the director/vice president of the Texas Mental Health Association. Kathryn has served on the National Advisory Council for Violence Against Women and as a trustee of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

From 1997 to July 2001, Kathryn served as the United States Ambassador to Austria. During her term as Ambassador, she worked hard to promote American wine in Austria and Europe. Since her return to America, she has resumed her role as proprietor of Kathryn Hall Vineyards. Continuing upon her experience promoting American agriculture in Austria, in September 2001 she was appointed to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for international trade.

Kathryn earned an A.B. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of Law. She is married to Craig Hall and the mother of two children. She speaks French and German.

Jacques Lardiere
Maison Louis Jadot
Burgundy, France
Born in 1948 in Vendée, France, Jacques Lardière decided at an early age to dedicate his life to winemaking. Graduated with distinction from the school of Viticulture and Oenology of Alentours, in Mâcon, Mr. Lardière was drawn to research in the biology of aromas and bacteria under close association with Professor Brechot of the Pasteur Institute and Jules Chauvet who has worked his whole life on the aromatic identification. In 1970, Mr. Lardière joined Maison Louis Jadot in the capacity of assistant oenologist under Mr. André Gagey, then Managing Director. He was appointed Technical Director in 1980, and is respected as one of France’s most brilliant, passionate and inspired winemakers. Jacques Lardière is married with three children. 
Rosa Lee de Leuze
ZD Wines
Napa Valley, CA

Rosa Lee de Leuze is the personification of ZD's personal approach to wines. Described by others in the trade as warm and charming, Rosa Lee is doing what she enjoys best... marketing ZD Wines, meeting people and enjoying the close relationships she has developed with distributors, retailers, restaurateurs and ZD fans. She works with her son, Brett, who was named Marketing Director in 1988, who brought new energy and ideas to the winery.

In 1955, when Rosa Lee married Norman de Leuze, they were both students at University of California, Berkeley. She never expected that someday their lives would involve meeting so many interesting people, enjoying such wonderful wine and food, and the opportunity to work with her husband and children. Rosa Lee works well with Norman, and feels fortunate having all of her children involved in the family business.

Actively participating in marketing ZD Wines since its inception in 1969, Rosa Lee began holding new release parties at the winery and selling wine to accounts in the San Francisco area. Rosa Lee first called on the wine shop in the Cannery in 1972. She recalls being invited in by the proprietor, who was very excited about buying wines from a new, small winery. They talked for quite some time, and the proprietor purchased ZD Wines for his shop, which he still carries to this day.

The first restaurant to carry ZD Wines was the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. The restaurant manager stopped by the winery in 1972 when it was located in a small farm building near Santa Rosa. He took some wine back to the sommelier, who adamantly refused to buy a wine with a name like ZD. He did agree to taste the wine, and was so impressed, he immediately added it to the wine list.

Successes such as these have brought Rosa Lee a great deal of satisfaction, since she takes her family's wines personally. One of the many thrilling moments she recollects was a phone call in 1982 from Dave Berkeley, wine consultant for White House functions. Dave called to ask for immediate delivery of five cases of Chardonnay to Williamsburg to be served at the Economic Summit Conference, which would be attended by all the Heads of State. Seizing the moment, Rosa Lee arranged to send the 1981 Chardonnay, adorned with the newly designed ZD label, to be "unveiled" at the prestigious dinner.

Proud of ZD's wines, Rosa Lee derives great pleasure knowing that her family has added something extra to their consumer's lives, "...the social element of sharing the finer things in life which makes people happy, enabling more people to enjoy our wines," says Rosa Lee. Rosa Lee's other interests have involved membership in an antique collection, and a partnership in "Cooking With Class", a cooking school which involved catering and pairing wine with food. With respect to future endeavors, Rosa Lee is looking forward to seeing her grandchildren involved in the family business someday.

Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger
Champagne Taittinger
Reims, France

2010 Vintners

Tony Apostolakos
Masi Agricola
Veneto, Italy

As Masi’s Director of Marketing and Sales for the United States, Tony makes regular trips to Valpolicella, Italy and spends a good deal of time with the Boscaini family and Masi Technical Group to remain entrenched in their winemaking techniques and global strategy.

Born into a rich tradition of winemaking, Tony’s family owned vineyards in Sparta, Greece dating back to the early 1900’s before his family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Tony earned a business degree with a major in Finance at the University of Alberta and has over 20 years of experience in the alcohol beverage industry which he started as a restaurant owner.

It was in Canada where Tony was first introduced to Masi in 1999 as he sold their wine in his market for over six years. His innate knowledge of the Masi wine portfolio and family traditions, Tony was presented with the opportunity to work directly for the esteemed winery in the United States as the regional sales director and immediately relocated.

Today, when Tony is not traveling to local markets on behalf of Masi, he resides in Boulder, Colorado.

Bill Cascio
Talbott Winery
Monterey, CA
As the National Sales Director for Talbott Vineyards, Bill Cascio is responsible for guiding Talbott’s sales program throughout the United States and internationally.  A passionate wine euctaor with a belief in the value of building lasting relationships, Bill works closely with Talbott’s distributor partners to expand awareness about Talbott Vineyards World-Class Estate program, and the winery’s acclaimed Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  Building on a successful career as a restaurateur, wine buyer, sommelier and wine salesperson, Bill combines a comprehensive knowledge of the industry, with an intimate understanding of the relationship between great food and fine wine.  When he is not working with trade partners and key accounts, Bill enjoys leading guided tastings, wine seminars and wine-paired dinners for Talbott Vineyards customers around the country.
Ignacio Arzuaga Navarro
Bodegas Arzuaga
Ribero del Duero, Spain
Bernard Portet
Clos Du Val / Goelet Wine Estates
Napa, CA
Like the six generations before him, Bernard Portet was destined to be a winemaker. Born in 1944 in Cognac, France, and raised in the Bordeaux region, Portet developed a passion for winemaking while walking the vineyards and caves of Bordeaux with his father, a régisseur (technical director) at Château Lafite. He pursued formal studies at the French winemaking schools of Toulouse and Montpellier before John Goelet hired him in 1970 to establish Clos Du Val. Today Clos Du Val's veteran founding winemaker remains active in wine production and is considered one of the forefathers of the Napa Valley wine industry.
Jaco Potgieter
DBG,USA
South Africa
Jaco Potgieter has been an oenologist – the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking - for DGB Ltd. for more than 10 years at DGB. He has a BSc degree in BSc Agriculture (Wine and Viticulture), University of Stellenbosch and from there has held positions as a cellar master/manager, buyer, assistant winemaker and general manager. He has been a member of Tasting Panels for Veritas and South African Young Wine Competition, and is a member of SA(South Africa) Wine and Spirit Board's Technical Committee and the Oenology Committee of Winetech. Jaco's current responsibility includes managing all new research projects regarding the South Africa Wine Industry.
Clovis Taittinger
Champagne Taittinger
Reims, France

Born in May 1978, in Chamonix Mont Blanc, Clovis TAITTINGER is the eldest child of Pierre Emmanuel TAITTINGER, President of Champagne Taittinger. He grew up in Reims, the Champagne region before moving to Paris where he earned his Master’s degree in History at Sorbonne University.

After 7 years working in banking and consulting, followed by a career of managing his own company in the real estate and hotel business, Clovis joined Champagne TAITTINGER in September 2007 to pursue his family’s history.

Clovis juggles his dual role in the company as Deputy Export Director by representing the family’s name worldwide and by being in charge of grapes suppliers and growers relationships.

Steve Thomson
King Estate Winery
Eugene, OR

A native of the Chicago area, Steve discovered an interest in wine while working in the restaurant business and pursuing a degree in business from the University of Illinois. During a 15 year restaurant career which took him from Illinois to Wisconsin and then Kansas City and St. Louis Missouri, he was the general manager of two Mobil 4 star restaurants, and a food and beverage director for a major hotel company, also directing the company's corporate wine program.

Steve's food and beverage career began to take an increasing shift toward wine, and the opportunity to work to help startup a top wine wholesale company came along. From 1991 to 1998 Steve worked for Griesedieck Imports in Missouri, first as a wine sales manager mentored by Doug Frost MW, MS, and then as General Sales Manager. Eventually Greisedieck Imports became part of the Glazer's Family of Companies. In 1999 Steve had the opportunity to become the Southeast Regional Manager for King Estate which he had sold as a wholesaler since its inception. Relocating to Atlanta, he managed 19 state markets for the winery. In January of 2001, Steve was promoted to the position of Director of Sales.

As Director of Sales, Steve manages all domestic and international sales from the winery and in the field. He believes in focusing not just on cultivating new sales, but on developing and maintaining great relationships throughout the King Estate trade channel–from the wholesale distributor to retailer to consumer.

2009 Vintners

Stefano Capurso
Barone Riscasoli
Tuscany, Italy

Since 1141, the Ricasoli family has owned Castello di Brolio Estate. The history of Brolio and the Ricasoli Barons extends into the distant 12th century when ownership of the land and castle was gifted to the Ricasoli family by the Republic of Florence. In the last 3 centuries, the Ricasoli have shaped the history of the Chianti Classico territory and its wines, while establishing themselves as top quality producers. In 1874, Baron Bettino Ricasoli, former Prime Minister of the Reign of Italy, defined the “formula” for the ideal wine on which the rules of the new Chianti Classico Appellation (DOCG) were eventually based in 1967.

A New Renaissance
In 1993, the Ricasoli family regained control of the winery, after twenty years of foreign ownership. For Barone Ricasoli this date represents the beginning of an era of renovation and research leading to a new splendor. In less than a decade more than 620 acres of vineyards have been replanted, with an investment of over $16 million dollars. The vinification cellars and hospitality structures have undergone major renovation, with an investment of additional $20 million dollars.

John Conover
PlumJack Winery/Cade Winery
Oakville, CA

John Conover’s winery background encompasses sales, marketing and management positions with well-respected, super-premium and ultra-premium California wine producers, including Grgich Hills Cellar (Rutherford), Monticello Cellars (Napa), Lockwood Vineyard (Monterey County) and currently PlumpJack winery (Oakville) and the new CADE winery (Howell Mountain).

Conover joined PlumpJack as general manager in January 1999 to oversee the daily operations of the estate winery and vineyard, provide strategic direction for the newly-established property, steadily increase production from 1,000 cases to 10,000 cases annually and create the image, awareness and distribution channels that would ultimately support that level of production.

Conover is also a partner in CADE, a new estate winery being constructed on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley by the PlumpJack group. Under Conover's direction, CADE released its first white wine, the CADE Sauvignon Blanc 2005, in 2006, and its first red wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Cuvee 2005, in 2007. Two more Cabernet Sauvignons are in the works, both from Howell Mountain-grown grapes, including the CADE Estate wine grown on 21 organically farmed acres planted on steep slopes in front of the new LEED-certifed winery and extensive barrel-aging caves.

PlumpJack Winery released its first vintage in 1997. The winery currently produces several varietals under the talented direction of winemaker Anthony Biagi and consulting winemaker Nils Venge. The winery’s focus remains its Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon with two limited offerings: PlumpJack Estate and PlumpJack Reserve.

Probably the most visible of Conover’s projects for PlumpJack to date has been the development and June 2000 release of the U.S. wine industry’s first ever bottling of an ultra-premium, luxury wine in a screw cap bottle. “We undertook the project with great enthusiasm,” says Conover. “We did not expect, however, the wonderful level of acceptance among high-end consumers and collectors and the overwhelmingly positive support of our colleagues in the winemaking community. From packaging to bottling to the quality of the wine a year later, the whole project has been both interesting and gratifying. I have been particularly pleased to have the on-going participation of U.C. Davis.”

In issue No. 168 of The Wine Advocate newsletter, Robert M. Parker, Jr., rated the 2004 Plumpjack Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 96 points, calling it "voluptuous" and "multidimensional." Previous Parker raves included 94 points for the 2002 PlumpJack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 96 points for the 2002 PlumpJack Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2004 PlumpJack Winery’s 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was named “Number One Wine in the World” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

San Francisco Philanthropist Gordon Getty and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, both avid wine collectors and enthusiasts, own PlumpJack winery and have set high standards for the label since its inception. “It’s exciting for me to be part of an organization with such dedication to quality, both in the vineyards and in the winery,” says Conover. “Certainly, the history of this property – formerly Villa Mt. Eden – for producing world-class fruit is well-known, and Tony and Nils offer incredible winemaking talent. Further, the energy and vision offered by the partners makes this venture a very exciting one.”

Marc Dupin
Maison Louis Jadot
Cote d’ Beaune, France

Marc Dupin grew up in the Paris area close to Versailles and rather far from vines.

During his business degree his first contact with wines was in the mid 80s. Pursuing his interests for languages, sales and export markets, he worked as export director in the wine business before joining Maison Louis Jadot in 1992 where he supervises sales in approximately 53 countries as their Export Director.

From the start, Maison Louis Jadot has always accorded equal importance to each of Burgundy's appellations, from Grand Crus right through to regional wines. Their aim is to express the true nature of Burgundy through their wines, a terroir that can be both proud of its past and optimistic about its future.

All the wines made under the Maison Louis Jadot label are Appellation Contrôlée wines from across the region. The vineyards of Maison Louis Jadot are now scattered across 154 hectares of Burgundy, from the Côte d'Or to the Mâconnais and down into Beaujolais. Thanks to the quality of their wines they have forged strong links, both in France and around the world, with sommeliers, restaurateurs, wine merchants, importers, agents and wine lovers.

Julianne Laks
Cakebread Cellars
Rutherford, CA

Cakebread Cellars' winemaker, Julianne Laks, has sniffed, smelled and tasted her way through more wines than she can count during her 25 plus-year career in the wine industry. Fortunately for us, the last 20 of those years have been at Cakebread Cellars, first as an enologist and later as assistant winemaker under head winemaker, Bruce Cakebread. Julianne was promoted to winemaker when Bruce Cakebread, took the reins from his father as president of the winery in 2002.

Julianne's winemaking skill, artistic passion and intimate understanding of our vineyards are just a few of the reasons Julianne was chosen to follow in Bruce's footsteps. Her promotion marked a milestone for Cakebread Cellars; she is the third winemaker in Cakebread Cellars' history, and is the first non-family member to hold the position. Her favorite part of the job, she says, is harvest. "Because I've worked with these vineyards for such a long time, it's like seeing old friends when the grapes come in. My job is to give them the best possible reception when they arrive at the winery."

We have organized this section by variety and vintage. The descriptions are what we taste at the release of the wine. If you are looking at an older vintage, keep in mind that as the wine ages it will develop bottle bouquet and the flavors will change.

Matthew Lane
Penfold’s Estates
Penfolds, Australia

Matthew Lane comes to Foster’s Wine Estates Americas from the (formerly Southcorp Wines LTD) portfolio. Matt’s profession in wine blossomed at Penfolds’ 5 star prestigious Magill Estate restaurant in Adelaide, South Australia, where he served as Head Sommelier and Senior Wine Educator for over four years before relocating to the USA in early 2003. Prior the Magill Estate, Matt held positions with Hyatt international and other prestigious wine restaurants in Australia as their Head Sommelier & wine buyer.

Matt has comprehensive experience in training, development and education. He conducts wine education for Foster’s internal staff and external clients on a global scale, as well as being a guest wine, food and sensory lecturer at the University of Adelaide—arguably one of Australia’s top wine training colleges, Johnson & Wales Universities in the USA, plus, most recently Harvard and Stanford universities. He has also worked as a guest Sommelier at Charlie Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago, the exclusive Lanesborough Hotel in London, the luxurious Palazzo Versace resort in Australia.

He has been involved in widespread sensory tasting, winemaking, testing and training with top winemakers from Foster’s in Australia & USA winemaking operations. He has passed the USA Professional Wine Judges and Sensory Evaluation course, graduating dux; He also recently has completed Enology and Viticulture 3 at the University of California, Davis.

Matt has won the exclusive international Vin de Champagne award twice, and was also named South Australian Sommelier of the Year for 2001.

As Foster’s Director of Wine Education for the Americas and Canada, Matt will raise the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the Foster’s Wine Estates global portfolio by providing extensive education and training to distributors, trade, media, and Foster’s staff throughout the Americas and Canada. Based in Napa, California, he works closely with the Sales and Public Relations departments to produce educational materials for use at a multitude of events and by the sales teams. After two years of development, Matt recently launched Foster’s on-line wine education program known as Wine Edge, which has quickly been noted by contemporaries as “one of the most authoritative and comprehensive Australian wine on-line course’s ever created.”

Matt, 36, has been in the industry for over fifteen years. He was born and raised in Australia and currently lives in Napa, California.

Brett de Leuze
ZD Winery
Napa, CA

Brett de Leuze, ZD Wines President & Partner, grew up in and around the wine business. He was only four years old when the winery was founded in 1969. His experience ranges from picking the grapes during the `70s, to bottling-line duties and assisting his brother Robert in the wine making of the`80s. Brett and ZD Wines have grown up together from their beginnings.

Through his youth and college, Brett’s main interest outside of the winery was soccer. He collected trophies attesting to his skill. In fact, soccer and helping build a business are not too dissimilar. They both require stamina, alertness, and they both have GOALS! With graduation in view, his attention was focused on obtaining a Business degree from California State University, Sacramento.

Following graduation from CSUS in 1988, Brett formed a team with his mom, Rosa Lee, who since 1969 had been managing all of ZD’s marketing and sales. For many years, Brett traveled throughout the United States sharing his family’s wines and experiences with restaurateurs, retailers and consumers. Over the years, Brett also visited wineries and vineyards in France, Italy and Germany, gaining a broader perspective with regard to the diversity of the wine business.

Today, Brett’s energy and excitement for the wine industry continue to help define ZD’s reputation as a family business dedicated to a sustainable approach to growing, producing and selling world-class wine. Brett and his wife Natalie, have three beautiful children, Connor (10), Kayla (7) and Alexandria (5) a third generation on the way.

Joel Peterson
Ravenswood Winery
Sonoma, CA

Joel Peterson grew up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay during the Dark Ages when California wine was judged by the type of jug it was bottled in. However, Joel's farsighted father Walter bucked the status quo by starting the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club, which studied fine wines from all over the world. Walter allowed his son to join the group's twice-weekly tastings when Joel was nine years old, carefully measuring the wine in the boy's glass — then his spittoon — to make sure everything was expectorated.

By the time he was a teenager, Joel thus had a working knowledge of European vineyards and vintages, along with a collection of headstrong opinions about what made good wine. After graduating from Oregon State University, he followed in the professional footsteps of his parents (both of whom were chemists), going to work as a laboratory scientist. On the side, he made money through wine writing and consulting, gaining a local reputation as a gifted taster (and tasteless punster).

Eventually it dawned on Joel that he had the background (not to mention the prejudices) to be an actual winemaker. Hence, he apprenticed with Joseph Swan — one of California's outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel — to learn the art of traditional winemaking as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1976 Joel founded Ravenswood in partnership with fellow wine lover Reed Foster (a Harvard MBA gone astray) and over the next half-dozen years, their fledgling operation moved from the rear corner of one willing winery to another. When Ravenswood finally turned a profit after a dozen years of operation, they settled on the northern edge of Sonoma, where the winery's tasting room is located.

Joel is now acknowledged as a leader in California wine — an articulate spokesman and stylistic trendsetter who helped make Zinfandel the runaway phenomenon that it is today. If there were a California Winemaking Hall of Fame, he'd be a shoo-in for early induction — not just as a home-run hitter but as one of the most popular players in the majors. (It's said that even as a Little Leaguer he could handle the spitter with aplomb.)

Antonillo Pinilla
Bodegas Faustino
Rioja, Spain

Mrs. Lourdes Martínez is one of the 4th Generation members of the Martínez Family, Grupo Faustino wineries´ owners. She works at the company since her early years and she has been learning for running the family business since she was very young.

She was born in Oyón, on the 31rd of December 1966. She studied a Degree in Computing at the Deusto University in Bilbao (Spain). After that she did a MBA at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid and a Master on Finances at the Deusto University in Bilbao.

After she completed her studies she began to work at Bodegas Faustino Martínez, SA as Assistant to the Management Directorship. In 1992 is the Financial Chief Executive of Bodegas Faustino Martínez, SA and is one of the Member of the Managing Committee and Manager Director for the same company.

Since 1999 is the Managing Director of the Faustino Group.

She also is, from January 2005, Manager Director for FCC SA and member of the Strategical Commiteee for the same company.

She is married and has got two daughters.

2008 Vintners

Justin Baldwin
Justin Vineyards
Paso Robles, CA

In 1981, Justin and Deborah Baldwin purchased 160 acres west of Paso Robles on California's Central Coast and planted their estate vineyards. Justin brings to JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery his business savvy as a former investment and international banker.

Since its inception, Justin focused his efforts on producing world-class Bordeaux style blends from the estate vineyards for the JUSTIN label. Justin is a pioneer in producing this style of wine on the Central Coast and his efforts have been rewarded with past and present vintages earning 90+ points by the major wine trade publications. More encompassing recognition has come from awards such as the Grand Sweepstakes award winner, Best of class, Best of Region, the coveted Pichon Lalande trophy for "World's Best Blended Red Wine" and Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of the World.

Vintages have received numerous accolades by capturing Decanter Magazine's "4 Stars", Restaurant Wine's "3 Forks" and Connoisseurs Guide's " 3 Puffs". Justin has consistently earned the praise of the wine press with recognition from the likes of Robert M. Parker Jr. naming Justin Baldwin one of his "Wine Heroes of the Year" and the "Star of Paso Robles"; the James Beard Foundations "Great American Winemaker Award"; Quarterly Review of Wine's "Top 3 Cabernet Producers of the Year"; and Wine Enthusiast's "Top Cabernet and Blended Wine Producers List" for seven years running.

Justin is an active participant in the wine world. He is a frequent panelist at prominent food and wine events worldwide, is a two term board member of the Family Winemaker of California, part board member and committee chair of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association, co-found of the West Side Grand Crew and the Far out Wineries of Paso Robles. For their contribution he and his wife have been named the Paso Robles Wine Industry persons of the year.

Beyond winemaking, the Baldwins have found that Food and JUSTIN wines go together. In fact, JUSTIN is the only winery on California's Central Coast to retain a full-time chef whose kitchen works daily to pair acclaimed JUSTIN wines with fresh seasonal and vineyard grown offerings.

The Baldwin family lives on the vineyard and includes Justin and wife Deborah; their two children, three dogs and two horses. In addition to the vineyards, winery, and tasting room, they own and operate the highly acclaimed country inn, The JUST Inn, and its intimate gourmet restaurant, Deborah's Room, also on the property.

Chris Helies
Bodegas Julian Chivite
Navarra, Spain
Jerome Jeandin
Champagne Taittinger
Reims, France
Tom Johnson
Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars
Napa & Sonoma, CA

Tom has been working with Silver Oak Cellars for the past 14 years.

With 40 years in the wine industry, starting with working for a distributor and including time with Franciscan, Rutherford Hill, Inglenook, and Vias Imports. Tom worked for Justin Meyer and Ray Duncan, the founders of Silver Oak, when they were owners of Franciscan in 1976 – 1980. When approached by Justin Meyer to join Silver Oak, Tom agreed because he knew that joining Silver Oak meant becoming part of a very special wine family.

Tom has been married 43 years and has one daughter and two granddaughters, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tanna Massar
Van Duzer Vineyards
Willamette Valley, OR
Terrance Peabody
Craggy Range
Hawk’s Bay, New Zealand
Chris Phelps
Swanson Vineyards
Oakville, VA

Before embarking on a career in the wine business, Clarke Swanson established his experience in the general business worlds. After receiving a Bachelors Degree in History and Political Science from Stanford University and a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University, his career included work in the fields of banking, radio broadcasting, cable television, and community newspapers.

Swanson Vineyards began in 1985, when the Swanson family (wife Elizabeth and three daughters) relocated to Napa Valley from Naples, FL. Today the winery produces a variety of wines in the legendary Napa Valley regions; current releases include a 2004 Rosato, 2004 Pinot Grigio, 2002 Alexis and 2002 Merlot.

In addition to his dedication to wine-making, Clarke Swanson is involved in a variety of professional and civic organizations. He is a Director of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, Director and former Chairman of the Oakville Winegrowers Association, a Director and Vice President of the Friends of Lincoln Theater Performing Arts Center (Napa Valley), and a Director of University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Foundation.

Anthony Truchard
Truchard Vineyards
Napa, CA

2007 Vintners

Tony Apostolakos
Masi
Veneto, Italy

As Masi’s Director of Marketing and Sales for the United States, Tony makes regular trips to Valpolicella, Italy and spends a good deal of time with the Boscaini family and Masi Technical Group to remain entrenched in their winemaking techniques and global strategy.

Born into a rich tradition of winemaking, Tony’s family owned vineyards in Sparta, Greece dating back to the early 1900’s before his family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Tony earned a business degree with a major in Finance at the University of Alberta and has over 20 years of experience in the alcohol beverage industry which he started as a restaurant owner.

It was in Canada where Tony was first introduced to Masi in 1999 as he sold their wine in his market for over six years. His innate knowledge of the Masi wine portfolio and family traditions, Tony was presented with the opportunity to work directly for the esteemed winery in the United States as the regional sales director and immediately relocated.

Today, when Tony is not traveling to local markets on behalf of Masi, he resides in Boulder, Colorado.

Kathy Benziger
Benziger Family Winery
Sonoma Valley

You can’t begin to discuss the beginnings of Benziger Family Winery without delving into the family members themselves. The Benzigers — California’s largest wine family in one of California’s smallest appellations has created from the ground up a nationally acclaimed Sonoma winery. From the start, the vision was quite simple; grow grapes that produce wines of uncompromised character and quality inspired by Sonoma County’s unrivaled diversity.

The youngest of Bruno and Helen's seven children, Kathy first came to work at the winery when she was a high school freshman. She soon graduated to pruning, picking, bottling and working in the tasting room. Learning about the wine industry from the ground up, she decided to make her mark in the business end of the operation and earned a degree in management from Sonoma State University. Sales positions at ADP in New York and Hoffman Distributing in New Jersey prepared her for a move back East, where she became the Benziger eastern region sales manager. Kathy now lives in Colorado, where she is the central region sales manager for Benziger.

Dawn Dooley
Darioush
Napa Valley

As “Secretary of the Estate” for Darioush Winery, Dawn Dooley travels the country sharing good will and great wines from one of the Napa Valley’s most exciting wineries. Best known for producing exceptional Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, Darioush is building a reputation for the style and grace of their wines and the winery estate. Modeled after the seat of the ancient Persian Empire, Persepolis, the winery is not to be missed when visiting the wine country.

Ms. Dooley manages sales of the winery’s products throughout the United States and internationally. She came to Darioush with 15 years of experience in the wine industry in the areas of sales, marketing, and public relations. She is particularly proud of having established a scholarship program for restaurant and hotel wine professionals in conjunction with the American Court of Master Sommeliers.

Kathryn Hall
Hall Winery
Napa Valley

Kathryn Hall’s distinguished career has taken her to prominence in international affairs, but she has always had a passion for the wine business and today devotes a good deal of her time to her Napa Valley winery and wine education. She is the proprietor of HALL winery, which has facilities in St. Helena and Rutherford, and she has been involved in the California wine industry since her family first purchased a vineyard in Mendocino County 30 years ago.

Kathryn Hall is best known as the former United States Ambassador to Austria during the Clinton administration. Although she left the political world in an official capacity in 2001, she remains an active fundraiser and campaigner for national and local Democratic candidates, and she keeps a close eye on the world of American politics and foreign affairs.

Two years before leaving on her diplomatic mission to Austria, Kathryn and her husband Craig Hall purchased a prime vineyard in the hills above Rutherford in the Napa Valley. The Halls made 1,000 cases of high-end Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sacrashe Vineyard each year, beginning in 1996, but Kathryn Hall’s term as ambassador put the launch of their wine on hold.

The Kathryn Hall Vineyards label was introduced when Kathryn Hall returned from Austria, and the Cabernet Sauvignon met with rave reviews from U.S. critics. But Kathryn and Craig had a bigger vision for their wine business and began acquiring specially selected vineyards in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. In 2003 they acquired the old Napa Valley Cooperative Winery in St. Helena and renamed the facility and their wines HALL. Today, the HALL wines are nationally distributed, and the Halls have two winemaking facilities for HALL wines in the Napa Valley, the St. Helena winery and a brand new high-tech, small lot winery at their Sacrashe Vineyard in Rutherford.

Kathryn Hall is currently on the board of the Napa Emergency Women’s Services and is active in the Land Trust of Napa County, for which she has hosted fundraisers at her home in Rutherford. She is a member of Wine, Women & Shoes, an educational group targeting young women, and she recently participated in the Napa Valley Grapegrowers’ Women in Winegrowing Calendar project.

Jerome Jeandin
Champagne Taittinger
Reims, France
Jerome Jeandin, who was born in France, has a bachelor's degree in economics and master's degree with merits in business law from the Sorbonne. His post-graduate work includes International Business Law at the Sorbonne and an MBA with merits specialized in international sales (London) and Champagne Institute Ay. Before coming to work for Taittinger, his career experience included several positions in international marketing.
Matthew Lane
Penfold’s Estates
Penfolds, Australia

Matthew Lane comes to Foster’s Wine Estates Americas from the (formerly Southcorp Wines LTD) portfolio. Matt’s profession in wine blossomed at Penfolds’ 5 star prestigious Magill Estate restaurant in Adelaide, South Australia, where he served as Head Sommelier and Senior Wine Educator for over four years before relocating to the USA in early 2003. Prior the Magill Estate, Matt held positions with Hyatt international and other prestigious wine restaurants in Australia as their Head Sommelier & wine buyer.

Matt has comprehensive experience in training, development and education. He conducts wine education for Foster’s internal staff and external clients on a global scale, as well as being a guest wine, food and sensory lecturer at the University of Adelaide—arguably one of Australia’s top wine training colleges, Johnson & Wales Universities in the USA, plus, most recently Harvard and Stanford universities. He has also worked as a guest Sommelier at Charlie Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago, the exclusive Lanesborough Hotel in London, the luxurious Palazzo Versace resort in Australia.

He has been involved in widespread sensory tasting, winemaking, testing and training with top winemakers from Foster’s in Australia & USA winemaking operations. He has passed the USA Professional Wine Judges and Sensory Evaluation course, graduating dux; He also recently has completed Enology and Viticulture 3 at the University of California, Davis.

Matt has won the exclusive international Vin de Champagne award twice, and was also named South Australian Sommelier of the Year for 2001.

As Foster’s Director of Wine Education for the Americas and Canada, Matt will raise the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the Foster’s Wine Estates global portfolio by providing extensive education and training to distributors, trade, media, and Foster’s staff throughout the Americas and Canada. Based in Napa, California, he works closely with the Sales and Public Relations departments to produce educational materials for use at a multitude of events and by the sales teams. After two years of development, Matt recently launched Foster’s on-line wine education program known as Wine Edge, which has quickly been noted by contemporaries as “one of the most authoritative and comprehensive Australian wine on-line course’s ever created.”

Matt, 36, has been in the industry for over fifteen years. He was born and raised in Australia and currently lives in Napa, California.

Michaela Rodena
St. Supery
Napa Valley

Michaela Rodeno, St. Supéry's dynamic CEO, is responsible for managing all the winery's activities, from strategic planning, grape growing and wine production, to finance, new product development and marketing and sales. As one of the leading women in the California wine industry and a passionate advocate of California wine issues, Michaela is often invited to speak at domestic and international conferences.

In 1973, six months after Michaela arrived in Napa, the Valley was abuzz with the news of Moët-Hennessey’s (now LVMH) plans to invest $8 million in building a new winery in the county… Domaine Chandon. “Moët-Hennessey was the first French company to invest in California and it sent a message to the industry that Napa Valley was an important wine region,” says Michaela. “With my fluent French and desire to learn more about wine, I knew that I had to get involved with this venture.” Through persistence and a mutual acquaintance, Michaela was introduced to John Wright, Domaine Chandon’s president who was impressed with her drive and willingness to learn and hired her to be his assistant and employee number two at the new winery. Michaela learned important lessons from him that inform her successful management style today.

Michaela's life is as wine-focused as her career. As co-founder of Women for WineSense, a national organization promoting wine as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, Michaela continues a long history of involvement in industry-wide issues. She is a founding director of the Wine Market Council, an initiative to create a national generic marketing campaign for wine, and she chaired the 1998 Napa Valley Wine Auction, the nation’s largest charity wine auction, which raised a record $3.8 million for local health care organizations.

Today, Michaela lives on her family’s 25-acre vineyard near the town of Oakville in the Napa Valley with her attorney husband Gregory; their daughter Kate (22) graduated from SDSU and son John (19) is a student at USD. The family also owns 40 acres in Pope Valley in the Napa Valley appellation. Although most of the family grapes are sold to Napa wineries, the Rodenos produce a tiny amount of Sangiovese (about 150 cases annually) under their Villa Ragazzi label.

Steve Thomson
King Estate
Oregon

A native of the Chicago area, Steve discovered an interest in wine while working in the restaurant business and pursuing a degree in business from the University of Illinois. During a 15 year restaurant career which took him from Illinois to Wisconsin and then Kansas City and St. Louis Missouri, he was the general manager of two Mobil 4 star restaurants, and a food and beverage director for a major hotel company, also directing the company’s corporate wine program.

Steve’s food and beverage career began to take an increasing shift toward wine, and the opportunity to work to help startup a top wine wholesale company came along. From 1991 to 1998 Steve worked for Griesedieck Imports in Missouri, first as a wine sales manager mentored by Doug Frost MW, MS, and then as General Sales Manager. Eventually Greisedieck Imports became part of the Glazer’s Family of Companies. In 1999 Steve had the opportunity to become the Southeast Regional Manager for King Estate which he had sold as a wholesaler since its inception. Relocating to Atlanta, he managed 19 state markets for the winery. In January of 2001, Steve was promoted to the position of Director of Sales.

As Director of Sales, Steve manages all domestic and international sales from the winery and in the field. He believes in focusing not just on cultivating new sales, but on developing and maintaining great relationships throughout the King Estate trade channel–from the wholesale distributor to retailer to consumer.

Francesco Zonin
Casa Vinicola Zonin
Castelo d’Albola, Tuscany

Zonin, a company of family owned vintners since 1821, is proud of its heritage and reputation for creating authentic Italian wines. With its close ties to the land for the past seven generations, the Zonin family heads the most important viticulture group in Italy and one of the leading private winemaking companies in Europe. The family owned vineyards produce wines that embody the unique personalities of the areas from which they originate. Almost two centuries after the first winery was founded, Zonin now owns and operates eleven vineyard estates in many of Italy’s most important vine growing regions.

Francesco Zonin is the second of the three sons of Giovanni Zonin, president of Casa Vinicola Zonin S.p.A. of Gambellara (Vi). He holds a degree in Economics and Commerce from the Universita’ Commerciale “Luigi Bocconi” of Milan. Francesco lived in the United States from 1999 to 2002 where he actively followed the commercial networks of American distributors charged with the sale of Zonin wines from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. As well, he followed the development of Zonin’s American vineyard, Barboursville Vineyards, located in Virginia.

In these three years he worked in close contact with the marketing, communication and distribution sectors of viticulture as it changed profoundly in the new millennium that brought with it a rapid acceleration of globalization. Today Francesco is the Vice President of Casa Vinicola Zonin S.p.A. working closely with commercial activities both at home and abroad. He resides in Vicenza.

2006 Vintners

Justin Baldwin
Justin Vineyards & Winery
Paso Robles, CA

In 1981, Justin and Deborah Baldwin purchased 160 acres west of Paso Robles on California's Central Coast and planted their estate vineyards. Justin brings to JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery his business savvy as a former investment and international banker.

Since its inception, Justin focused his efforts on producing world-class Bordeaux style blends from the estate vineyards for the JUSTIN label. Justin is a pioneer in producing this style of wine on the Central Coast and his efforts have been rewarded with past and present vintages earning 90+ points by the major wine trade publications. More encompassing recognition has come from awards such as the Grand Sweepstakes award winner, Best of class, Best of Region, the coveted Pichon Lalande trophy for "World's Best Blended Red Wine" and Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of the World.

Vintages have received numerous accolades by capturing Decanter Magazine's "4 Stars", Restaurant Wine's "3 Forks" and Connoisseurs Guide's " 3 Puffs". Justin has consistently earned the praise of the wine press with recognition from the likes of Robert M. Parker Jr. naming Justin Baldwin one of his "Wine Heroes of the Year" and the "Star of Paso Robles"; the James Beard Foundations "Great American Winemaker Award"; Quarterly Review of Wine's "Top 3 Cabernet Producers of the Year"; and Wine Enthusiast's "Top Cabernet and Blended Wine Producers List" for seven years running.

Justin is an active participant in the wine world. He is a frequent panelist at prominent food and wine events worldwide, is a two term board member of the Family Winemaker of California, part board member and committee chair of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association, co-found of the West Side Grand Crew and the Far out Wineries of Paso Robles. For their contribution he and his wife have been named the Paso Robles Wine Industry persons of the year.

Beyond winemaking, the Baldwins have found that Food and JUSTIN wines go together. In fact, JUSTIN is the only winery on California's Central Coast to retain a full-time chef whose kitchen works daily to pair acclaimed JUSTIN wines with fresh seasonal and vineyard grown offerings.

The Baldwin family lives on the vineyard and includes Justin and wife Deborah; their two children, three dogs and two horses. In addition to the vineyards, winery, and tasting room, they own and operate the highly acclaimed country inn, The JUST Inn, and its intimate gourmet restaurant, Deborah's Room, also on the property.

Rolando Beremendi
William Grant Italian Portfolio
Italy

Since 1999, Rolando Beramendi has served as Brand Manager for a group of prestigious Italian wineries, currently imported by William Grant & Sons, Inc. Acting as the liaison between the wineries and their U.S. importer, he travels extensively throughout the U.S., conducting educational seminars for distributor sales personnel as well as consumers.

After graduating from UC Davis in 1987 with a degree in Agricultural Economics, Rolando moved to Florence where he worked for 2 large Tuscan wineries before becoming the Brand Manager for Castello di Fonterutoli in 1995. Since then, he has become involved with a number of other fine producers and now oversees the brand management of Castello di Brolio and Barone Ricasoli, Poliziano and Tenuta di Belgvardo, Casanova di Neri and Marco Negri, along with Castello di Fonterutoli.

Rolando plays two significant roles for all these wineries in the US: first, in helping in the communication and management of the brands; and second, in helping people around this country understand the wonders of Italian winemaking. Equally at home in America and Italy, he helps salesmen, retailers, and restaurateurs achieve a new degree of comfort and ease—with the wines, the winemakers, and the culture itself. Rolando is also an avid chef who enjoys the harmony of a nice meal accompanied with the perfect bottle of wine. Italian wine of course!

Emilia Nardi
Tenuta Silvio Nardi
Tuscany, Italy

Emilia Nardi heralds from a rich “familial” vine of agricultural excellence. Today Tenute Silvio Nardi is famed for its production of Brunello di Montalcino wine. But the winery had humble beginnings dating back to the late 19th century. In 1895, Francesco Nardi, Emilia’s grandfather, helped transform Italian agriculture with the development of a new plow, the first of many highly successful machines developed by his business, Nardi Francesco e Figli. At that time, Montalcino was no more than a tranquil Tuscan country village of a few houses, shops and vineyards.

Half a century later Silvio Nardi, Francesco Nardi's son, purchased the Casale del Bosco estate and produced his first bottles of Brunello di Montalcino. Soon the Casale del Bosco was recognized as being among Italy's most innovative farms. Silvio Nardi pursued his belief in the importance of specific terroir, and as the area’s winemaking techniques progressed, Brunello di Montalcino soon gained in prestige.

This extraordinary wine is known for its dark, purple-red color which is characterized by rich concentration, elevated acidity and enormous tannic extract. Generally considered to be young at 10 years in an average vintage, the wine’s proponents contend that the best vintages can easily surpass a century and still remain in their prime. In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino became the first Italian wine to receive Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita status.

In 1991, a new generation of inspiration at Tenute Silvio Nardi began with Emilia Nardi, who continued her father's philosophy with knowledge, understanding, enthusiasm and committed dedication. In the exceptional 1995 vintage she first produced Manachiara, a "cru" created from a specially-vinified selection of the finest grapes from a designated vineyard within the estate properties. The principal vineyards of Tenute Silvio Nardi are located on the original estate of Casale del Bosco, a property of 2,022 acres in the northwest part of Montalcino overlooking the Val d'Orcia. The winery’s additional estates encompass ancient vines. In 2001, the estates’ production was approximately 23,000 cases; it is expected to increase to 33,000 cases by 2015.

Eli Parker
Fess Parker Winery
Los Olivos, CA

The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard is a family-run vineyard, established in 1989 by former actor Fess Parker in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country. The winery focuses on producing diverse, Estate Grown, Burgundian and Rhône wines from 600 acres of vineyards.

The adventure began in December 1987, when the Fess Parker family purchased a piece of ranch property in Santa Barbara County’s Foxen Canyon, already the home of several outstanding wineries. For Eli Parker, the family’s foray into the wine business would prove to be an important turning point in his professional life. What began as a curious infatuation would later become a lifelong vocation as his innate winemaking talent was revealed.

After studying the faming side of winemaking and working in the cellar at Byron Winery, Eli enrolled in several extension courses at U.C. Davis. His hands-on approach was augmented by a three-year apprenticeship with the critically acclaimed winemaker Jed Steele. Eli first harvest at the helm was in 1996 and shortly thereafter he assumed the responsibilities of President of the winery.

Under Eli’s leadership the winery has received critical accolades, such as the Boston Globe’s declaring his debut wine, the 1993 Santa Barbara County Syrah, as “one of the five best Syrahs in the world.” While Eli may have a special affinity for Rhône wines, his Burgundian varietals fare equally as well with the critics. Recently, the winery’s vineyard holdings have expanded, and his decision-making has been instrumental in preserving quality as the Fess Parker brand grows.

Eli and his wife Laureen (married at the winery in 1995) have five daughters between them and together they have two sons. They live just down the road from the winery and needless to say, their lives revolve around the world of wine!

Clarke Swanson
Swanson Vineyards
Oakville, CA

Before embarking on a career in the wine business, Clarke Swanson established his experience in the general business worlds. After receiving a Bachelors Degree in History and Political Science from Stanford University and a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University, his career included work in the fields of banking, radio broadcasting, cable television, and community newspapers.

Swanson Vineyards began in 1985, when the Swanson family (wife Elizabeth and three daughters) relocated to Napa Valley from Naples, FL. Today the winery produces a variety of wines in the legendary Napa Valley regions; current releases include a 2004 Rosato, 2004 Pinot Grigio, 2002 Alexis and 2002 Merlot.

In addition to his dedication to wine-making, Clarke Swanson is involved in a variety of professional and civic organizations. He is a Director of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, Director and former Chairman of the Oakville Winegrowers Association, a Director and Vice President of the Friends of Lincoln Theater Performing Arts Center (Napa Valley), and a Director of University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Foundation.

Michael Weiss
Boutique Bottlings
C.I.A., Hyde Park, NY
John Williams
Frog’s Leap Winery
Rutherford, CA

John Williams’ route to winemaking began as with a connection to the lands as a dairy farmer in upstate New York. After attending Cornell University, a fortuitous work-study program at Taylor Wine Company compelled Williams to attend UC Davis’ Enology and Viticulture Masters Program.

Diploma in hand, he returned to New York’s famously scenic Finger Lakes region as the start-up winemaker at Glenora Wine Cellars. Taking inspiration from his first Napa Valley winemaking post at Stag's Leap, he began making wine commercially in 1981 under the name Frog's Leap.

Frog's Leap is set among 130 acres of vineyards at the historic Red Barn, a grand building erected in 1884 as the Adamson Winery. The winery uses the best of Napa Valley's organically grown grapes, and the most traditional winemaking techniques, to produce wines that deeply reflect the soils and climate.

As visitors to the company’s whimsical web site can attest, Frog's Leap presents a decidedly relaxed approach to enjoying wine. An easy hospitality and warm sense of humor is paired with a more serious sensibility when making wine.

Frog's Leap nearly 50,000 cases of hand-crafted wine annually, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Leapfrögmilch, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford and Zinfandel.

Paul Zuniga
Bodegas Ramon Bilbao
Rioja, Spain

2005 Vintners

Dennis Cakebread
Cakebread Cellars
Rutherford, CA

Cakebread Cellars' winemaker, Julianne Laks, has sniffed, smelled and tasted her way through more wines than she can count during her 25 plus-year career in the wine industry. Fortunately for us, the last 20 of those years have been at Cakebread Cellars, first as an enologist and later as assistant winemaker under head winemaker, Bruce Cakebread. Julianne was promoted to winemaker when Bruce Cakebread, took the reins from his father as president of the winery in 2002.

Julianne's winemaking skill, artistic passion and intimate understanding of our vineyards are just a few of the reasons Julianne was chosen to follow in Bruce's footsteps. Her promotion marked a milestone for Cakebread Cellars; she is the third winemaker in Cakebread Cellars' history, and is the first non-family member to hold the position. Her favorite part of the job, she says, is harvest. "Because I've worked with these vineyards for such a long time, it's like seeing old friends when the grapes come in. My job is to give them the best possible reception when they arrive at the winery."

We have organized this section by variety and vintage. The descriptions are what we taste at the release of the wine. If you are looking at an older vintage, keep in mind that as the wine ages it will develop bottle bouquet and the flavors will change.

Giovanni Folonari
Tenute A&G Folonari
Chianti, Italy

Giovanni Folonari, Managing Director of Tenute A & G Folonari, attended grammar and high school in Florence and later pursued academic studies with a degree in fermentation and oenology from the University of California, Davis in 1998. After a six-month apprenticeship with a California winery where he focused on research and micro-vinification, and his army service, he joined the family firm as vineyard and production manager in 1991.

Oenology has always been an integral part of his life, working summers and vacations in all aspects of viniculture — vineyards, cellars, and lab, working his way up to assistant cellar master. He now lives at the Cabreo Fattoria di Zano with his wife and children.

W. Reed Foster
Ravenswood Winery
Sonoma, CA

Joel Peterson grew up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay during the Dark Ages when California wine was judged by the type of jug it was bottled in. However, Joel's farsighted father Walter bucked the status quo by starting the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club, which studied fine wines from all over the world. Walter allowed his son to join the group's twice-weekly tastings when Joel was nine years old, carefully measuring the wine in the boy's glass — then his spittoon — to make sure everything was expectorated.

By the time he was a teenager, Joel thus had a working knowledge of European vineyards and vintages, along with a collection of headstrong opinions about what made good wine. After graduating from Oregon State University, he followed in the professional footsteps of his parents (both of whom were chemists), going to work as a laboratory scientist. On the side, he made money through wine writing and consulting, gaining a local reputation as a gifted taster (and tasteless punster).

Eventually it dawned on Joel that he had the background (not to mention the prejudices) to be an actual winemaker. Hence, he apprenticed with Joseph Swan — one of California's outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel — to learn the art of traditional winemaking as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1976 Joel founded Ravenswood in partnership with fellow wine lover Reed Foster (a Harvard MBA gone astray) and over the next half-dozen years, their fledgling operation moved from the rear corner of one willing winery to another. When Ravenswood finally turned a profit after a dozen years of operation, they settled on the northern edge of Sonoma, where the winery's tasting room is located.

Joel is now acknowledged as a leader in California wine — an articulate spokesman and stylistic trendsetter who helped make Zinfandel the runaway phenomenon that it is today. If there were a California Winemaking Hall of Fame, he'd be a shoo-in for early induction — not just as a home-run hitter but as one of the most popular players in the majors. (It's said that even as a Little Leaguer he could handle the spitter with aplomb.)

John Gay
Rosemount Estates
Australia

Matthew Lane is the consummate wine ambassador. Having been involved in the wine industry since he was a high school student in Australia, Matt has many accomplishments under his belt at age 31. He is a two-time winner of the South Australian chapter of the exclusive Vin de Champagne award, and was named South Australian Sommelier of the year for 2001. He has also been a guest wine, food & sensory lecturer at the University of Adelaide, considered one of Australia’s top wine training colleges

At Southcorp, Matt provides wine education on a global staff for both company staff and clients. He provides a comprehensive education and training to distributors, trade and company staff throughout the Americas, sharing his talents for imparting the nuances and appreciation for the craft of winemaking. Matt has experience in extensive sensory tasting, winemaking, testing and training with Southcorp’s top winemakers, and has worked vintages in both Australia and France.

Additionally, Matt has passed the Australian Advanced Wine Judges and Sensory Evaluation courses, as well as the pre-entrance course for the Master of Wine program (Australian chapters).

Prior to Southcorp, Matt worked at Penfolds’ prestigious Magill Estate restaurant in Adelaide, Australia as Head Sommelier & Senior Wine Educator for over four years.

Matt’s previous work includes working as a guest Sommelier at Charlie Trotters in Chicago and the Lanesborough Hotel in London.

Matt currently lives in Napa, California.

Peter Huwiler
Merryvale Vineyards
Napa Valley CA

Merryvale Vineyards President and Chief Executive Officer Peter K. Huwiler brought his diverse skills and background to this family-owned Napa Valley winery in 1996.

A native of Switzerland, Huwiler earned an MBA at the University of Washington before owning a successful chain of restaurants in Seattle. He joined the wine industry at Stimson-Lane and eventually served as Director of National Accounts and International Sales at Kendall-Jackson Winery. In all, Huwiler’s wine industry experience spans over 20 years.

Working with Merryvale Proprietor Jack W. Schlatter and his son René Schlatter, accomplishments at Merryvale since 1996 include significant improvements in vineyard sources and wine quality, a dramatic increase in wine production and international market reach, the addition of acclaimed director of winemaking Stephen Test to the team in 1998, a complete label and packaging re-design, attention-getting advertising campaigns and a comprehensive upgrade of the winery’s content-rich website.

Merryvale currently produces over 100,000 cases of ultra-premium Napa Valley and Sonoma wines available throughout the US and dozens of countries in Europe and Asia. The winery has earned numerous awards and continues to gain critical acclaim for its outstanding wines and service.

John Lewis
Malvira, Cigliuti, Borgo Maragliano
Piemonte, Italy

High in the hills between Alba and Asti, the Galliano family grows one of the most interesting grapes found in the Piemonte, the Moscato. One of the region’s great gifts is Moscato d’Asti, a bubbly, slightly sweet, low-alcohol drink that is great with desert, after a big meal, or just by itself as the perfect antidote to a hot afternoon. Borgo Maragliano’s Moscato d’Asti, La Caliera, is one of the best you will find.

Their Loazzolo D.O.C. Late Harvest is rapidly becoming known as one of the finest examples of after dinner wines found anywhere, receiving 2 Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso for each of the past several vintages. It’s flavors enhanced by the concentrating effects of the “noble rot” of Botrytis cinerea, it has been described as a textbook example of what a moscato should be.

Aldo Rafanelli
Antinori Estates
Italy
Born and raised in Florence, Italy, Aldo Rafanelli first began his career in wine as a vineyard consultant during the early 70's, in what was later dubbed the "Revolution" of Tuscan wine making. Piero Antinori was among the first of leading wine producers as they replanted their vineyards with modern and innovative techniques, utilizing new clones and varietals. A hobbyist wine and extra virgin olive oil maker, Aldo married a New Yorker, and the happy couple relocated to the U.S. Aldo started a new venture, selling Italian wines of high image and quality. Since 1987 in charge of the sale of Antinori for the U.S.A. and from 1993 for North America, Aldo travels extensively across the continent, always in search of a better place to eat. A fanatic outdoorsman, Aldo loves fishing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing and camping (whenever possible). When indoors, his passion is cooking (possibly something that he hunted, fished or gathered himself). It’s not uncommon for his phone to ring, with friends and colleagues from all over calling to consult him on recipes for pasta and Tuscan cooking. Although he and his family (wife and two boys) are avid skiers, he never feels more at home than in a vineyard climate blessed with sun and warmth.
Michaela Rodeno
St. Supery Vineyards
Rutherford, CA

Michaela Rodeno, St. Supéry's dynamic CEO, is responsible for managing all the winery's activities, from strategic planning, grape growing and wine production, to finance, new product development and marketing and sales. As one of the leading women in the California wine industry and a passionate advocate of California wine issues, Michaela is often invited to speak at domestic and international conferences.

In 1973, six months after Michaela arrived in Napa, the Valley was abuzz with the news of Moët-Hennessey’s (now LVMH) plans to invest $8 million in building a new winery in the county… Domaine Chandon. “Moët-Hennessey was the first French company to invest in California and it sent a message to the industry that Napa Valley was an important wine region,” says Michaela. “With my fluent French and desire to learn more about wine, I knew that I had to get involved with this venture.” Through persistence and a mutual acquaintance, Michaela was introduced to John Wright, Domaine Chandon’s president who was impressed with her drive and willingness to learn and hired her to be his assistant and employee number two at the new winery. Michaela learned important lessons from him that inform her successful management style today.

Michaela's life is as wine-focused as her career. As co-founder of Women for WineSense, a national organization promoting wine as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, Michaela continues a long history of involvement in industry-wide issues. She is a founding director of the Wine Market Council, an initiative to create a national generic marketing campaign for wine, and she chaired the 1998 Napa Valley Wine Auction, the nation’s largest charity wine auction, which raised a record $3.8 million for local health care organizations.

Today, Michaela lives on her family’s 25-acre vineyard near the town of Oakville in the Napa Valley with her attorney husband Gregory; their daughter Kate (22) graduated from SDSU and son John (19) is a student at USD. The family also owns 40 acres in Pope Valley in the Napa Valley appellation. Although most of the family grapes are sold to Napa wineries, the Rodenos produce a tiny amount of Sangiovese (about 150 cases annually) under their Villa Ragazzi label.

Michael Weiss
Boutique Bottlings
C. I.A., Hyde Park, NY
Warren Winiarski
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Napa Valley, CA

Co-Recipient of the first annual Boca Bacchanal Award of Excellence

One could say that Warren Winiarski was meant to make wine—after all, his last name translates “son of a vintner” in Polish. As a child he recalls pressing his ear to the barrels in which his father was fermenting wine, listening to the mysterious sounds. Little did he know that one day, he would change the way the world regards California wines.

After obtaining a graduate degree at the University of Chicago and gaining an appreciation for wine at the casual dining table while living in Italy for a year, he and his wife Barbara began to ponder a way to live a more rural lifestyle, a place where they and their young children could grow and perhaps be involved in a family business. Fast forward to 1964, when the Winiarski family relocated to the scenic Napa Valley. Warren had a vision of creating a new wine from the fruit of an American vine, rather than the storied vineyards of Italy and France.

The Napa Valley was experiencing a winegrowing renaissance. Warren managed to secure an assistant position at Lee Stewart’s Souverain Cellars, working closely with the winemaker to learn the craft. A year later he planted a three-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard, and in what was to forecast his future success, Warren was the first to plant the varietal in an area that would later become known for its great Cabernets. After being invited as assistant winemaker at Robert Mondavi’s winery in 1966, the first new winery in the Valley since Prohibition, Warren began to search in earnest for the perfect terroir, a place to create his dream wine.

After a long search, he found just the place on the Eastern side of the Valley, by the rocky Stags Leap Palisade. Here, he and his wife, along with a group of partners, purchase the land that would become build Stags Leap Vineyard (S.L.V.). After planting to Cabernet and Merlot, in 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars opened its doors. Just three years later, the fruits of Warren’s labor would pay off.

In a world where the great vintages of Europe reigned supreme, few would have even dared to consider that California wines could compete. But at the now-famous 1976 Paris tasting, a panel of French experts chose Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind tasting of red wines, over some of the most highly regarded Grand Cru Bordeaux—leaving both the audience and judges awestruck! The event made news around the globe, and both Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the Napa Valley became internationally recognized.

Since that time, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars has continued to produce wines that have won critical acclaim, including its white wines. It is best known for estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons including CASK 23, regarded among the finest Cabernets in the world. Warren, always dedicate to elevating the quality of wine, has lectured, authored articles, and been instrumental in encouraging a more sophisticated method of scoring California wines. In 2001 he served as president of the London-based International Wine & Spirit Competition, where he has sponsored the Cabernet Sauvignon trophy since 1986. Warren continues to teach, tutoring a week each summer with the St. John’s College Summer Classics program at the college’s Santa Fe campus.

And the values of preservation and philanthropy can clearly be seen in the work of Warren and his family, fighting for the creation of an Agricultural Preserve to prevent urban sprawl, which became law in 1968 in addition to more recent efforts. In 1998 Warren began a tradition of matching auction bids at the annual Napa Valley Wine Auction, and putting the funds towards philanthropic causes. Clearly, Warren has helped make California wines and the Napa Valley what they are today, and the consummate co-recipient of the first-ever Boca Bacchanal Award of Excellence.

2004 Vintners

Kathy Benziger
Benziger Family Winery
Glen Ellen,CA

You can’t begin to discuss the beginnings of Benziger Family Winery without delving into the family members themselves. The Benzigers — California’s largest wine family in one of California’s smallest appellations has created from the ground up a nationally acclaimed Sonoma winery. From the start, the vision was quite simple; grow grapes that produce wines of uncompromised character and quality inspired by Sonoma County’s unrivaled diversity.

The youngest of Bruno and Helen's seven children, Kathy first came to work at the winery when she was a high school freshman. She soon graduated to pruning, picking, bottling and working in the tasting room. Learning about the wine industry from the ground up, she decided to make her mark in the business end of the operation and earned a degree in management from Sonoma State University. Sales positions at ADP in New York and Hoffman Distributing in New Jersey prepared her for a move back East, where she became the Benziger eastern region sales manager. Kathy now lives in Colorado, where she is the central region sales manager for Benziger.

Rolando Beremendi
Barone Riscasoli
Italy

Since 1141, the Ricasoli family has owned Castello di Brolio Estate. The history of Brolio and the Ricasoli Barons extends into the distant 12th century when ownership of the land and castle was gifted to the Ricasoli family by the Republic of Florence. In the last 3 centuries, the Ricasoli have shaped the history of the Chianti Classico territory and its wines, while establishing themselves as top quality producers. In 1874, Baron Bettino Ricasoli, former Prime Minister of the Reign of Italy, defined the “formula” for the ideal wine on which the rules of the new Chianti Classico Appellation (DOCG) were eventually based in 1967.

A New Renaissance
In 1993, the Ricasoli family regained control of the winery, after twenty years of foreign ownership. For Barone Ricasoli this date represents the beginning of an era of renovation and research leading to a new splendor. In less than a decade more than 620 acres of vineyards have been replanted, with an investment of over $16 million dollars. The vinification cellars and hospitality structures have undergone major renovation, with an investment of additional $20 million dollars.

Norman & Rosa Lee DeLeuze
ZD Winery
Napa Valley, CA

Brett de Leuze, ZD Wines President & Partner, grew up in and around the wine business. He was only four years old when the winery was founded in 1969. His experience ranges from picking the grapes during the `70s, to bottling-line duties and assisting his brother Robert in the wine making of the`80s. Brett and ZD Wines have grown up together from their beginnings.

Through his youth and college, Brett’s main interest outside of the winery was soccer. He collected trophies attesting to his skill. In fact, soccer and helping build a business are not too dissimilar. They both require stamina, alertness, and they both have GOALS! With graduation in view, his attention was focused on obtaining a Business degree from California State University, Sacramento.

Following graduation from CSUS in 1988, Brett formed a team with his mom, Rosa Lee, who since 1969 had been managing all of ZD’s marketing and sales. For many years, Brett traveled throughout the United States sharing his family’s wines and experiences with restaurateurs, retailers and consumers. Over the years, Brett also visited wineries and vineyards in France, Italy and Germany, gaining a broader perspective with regard to the diversity of the wine business.

Today, Brett’s energy and excitement for the wine industry continue to help define ZD’s reputation as a family business dedicated to a sustainable approach to growing, producing and selling world-class wine. Brett and his wife Natalie, have three beautiful children, Connor (10), Kayla (7) and Alexandria (5) a third generation on the way.

John Gay
Penfolds
Australia

Matthew Lane comes to Foster’s Wine Estates Americas from the (formerly Southcorp Wines LTD) portfolio. Matt’s profession in wine blossomed at Penfolds’ 5 star prestigious Magill Estate restaurant in Adelaide, South Australia, where he served as Head Sommelier and Senior Wine Educator for over four years before relocating to the USA in early 2003. Prior the Magill Estate, Matt held positions with Hyatt international and other prestigious wine restaurants in Australia as their Head Sommelier & wine buyer.

Matt has comprehensive experience in training, development and education. He conducts wine education for Foster’s internal staff and external clients on a global scale, as well as being a guest wine, food and sensory lecturer at the University of Adelaide—arguably one of Australia’s top wine training colleges, Johnson & Wales Universities in the USA, plus, most recently Harvard and Stanford universities. He has also worked as a guest Sommelier at Charlie Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago, the exclusive Lanesborough Hotel in London, the luxurious Palazzo Versace resort in Australia.

He has been involved in widespread sensory tasting, winemaking, testing and training with top winemakers from Foster’s in Australia & USA winemaking operations. He has passed the USA Professional Wine Judges and Sensory Evaluation course, graduating dux; He also recently has completed Enology and Viticulture 3 at the University of California, Davis.

Matt has won the exclusive international Vin de Champagne award twice, and was also named South Australian Sommelier of the Year for 2001.

As Foster’s Director of Wine Education for the Americas and Canada, Matt will raise the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the Foster’s Wine Estates global portfolio by providing extensive education and training to distributors, trade, media, and Foster’s staff throughout the Americas and Canada. Based in Napa, California, he works closely with the Sales and Public Relations departments to produce educational materials for use at a multitude of events and by the sales teams. After two years of development, Matt recently launched Foster’s on-line wine education program known as Wine Edge, which has quickly been noted by contemporaries as “one of the most authoritative and comprehensive Australian wine on-line course’s ever created.”

Matt, 36, has been in the industry for over fifteen years. He was born and raised in Australia and currently lives in Napa, California.

Peter Huwiler
Merryvale Vineyards
Napa Valley, CA

Merryvale Vineyards President and Chief Executive Officer Peter K. Huwiler brought his diverse skills and background to this family-owned Napa Valley winery in 1996.

A native of Switzerland, Huwiler earned an MBA at the University of Washington before owning a successful chain of restaurants in Seattle. He joined the wine industry at Stimson-Lane and eventually served as Director of National Accounts and International Sales at Kendall-Jackson Winery. In all, Huwiler’s wine industry experience spans over 20 years.

Working with Merryvale Proprietor Jack W. Schlatter and his son René Schlatter, accomplishments at Merryvale since 1996 include significant improvements in vineyard sources and wine quality, a dramatic increase in wine production and international market reach, the addition of acclaimed director of winemaking Stephen Test to the team in 1998, a complete label and packaging re-design, attention-getting advertising campaigns and a comprehensive upgrade of the winery’s content-rich website.

Merryvale currently produces over 100,000 cases of ultra-premium Napa Valley and Sonoma wines available throughout the US and dozens of countries in Europe and Asia. The winery has earned numerous awards and continues to gain critical acclaim for its outstanding wines and service.

John Lewis
Malvira, Cigliuti, Borgo Maragliano
Wines of the Piedmont, Italy

High in the hills between Alba and Asti, the Galliano family grows one of the most interesting grapes found in the Piemonte, the Moscato. One of the region’s great gifts is Moscato d’Asti, a bubbly, slightly sweet, low-alcohol drink that is great with desert, after a big meal, or just by itself as the perfect antidote to a hot afternoon. Borgo Maragliano’s Moscato d’Asti, La Caliera, is one of the best you will find.

Their Loazzolo D.O.C. Late Harvest is rapidly becoming known as one of the finest examples of after dinner wines found anywhere, receiving 2 Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso for each of the past several vintages. It’s flavors enhanced by the concentrating effects of the “noble rot” of Botrytis cinerea, it has been described as a textbook example of what a moscato should be.

Olivier Masmondet
Maison Louis Jadot
France

Marc Dupin grew up in the Paris area close to Versailles and rather far from vines.

During his business degree his first contact with wines was in the mid 80s. Pursuing his interests for languages, sales and export markets, he worked as export director in the wine business before joining Maison Louis Jadot in 1992 where he supervises sales in approximately 53 countries as their Export Director.

From the start, Maison Louis Jadot has always accorded equal importance to each of Burgundy's appellations, from Grand Crus right through to regional wines. Their aim is to express the true nature of Burgundy through their wines, a terroir that can be both proud of its past and optimistic about its future.

All the wines made under the Maison Louis Jadot label are Appellation Contrôlée wines from across the region. The vineyards of Maison Louis Jadot are now scattered across 154 hectares of Burgundy, from the Côte d'Or to the Mâconnais and down into Beaujolais. Thanks to the quality of their wines they have forged strong links, both in France and around the world, with sommeliers, restaurateurs, wine merchants, importers, agents and wine lovers.

Jeffery Patterson
Mt. Eden Vineyards
Napa, CA

A native Californian, Jeffrey Patterson graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1975 with a degree in biology. While in Berkeley, he witnessed and participated in the emergence of northern California’s fine wine and food culture. An enthusiastic wine drinker and collector, Jeffrey decided to pursue a career in the wine business and, in 1979, enrolled in the U.C. Davis viticulture and enology program, where he studied for two years.

In 1981, Patterson became assistant winemaker at Mount Eden Vineyards. He had visited the Santa Cruz Mountain winery in 1978 and believed Mount Eden, with its long history of fine wine production, would an ideal place to practice his craft.

Jeffrey and his wife Ellie, a U.C. Berkeley history graduate, ornamental horticulturist, and textile artist, thus left Berkeley to begin a new life 2,000 feet above the Santa Clara Valley. A little over a year after his arrival, Patterson was promoted to head winemaker and general manager, and Ellie became the winery’s business manager. In 1986, they became significant shareholders in the company and, in 1993, Jeffrey became the winery's president.

Today, with over 20 years’ experience at California’s original boutique winery, Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson live with their two children in the house Martin Ray built on Mount Eden in the early 1950s, surrounded by the winery’s historic estate vineyard and a panoramic view of the now-famous Silicon Valley. In their spare time, Jeffrey enjoys cooking for friends.

Tom Selfridge
Chalone Wine Estates
Napa Valley CA
Chris Silva
St. Francis Winery
Rutherford, CA

The way Christopher Silva sees it, wine has always played a big part in the quality of his life. A fifth-generation native of Sonoma County, Chris grew up with all the benefits that are the birthright of the residents of an agricultural region.

As the Chief Executive Officer of St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, Chris sometimes finds himself driven by a motivating factor: "Selfishness," he says with a chuckle. "As long as agriculture succeeds here, we'll have open space and vineyards –– rather than factories and complexes –– along the highway. That 's the quality of life I had growing up here, and it's the way I want it to be for my two children."

But it has taken this wine lover until his early 30s to actually make the product he loves the focus of his work. In his 20s, he developed a host of skills that he puts to use every day in his role as St. Francis Winery operations manager and spokesperson.

After graduating from Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California, Chris attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He went on to graduate from Loyola Law School and practiced in Los Angeles for several years. In 1992, he moved back to Sonoma to represent wineries as an attorney. "I always wanted to get wine into my professional life," he says, "and this was a way to do it."

Chris didn't officially became a part of St. Francis until 1998, when he left the law to become their Chief Operating Officer, but –– as it turns out –– his family has a long history with the winery. Both his younger brother and aunt worked there over the years, and in the 1930s, Silva's grandfather, who owned a local dairy ranch, sold his extra milk barrels to Mr. Pagani, the producer of a renowned local Zinfandel on the very grounds now occupied by St. Francis. The economics of this arrangement amuse Silva today: "Mr. Pagani would age the Zinfandel in the barrels and sell them back to my grandfather at the full price of $1 per barrel.”

In 2003, Christopher became the Chief Executive Officer.

2003 Vintners

Kathy Benziger
Benziger Family Winery
Glen Ellen,CA

You can’t begin to discuss the beginnings of Benziger Family Winery without delving into the family members themselves. The Benzigers — California’s largest wine family in one of California’s smallest appellations has created from the ground up a nationally acclaimed Sonoma winery. From the start, the vision was quite simple; grow grapes that produce wines of uncompromised character and quality inspired by Sonoma County’s unrivaled diversity.

The youngest of Bruno and Helen's seven children, Kathy first came to work at the winery when she was a high school freshman. She soon graduated to pruning, picking, bottling and working in the tasting room. Learning about the wine industry from the ground up, she decided to make her mark in the business end of the operation and earned a degree in management from Sonoma State University. Sales positions at ADP in New York and Hoffman Distributing in New Jersey prepared her for a move back East, where she became the Benziger eastern region sales manager. Kathy now lives in Colorado, where she is the central region sales manager for Benziger.

Lucca Corrado
Vietti
Castiglione Falletto, Italy
Norman & Rosa Lee DeLeuze
ZD Winery
Napa Valley, CA

Brett de Leuze, ZD Wines President & Partner, grew up in and around the wine business. He was only four years old when the winery was founded in 1969. His experience ranges from picking the grapes during the `70s, to bottling-line duties and assisting his brother Robert in the wine making of the`80s. Brett and ZD Wines have grown up together from their beginnings.

Through his youth and college, Brett’s main interest outside of the winery was soccer. He collected trophies attesting to his skill. In fact, soccer and helping build a business are not too dissimilar. They both require stamina, alertness, and they both have GOALS! With graduation in view, his attention was focused on obtaining a Business degree from California State University, Sacramento.

Following graduation from CSUS in 1988, Brett formed a team with his mom, Rosa Lee, who since 1969 had been managing all of ZD’s marketing and sales. For many years, Brett traveled throughout the United States sharing his family’s wines and experiences with restaurateurs, retailers and consumers. Over the years, Brett also visited wineries and vineyards in France, Italy and Germany, gaining a broader perspective with regard to the diversity of the wine business.

Today, Brett’s energy and excitement for the wine industry continue to help define ZD’s reputation as a family business dedicated to a sustainable approach to growing, producing and selling world-class wine. Brett and his wife Natalie, have three beautiful children, Connor (10), Kayla (7) and Alexandria (5) a third generation on the way.

Jerome Jeandin
Champagne Taittinger
Riems, France
David Lake
Columbia Winery
Woodinville, WA
Olivier Masmondet
Maison Louis Jadot
France

Marc Dupin grew up in the Paris area close to Versailles and rather far from vines.

During his business degree his first contact with wines was in the mid 80s. Pursuing his interests for languages, sales and export markets, he worked as export director in the wine business before joining Maison Louis Jadot in 1992 where he supervises sales in approximately 53 countries as their Export Director.

From the start, Maison Louis Jadot has always accorded equal importance to each of Burgundy's appellations, from Grand Crus right through to regional wines. Their aim is to express the true nature of Burgundy through their wines, a terroir that can be both proud of its past and optimistic about its future.

All the wines made under the Maison Louis Jadot label are Appellation Contrôlée wines from across the region. The vineyards of Maison Louis Jadot are now scattered across 154 hectares of Burgundy, from the Côte d'Or to the Mâconnais and down into Beaujolais. Thanks to the quality of their wines they have forged strong links, both in France and around the world, with sommeliers, restaurateurs, wine merchants, importers, agents and wine lovers.

Roberto Alfonso Pena
Bodegas Faustino
Rioja, Spain

Mrs. Lourdes Martínez is one of the 4th Generation members of the Martínez Family, Grupo Faustino wineries´ owners. She works at the company since her early years and she has been learning for running the family business since she was very young.

She was born in Oyón, on the 31rd of December 1966. She studied a Degree in Computing at the Deusto University in Bilbao (Spain). After that she did a MBA at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid and a Master on Finances at the Deusto University in Bilbao.

After she completed her studies she began to work at Bodegas Faustino Martínez, SA as Assistant to the Management Directorship. In 1992 is the Financial Chief Executive of Bodegas Faustino Martínez, SA and is one of the Member of the Managing Committee and Manager Director for the same company.

Since 1999 is the Managing Director of the Faustino Group.

She also is, from January 2005, Manager Director for FCC SA and member of the Strategical Commiteee for the same company.

She is married and has got two daughters.

Tom Selfridge
Chalone Wine Estates
Napa, CA
Jed Steele
Steele Wines
Kelseyville, CA
Clarke Swanson
Swanson Vineyards
Rutherford, CA

Before embarking on a career in the wine business, Clarke Swanson established his experience in the general business worlds. After receiving a Bachelors Degree in History and Political Science from Stanford University and a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University, his career included work in the fields of banking, radio broadcasting, cable television, and community newspapers.

Swanson Vineyards began in 1985, when the Swanson family (wife Elizabeth and three daughters) relocated to Napa Valley from Naples, FL. Today the winery produces a variety of wines in the legendary Napa Valley regions; current releases include a 2004 Rosato, 2004 Pinot Grigio, 2002 Alexis and 2002 Merlot.

In addition to his dedication to wine-making, Clarke Swanson is involved in a variety of professional and civic organizations. He is a Director of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, Director and former Chairman of the Oakville Winegrowers Association, a Director and Vice President of the Friends of Lincoln Theater Performing Arts Center (Napa Valley), and a Director of University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Foundation.

Nick Withers
Barossa Valley Estates
Australia

Chefs

2019 Chefs

Brian & Shanna O’Hea
Academe at The Kennebunk Inn
Kennebunk, ME
Shanna and Brian O’Hea are the Chef-Owners of Academe Brasserie and The Kennebunk Inn in Kennebunk, Maine. This 1799 property with 23 guest rooms and a 100-seat restaurant, anchors Main Street in one of Maine’s most popular tourist destinations. 

The O'Heas have gained international recognition by participating in cooking programs around the world including: The Walt Disney World Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and Holland America Cruise Line. Shanna has appeared on Food Network's "Chopped,” “Beat Bobby Flay” and winner of "Rewrapped." Brian and Shanna will both appear on a new Food Network show in the summer of 2018 called “Best in Seafood.” 

 Academe’s signature Lobster Pot Pie has been featured in Oprah Magazine as one of Gayle King’s favorites, on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise,” and 2014 Travel and Leisure Holiday Gift Guide. Their Lobster White Truffle Pizza has appeared on the “O List” in Oprah Magazine and was also featured on Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise.” Both products are available on Goldbelly.com shipping fresh Maine seafood overnight across the United States.
Lior Lev Sercarz
La Boîte
New York City
Chef, Spice Blender and Owner
Lior Lev Sercarz is the chef, spice blender and owner of La Boîte, a biscuits and spice shop in New York City. Lior and La Boîte have been featured in publications including The New York Times, Vogue, In Style Magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Food & Wine Magazine and the SAVEUR 100.

After completing three years as a sergeant of the Israeli army, Lior traveled to South America where he further developed a passion for cooking and world cuisines. As his interest in cooking evolved, he decided to enroll in culinary school at the acclaimed Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France. During that time, he did an externship with chef Olivier Roellinger in Cancale, France. Roellinger had earned three Michelin stars at Les Maisons de Bricourt, his hotel and restaurant, where he displayed a rare understanding of spices, blends, oils, and pastes.

In 2002, Lior brought his newfound understanding of spice blending with him to New York, where he had the honor of working with chef Daniel Boulud as a sous chef and catering chef at his flagship restaurant, Daniel. He left Daniel in 2006 to start La Boîte, launching the company by making and selling a line of French biscuits as well as experimenting with the use of spices. In 2011, after working more with spices, he opened La Boîte Biscuits & Spices, an art gallery and spice shop in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Each season, the artists whose work adorns his cookie tins also show their work in the gallery.

Since the beginning of his career, Lior has worked closely with chefs from around the world, developing custom blends for them and for other customers with all levels of cooking experience. In 2012, he produced a cookbook entitled The Art of Blending, which features 41 blends along with recipes and cooking tips provided by renowned chefs and culinary minds including Gail Simmons, Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and Apollonia Poilâne.
 
His second book, The Spice Companion, is a distillation of his 30 years of experience. This illustrated guide to 102 spices, complete with blends and recipe ideas was published by Clarkson Potter in November 2016.
Justin Smillie
Upland
New York City and Miami
Born in rural California and raised in rural New Jersey, chef Justin Smillie has long been inspired by the rugged elements of the great outdoors, from camping and fly-fishing to foraging for wild ingredients. It’s a mentality that informs the approach at Upland, his hit collaboration with Stephen Starr. The restaurant, with locations in both New York City and Miami, showcases Smillie’s California roots and rustic culinary sensibilities while paying homage to the culinary influences that shaped his point of view.
Adam Jakins
Halls Chophouse
Charleston, SC
Chef de Cuisine
As an early teen in Washington, D.C., Chef Adam was inspired with the idea of a culinary career while working after school and weekends at the French Confection in nearby Sandy Springs, Maryland. Later, after his professional experience in the front of the house at The Olney Ale House, he made a serious career choice and enrolled at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the premier culinary school in the Washington, D.C. region, recognized as the leader in culinary arts and pastry arts training.

After his graduation, he gained seven years of palate and management experience at Grapeseed in Bethesda, Maryland, known for its outstanding dishes and an extensive wine list, and annually named one of Washingtonian Magazine’s “100 Very Best Restaurants.”

Five years ago Jakins joined Halls Chophouse as Chef de Cuisine, managing the day-to-day operations of the kitchen and a staff of over 40. As a native of our nation’s capital, and enhanced by his family’s ties to Thailand, he developed a multicultural foundation plus an undying passion for the Washington Redskins. 
Matt Gennuso
Chez Pascal
Providence, RI
Chef/Co-Owner
Matthew Gennuso is the chef/co-owner with his wife Kristin of Chez Pascal, a French influenced-American bistro on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island.
 
Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Matt spent a year honing his craft in Holland after graduation. He returned to the U.S. and cooked alongside the best chefs on both coasts, including Paul Bertolli of Oliveto, in Oakland, California and Tom Colicchio of Grammercy Tavern, in New York City.
 
At the acclaimed Hamersley’s Bistro, in Boston, Matt cooked with James Beard Award-winning chef Gordon Hamersley. After a stint at Prezza, in Boston’s North End, Matt was ready for his own restaurant where he could fulfill his vision for a menu replete with dishes made from the freshest meats and fish, local farm-grown seasonal produce, and artisan-made foods.
 
Expectations were high for Matt and his wife, Kristin, when they took over East Side favorite Chez Pascal in the spring of 2003. But the Gennuso quickly exceeded those expectations, consistently winning accolades from the local media and foodies alike. He has won several awards for his cuisine, which reinterprets the French classics and infuses them with fresh, modern appeal.
 
Shortly after opening, Matt had the idea to purchase and run a small hot dog push cart in the park across the street from the restaurant.  The cart featured his house made relishes, mustard, chili, and various other favorite hot dog toppings.  This was only the stepping stone.  In the summer of 2009, after a year fabricating on old linen truck, Matt launched his newest passion, a mobile food truck.  Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile focused on a changing variety of house made sausages, sandwiches, soups and more.  Then in 2011 after a car hit the front of the restaurant, the Gennusos decided to turn the dent into a walk-up window serving house made sausages and sandwiches.  They retired the truck, put a small open kitchen inside Chez Pascal and The Wurst Kitchen was born.    The Wurst Kitchen is located in Chez Pascal and offers a different menu and dining experience. 
 
Their newest project is a chef designed apron aptly called the Chezpron.  It takes the pressure of the neck with a uniquely designed back strap created for easy movement and comfort.  The Chezpron launched in 2016.
 
Matt has been invited to participate in numerous food and wine festivals both in and out of state.  Demonstrating his cooking techniques at the Epcot Food and Wine festival, Saborea Puerto Rico and Holland America cruise ships. His national television credits include The Today Show, The Cooking Channels’ Food-ogrophy, Meat & Potatoes & Eat Street as well as House Hunters International & Cultivating Life where he was a regular guest chef. 
 
Constantly evolving, Chez Pascal & The Wurst Kitchen are currently being renovated, while still remaining open.  In the works is a beautiful new dining space for their guests and a roof top garden that will produce seasonal vegetables and herbs for the restaurant. 
 
Chez Pascal & The Wurst Kitchen are located at 960 Hope Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02906.  Matt and Kristin can be reached at  (401) 421-4422
or hewtin@aol.com. www.chez-pascal.com and www.chezpron.com
 
Russ Moore
Slightly North of Broad
Charleston, SC
Executive Chef
As Chef Russ Moore wears many hats, including management of an esteemed culinary team, cultivating talent, and spearheading the menu development that continues to delight patrons since the restaurant’s opening in 1993. 
 
Moore speaks of these responsibilities with equal enthusiasm. “A lot of what we do at Slightly North of Broad is cultivating young talent. I’m inspired by their creativity and dedication to cuisine.  Being part of their culinary development is incredibly rewarding. The Slightly North of Broad kitchen is a special place.  To be able to serve products that often just came in the back door from someone you consider a friend is priceless.  Having that opportunity makes you strive to be a better cook everyday.”

Within its classic “bistro” concept, Slightly North of Broad offers abundant choices - perennial favorites complemented by daily, seasonal specials. By offering that combination, Moore feels Slightly North of Broad brings diners a unique experience. “We want people to feel they can come here every day, any day, and enjoy what we’re doing.”

A graduate of Johnson and Wales University Charleston, he was named Slightly North of Broad’s chef de cuisine in 2008, chef in 2013, and then executive chef in 2015. Moore is an active mentor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston.  He serves as a judge with the National Restaurant Association’s Pro Start program and actively involves himself with local professional organizations. 
Patrick Duffy
The Addison
Boca Raton, FL
Executive Chef

Executive Chef Patrick Duffy leads the Five Star Diamond award winning kitchen at the Addison. He is renowned for his elegant, highly-personalized, and on-trend farm-to-table menus, pursuing locally sourced and highest quality ingredients.

Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, it’s no wonder that Patrick’s culinary roots began in barbeque. In 1997 he relocated to South Florida where he worked for restaurants such as Brassiere Max, Perricone’s, and Seasons 52. Since his formative years, Patrick has mastered countless international cuisines, including Indian and Glatt Kosher, as well as new culinary trends. According to him, “there is no menu too tough.”

Even for the largest weddings and corporate events, Patrick’s food is always fresh to-order and customized to his client’s taste. His high-standards, colorful imagination, attention to detail, and passion for the dining experience have earned him a reputation as one of the best catering chef’s in the country.

In 2016, Patrick was awarded the Six Star Diamond Award, and was recognized by The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences as one of the finest chefs worldwide.

When Patrick is not in the kitchen, he is with his family or is volunteering his time to helping animals.

2018 Chefs

Jimmy Banos
Heaven on Seven
Chicago, IL

Heaven on Seven at 111 N. Wabash, 7th floor, Chicago, is the original location for the authentic Cajun cuisine of critically acclaimed chef/owner Jimmy Bannos. With the ever-famous gumbo, Heaven on Seven provides the best Louisiana cooking outside of New Orleans.

Third generation restaurateur, Bannos was born and raised in the restaurant business. In 1980, with Jimmy fresh out of cooking school, the Bannos family opened its concept of a “neighborhood restaurant in the middle of the loop.” On the seventh floor of the Garland Building, the “New Garland Coffee Shop” was born. It was in 1984, while experimenting with Louisiana recipes that Jimmy’s real passion and talent for cooking emerged. Soon regular customers were going crazy over his gumbo and red beans, demanding Cajun specials year round. Feeling a true affinity for the South, Jimmy and his wife Annamarie headed to New Orleans to immerse themselves in the culture.

What had started as just a diversion from coffee shop fare grew into a true passion for everything Cajun and Creole. In 1985, compelled by a real love for this food, the Bannos family transformed their neighborhood coffee shop into “Heaven on Seven.” Aptly named to identify its seventh floor location and to describe the heavenly clouds of steam wafting from Jimmy's scrumptious gumbo, "Heaven on Seven" was created with heart and soul. Jimmy's goal was then and is now for "Heaven on Seven" to be the best Louisiana style restaurant outside of New Orleans.

Vincenzo Betulia
Tulia Osteria
Naples, FL

A Sicilian native, Vincenzo Betulia grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after his family moved there from Sicily when he was 2 years old. He began his career at age 14 with an after-school job in Paul and Joe Bartolotta’s Ristorante Bartolotta. By age 15, he held a prized spot on the pizza line. He ultimately attained the chef position, became a Bartolotta protégé, and helped open two additional Bartolotta restaurants in Milwaukee. While attending the Kendall Culinary School in Chicago, Chef Vincenzo further honed his skills at Bartolotta’s acclaimed Spiaggia. In Chicago, and later in Milwaukee, he worked with Michael White, a fellow Kendall alum and Bartolotta protégé, acclaimed for New York City restaurants including Marea, Ai Fiori and Osteria Morini. On a vacation in Naples, Florida, Chef Vincenzo fell in love with the area and secured a chef's position at Campiello, a staple in the Naples dining scene. He worked his way up to head chef, a position he held for nine years, before opening his namesake restaurant, Osteria Tulia in January 2013, and Bar Tulia in December 2014.

Chef Vincenzo was the first chef in Naples to host a Friends of James Beard Benefit dinner in April 2015. He won a Best Chefs of America Award in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and was featured in a segment of Emeril’s Florida, which aired on the Food Network and Cooking Channel. USA Today’s 10Best recognized Osteria Tulia as the #1 Italian restaurant in Naples, Florida. Most recently, Chef Vincenzo received a Naples Illustrated Readers’ Choice Award 2015 for “Best New Chef.” Osteria Tulia was also recommended by Forbes Travel Guide, Peter Greenberg, The Fifty Best and Fodor’s; and awarded a Naples Illustrated Readers’ Choice Award 2015 for “Best Restaurant,” Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2015, and an Open Table Winner’s Choice Award 2015. In 2013 and 2015, Osteria Tulia received a Golden Spoon Award by Florida Trend magazine, which selects the top restaurants in the state of Florida.

Regina Charboneau
Twin Oaks
Natchez, MS
Regina is a Mississippi maven. Born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi, the River runs through her veins. Chef Charboneau has worked as a camp cook in the bush of Alaska, created and owned restaurants in San Francisco, been chef de cuisine on a set of luxurious vintage railway cars, served as the culinary director of the American Queen Riverboat, and written cookbooks. It did not matter if Regina was living in Alaska, Paris, or San Francisco because she brought the South and Southern Cooking with her.

A key figure in the American food scene in California that happened in the 80’s, she opened the eponymous Regina's at the Regis in 1985. Located in the heart of the San Francisco's theater district, Regina's was a favorite late nightspot for theatergoers as well as directors, musicians, and actors. In 1995, Regina created Biscuits & Blues nightclub in San Francisco. Featuring classic southern cuisine and live music nightly, Biscuits & Blues has won multiple WC Handy awards for Best Blues Club in America. Biscuits & Blues is still going strong today, having celebrated its 20th year in February of 2015.

Regina returned to her native Natchez in 2001 and purchased the historic home Twin Oaks, circa 1832, where she has six guest rooms on the property. She offers cooking classes at Twin Oaks and some of the best hospitality in the South. As Julia Reed wrote about Regina “The first time I met Regina Charboneau, she was making her butter biscuits for our dinner. I’ve returned to Twin Oaks many times for infusions of what those of us lucky enough to be in Regina’s orbit all refer to as “Biscuit Love”- which is also a metaphor for her great company, innate graciousness and bottomless generosity. I would happily follow Regina up and down the Mississippi for an extended dose of her hospitality and her inventive and always superb cooking”.

Her latest venture in Natchez was the restoration of King’s Tavern, circa 1789. King’s Tavern showcases a menu of wood-fired flatbreads, sustainable fish and meats, and handcrafted cocktails. Her husband, Doug, and son, Jean-Luc, operate Charboneau Rum Distillery on the property as well.

Regina has appeared on The Today Show, been a regular guest chef on the television show P. Allen Smith Gardens, and also contributed as a Southern Food writer for The Atlantic Magazine’s website.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium presented Regina with a “Cooking for Solutions” award for being an advocate of sustainable seafood.
Philippe Haddad
Cape Dutch
Atlanta, GA

Chef Philippe Haddad brings 37 years of global, culinary and hospitality experience to Cape Dutch and the company, offering his innovative cooking techniques and recipe creations along with his life-of-the-party character and passion for food and wine.

Prior to joining the Cape Dutch team, Haddad starred as guest consulting chef of a different concept from restaurateur Justin Anthony, Yebo, for the restaurant’s Sunday brunch series, in addition to leading the Kitchen at F&B Atlanta as executive chef for three years.

A Gruges, Belgium native, Haddad began his culinary journey as a teenager when he exhibited more than a passing interest in the culinary arts. At a young age, Haddad was accepted to the most renowned hotel institute in Belgium – Hotel School Ter Duinen – after enrolling in a preliminary cooking school at age 14. Haddad’s passion and elite training allowed him to find work in a myriad of regions and countries such as Belgium, the south of France, the United Kingdom, Bermuda, the West Indies, the U.S. Vergin Islands and the United States. Along the way, Haddad gained insight into the many customs and cultures that surround each country’s culinary traditions.

For the past 33 years, Haddad has worked in a variety of environments such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, private clubs and private yachts. His impressive career includes Merv Griffin’s L’Escoffier in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, The St. James Club in Antigua and Paris, as well as many top country clubs throughout the U.S. In Atlanta, he was the executive chef at the Occidental Grand, now the Four Seasons Hotel, the Abbey and the four-star, five-diamond Nikolai’s Roof for 5 years.

By 1999, chef Haddad broke away from hotel and resort work and opened his own Zagat-rated Buckhead hot spot – Philippe’s Bistro. After six successful years in business, after Haddad spent the next three years plus working as food and beverage director of two-luxury brand hotels destination resorts. A James Beard Award and DiRona Award Recipient, when not in the kitchen, chef Haddad commits himself to a handful of charities and local volunteer opportunities.

From being nominated as a candidate for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Man of the Year 2015” in honor of his father and to work with Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE), Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation and Give Me Five events, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Meals on Wheels, Haddad enjoys giving back to the community, which has given so much to him. In June 2017, Chef Philippe was inducted into “The French Culinary Academy” a worldwide organization out of Paris, France with a delegation of 120 chefs in the US.

Josh Harmon
Junction Craft Kitchen
Dallas, TX

Josh has loved to eat since an early age. Born in Tennessee, raised in Texas, and graduated high school in LA, he was exposed to a lot of different cultures early on that would play a big role in the way he cooks today.

Josh landed the 7th Chef spot at Kitchen LTO in 2016 and made such an impression that a partnership was formed to change the concept to Junction Craft + Kitchen. Josh is now doing everything he can to live up to the people who nurtured his talent and helped him grow, striving to be one of the next up-and-coming Chefs in the DFW area.

Tony Mantuano
Spiaggia, Terzo Piano
River Roast – Chicago, IL

Most often recognized as one of the champions on season two of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” Chef Tony Mantuano is also internationally regarded as an influential culinary force. He is the Chef/Partner at Spiaggia, one of the country’s leading restaurants and Chicago’s only four-star Italian restaurant, and has been awarded the 2005 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Midwest. In May 2014, Mantuano celebrated the 30th anniversary of Spiaggia, which included a complete redesign of the dining room that relocated the bar and added a new casual lounge.

Mantuano’s love for creating exciting restaurant concepts has given way to other ventures. Most recently, Mantuano opened River Roast his first non-Italian restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood in July 2014 with longtime friend Chef John Hogan. The restaurant features contemporary American tavern fare and focuses on dramatic presentations of whole roasted chicken, which is cold smoked and then roasted to perfection in a specially-designed oven; whole roasted de-boned fish prepared in a tandoor oven and slow-cooked roast beef; all carved tableside.

He is also Chef/Partner at Bar Toma, a long-time dream to create an Italian neighborhood pizzeria and bar; Chef/Partner at Terzo Piano, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that utilizes fresh, local, organic ingredients to create seasonal menus at The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago; and he is the co-owner of his family’s Mangia Trattoria, a classic Italian restaurant in his hometown of Kenosha, Wis.

Mantuano’s first cookbook, The Spiaggia Cookbook, was lauded by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top 25 cookbooks of 2004. In 2008 Mantuano co-authored Wine Bar Food with wine expert and wife Cathy Mantuano, which has been the inspiration for WINE BAR FOOD outposts at the 2008-2013 US Open Tennis Championships in New York.

Mantuano has made numerous television appearances including “Nightline,” “The Today Show,” “The Early Show” and “Martha” and has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and Wine Spectator, among others.

In addition to his 2005 honor, Mantuano’s Spiaggia has also received James Beard Award nominations for Outstanding Restaurant in America in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2014 and for Outstanding Service in 2008, 2009, 2012. Chef Mantuano and Spiaggia held their one Michelin star in the 2011 – 2015 Chicago guides. In September 2012, he was named part of the American Chef Corps and a 2012 State Chef by the U.S. Department of State and its new Culinary Diplomatic Partnership program. However, his favorite award was presented in April 2009, when he and Cathy Mantuano were honored with the keys to San Martino in the Italian region of Molise for serving authentic Italian cuisine in America and in particular to President Barak Obama, a long-time Spiaggia guest who celebrated his presidential election victory at Spiaggia in 2008.

Aaron Meneghelli
Carneros Resort & Spa
Napa, CA

Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli oversees the entire culinary program for Carneros Resort and Spa. Meneghelli’s focus is managing the seasonally changing menus to complement the region of the resort’s location for all the restaurants, including the sophisticated wine country restaurant FARM at Carneros; local favorite The Boon Fly Café; the Hilltop Dining Room; the upscale prepared foods space, MARKET; the culinary garden program; and all catering and room service for the resort. Meneghelli also oversees the Carneros Supper Club series, a culinary dinner series that highlights seasonal ingredients and local winemakers, distillers, and artisans.

Meneghelli returned to Carneros Resort and Spa when it was known as The Carneros Inn with more than a decade of top-tier culinary experience in both hotels and standalone restaurants. “I am excited to be a part of the property again. The ability to do what I love in my home town is something I do not take for granted. The food in the Bay Area is among the best food in the world. Our local purveyors along with our gardens allow us to be a part of the growth of Northern California’s cuisine, I am excited to see the growth within our culinary community.”

As a native of Napa Valley, Meneghelli brings an authentic, local perspective to his work. Meneghelli got his start in Napa at French restaurant Angéle, where he helped the restaurant earn a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Meneghelli has history with the resort as he was previously the Executive Sous Chef prior to his Executive Chef position at Calistoga Ranch.

Meneghelli is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and has spent time learning from and cooking with elite chefs from both France and Italy including sharpening his skills in Paris at Chef Michel Rostang’s restaurant. In his free time, you can find Aaron at the local Farmer’s Market and enjoying the outdoors with his wife Shannon his daughter Madison who enjoys tea parties and superhero missions with her dad.

2017 Chefs

Regina Charboneau
Twin Oaks
Natchez, MS
Jacob Cureton
Annunciation
New Orleans, LA
Patrick Duffy
The Addison
Boca Raton, FL
Ryan Haigler
Grand Isle
New Orleans, LA
Brian & Shanna O’Hea
Academe at The Kennebunk Inn
Kennebunk, ME
Dedicated to building on The Kennebunk Inn’s established reputation for quality, value and service, Brian and Shanna O’Hea have a long history of working for exclusive eateries around the United States. The O’Heas’ restaurant has been featured on Oprah’s “O” List and recently Shanna competed on the Food Network show “Rewrapped” where her creative take on Chef Boyardee’s Beef Ravioli won her first place on that episode.Their professional skills have been finely honed through assignments in Boston, Connecticut, Florida, London and New York all while mentoring talented and celebrated figures in the culinary world including Madeleine Kamman, author and PBS series host of “Madeleine Cooks.”
John O’Leary
Naples Yacht Club
Naples, FL
Philippe Reynaud
Ocean Reef Club
Key Largo, FL

French-born Chef Philippe Reynaud is Executive Chef of the Ocean Reef Club, an exclusive club community at the northernmost tip of the island of Key Largo. Although he is classically trained and his cuisine is rooted in traditional French technique, you will find that his menu reflects a mosaic of influences culminating from extensive training in Normandy, Provence, Spain and North America.

Reynaud embarked on his culinary journey at the age of 16 when he began a three-year apprenticeship at France’s renowned Casino de Cannes and Casino de Deauville. After graduating from the Culinary Academy of Nice in 1979, he then refined his skills at the famed Restaurant Hostellerie le Canneton in Cabourg, and Restaurant du Lac d’Azur in the Landes region of France.

In 1981 he began his professional life in the United States as executive chef at the renowned Westwood Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles, a position he held for seven years. He then spent eight years as executive chef at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles.

Since June 2000, Chef Philippe has been a member of Ocean Reef Club's elite managing team; he oversees the culinary operations and concept development of the club’s many kitchens and thrives on creating original menus for special events and celebrations.

Chef Philippe is a member of the American Culinary Federation, The Euro-Toques, La Chaine des Rotisseurs and the James Beard Foundation.

Annemarie Stenfors
Alma Nove
Hingham, MA

2016 Chefs

Greg Baker
The Refinery and Fodder & Shine
Tampa, FL
Florida-raised Chef Greg Baker attended the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR directly out of high school. Upon graduation, Baker forged partnerships with local farmers for nearly a decade before taking lessons he had learned from them back home to Tampa Bay where he single-handedly changed the culinary scene by putting faces to farmers and daringly using all aspects of proteins. To do this successfully, he was forced to change his menu every week. He now boasts thousands of food fans that travel from all over to enjoy his creations. Baker opened The Refinery in 2010 with his menus incorporating the flavors of the vast country sides from across the globe, mixed with classical French technique – all while keeping Florida’s rich cultural history in mind. Both The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Bay Times consider The Refinery one of the most prized restaurants of Tampa Bay. Chef Baker and The Refinery have been named in Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes.com, Esquire Magazine, New York Magazine, The Local Palate, USA Today, The Washington Post, Edible Tampa Bay and Garden & Gun Magazine as well as countless local and national online and weekly publications. Southern Living Magazine named The Refinery Best 100 Restaurants in the South 2014. Celebrity Chef Mario Batali included Chef Baker in his most recent cookbook; America: Farm to Table, for his work with local pig farmers. Zagat rated The Refinery ‘Best Restaurant’ 2012 - 2014. The James Beard Foundation named The Refinery as a semi-finalist Best New Restaurant in 2011 and named Baker a semi-finalist for Best Chef South in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Chris Cline
PassionFish and Passion Food Hospitality
Reston, VA
As Executive Chef at PassionFish in Reston, VA and Bethesda, MD, Chef Chris Cline brings his version of globally inspired seafood to the suburbs of the nation’s capital, which he calls home. Graduating at 17, Cline headed straight for Providence, Rhode Island, and Johnson & Wales University. Following his New England training, post-graduation opportunities were waiting for cline in Charleston, South Carolina, at the very exclusive five-diamond Woodlands Resort. Cline then applied for a position at DC Coast with Jeff Tunks and was immediately hired as a tournant. With the opening of PassionFish in 2008, Cline became the Executive Chef at the restaurant in Reston, Virginia and is how helming the kitchen of its new second location in Bethesda, Maryland, which opened in September of 2015. Cline’s efforts have earned PassionFish in Reston consecutive rankings on Washingtonian’s 100 “Best Restaurants” list.
Raffaele Dall’Erta
Hamptons Restaurant
Sumter, SC
Chef Raffaele Dall’Erta was born and raised in Milan, where he discovered the joy of cooking by the age of 5. His early experiences foraging for nature’s finest ingredients and mastering the art of pasta making inspired him to embark on a culinary career at age 15. Chef Dall’Erta attended culinary school at Vallesana in Northern Lombardy. His formal education was followed by apprenticeships, which led to positions in top Italian kitchens including Don Lisander and La Rondine. In addition, he has worked in such world-renowned restaurants as The Fat Duck in the United Kingdom and Per Se in New York. The combinations of these culinary adventures have forged his diverse menu. His rich Italian heritage combined with a creative gourmet palate results in creations that are a “foodie’s” delight. Prior to joining Hamptons, he came from the renowned Inn at Little Washington, where he served as Executive Sous Chef for over 11 years. At Hamptons, Chef Dall’Erta uses only the best cuts of meat and the freshest local produce and seafood. Hamptons has been honored with Open Table’s Top 100 Best Restaurants in America for both 2012 and 2014. The Top 100 List honorees are based on an analysis of more than five million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants across the country — all submitted by verified diners.
Paula DaSilva
Paula DaSilva Culinary
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Executive Chef Chris Jakubiec is from a family with a long background of cooking. Jakubiec got his start at a vegan restaurant before studying at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Obtaining a job at the Royalton in New York City after school, he studied under a parade of well-known chefs at locations including The Delano, Mix and the Gansevoort where he honed his French cooking skills while learning sous vide and Japanese techniques. Now at Plume at The Jefferson, which was recently named the only five star restaurant in Washington, DC from Forbes Travel Guide, the restaurant serves as a discreet and elegant backdrop o the culinary artistry of the award-winning Executive Chef Chris Jakubiec.
Michael Scott
Rosewood Beef and Jackman Wagyu Beef
Dallas, TX

Chef Michael Scott started working at the age of 13 years old washing dishes at local restaurants. He moved up through the ranks by preparing salads and working on the grill before becoming a sauté and lead line cook. Chef Scott worked in various Sausalito restaurants including Zach’s, Flynn Landing, Houlihans and The Charthouse. He then got his break at Teppan Taiko Japanese Restaurant. Through these experiences, he soon learned his true desire was to become a chef. Chef Scott moved to Sushi Gen where he began a 5 year apprenticeship and at the end of 4 years he was sent with Master Chef Shoji Yano to Shinjiku, Tokyo to train with Chef Shoji. After returning to the states, Chef Scott went to work at Casa Madrona Hotel where he worked as Sous Chef under Stephen Simmons where he was able to infuse the Japanese and Western European style into his cooking.

After 2 ½ years he was hired at Sonoma Mission Inn where he worked as Production Sous Chef and apprenticed under Charles Saunders for 3 ½ years. He then went on to become the Executive Chef of Fountain Grove Country Club. After 3 years, Chef Scott moved to Marin Country Club where he was Food and Beverage Director. He was then approached by Bruce Bennetts to become the General Manager and Executive Chef of Los Robles Restaurant in Santa Rosa. On October 1, 1997, Chef Scott became the Executive Chef at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas, Texas. On January 1, 2004 he started as the Corporate Chef with Yama Beef and worked for one year training chefs and selling Kobe Beef. In October of 2004, Chef Scott opened Beverly’s Restaurant in Athens, Texas and then in March of 2005, he became the Executive Chef at Northwood Club in Dallas, Texas.

Gerard Thompson
Rough Creek Lodge & Resort
Iredell, TX
Chef Gerard Thompson rich culinary journey as an Executive Chef has taken him from the Park Hyatt, Washington DC to the West coast and San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara. He is now at the helm of Rough Creek Lodge, Glen Rose Texas as Executive Chef and Food & Beverage Director. Chef Thompson’s talents and culinary interpretations of rustic cuisine have garnered national attention and his philosophy is simple…”Make the meal memorable”. He’s received superlative reviews nationally by Zagat Survey, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, and Food & Wine, and recently was awarded a perfect score from the North American Restaurant Association.
Jeff Tunks
PassionFish and Passion Food Hospitality
Washington, DC
Chef Jeff Tunks is one of the best and brightest in the ever-growing constellation of great American chefs. Tunks attended the Culinary Institute of American and received the prestigious Frances L. Roth Award for outstanding performance while there. He then worked as an externship under Dean Ferring at the Veranda Club in Atlanta and the Mansion on turtle Creek in Dallas before meeting his mentor Chef Takashi Shirmaizu. Tunks was then recruited as opening Executive Chef at the River Club Restaurant in Georgetown. After traveling all over the United States as a talented chef, he decided to go it alone and open DC Coast in June of 1998. DC Coast garnered reviews from Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Wine Spectator, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Tunks himself has also been named Chef of the Year 2003-2004 by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and was a finalist in 2014 and 2015 for their RAMMY Award along with his partners in the category of Restaurateurs of the Year. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Chefs and Washingtonian magazine named Tunks and his partners Restaurateurs of the year in 2005. He is currently Chair of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.

2015 Chefs

Chris Cline
PassionFish and Passion Food Hospitality
Reston, VA
Located in Reston, Virginia just outside of Washing, DC, PassionFish is the next generation of Chef/Owner Jeff Tunks’ flagship restaurant DC Coast, taking its tri-coastal seafood theme to a global level. Jeff and his executive chef Chris Cline are passionate about sourcing a premier selection of seafood for their establishment, which features a spectacular raw bar and a dedicated sushi chef. The cuisine of PassionFish represents the bounty of the world’s oceans with a progressive, modern approach. Sourcing from the lakes, seas and waterways, the cuisine reflects flavors of the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Dishes range from Classic Peruvian Style Ceviche to a “Basket of Clams” – Crispy Fried Ipswich Clams with Butter Pickle Tarter Sauce and Fisherman’s Wharf Cioppino with Prawns, Clams, Mussels and Crusty Warm Garlic Bread.
Erik Niel
Easy Bistro
Chattanooga,TN
In May 2005, Erik Neil opened Easy Bistro & Bar in downtown Chattanooga, named after his laidback nature and nickname, “Easy”. Seafood has always been a main focus for the restaurant drawing on his Louisiana roots and love for quality catch. To Erik, food is ephemeral and he’s inspired by the instant gratification cooking provides. “Each time I make something, it’s an opportunity to enhance upon it, and by the time it’s good, it’s time to change it…food is meant to be destroyed. The biggest compliment I can receive is that there is nothing left.” He describes his food as minimalist, letting the ingredients stand for themselves with little manipulation. Erik also spearheads the wine program at Easy Bistro & Bar with a wine list containing 250 global wines. 
Brian & Shanna O’Hea
Academe
Kennebunk, ME
Dedicated to building on The Kennebunk Inn’s established reputation for quality, value and service, Brian and Shanna O’Hea have a long history of working for exclusive eateries around the United States. The O’Heas’ restaurant has been featured on Oprah’s “O” List and recently Shanna competed on the Food Network show “Rewrapped” where her creative take on Chef Boyardee’s Beef Ravioli won her first place on that episode.Their professional skills have been finely honed through assignments in Boston, Connecticut, Florida, London and New York all while mentoring talented and celebrated figures in the culinary world including Madeleine Kamman, author and PBS series host of “Madeleine Cooks.”
Piero Promoli
Pricci
Atlanta, GA

Chef Piero Premoli joined Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in 2001 as a corporate consultant, working with the company's Italian and Greek concepts. A native of Milan, Italy, Piero has been surrounded by fine food his entire life. His passion and attention to detail have made great contributions to each restaurant where he has worked.

Piero's mother and grandfather worked in the restaurant business, allowing him to learn every aspect of the business at an early age. He says cooking was a family affair. At age 14, Piero began formally training for his career by becoming a student at Amerigo Vespucci Culinary School. He then attended Ecole Hotelier, a university in Lozan where he studied hotel and restaurant management.

After earning his degree, Piero worked as an apprentice in Italy and France, most notably at Tempiadoro in Milan, La Voile Roug in St. Tropez and l'Assemblee Nationale in Paris. At these restaurants, he practiced the basics of Italian and French cooking which continues to influence his simple yet innovative style.

A sense of adventure led Piero to Miami, Florida where he began working as sous chef with Master Chef Antonio Tettamanzi at Osteria del Teatro, Miami's leading Italian restaurant. He also worked as a chef at various other French and Italian restaurants before accepting a new challenge the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The excitement of that position led him to New York City where he accepted a position at a Fiorello's – a New York mainstay located across from the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center. Before moving to Atlanta, he also worked at the award-winning restaurant, Baleen, at the Grove Isle Resort in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Upon his arrival in Atlanta, Piero met restaurateur Pano Karatassos and accepted a position as corporate consultant with the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. In this role, Piero worked closely with the chef teams at Kyma, Pricci and Veni Vidi Vici.

Chef Piero took the helm in the kitchen at Pricci in May 2005. Known for his tireless work ethic and contagious passion for food, Piero's emphasis on technique and cleanliness in the kitchen result in simple and flavorful Italian cuisine. He takes great pride in supporting the development of young chefs and has created a fledgling exchange program between Italian kitchens and Buckhead Life kitchens.

Regular visits to Italy allow Chef Piero to keep up-to-date on Italian culinary trends and to develop, and maintain, relationships with trusted suppliers. He also uses these trips to uncover sources for exciting and unique products, often featured on the menu at Pricci. In fact, his attention to Italian authenticity was rewarded in 2006 when the Accademia Italia della Cucina, an esteemed Italian Cultural Institution dedicated to preserving authentic Italian cuisine around the world, awarded the Recognition of Excellence Pricci. Pricci is the only restaurant in Atlanta with this designation.

Piero lives in Buckhead with his wife Kimberly and daughter Georgia Grace, born in January 2002. In his free time, he enjoys sailing, traveling to exotic places and tending his herb, flower and vegetable gardens.

Christopher Prosperi
Metro Bis
Simsbury,CT

Christopher Prosperi is chef and co-owner of Metro Bis restaurant in the affluent Hartford suburb of Simsbury, Connecticut which is ranked in the top five restaurants in the state for American food according to the Zagat Survey. The New York Times also declared that "Metro Bis is worth a detour." Chef Magazine has nominated Chris as one of five national finalists for the Chef of the Year Award. Chris is a weekly recipe columnist for the Hartford Courant and his work regularly appears across the country via the Tribune wire service.

He travels extensively each year teaching cooking classes and composing multi-course dinners which promote his easy and innovative form of American bistro cooking at venues including the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World (Orlando, FL), The Chef's Holidays at Yosemite (Yosemite, CA), Justin Vineyards Guest Chef Series (Paso Robles, CA), The Nantucket Wine Festival (Nantucket, MA), The Book & The Cook (Philadelphia, PA), and the Scottsdale Culinary Festival (Scottsdale, AZ) to name a few.

Chris is a regular weekly guest on the local NBC affiliate and has also appeared throughout the country on radio and television programs such as WNBC "Today in New York", "The Food & Wine Radio Network with Jennifer English", "Cook's Table with Jim Coleman", and "Channel 12 News." Chris is also regular guest on "The Faith Middleton Show: The Food Schmooze" on WNPR - Connecticut Public Radio. He conducts regular cooking classes at Sur La Table in addition to teaching quarterly at Delia: The Viking Home Kitchen Showcase and The Silo Cooking School. Chris' recipes have been included in "Wife of the Chef: The True Story of a Restaurant and Romance" (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2003) by Courtney Febbroriello, "Food Lover's Guide to Connecticut" (Globe Pequot Press, 2003) by Patricia Brooks and Lester Brooks, "The Tomato Festival Cookbook" (Storey Books, 2004) by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, "Diabetes Cookbook for Dummies, 2nd Edition" (Wiley, 2005) by Alan L. Rubin, "For The Love of Food: Recipes and Stories From The Chefs of the IACP" (FRP, 2005), and "Best American Recipes 2005-2006" (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens.

Chris is a member of the Society de Philanthropic, the Association of Food Journalists, La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the James Beard Foundation (where he has cooked several dinners), and the International Association of Culinary Professionals where he serves on the committee for cookbook award judging. He graduated second in his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has an expanding product line under the "Prosperi" label that currently includes three salad dressings. Chris' passion for food is evident as "the holy joy of creation literally lights up his face as he works the stove."

Derek Tidwell
George’s at Alys Beach
Alys Beach, FL

As executive chef at George’s at Alys Beach, Chef Darek Tidwell oversees all kitchen operations, creating seasonal seasonal menus of dishes crafted with locally sourced, organic produce and the freshest Gulf seafood available.

Darek began in the kitchen at the young age of 12 at an old school, family-run Italian restaurant in New York. At age 16 he worked as a prep cook and then a global food distributor specializing in quality food items. There, he developed a breadth of knowledge about the products and ingredients available to chefs, however he was anxious to get back into the kitchen. Knowing he was always destined for a life in the kitchen, Darek enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America where he met his culinary mentor – a Michelin-starred chef on the forefront of molecular gastronomy.

After many years working as executive chef at top restaurants around the United States including Bistro Arielle, where the locally sourced menu garnered attention from publications including Esquire, Darek wanted a slower-paced lifestyle and was lured to the South – finding his new home at George’s at Alys Beach.

Jeff Tunks
PassionFish and Passion Food Hospitality
Washington, DC
Located in Reston, Virginia just outside of Washing, DC, PassionFish is the next generation of Chef/Owner Jeff Tunks’ flagship restaurant DC Coast, taking its tri-coastal seafood theme to a global level. Jeff and his executive chef Chris cline are passionate about sourcing a premier selection of seafood for their establishment, which features a spectacular raw bar and a dedicated sushi chef. The cuisine of PassionFish represents the bounty of the world’s oceans with a progressive, modern approach. Sourcing from the lakes, seas and waterways, the cuisine reflects flavors of the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Dishes range from Classic Peruvian Style Ceviche to a “Basket of Clams” – Crispy Fried Ipswich Clams with Butter Pickle Tarter Sauce and Fisherman’s Wharf Cioppino with Prawns, Clams, Mussels and Crusty Warm Garlic Bread.
Ken Vedrinsk
Trattoria Lucca
Charleston, SC
Ken Vedrinski is the executive chef, owner and sommelier of Trattoria Lucca, his quaint restaurant in downtown Charleston, SC that showcases his heritage and passion for Italian fare. The three-time James Beard Award semifinalist has found his niche in Charleston, a coastal city rich with fresh bounty from the land and sea, and a long way from land-locked Columbus, Ohio where he was born.


Vedrinski grew up cooking in his Italian grandmother’s kitchen under her passion-infused tutelage. Embracing his culinary heritage, Vedrinski embarked on food-fueled expeditions to Italy in search of the most authentic ingredients, olive oils and wines. His journeys eventually took him to Lucca in Western Tuscany, which he claims to be the home of the best olive oil in the world.

Named for the beloved olive oil, Vedrinski opened his first solely owned restaurant, Trattoria Lucca, in 2008. Located on the Charleston peninsula, Lucca was quickly hailed as “Charleston’s Best New Restaurant,” by Charleston City Paper in 2008 and was a semi-finalist for “Best New Restaurant,” in the 2009 James Beard Awards. The modestly priced, Trattoria Lucca showcases Lowcountry fish and produce prepared with an Italian influence, along with imported Italian cheese, sausage, olive oil, Italian wines, olives, and on-site baked ciabatta. Family-style suppers are offered each Monday (which earned him “editor’s choice” from Charlestonmagazine, as well as, “best pasta” and “Charleston’s next top chef”).  Most recently, Vedrinski was honored as a 2011 James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast.

Vedrinski’s Italian journeys also inspired him to open Enoteca, a small wine and cheese bar, in the summer of 2010. Located a block from Trattoria Lucca, Enoteca serves as a quaint sister location to Lucca, as its authentic selection of Southern Italian wines and cheeses create the perfect ambiance for his restaurant regulars.

Vedrinski’s culinary career began with a degree in restaurant management from Columbus College and a three-year apprenticeship under Certified Master Chef Hartmut Handke. Years later, Vedrinski was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University.

His first stint as an executive chef was at the acclaimed Opus Restaurant in the former Swissôtel Atlanta, where his talent was quickly lauded when Opus was named “One of the Best New Restaurants in America (1991),” by Esquire magazine. Vedrinski was an early adopter of the practice and promotion of farm to table freshness as he heralded Georgia homegrown foods, landing him a spot on The Today Show.

Vedrinski also served as executive chef at The Restaurant at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Summerville, SC, where he earned the only Mobile Five-Stars awarded to a South Carolina restaurant and his cuisine received the only perfect food score in North America by Condé Nast Traveler. Vedrinski later co-owned and operated Sienna Restaurant, his first professional commitment to exclusively Italian cuisine. Once again, Esquire magazine took notice with yet another, “One of the Best New American Restaurants (2004),” designations, and Vedrinski was recognized as a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast.

2014 Chefs

Chris Jakuebic
Plume at The Jefferson Hotel
Washington, DC
Executive Chef Chris Jakubiec is from a family with a long background of cooking. Jakubiec got his start at a vegan restaurant before studying at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Obtaining a job at the Royalton in New York City after school, he studied under a parade of well-known chefs at locations including The Delano, Mix and the Gansevoort where he honed his French cooking skills while learning sous vide and Japanese techniques. Now at Plume at The Jefferson, which was recently named the only five star restaurant in Washington, DC from Forbes Travel Guide, the restaurant serves as a discreet and elegant backdrop o the culinary artistry of the award-winning Executive Chef Chris Jakubiec.
Matthias Merges
Yusho
Chicago, IL
Merges has spent most of two decades cooking and living in Chicago – most notably as the Executive Chef of Charlie Trotter's for the past 14 years. Merges has mentored some of the most talented and respected professionals in the restaurant industry. His restaurant, Yusho, is all about well-executed, simple flavors of authentic street food. A hot grill provides the intense flavors to Merges' seasonally-selected proteins and vegetables and grilled to order over a hissing fire. Craft cocktails, wine and spirits are chosen for customized meal pairings.
Brian & Shanna O'Hea
Academe, The Kennebunk Inn
Kennebunk, ME
Dedicated to building on The Kennebunk Inn's established reputation for quality, value and service, Brian and Shanna O'Hea have a long history of working for exclusive eateries around the United States. The O'Heas' restaurant has been featured on Oprah's "O" List. Their professional skills have been finely honed through assignments in Boston, Connecticut, Florida, London and New York all while mentoring talented and celebrated figures in the culinary world including Madeleine Kamman, author and PBS series host of "Madeleine Cooks."
Ian Schnoebelen
Mariza
New Orleans, LA
Previously awarded the Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 2007, Ian Schnoebelen is now the Executive Chef of Mariza restaurant. Mariza was recently named one of the best new restaurants in Amerca by Esquire magazine. Schnoebelen at Mariza serves Italian-inspired cuisine in a casual comfortable environment at the Rice Mill Lofts in the Bywater right along the edge of the Marigny and the Mississippi River for the ideal restaurant ambiance.
Gonzalo Rivera & Joanne Weir
Copita Tequilerla y Comida
Sausalito, CA
Restaurateur and Executive Chef of Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito, Joanne Weir is also a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, cooking teacher and TV personality. Her fellow Executive Chef Gonzalo Rivera at Copita brings a rich culinary background and spirit to the restaurant with him, ranging from his grand mother's kitchen to working with Michael Mina as he grew his empire and where he learned Mexican cooking. Gonzalo previously worked for a restaurant that was named "Top 23 restaurants in Mexico" from Travel + Leisure.
Daniel Zeal
Georgian Room, The Cloister
Sea Island, GA
Driving Zeal's culinary finesse is an energized passion for his craft applied with a cultivated hand that transforms slow-food classics into delicate and edible gems. His cuisine begins with true-to-the-South flavor profiles steeped in family food memories, which is then gently refined with global infections and subtle complexities. Emphatically ingredient-driven, his dishes feature fresh, artisanal products from boutique vendors and local partners such as Sapelo Farms whenever possible. Flavors are always clean and authentic, built on the perfection of ingredients such as "farm to table" enthusiasm is destined to procure.

2013 Chefs

Paula DaSilva
1500 Degree Eden Roc
Miami, FL

Since opening 1500°, the chic farm-to-table eatery located in Miami Beach's beautifully renovated historic hotel, the Eden Roc Renaissance in October 2010, executive chef Paula DaSilva has won raves for her soulful, rustic cuisine. Just recently 1500° was singled out as the only Florida restaurant in noted food critic John Mariani's annual Esquire magazine feature, "The Best New Restaurants in America 2011."

Chef Paula DaSilva notably appeared on season five of the popular FOX reality cooking show Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. There, she was regularly spared Ramsay's wrath by virtue of her talent, dedication, passion and lack of drama, which ultimately led to her near win. 
DaSilva was instrumental in creating the concept for 1500°, which deftly blends farm-to-table and classic steakhouse cookery. To execute its acclaimed cuisine she meets frequently with farmers and fishermen to obtain the freshest of ingredients and stay in touch with seasonality and even had a vegetable and herb garden planted on-site at the hotel. And her dedication has hit all the right notes with diners and critics alike. The restaurant was just voted "Best New Steakhouse" by Miami New Times and, since opening its doors, has been featured in a slew of high-profile publications including Food & Wine and W Magazine, among others.

Eric DiStefano
Geronimo
Santa Fe, NM

Eric DiStefano was born and raised in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He developed a passion for food at his mother's table from his mother's prodigious garden came heaps of tomatoes, fresh basil, onions, a multitude of zucchinis. Sunday evening's friends and family gathered around sumptuous groaning boards of pasta, meatballs, Braciola, crusty loaves of bread from memmi's bakery slathered with butter and fresh garlic and of course plenty of red table wine to quench those thirsts.

Eric began the natural evolution of his stellar career with a 5- year apprenticeship at the Hotel Hershey, Doing under mentors of Heinz Hautie and Rory Reno, and went on to work at the breaker's hotel in palm beach, Florida and the registry resort in Scottsdale. He had returned to become chef de night during dinner service. He was told, "Hey chef 's a French guy on the phone." That apocryphal call was in fact from chef Daniel Boulud, calling to ask Eric to come to New York to discuss and opportunity he had for him in Santa Fe.

The owner of Hacienda del Cerezo, an extremely high-end inn, had put in a call to Boulud to ask, "Who is the best up and coming young chef on the scene?" The answer Boulud gave, was Eric DiStefano.

Eric arrived for the interview, having never seen Santa Fe, was amazed and intrigued by the architecture and landscape. He debuted and was immediately offered the job, which he accepted. After a year and a half, having developed a loyal following Eric was ready to head back east, when friends, photographer Peter Vitale and Santa Fe gallery owner Ron Messick, mentioned that the Cliff Skoglund of Geronimo was looking for a chef and the rest is what began Eric's legacy in Santa Fe.

DiStefano worked as Executive Chef at Geronimo for the next twelve years. Among the Geronimo restaurants, Eric also opened Swig, The Palace, Senor Lucky's, The Spotted Donkey and Luc's in Scottsdale Arizona.

When Celebrity chef and friend, Mark Miller decided to sell the world-renowned Coyote Café, DiStefano knew that it was time to control his own destiny. With Partners, Sara Chapman, Tori Mendes and Quinn Stephenson, the Coyote Café continues.

In May of 2009, Eric returned to Geronimo with Quinn Stephenson to join Chris Harvey in reshaping the restaurant.

Peng S. Looi
August Moon Chinese Bistro Asiatique
Louisville, KY

Chef Peng S. Looi's life is as eclectic as the dishes he serves. He was born and grew up in Ipoh, Malaysia before continuing his high school education in Manchester, England. In 1981, Chef Looi came to the United States and earned his degree in civil engineering. He soon realized his heart was with cooking not engineering while doing his internship.

In 1987, Looi opened his first award-winning restaurant August Moon Chinese Bistro featuring contemporary Chinese cuisine with South East Asian influences reflecting his ethnic background. In 1994 came the upscale casual Asiatique Restaurant serving his own unique and artful interpretation of East - West Pacific Rim cuisine. Local and regional food critics have quoted Looi's work as 'works of edible art'.

Recognition came soon, with exceptional reviews from every Louisville area food writer and other national features in The Courier-Journal, Louisville Magazine, Leo Magazine, American Automobile Tour Guide, Mobil, Scene Magazine, Delta Airline, Southwest Airline, Air Canada and Vegetarian Times. Looi's works were also featured in Asian Restaurant News, Bon Appetit and Chef's Magazine.

His first establishment was awarded 'Best Oriental Restaurant' by Louisville Magazine. In addition, the restaurant received the Leo Magazine's 'Outstanding Chinese restaurant' award for multiple years. It also won the 'Best Upscale Casual' award by Prep Magazine.

Asiatique Restaurant was awarded 'Best Asian restaurant' by the Louisville Magazine and Leo Magazine. It has also won the Citysearch "Best Asian" and Bon Appetit magazine's "Top 125 restaurants nationwide". Both restaurants were also awarded the Wine Spectator "Award of Excellence" for multiple years.

Chef Looi has been invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House four times and was a master chef at the World Gourmet Summit in Las Vegas and Dubai, UAE. In 2007 and 2009, he was invited by the Chefs Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Hotel Association and the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia, to judge at the prestigious Culinaire Malaysia, the largest culinary competition in the South East Asian region. He is also invited for guest chef appearances nationally like the Epcot Food + Wine Festival, Disney, Florida and Grand Food + Wine Affair, Houston and the Charleston Food + Wine Festival,

In March 2008, Chef Looi was honored with the nationally prestigious Jefferson Evans award for 'Chef of the Year' in New York. This was the first time the award honored an Asian chef.

Well known for his commitment to community and charitable causes, Chef Looi has been the coordinating chef for the Crane House (an Asian Institute based in Louisville, Ky) annual biggest fundraiser, Asian All-Star dinner, for numerous years. He has also assisted in raising funds for the Salvation Army Culinary program and Kosair Children Hospital Cancer wing. Besides community work, he is also an advisor to the Culinary Department, Sullivan University. He and his family resides in Louisville, KY

Christopher Ponte
Café Ponte
Clearwater, FL

Christopher Ponte (pronounced "Pont"), began his culinary career at Clearwater's Pepper Mill Restaurant in 1991 after graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Most chefs will tell you that catering to special requests from patrons can mean a great deal of additional work, especially in a busy kitchen. After many months of such service to one particular customer, the guest asked to meet the chef, thanked him and they began to talk. "What would the young man like to do in the future?" he asked. Ponte answered, "Study in France."

The patron, a Long Island, N.Y. retiree, who had no local family, gave the chef money as if he was his son. Shortly after that introduction, Ponte was studying the culinary arts in Paris at the Cordon Bleu, France's iconic culinary institute. Ponte achieved his degree at the top of his class and, upon graduation, was hired as an apprentice at the famed Taillevent, also in Paris.

With over six years of experience in arguably the most prestigious culinary settings in the world, Ponte took his expertise into the private sector when he accepted a job as personal executive chef for New York entrepreneur Leon Black. Ponte coordinated daily meals for Black's three New York homes as well as catered corporate events and private dinner parties. On the weekends, Ponte would take unpaid apprenticeships with some of New York's most critically acclaimed restaurants including that of Daniel Boulud.

With much experience and training behind him, Ponte began investigating opportunities to create his own culinary legacy. When he began looking for a geographical locale to open his first restaurant, his fondness for Florida and his West Coast connections led him to the Tampa Bay area where he opened Café Ponte in 2002.

Ponte has brought with him exceptional dishes ranging from Asian to Italian with lessons from classic European cuisine, all with spectacular presentation and great taste. Ponte's 250-seat restaurant continues to create a stir with food critics and within the Bay area.

Piero Premoli
Pricci
Atlanta, GA

Chef Piero Premoli joined Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in 2001 as a corporate consultant, working with the company's Italian and Greek concepts. A native of Milan, Italy, Piero has been surrounded by fine food his entire life. His passion and attention to detail have made great contributions to each restaurant where he has worked.

Piero's mother and grandfather worked in the restaurant business, allowing him to learn every aspect of the business at an early age. He says cooking was a family affair. At age 14, Piero began formally training for his career by becoming a student at Amerigo Vespucci Culinary School. He then attended Ecole Hotelier, a university in Lozan where he studied hotel and restaurant management.

After earning his degree, Piero worked as an apprentice in Italy and France, most notably at Tempiadoro in Milan, La Voile Roug in St. Tropez and l'Assemblee Nationale in Paris. At these restaurants, he practiced the basics of Italian and French cooking which continues to influence his simple yet innovative style.

A sense of adventure led Piero to Miami, Florida where he began working as sous chef with Master Chef Antonio Tettamanzi at Osteria del Teatro, Miami's leading Italian restaurant. He also worked as a chef at various other French and Italian restaurants before accepting a new challenge the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The excitement of that position led him to New York City where he accepted a position at a Fiorello's – a New York mainstay located across from the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center. Before moving to Atlanta, he also worked at the award-winning restaurant, Baleen, at the Grove Isle Resort in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Upon his arrival in Atlanta, Piero met restaurateur Pano Karatassos and accepted a position as corporate consultant with the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. In this role, Piero worked closely with the chef teams at Kyma, Pricci and Veni Vidi Vici.

Chef Piero took the helm in the kitchen at Pricci in May 2005. Known for his tireless work ethic and contagious passion for food, Piero's emphasis on technique and cleanliness in the kitchen result in simple and flavorful Italian cuisine. He takes great pride in supporting the development of young chefs and has created a fledgling exchange program between Italian kitchens and Buckhead Life kitchens.

Regular visits to Italy allow Chef Piero to keep up-to-date on Italian culinary trends and to develop, and maintain, relationships with trusted suppliers. He also uses these trips to uncover sources for exciting and unique products, often featured on the menu at Pricci. In fact, his attention to Italian authenticity was rewarded in 2006 when the Accademia Italia della Cucina, an esteemed Italian Cultural Institution dedicated to preserving authentic Italian cuisine around the world, awarded the Recognition of Excellence Pricci. Pricci is the only restaurant in Atlanta with this designation.

Piero lives in Buckhead with his wife Kimberly and daughter Georgia Grace, born in January 2002. In his free time, he enjoys sailing, traveling to exotic places and tending his herb, flower and vegetable gardens.

Chris Prosperi
Metro Bis
Hartford, CT

Christopher Prosperi is chef and co-owner of Metro Bis restaurant in the affluent Hartford suburb of Simsbury, Connecticut which is the highest ranked restaurant in the state for American food according to the Zagat Survey. The New York Times also declared that “Metro Bis is worth a detour.” Chris is a weekly recipe columnist for the Hartford Courant and his work regularly appears across the country via the Tribune wire service.

He travels extensively each year teaching cooking classes and composing multi-course dinners which promote his easy and innovative form of American bistro cooking at venues including the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World (Orlando, FL), The Chef’s Holidays at Yosemite (Yosemite, CA), Justin Vineyards Guest Chef Series (Paso Robles, CA), The Nantucket Wine Festival (Nantucket, MA), The Book & The Cook (Philadelphia, PA), and the Scottsdale Culinary Festival (Scottsdale, AZ) to name a few. In the fall of 2007 Chris will be a guest chef in Tuscany during a Bike Rider’s tour.

Chris is a regular bi-weekly guest on the local NBC affiliate and has also appeared throughout the country on radio and television programs such as WNBC “Today in New York”, “The Food & Wine Radio Network with Jennifer English”, “Cook’s Table with Jim Coleman”, and “Channel 12 News.” Chris has also acted as guest co-host on the “Food Smooze” on Connecticut’s NPR with Faith Middleton. He conducts weekly cooking classes at Sur La Table in addition to teaching quarterly at Delia: The Viking Home Kitchen Showcase and The Silo Cooking School. Chris’ recipes have been included in “Wife of the Chef: The True Story of a Restaurant and Romance” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2003) by Courtney Febbroriello (his wife), “Food Lover’s Guide to Connecticut” (Globe Pequot Press, 2003) by Patricia Brooks and Lester Brooks, “The Tomato Festival Cookbook” (Storey Books, 2004) by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, “Diabetes Cookbook for Dummies, 2nd Edition” (Wiley, 2005) by Alan L. Rubin, “For The Love of Food: Recipes and Stories From The Chefs of the IACP” (FRP, 2005), and “Best American Recipes 2005-2006” (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens.

Chris is a member of The American Chef Federation, the Society de Philanthropic, the Association of Food Journalists, La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the James Beard Foundation (where he does annual dinners), and the International Association of Culinary Professionals where he serves on the executive committee for cookbook award judging. He graduated second in his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has an expanding product line under the “Prosperi” label that currently includes three salad dressings. Chris’ passion for food is evident as "the holy joy of creation literally lights up his face as he works the stove."

Michelle Weaver
Charleston Grill
Charleston, SC

Chef Michelle Weaver creates contemporary Southern cuisine for Charleston Grill featuring fresh local produce, seafood and game, prepared using four different styles: Southern, Pure, Lush and Cosmopolitan. Diners may select appetizers, entrees and desserts from each menu section. Emphasis is placed on the quality of the ingredients, unique presentations and sophisticated textures.

The Southern dishes are contemporary interpretations of regional favorites, such as Carolina hen and onion gravy with grits, fried livers, watercress, and molasses vinaigrette.

With the Pure, menu items are impressively simple dishes inspired by the clean, light flavors of the ingredients, for example the grilled dry-aged lamb chops with summer vegetables and lemon rosemary jus is a local favorite.

For the Lush menu, the dishes come from the French tradition of extravagance and are lavish, substantial and satisfying. Selections include veal porterhouse with oxtail arugula potatoes, foie gras, fava beans, and green onions.

Under the Cosmopolitan heading, dishes are exotic and imaginative, inspired by the flavors found while traveling the globe. Diners will enjoy Thai beef salad with peanuts, Shiso, puffed rice, and spicy Ponzu.

Capturing critics' and diners' attention by producing menus that combine unusual ingredients with classic techniques, Chef Weaver continues to enhance and expand Charleston's appreciation for fine cuisine. She exhibits a strong commitment to her support of local farmers, encouraging them to cultivate new and unusual products which she incorporates in her cuisine.

An Alabama native, Chef Weaver was raised with a passion for cooking, learning at an early age the importance of farm-to-table. She grew up cooking with the freshest ingredients from her mother's extensive garden and farm, experiencing the natural taste of the soil. Upon realizing her true love of cooking, she received her formal training from the New England Culinary Institute, where she immersed herself in the New England culture and drew from the intimate hands-on teaching approach.

Chef Weaver moved to New Orleans to work in the French-style kitchen of Chef Daniel Bonnot as an intern, gaining invaluable skills for both cooking and working in a demanding restaurant kitchen. Following school, she began cooking in the kitchen of Chef Bob Waggoner at The Wild Boar restaurant in Nashville and subsequently moved with him in 1997 when he took over at Charleston Grill.

For 13 years, Chef Weaver worked as Executive Sous Chef under the direction of award-winning Chef Waggoner. When her friend and mentor moved into another chapter of his career to focus on television, Chef Weaver naturally and elegantly stepped into the spotlight.

Since Chef Weaver first joined Charleston Place in 1997 as part of the culinary team, the Charleston Grill has consistently been recognized with a AAA Four-Diamond Award and Mobil Four-Star Award. The restaurant was the only in the area to be included in the Nation's Restaurant News "Fine Dining Hall of Fame" and in the book, The Elite 1000. Charleston Grill has received Wine Spectator's "Best of Award" since 2003 and the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Award beginning in 1997.

2012 Chefs

Ken Frank
LaTouque
Napa, CA

Acclaimed Chef Ken Frank is entirely self-taught and brings a distinctive, personalized touch to his contemporary French cuisine at the Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant, located in The Westin Verasa Napa.

Frank’s love of French cooking began in 1972 when his father went on sabbatical, moving the family from California to Yvoire, France, a 16th century village on the edge of Lake Geneva.  When it came time to return to the states, Frank chose to remain in France.  He began his culinary career as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, where he nurtured his appreciation for richly flavored food and his interest in a career as a chef was sparked.

After returning to California and refining his skills at a number of restaurants, Frank first achieved national acclaim at age 21 as executive chef at the Los Angeles restaurant La Guillotine.  Frank went on to serve as the opening chef at Michael’s in Santa Monica, considered the Los Angeles birthplace of California cuisine.  In 1979, the 23-year-old chef boldly opened the first La Toque on the Sunset Strip.

After a 14-year run, Frank sold La Toque to the Chateau Marmont Hotel and went to work with Isaac Tigrett at the House of Blues. He launched the New Orleans House of Blues before returning to Los Angeles to open the House of Blues Sunset Strip, where Frank was tasked with developing the Foundation Room, a private, members-only restaurant on the top floor.

In 1995, Frank was hired to open Fenix in The Argyle Hotel in West Hollywood, where he introduced the concept of wine pairing with his tasting menu, dubbed the “Menu Fantaisie.”  The restaurant immediately received rave reviews and in 1995 was named one of America’s Best New Restaurants by John Mariani in Esquire magazine.  In 1998, The Argyle Hotel was sold and Frank decided to pursue his dream of moving to Napa Valley.

In September 1998, the second incarnation of La Toque debuted in Rutherford at The Rancho Caymus Inn in the heart of California Wine Country.  The restaurant immediately garnered national acclaim and was soon established as the Napa Valley’s newest dining destination.  La Toque was named one of the 20 Best Restaurants in America by Wine Spectator in March 2000, and was awarded a prestigious Michelin Star in 2007; the first year the organization published a San Francisco Bay Area guide.

In September 2008, ten years after opening La Toque in Rutherford, Frank relocated the restaurant to The Westin Verasa Napa.  Since the restaurant’s move to downtown Napa, La Toque has continued to be well-received by the nation’s top food critics and reviewers. In 2008, La Toque earned a three-star review by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer and in October 2009 was honored again with a Michelin Star.  Most recently La Toque was named one of “America’s Best Top 100 Wine Restaurants of 2011” in Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Kevin Garcia
Cesca and Accademia di Vino
New York, NY

For many Americans, Italy means Tuscany. And all it takes is one drive through a vineyard-covered valley, one walk along the hilltop streets of San Gimignano, or one hearty four-course meal in a friendly trattoria to know why. Wine flows like water. Fruits and vegetables burst with flavor. And glistening, golden extra-virgin olive oil lubricates a lifestyle that makes Americans crave la dolce vita.

Kevin Garcia, chef of ‘Cesca restaurant in Manhattan, and formerly of Lucca in the Boca Raton Resort & Club, studied cooking at Johnson & Wales and worked at the Italian-inflected Al Forno while in school. He was captivated by Tuscan food while working at Pino Luongo's Coco Pazzo in Manhattan. Within four years he was its chef de cuisine. After a brief catering career, he became personal chef to Ron Perelman, CEO of Revlon, and then left Manhattan to open Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Prime Steak House at Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was Drew Nieporent of the Myriad Restaurant Group who tapped Garcia to run the kitchens at Lucca; Myriad operates the restaurant for the resort.

From Lucca, Garcia went back to New York where he joined famed Mario Batali’s kitchen team as chef de cuisine at the hit restaurant Del Posto. Last year he was again sought out to take over as Executive Chef at ‘Cesca, replacing Chef Tom Valenti.

Carlos Guia
The Country Club
Las Vegas, NV

Executive Chef Carlos Guia spent the first 13 years of his life in Venezuela, where he experienced long days in the kitchen with his family preparing food with powerful flavors. As a result, his strong passion for food started at an early age. Guia began working in professional kitchens while in high school. Solidifying his career choice, he studied at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

Upon graduation, Guia worked at the posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, where he met Executive Chef John Doherty. Doherty took Guia under his wing, exposing him to all areas of the Five Diamond hotel. Four years later, while Guia was working as chef saucier, Doherty suggested that Guia continue his work in Europe. With that advice, Guia headed to Europe were he apprenticed with renowned French Chef Georges Blanc, English Chefs Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White and Belgian Chef Roger Souvereigns. After returning to the U.S., Guia began working as chef saucier at the renowned Le Bernardin in New York City. He was then offered a job as chef de partie at the world's longest-running four-star restaurant, Lutèce. Under the direction of Chef Andre Soltner, Guia continued to refine his classic style.

In 1995, Guia chose to make his home in New Orleans. After meeting Ella Brennan and Chef Robert Bruce, he joined the team at the Palace Cafè as a sous chef. Within four months, he had been promoted to chef de cuisine. Guia then joined Red Room prior to its opening in 1997 and served as executive chef for two years until he reunited with the Brennan family and moved to Las Vegas to work at Commander’s Palace where he was executive chef for six years.

Guia was nominated for Best Chef Southwest by the prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2006.

Guia now joins Louis’s Las Vegas and Fish Camp as executive chef, introducing authentic Lowcountry cuisine from the South to Las Vegas for the first time. With years of experience in the kitchen, a palate for intense flavors and roots from the South, Chef Carlos Guia is just what Chef Louis Osteen ordered to oversee his first restaurants outside of South Carolina.

Erasto Jacinto
Jacinto's Pot of Flavors Kitchen
Santa Rosa, CA

Executive Chef Erasto Jacinto is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico. His love of cooking was greatly influenced by his grandmother and mother. Erasto moved to St. Helena, California when he was sixteen. He started working in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher in 1986. He quickly moved up the ranks and in 1995 he became a Sous Chef at Mustards Grill, part of the Real Restaurants Group. In 2001, Erasto was promoted to Executive Chef at Mustards and became a partner in July of 2003.

Chef/restaurateur, Cindy Pawlcyn, describes Erasto as a “perfectionist in the kitchen. He has a most impeccable palate and a gifted taste memory. He is a proponent of everything being made from scratch and with the freshest of ingredients. Erasto cooks with his heart and has very exacting standards. He is a natural leader by example and by his compassion.”

Erasto’s philosophy is to consistently deliver high quality food and to put his heart into new recipes. Erasto loves to use the fresh herbs from Mustard’s garden. It reminds him of his childhood and watching his grandmother select the proper ingredients for her meals.

Pablo Jacinto
The Grill at the Silverado Resort & Spa
Napa, CA

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen provides Executive Chef and Partner Pablo Jacinto with the perfect venue to showcase his unique culinary talent. With the restaurant’s co-founder Cindy Pawlcyn, Jacinto has created a menu where food is delicious and heartfelt, and honors the cultural and culinary influences of his past while showcasing the classical cooking techniques he has learned along the way.

A self-taught chef with more than 20 years of experience, Jacinto’s ascent to executive chef and partner encapsulates not only his own personal rise to one of the top positions in an acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant; it’s also a tale of living the American dream.

Jacinto was 20 years old when he and his brother Erasto emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico and began working for Cindy Pawlcyn as dishwashers at Mustards Grill in Yountville. Demonstrating a passion for food and determination to climb up the culinary ranks, the young Pablo cultivated his culinary skills in several of Napa Valley’s renowned kitchens including Mustards, where he formed an immediate bond with Pawlcyn. He followed working at Mustards Grill with positions at Tra Vigne, where he studied under Michael Chiarello and at Domaine Chandon, where he gleaned techniques from Philippe Jeanty. Over the years Jacinto developed his own signature bold, streamlined culinary style that resulted in being tapped for the executive chef position he holds today.

Sharing Pawlcyn’s cooking philosophy of utilizing fresh, seasonal produce into every menu, the Pawlcyn and Jacinto work very well together, using Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen as place to experiment with flavors and seasonal dishes. “In cooking, Cindy and I speak the same language. I grew up in a small village in Mexico where my grandmothers would create wonderful meals from fresh vegetables over an open fire,” he says. Incorporating the influences from his childhood and his unfussy presentations, Pablo’s hallmark at the restaurant has been the creation of simple, yet intensely flavored menu items that use as few components as possible.

Most recently, Pawlcyn, Jacinto and his brother Erasto collaborated on “Big Small Plates,” a cookbook showcasing the starters at Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. The book was named one of the best of the year by the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pablo resides in Napa with his wife and two daughters.

Piero Premoli
Pricci
Atlanta, GA

Chef Piero Premoli joined Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in 2001 as a corporate consultant, working with the company's Italian and Greek concepts. A native of Milan, Italy, Piero has been surrounded by fine food his entire life. His passion and attention to detail have made great contributions to each restaurant where he has worked.

Piero's mother and grandfather worked in the restaurant business, allowing him to learn every aspect of the business at an early age. He says cooking was a family affair. At age 14, Piero began formally training for his career by becoming a student at Amerigo Vespucci Culinary School. He then attended Ecole Hotelier, a university in Lozan where he studied hotel and restaurant management.

After earning his degree, Piero worked as an apprentice in Italy and France, most notably at Tempiadoro in Milan, La Voile Roug in St. Tropez and l'Assemblee Nationale in Paris. At these restaurants, he practiced the basics of Italian and French cooking which continues to influence his simple yet innovative style.

A sense of adventure led Piero to Miami, Florida where he began working as sous chef with Master Chef Antonio Tettamanzi at Osteria del Teatro, Miami's leading Italian restaurant. He also worked as a chef at various other French and Italian restaurants before accepting a new challenge the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The excitement of that position led him to New York City where he accepted a position at a Fiorello's – a New York mainstay located across from the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center. Before moving to Atlanta, he also worked at the award-winning restaurant, Baleen, at the Grove Isle Resort in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Upon his arrival in Atlanta, Piero met restaurateur Pano Karatassos and accepted a position as corporate consultant with the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. In this role, Piero worked closely with the chef teams at Kyma, Pricci and Veni Vidi Vici.

Chef Piero took the helm in the kitchen at Pricci in May 2005. Known for his tireless work ethic and contagious passion for food, Piero's emphasis on technique and cleanliness in the kitchen result in simple and flavorful Italian cuisine. He takes great pride in supporting the development of young chefs and has created a fledgling exchange program between Italian kitchens and Buckhead Life kitchens.

Regular visits to Italy allow Chef Piero to keep up-to-date on Italian culinary trends and to develop, and maintain, relationships with trusted suppliers. He also uses these trips to uncover sources for exciting and unique products, often featured on the menu at Pricci. In fact, his attention to Italian authenticity was rewarded in 2006 when the Accademia Italia della Cucina, an esteemed Italian Cultural Institution dedicated to preserving authentic Italian cuisine around the world, awarded the Recognition of Excellence Pricci. Pricci is the only restaurant in Atlanta with this designation.

Piero lives in Buckhead with his wife Kimberly and daughter Georgia Grace, born in January 2002. In his free time, he enjoys sailing, traveling to exotic places and tending his herb, flower and vegetable gardens.

Ken Vedrinski
Trattoria Lucca
Charleston, SC

At Executive Chef and Partner at Sienna, http://www.siennadining.com/ selected by Esquire magazine as one of the “Top 20 Restaurants of the Year” in 2004, Chef Ken Vedrinski lives his passion for producing illustrious cuisine, and ensuring every guest’s satisfaction. Set in Daniel Island’s friendly small-town atmosphere, just five miles from downtown Charleston, Sienna is an expression of Chef Vedrinski’s enormous accomplishments in fine dining, and the heart and soul of contemporary Italian cuisine. Chef Vedrinski’s quest to provide the ultimate dining experience is inspired by his own memories of family meals filled with the essence of Old World Italian cuisine.

At Sienna, Chef Vedrinski delights in creating a menu which changes daily, brimming with freshly made specialties reflecting Italy’s celebrated regions. After earning a degree in Restaurant Management from Columbus College, he trained underneath some of the world’s most talented chefs including an apprenticeship under master chef Hartmut Handkeat at the Athletic Club in Columbus. Chef Vedrinski was later awarded an honorary doctorate degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University.

Among Chef Vedrinski’s many accomplishments are helping to lead the opulent Woodland’s Resort and Inn’s Dining Room to a coveted AAA Five Diamond Award and South Carolina’s only Mobil Five-Star rating (one of only 14 in the United States). In 2002, the restaurant received the only perfect food score in North America by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler. Chef Vedrinski’s high-end dining experience also encompasses Sous Chef positions at Chicago’s Five Diamond, Five Star Four Seasons Hotel and at Atlanta’s Swissotel—both hotels’ restaurants were named among the Best New Restaurants in the United States by Esquire magazine under his leadership.

Today at Sienna, diners are rewarded with exquisite cuisine that is a culmination of Chef Vedrinski’s years of experience. The mood is stylish and energetic, and diners might receive a Southern welcome from the Chef himself as he makes a tour through the dining room, always imparting a personalized touch.

2011 Chefs

Robbin Haas
Gulf Coast Kitchen at the Montauk Yacht Club Resort
Montauk, NY

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Robbin Haas’s love of food began at the tender age of 12 when he began working in a small hotel in Buffalo. Haas worked on kitchen chores while his mother worked as the lead waitress. He realized the important relationship between personal service and happy customers from his mother – a concept he has carried with him throughout his illustrious career. Haas’s creative flair and culinary expertise has enabled him to develop innovative tastes mitigating him as a true culinary artist. In addition, Haas’s natural knack for business and entrepreneurial talent allows him full run of the restaurant gamut.

Since his arrival in South Florida in 1988, Haas has been involved with an impressive list of venues. He spearheaded the opening of the Four Seasons Ocean Grand then became executive chef at Turnberry Isle Resort & Club. In 1994, Haas left Turnberry to revamp the Colony Bistro in Miami Beach and was named one of the top 10 chefs in America by Food and Wine magazine. That same year, the Colony Bistro was recognized as one of Esquire’s top new restaurants. Soon after, Haas took on a challenge as the executive chef and managing partner of Bang in Miami Beach. Haas’s desire to spread his wings lead him to his next venture where he partnered with renowned chef/restaurateur Mark Miller in 1996 to open up several Raku “Asian Diners” in the United States. This concept was inspired and mirrored as a result of his travels to the Orient where he resided for several months to learn the first hand styles and differences of the Far East.

Haas was lured back to South Florida by his love for tropical flavors and presided over his own company prior to joining China Grill Management as executive/consulting chef for China Grill Café and Red Square. It was not long after that Red Square was named one of Esquire’s Top New Restaurants in 1998. In 1999, Haas opened the highly successful Baleen to rave reviews at the Grove Isle Club and Resort in Coconut Grove. Soon after, Baleen in San Diego and Naples, Florida followed along with 6-7 in Seattle and Portofino in Redonda Beach, California.

Haas assumed the role of Vice President of Restaurant Concepts for Noble House Hotels, Resorts, & Hideaways where he supervised the workings of several restaurants as well as the creative development of culinary trends between 1998 and 2002.

In September 2003, Haas will “spark” curiosity among food aficionados with the much-anticipated opening of his latest venture Chispa, a contemporary Latin restaurant and bar inspired by the history and traditions of the Hispanic culture. Chispa, which will be located in Coral Gables, is the ideal complement to Haas’ distinguished portfolio featuring innovative dishes reflective of Hispanic heritage such as Masitas de Mahi Mahi, Sour Orange Mojo, Wood Roasted Shrimp, Lechon Asado Rissoto, Spit Roasted Young Suckling Pig and a selection of creative ceviches. Chispa is destined to attract a varied clientele indicative of Miami’s population entertaining its clients with a unique combination of cuisine, ambiance, music, and service. Haas wanted to create a restaurant that celebrated the eclectic mix of America and felt this was an ideal time to open a fine dining locale that represents a melting pot of cultures. The 40-foot bar will capture patrons with its novel design and featured drink specialties including Mojitos, Caipirnhas, artistic Martinis, and over 20 wines by the glass.

South Florida and the Orient are not the only places that Haas has focused his culinary attentions. He has received international accolades from his extensive travels around the world showcasing his culinary skills in Russia, Finland, Europe, Mexico, South America, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. He has also visited and resided in numerous cities in the Unites States, but testifies that Miami is his home. South Florida residents and visitors have recognized Haas’ creative use of Southern ingredients and local fare for decades making him a trendsetter for Miami’s notorious fine dining scene. The use of locally procured products allows Haas to preserve the culinary heritage of the region putting South Florida cuisine on the international map while further establishing his position as one of the founding fathers of New World Cuisine.

Cindy Hutson
Ortanique on the Mile
Coral Gables, FL

Cindy Hutson is a self-taught chef who developed a passion for cooking at the age of nine. Inspired and amused by the “Original” television culinary genius of the “Galloping Gourmet” and “Chef Tell”, she would emulate their creations on Saturday afternoons. In her teen years she was exposed to Italian and Portuguese cuisine through her best friends father, a successful restaurateur from New Jersey. After leaving New Jersey to head for the sunny skies of Miami, she honed her skills as a sport fishing captain and mate on a 36 foot Bertram Yacht. It was over those years of fishing, she procured a touch for handling and preparing many ocean delicacies.

Taking time out from fishing in 1985, Hutson married Jamaican born, Charles Hutson. Together they opened Blue Mt. Imports, a coffee imports company. During her travels back and forth from the Blue Mts. and beautiful Jamaican coastline, Hutson began cooking Island cuisine. She relished in the highly aromatic herbs and spices that grew in the mountains, bringing them down to prepare fresh caught Parrotfish from the North Coast reefs. Her Island hopping included the Bahamas, Barbados, Martinique, The Virgin Islands, Mexico and more. With every island stop she learned something about that islands history and cuisine.

In late 1993 Hutson met new partner, Delius Shirley. It was Shirley who convinced her to go into the restaurant business with him. In November 1994 they opened “Norma’s on the Beach”. “Norma’s on the Beach” was touted as “the best Caribbean restaurant in South Florida” by publications such as USA Today, New York Times, London Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ocean Drive magazines. In 1996 they were awarded the coveted “5 Star Diamond Award” for the fabulous dining at Norma’s on the Beach.

In 1996 Mr. Robert Johnson owner of Black Entertainment Television dined at “Norma’s on the Beach”. Johnson too, was impressed with the restaurant, the menu, and the execution of tasty island cuisine. Shortly after, he hired Hutson & Shirley, to consult on two new restaurant concepts “BET on Jazz” in Washington D.C. and “Soundstage” in Disney World. It was Johnson who financially backed Hutson’s new “Cuisine of the Sun” at “Ortanique” Coral Gables. The upscale Coral Gables location was her new home, opening in July 1999. Hutson flourished in her larger surroundings (120 seats) delving into South American, Asian, Caribbean, and American Fusion cuisine. Famed critic John Mariani, awarded “Best New Restaurant 1999” Esquire Magazine, “Exceptional” Miami Herald, “Top 20 Restaurants” from Florida Trend, “Best New Restaurant” Bon Apetit, “Americas Top Tables” Gourmet Magazine, Mobil “4 Star Award 2001 – 2002”, “Top Ten Best List” Zagat Survey 2002 – 2003, Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” 2002, 2003 and the list goes on. In 2005-2006 Ortanique received Five Star Diamond Awards consecutively, Zagats Extraordinary rating, “Top Female Chef of Las Vegas” by American Chefs Association, and continued to receive Wine Spectators Award of Excellence.

Hutson did not stop there, She and partner Delius Shirley opened two other concepts, “Copra” Baltimore,MD and “Bogwalk” Destin FL. At the present they have held onto Ortanique Miami and Copra freeing her to do Guest Chef appearances, teaching, and consulting.

When asked “are you spreading yourself too thin?” Hutson reply’s “This culinary travel is what I thrive on teaching other chef hopefuls about our earth’s bounties and edible history. Their indigenous ingredients regionally prepared. What more could an artist ask for?

Mark Militello
FT. Lauderdale, FL

James Beard Award-winning chef, Mark Militello, is often credited with putting South Florida on America's culinary map. Militello is recognized for creating contemporary American cuisine that has Italian, Asian and Caribbean influences. At the Atlantic, he is responsible for launching a new signature restaurant in the space presently occupied by Trina in addition to overseeing all culinary operations for the hotel’s poolside café, catering and room service functions.

Militello opened his first restaurant – Mark's Place – in North Miami Beach, Fla., in 1988. It earned rave reviews and just two years later, Food & Wine named him one of the "10 Best Chefs in America." In the ensuing years, he operated four other namesake restaurants in South Florida: Mark's Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, Mark's Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Mark's South Beach on Miami Beach and Mark's CityPlace in West Palm Beach.

Most recently, Militello created menus for The Office in Delray Beach, Fla., and prior to that was part of the team that opened 1 Bleu at One Resort & Spa in Bal Harbour Village, Fla., formerly known as The Regent Bal Harbour.

Locally, Militello is revered as one of the “Mango Gang” – a group of Miami-area chefs who revolutionized the South Florida dining landscape in the late 1980s with their flavor-forward food sensibility that married modern and classic cooking with chef-driven menus that changed daily and showcased tropical fruit, regional vegetables and fresh local seafood.

A Texan by birth, Militello studied at Marquette University in Milwaukee and earned culinary degrees from both New York State and Florida International universities. In addition to the James Beard Award for "Best Regional Chef" in the Southeast, he received two “Golden Dish” awards from GQ magazine, and a "Distinguished Restaurant Award" from Condé Nast Traveler, among other accolades. Militello and his wife and children and live in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Douglas Rodriguez
De Rodriguez Cuba & Ola at Sanctuary
Miami Beach, FL

Chef Douglas Rodriguez, globally acclaimed Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine, has been taking the nation by storm, opening award winning restaurant across the United States. His culinary creativity has changed the image of Latino food in America. His restaurants are featured in some of the most cosmopolitan cities including his home town Miami, Philadelphia, Arizona, and the most recent, D. Rodriguez Cuba at the Astor Hotel in Miami Beach.

Chef Rodriguez, 41, a son of Cuban immigrants, was raised in Miami. He grew up with the sights, smells and tastes of Cuban/American cuisine and developed a passion for food early on. By the age of 13, he had a collection of cookbooks, pots and pans, and was developing and preparing original concepts. At 14, he landed his first restaurant job as a summer apprentice at The Four Ambassadors Hotel in Miami. After high school, he gained more experience at the prestigious Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel in Miami Beach before honing his skills and techniques at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI.

Returning to Miami, Mr. Rodriguez worked at the Sonesta Beach Hotel and Wet Paint Cafe. In 1989 he opened Yuca, an upscale Cuban style restaurant in Coral Gables. Yuca was a success, and at age 24, Douglas was a celebrated Miami chef, winning the "Chef of the Year, Miami" award from The Chefs of America and receiving his first and second "Rising Chef of the Year" nominations by The James Beard Foundation. While Yuca served distinctly Cuban cuisine, Douglas constantly studied new flavors, ingredients and ideas from his staff, which hails from United Nations of Latin American countries. Soon after that Douglas headed straight for New York City.

Mr. Rodriguez became the executive chef and co-owner of the phenomenally successful Patria, which opened in 1994 in New York City. It was the laboratory for his new cuisine, which he called "Nuevo Latino". Patria received a three star review in the New York Times and accolades from The New Yorker and Gourmet among others. After Patria, Mr. Rodriguez opened Chicama, a Peruvian Ceviche bar, to 2 stars in the New York Times followed by Pipa, a Tapas bar that became one of the favorite spots for New Yorkers.

Recently, Newsweek selected Douglas Rodriguez as one of the 100 Americans that will influence the coming millennium. People magazine featured him in an article titled "Douglas Rodriguez - Superchef Makes Latin Food Haute Haute Haute." In 1994, the Fine Beverage and Food Federation elected Mr. Rodriguez as the Culinary Master of North America and the New York Culinary Master. He received the prestigious 1996 James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year Award.

Mr. Rodriguez is the author of Nuevo Latino (published in October 1995), Latin Ladles (published in November of 1997), Latin Flavors on the Grill (published in 2000) and has been signed by a major publisher to complete a four book series. In March 2003 he released his fourth book, The Great Ceviche Book. Mr. Rodriguez has been featured in myriad national publications including Food and Wine, The Metropolitan Home, Esquire, and Bon Appetit, and has made numerous television appearances including Late Night with David Letterman, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and CBS Weekend This Morning. Mr. Rodriguez is a member of the Chef Conclave for American Airlines. In May 1998, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from Johnson and Wales University.

Oliver Saucy
Darrel & Oliver's Café Maxx
Pompano Beach, FL

Oliver Saucy is the Culinary Director/Partner at Innovative Restaurant Concepts, LLC, owner of Cafe Maxx in Pompano Beach, Florida, East City Grill restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama and Weston, Florida and Bistro 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is known among southeast regional chefs for his "right on" instincts for ingredients that work well together and his classical training, which he uses as a foundation to construct recipes that produce an explosion of flavor.Oliver is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, but he actually learned to cook from his father, Eric, who recently retired from a long and illustrious career as a Senior Chef/Instructor at the CIA.

A regular participant and guest chef at harvest festivals and wine auction events in California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Oliver Saucy often calls public attention to the importance off promoting bio-diversity and sustainable food choices among farmers and growers. He is committed to always using the best possible food products, and clear pure flavors shine through all of his culinary creations.

Continually shopping for the newest products available across the country, Oliver selects the best and freshest ingredients from the Mediterranean, Tropical, "Southern Comfort", Southwestern and Oriental food baskets and then combines them with Florida's bounty of tropical spices, fruits, vegetables and Atlantic Coast seafood. As a result, the menus at Cafe Maxx occupy a position on everybody's short list of the area's top purveyors of Southeast Florida's splendid new regional cuisine.

Allen Susser
Chef Allen's
Aventura, FL

The opening of CHEF ALLEN'S restaurant in 1986 became the pinnacle in a journey of fascination, talent and vision for Chef Allen Susser.   Allen Susser was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 25, 1956 into a family heritage rich with celebrating life through food. Among his fondest memories as a child was the discovery of the cultural importance placed on food. "Those years," he has said "gave me the balance; and my deep respect for food." The impact was so deeply interesting, that he resolved early to his career goal in the Culinary Arts.

He graduated in 1976 at the top of his class from the New York City Technical College, Restaurant Management School. He received his Bachelors Degree in Hospitality, from Florida International University in 1978 (School of Hospitality Management, graduate with honors). He is also the recipient of the Ward Arbury Award and Alumni of the Year in 1993.   In the years directly following school, he pursued classical cooking techniques from opportunities that permitted him the ability to expand and experiment with his vision. Chef Allen fulfilled an ambition and personal goal with tenure in the kitchens of Le Bristol Hotel in Paris and Le Cirque Restaurant in New York.

As he matured, his confidence and individual style were apparent. In the spirit of adventure and opportunity, Allen chose Miami to blaze his own signature and forge his career.  Allen immediately identified South Florida's natural resources as a fountainhead for unique culinary combinations. While working at the Turnberry Isle Resort, he invented and explored the possibilities of juxtaposing fresh local fish and tropical fruits.

Adapting his training and technique in the creative inquisitive manner of a master and visionary, Chef Allen synthesized the essence of his adopted region. This fusion he sought would render a stimulating, satisfying and refreshing plate, but stand alone as a new Florida Cuisine. His dramatic translation of the bounty of South Florida's foodstuffs became NEW WORLD CUISINE, an innovative signature and important contribution to American Culinary craftsmanship.

Allen continues to develop NEW WORLD CUISINE. Although he has expanded beyond the local-region definition and now draws equal and exciting strength from the Caribbean, Latin America and modern American influences.

Chef Allen's Restaurant has won accolades from local and national food writers: Food and Wine Magazine named Allen Susser as one of the top 10 New Chef in America in 1991. Time Magazine called Allen's cuisine "a New World marvel". The New York Times named Allen Susser "the Ponce de Leon of New Floridian cooking" and notes that "Susser's background could be seen in his tightly focused cuisine".

The Miami Herald, gave Chef Allen's their highest rating of exceptional, in their current review and noted: "... Chef Allen remains a pinnacle, a summit..."   El Nuevo Herald declared that: "... each dish shows such an audacity in combinations of four or more elements that it elicits... assertion of both pleasure and surprise."

In May of 1994, Chef Allen Susser received The James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Award 1994, Southeast region. During 1995, he was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate degree from Johnson & Wales University. Also in 1995, he had his first book published: New World Cuisine and Cookery, (1995 Doubleday, to be followed by The Great Citrus Book, @1997 Ten Speed Press and his latest release, The Great Mango Book, October 2001, Ten Speed Press. He publishes a monthly e-newsletter Savvy at www.chefallens.com.

In 2010 he opened Taste Gastropub in Delray Beach, Florida. Taste is an unpretentious 125-seat, indoor-outdoor dining destination, offering soulful retro dishes and perfectly executed contemporary fare with an emphasis on beautiful ingredients along with handcrafted beers, exceptional wines, classic and innovative cocktails.

Chef Allen has also taken great personal involvement in the challenge of helping to feed the homeless, hungry and the homebound elderly. Chef Allen has a succinct answer when explaining his philosophy; once again drawing from the ever present and important balance he has nurtured since childhood: "I love to cook; and so food is my life, my profession, my charity and my diversion."

2010 Chefs

Cass Abrahams
Zomerlust Restaurant
Paarl, South Africa

Cass Abrahams is internationally renowned as one of South Africa's cooking doyennes, having carved a niche for herself in culinary circles using traditional Cape Malay spices to cook up indigenous dishes. She is an accomplished restaurateur, chef and author. Abrahams is the Executive Chef at De Waterblommetjie Restaurant at the Castle of Good Hope, de Leuwenjagt at Seidelberg Estate and the historic Zomerlust in Paarl. She is also is a consultant for the establishment of various restaurants – Jonkershuis at Spier, The Cape Malay Kitchen at Cellars Hohenhort, The Cape Kitchen at Lanzerac.

Abrahams has shared her recipes and the histories attached to each of them in two cookbooks - The Cuisine and Culture of the Cape Malays and Cass Abrahams Cooks Cape Malay Food from Africa. Her awards include: Chaine des Rotisseurs, Honorary Grande Diploma – Culinary Art Institute of Africa, Honorary Award : Chefs Association of South Africa and Honorary Grande Diploma – Silwood Cordon Bleu.

She was a partner at the firm Ethnic Cuisine for 5 years, developing and promoting various Cape products at home and abroad; a radio Host of the Cooking programme on Voice of the Cape and a guest on other Radio Stations; has appeared on numerous television programmes in South Africa and abroad; and is a consultant for product development for various firms among them Tastic Rice, Colmans, Rainbow Cuisine and various small companies.

In her 60s, Abrahams, who is better know as Cass - short for Cassandra has travelled the world sharing the art of Cape Malay cooking. Abrahams, who despite her achievements still prefers to be in the kitchen, describes her love affair with cooking as a "long story" but says that she only lifted the lid to these culinary skills in her 30s when she got married. "I found that I had peace and tranquillity when I was cooking. I loved the smell and the energy that flowed. "I still love seeing the appreciation of food. I like people enjoying my food."

John Currence
City Grocery
Oxford, MS

Currence was born and raised in New Orleans, LA to a family that loved to cook and spend time in the kitchen. His mother's travels with his father during his childhood brought the dishes of the world to their dinner table. Time spent hunting and fishing in South Louisiana began the education in the foods of his home. His first cooking job was while working offshore as a deckhand on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico. Currence saw his first kitchen job while in school at UNC where he started washing dishes at Bill Neal's Crook's Corner. An immediate fascination with the business prompted several supplemental jobs (baking bread at an Italian restaurant, butcher shop at a local grocery store, salmon smokehouse, etc) and ultimately led to his return to New Orleans to help a high school friend, Larkin Selman open Gautreau's. He moved on to the Brennan family of restaurants to open Bacco before finally settling in Oxford in 1992 and opening City Grocery. In the time since the City Grocery Restaurant Group has seen a number of openings, including Nacho Mama's, Kalo's, Ajax Diner, City Grocery Catering Company, Bouré, Big Bad Breakfast and Snackbar. He was awarded the James Beard Foundation medal for Best Chef South for 2009 and was the 2008 winner of the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans and the 2009 Charleston Food and Wine Festival's Iron Chef Challenge.

He is a contributing editor for Garden and Gun magazine and an avid outdoorsman who enjoys bird hunting of all varieties, fishing and golf.

Paula DaSilva
3030 Ocean
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Since opening 1500°, the chic farm-to-table eatery located in Miami Beach's beautifully renovated historic hotel, the Eden Roc Renaissance in October 2010, executive chef Paula DaSilva has won raves for her soulful, rustic cuisine. Just recently 1500° was singled out as the only Florida restaurant in noted food critic John Mariani's annual Esquire magazine feature, "The Best New Restaurants in America 2011."

Chef Paula DaSilva notably appeared on season five of the popular FOX reality cooking show Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. There, she was regularly spared Ramsay's wrath by virtue of her talent, dedication, passion and lack of drama, which ultimately led to her near win. 
DaSilva was instrumental in creating the concept for 1500°, which deftly blends farm-to-table and classic steakhouse cookery. To execute its acclaimed cuisine she meets frequently with farmers and fishermen to obtain the freshest of ingredients and stay in touch with seasonality and even had a vegetable and herb garden planted on-site at the hotel. And her dedication has hit all the right notes with diners and critics alike. The restaurant was just voted "Best New Steakhouse" by Miami New Times and, since opening its doors, has been featured in a slew of high-profile publications including Food & Wine and W Magazine, among others.

Lee Hillson
Royal Palm Resort
Phoenix, AZ

Lee Hillson was named Executive Chef in August 2005, having joined T. Cook's as Sous Chef five years earlier. He has gained both local and national notoriety with this elegant and rustic interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine as well as his generous donation of both time and talent to countless charitable organizations.

Hillson's progression up the food chain is paved with award-winning culinary experiences. He began his restaurant career in 1987 at the age of 16 when he enrolled in culinary school at Bournemouth and Poole College in his native England. Two years later, degree in hand, he took off to the Hyatt in Austin, Texas to explore new worlds and new cuisines.

A year later, he returned to London for the unique opportunity to be the Chef de Partie at the Roux Patisserie, owned by world-renowned chefs, Albert and Michel Roux. Hillson then served as Pastry Chef at the Michelin star Le Poussin in Hampshire, England. His next stop was Hintlesham Hall in Ipswich, Suffolk, England where he began as the Pastry Chef and three years later was appointed Sous Chef at this European award-winning, fine dining restaurant. In November of 1998, Hillson again crossed the Atlantic to become Executive Sous Chef at Vanderbilt Hall in Newport, Rhode Island at its Alva restaurant. Within a few short months, he was appointed Executive Chef at this restaurant ranked as one of the country's top five restaurants by Country Inn magazine.

From Rhode Island, Hillson joined T. Cook's and has since been part of the lineup that has garnered acclaim from the likes of Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, Travel + Leisure magazine and a host of Phoenix/Scottsdale food writers. Hillson has cooked on more than one occasion at the James Beard House in New York, hosted a Friends of James Beard dinner at the resort, and participated in numerous local high profile culinary events.

In 2007, Hillson strut his stuff for the Arizona Kidney Foundation as a "celebrity dancer" for their record-breaking charitable event: Dancing with the Stars Arizona. In 2008, he was named Arizona spokesperson for Hass Avocados, nominated to the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame, and was invited to battle Food Network's Iron Chef Cat Cora on the blockbuster show, Iron Chef America where he achieved one of the season's highest scores.

With Hillson at the helm, T. Cook's was voted the most popular Phoenix/Scottsdale restaurant by Zagat's: America's Top Restaurants in both 2006 and 2007.

Gerry Klaskala
Aria
Atlanta, GA

Zagat Survey calls Aria "one of the top five restaurants in Atlanta," and Klaskala has received numerous accolades in some of the nation's top publications, including Bon Appetit (Best New Atlanta Formal Restaurant) and Esquire, where Aria was named to "The Definitive List of Best New Restaurants in America. In Atlanta, Aria ranks among the city's "Top 50 Restaurants" according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has been ranked "number one restaurant in Atlanta" in Jezebel magazine's Top 100 restaurant issue. Klaskala was the chef and managing partner at Buckhead Diner, one of Atlanta's highest volume restaurants. During his tenure, Buckhead Diner was consistently one of the most acclaimed dining establishments nationwide and was featured in the nation's top culinary and leisure publications. Klaskala also managed the start-up of 45 South in Savannah, Ga. and spent 10 years working with the Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

While he heads up the kitchen at Aria, Klaskala's influence is also found at Canoe, which he owns with partners George McKerrow Jr. and Ron San Martin of We're Cookin' Inc. Both restaurants are distinct in concept, yet very similar in popular appeal.

Peng Looi
Asiatique & August Moon Chinese Bistro
Louisville, KY

Chef Peng S. Looi's life is as eclectic as the dishes he serves. He was born and grew up in Ipoh, Malaysia before continuing his high school education in Manchester, England. In 1981, chef Looi came to the United States and earned his degree in civil engineering. He soon realized his heart was with cooking not engineering while doing his internship.

In 1987, Looi opened his first award-winning restaurant August Moon Chinese Bistro (www.augustmoonbistro.com) featuring contemporary Chinese cuisine with south east Asian influences reflecting his ethnic background. In 1994 came the upscale casual Asiatique Restaurant (www.asiatiquerestaurant.com) serving his own unique and artful interpretation of East - West Pacific Rim cuisine. Local and regional food critics have quoted Looi's work as 'works of edible art'.

Recognition came soon, with exceptional reviews from every Louisville area food writer and other national features in The Courier-Journal, Louisville Magazine, Leo Magazine, American Automobile Tour Guide, Mobil, Scene Magazine, Delta Airline, Southwest Airline, Air Canada and Vegetarian Times. Looi's works were also featured in Asian Restaurant News, Bon Appetit and Chef's Magazine.

His first establishment was awarded 'Best Oriental Restaurant' by Louisville Magazine. In addition, the restaurant received the Leo Magazine's 'Outstanding Chinese restaurant' award for multiple years. It recently won the 'Best Upscale Casual 2008' award by Prep Magazine.

Asiatique Restaurant was awarded 'Best Asian restaurant' by the Louisville Magazine and Leo Magazine. It has also won the Citysearch "Best Asian and Bon Appetit magazine's top 125 restaurants nationwide.

Chef Looi is also the founder/CEO of Asean Management Group, LLC. The group develops the culinary concept and manages locations under the name Asiatique Bistro and Lounge (www.asiatiquebistro.com), which serves healthy modern Asian cuisine. The first is in West Chester, OH and other locations to be developed are Bethesda, MD, Indianapolis, IN, Nashville, TN, Atlanta, GA and Tampa, FL.

Chef Looi has been invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House four times and was a master chef at the World Gourmet Summit in Las Vegas 2006. In 2007, he was invited by the Professional Chefs Association of Malaysia and the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia, to judge at the prestigious Culinare Malaysia 2007, the biggest culinary competition in the South East Asian region. He is also invited for guest chef appearances nationally.

In March 2008, Chef Looi was honored with the Jefferson Evans "Chef of the Year" award.

Well known for his commitment to community and charitable causes, Looi is a willing and enthusiastic participant in the annual 'Taste of the Nation', which is a nationwide affair. In addition, he is a 'celebrity chef' participant of other fund-raisers like 'Dare to Care', 'The Healing Place', 'Juvenile Diabetics', 'Kentucky Harvest' and many others. Chef Looi has been the coordinating chef for the Crane House (an Asian Institute based in Louisville, Ky) annual biggest fundraiser, Asian All-Star dinner, for numerous years. He is also a culinary contributor to the Asian Restaurant News.

Donna Scala
Bistro Don Giovanni
Napa, CA

As owner of Bistro Don Giovanni, Donna Scala blends key elements of creativity, design and commitment to quality that make the Bistro a unique dining experience.

Donna grew up surrounded by the family hotel/restaurant business in Virginia. Her grandfather, of Greek descent, had several different types of restaurants, which inspired her to follow in the family footsteps. Donna spent a year in the South of France studying her culinary craft and returned in 1982 to open a gourmet food store with a French/Italian flair in Sausalito called Donarcy's, featuring pastas, soups and gourmet food-to-go.

Coinciding with Donna and Giovanni's pairing up, Claude Rouas of the well-known Auberge du Soleil asked them to put together an Italian restaurant for a Yountville location. The Scala's created and named the Piatti Ristorante concept. After six years with Piatti Ristorante, Donna and Giovanni decided to branch out on their own and in 1993 they opened Bistro Don Giovanni, specializing in rustic Italian and southern French food.

Donna Scala is passionate about her creations, and only uses the finest ingredients from local purveyors as well as vegetables and herbs from the restaurant's gardens. The Scalas also produce their own olive oil from the olive trees located on the property.

In 1995 Donna and Giovanni opened Scala's Bistro in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. The year it opened, Scala's Bistro was named "Best New Restaurant" nationwide by Food and Wine Magazine, and Donna Scala received the distinguished honor of "Best New Chef."

After five years, Donna and Giovanni left Scala's Bistro to concentrate all their energies on Bistro Don Giovanni where you'll find them daily tending Napa Valley's finest and most popular eatery.

2009 Chefs

Stephen Asprinio
Bravo! Network’s “Top Chef” Star
West Palm Beach, FL
Stephen Asprinio’s continued dedication to the art of hospitality has opened the doors to his first namesake restaurant, Forté di Asprinio. At a mere 26 years of age, Stephen has secured degrees from both the Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University, completed two sommelier certificate level courses from the United States Sommelier Association and the Court of Master Sommeliers, and has 10 years of experience in some of the top restaurants in the United States. Stephen was mentored by famed restaurateur Drew Nieporent of the Myriad Restaurant Group, and consequently worked for three of Mr. Nieporent’s restaurants, including Nobu in New York City, where he apprenticed under Iron Chef Morimoto Masuhara. Following graduation from Cornell University, Stephen left for Las Vegas to take a sommelier position at Caesar’s Palace. After running two wine programs at Ceasar’s Palace, Stephen left to take over as the Wine Director for Michael Mina’s NobHill at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. Stephen has since appeared as a star on Bravo! Network’s “Top Chef”, as well as a guest on the “The Today Show”, and has also been featured in People Magazine, Forbes Traveler and in the New York Post’s “Page Six” column.
Sean Brock
McCrady’s
Charleston, SC

Sean Brock, Executive Chef of McCrady’s Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, is passionate about food and its ingredients in a way that few can imagine. One dining experience is all it takes, however, for even culinary novices to appreciate the enthusiasm and dedication that he brings to his work.

His Style
His creative and unique culinary style blends the classic Southern ingredients and preparations he learned from his grandmother with techniques that are truly on the forefront of modern dining. “Food should be a treat for the emotions as well as the palate,” says Brock, “at once comforting, exciting, and entertaining. We like to surprise and delight our guests with familiar flavors presented in unexpected ways.”

Brock has deep respect for his ingredients. “They all have value and contribute to a dish equally,” he says with commitment, “whether widely available and inexpensive or rare and dear.” His unwavering devotion to the freshest ingredients has led him to work directly with scores of small-scale farmers and suppliers to get the very best. He favors simple preparations that let these ingredients shine through, and values consistency perhaps above all else.

Brock was trained in classical technique at Johnson & Wales, but uses the newest discoveries of modern food science to add new tools and options. By studying and understanding ingredients at the molecular level, he and others inspired by Spanish chef Ferran Adria can achieve astonishing results. He is a proponent of sous vide, a cutting edge cooking method that uses vacuum to allow precise control of the cooking process (to within one-tenth of a degree) while at the same time capturing all of the natural flavors of the components.

His Background
His move in April, 2006 to McCrady’s marked something of a homecoming for Brock. Although he had previously been the Executive Chef at Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel and its fine dining restaurant The Capitol Grille, he began his culinary career in Charleston.

Born and raised in Wise, Virginia, Brock was introduced to cooking as a young boy at his grandmother’s elbow. She taught him a deep appreciation for the value of fresh ingredients as he gathered honey from the beehive in the backyard and worked daily in the family garden. By the age of 10, he was preparing Sunday dinner for the family.

At 16, Brock got his first opportunity to cook in a professional kitchen during a busy day at the restaurant where he washed dishes. After he graduated from high school, and knowing with certainty that all he wanted to do was cook, Brock moved to Charleston to attend Johnson & Wales University. Putting his full effort into his studies, he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999. Brock began his professional culinary career as Chef Tournant under highly regarded Chef Robert Carter at the acclaimed Peninsula Grill, one of Charleston’s finest restaurants. Even with Carter as his mentor, working in the busy kitchen of a restaurant with such high expectations was an intense learning experience for Brock.

Two years later, in 2001, he was appointed Executive Sous Chef under Chef Walter Bundy at the five-diamond Lemaire Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. His success in Richmond led to his promotion in 2003 to Executive Chef at the newly remodeled five-diamond Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, where he was responsible for both the fine dining restaurant and the hotel’s catering, room service and daily dining operations.

His Accolades and Accomplishments
Brock, now 27, has a long list of accomplishments and accolades to his credit, including two dinners for the James Beard Foundation, a feature on the Food Network, numerous glowing reviews and local awards, and apprenticeships with acclaimed chefs.
Reopened the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville after a 17 million dollar renovation 
Achieved the AAA Five Diamond award in the first year of operation at Hermitage 
Achieved the Mobil Four Star award in 2005 at Capitol Grille, one of only eight restaurants added 
Hermitage Hotel’s Capitol Grille restaurant included in Gourmet Magazine’s “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants 2004” 
Named Nashville’s Best Chef by the Nashville Scene Food Critic Kay West
Featured on the Television Food Network. 
Prepared two dinners for the James Beard Foundation 
Prepared the annual national Relais and Chateaux dinner 
Assisted with the opening of The Club at Hammock Beach in Florida and The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, SC.

Rick Edge
PlumpJack Café
San Francisco, CA

Rick Edge serves as executive chef for the PlumpJack Cafe, overseeing the changing seasonal menus and managing all aspects of the restaurant's day-to-day operations.

Born and raised in the heart of California's San Benito County, Edge never imagined himself as a chef. While working as a waiter in a small local restaurant, Edge was taken with the energy and excitement of working in the food service industry. As a person always looking for new experiences, he quit his job as a waiter and took a position as a short order cook at a breakfast-lunch café. As the lunch rush started, Edge knew that the kitchen was where he belonged, and he soon enrolled himself at the California Culinary Academy.

Edge's impressive culinary career began at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's Silks restaurant in San Francisco, working with Chef Ken Oringer, who quickly became a mentor. In 1997, Chef Oringer offered Edge a position of opening sous chef for his restaurant Clio in Boston. Edge spent five years under the tutelage of Chef Oringer, continuing to learn about flavors, techniques and restaurant organization, before heading to New York to work with Chef Laurent Gras at Peacock Alley in the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

After honing his culinary skills in New York, Edge returned home to California to take a position as sous chef at San Francisco's renowned Aqua restaurant working along-side Chef Michael Mina. In 2001, Edge's next venture took him to the award-winning Pacific Edge restaurant at the Highlands Inn, Park Hyatt Carmel, and in 2004 joined the Pebble Beach Company as chef de cuisine for Club XIX, where he received numerous accolades from publications such as Zagat, Bon Appetite and Cigar Aficionado for his contemporary American cuisine and its French influence.

Most recently, Edge joined The Culinary Center of Monterey in 2006 where he served as a full-time instructor teaching hands-on classes in areas of restaurant and kitchen operations, variety cuisines, methods and refinement of basic skills and technique.

Edge received his associate degree in culinary arts from the California Culinary Academy, and is a certified culinary instructor in the state of California. He currently resides in San Francisco.

Gabriel Frasca
Straight Wharf Restaurant
Nantucket, MA

Gabriel Frasca began cooking in Boston’s North Shore kitchens at the age of 15, but attended college to pursue journalism as a first career. A semester off and a good deal of luck changed his professional plans. In 1994, a 20-year-old Frasca landed a position under James Beard Award winner Gordon Hamersley at Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston’s South End. Exposed for the first time to the world of fine-dining and French cooking, Frasca put writing on the back burner.

In 1996 Frasca took a position at Chez Henri in Cambridge, where he worked under critically acclaimed chef Paul O’Connell. In the kitchen of Chez Henri Frasca met Amanda Lydon. In the spring of 1997, Frasca and Lydon moved to Provence and together entered an apprenticeship at the Michelin two-star L’abbaye de Saint Croix.

With a healthy dose of classic French technique under his belt, Frasca moved to the culinary mecca of San Sebastian, Spain. There, working under three-star chef Martin Berasategui, he learned classic Basque cooking as well as the cutting-edge ingredient pairings and avant garde aesthetic that made Berasategui an international star.

Frasca’s next stop on his European tour found him in northern Italy’s Dolomites where he helped chef Norbert Neiderkofler earn his first Michelin star at St. Hubertus. It was here that Frasca met four-star American chef David Bouley, who invited Frasca to help open his next restaurant, Danube, in New York. Frasca moved to Manhattan in the spring of 1999 and helped Bouley Bakery earn four stars from The New York Times before launching Danube, a restaurant that received three stars of its own and was named “No. 1 Newcomer” in the New York Zagat Survey.

In 2000 Frasca returned home to Boston and accepted his first head chef position. Working with old friend Seth Woods, Frasca opened Aquitaine Bis and was recognized as Boston’s ”2001 Rising Star” chef by The Improper Bostonian. With his clean, inventive style honed, Frasca next headed downtown to work with Radius chef Michael Schlow. As Radius’ first-ever chef de cuisine, Frasca was responsible for managing the kitchen staff and put his signature on one of the country’s best restaurant menus. With Frasca in charge of the kitchen, Radius earned Boston Magazine’s “Best Overall Restaurant” award, and Gourmet magazine named it one of the “Top 25 Restaurants in the Country.”

Frasca joined Spire as executive chef in November 2003, where he offered inventive ingredient-driven cuisine with influences from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. He was recently named “Best Chef, Up and Coming” by Boston Magazine and was awarded three-stars by Boston Globe food critic Alison Arnett.

Beginning the next phase of his exciting culinary career, Frasca and Lydon have signed on as co-Executive Chefs of Straight Wharf Restaurant in Nantucket, MA, set to open Memorial Day weekend, 2006.

Erasto Jacinto
Mustards Grill
Napa Valley, CA

Executive Chef Erasto Jacinto is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico. His love of cooking was greatly influenced by his grandmother and mother. Erasto moved to St. Helena, California when he was sixteen. He started working in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher in 1986. He quickly moved up the ranks and in 1995 he became a Sous Chef at Mustards Grill, part of the Real Restaurants Group. In 2001, Erasto was promoted to Executive Chef at Mustards and became a partner in July of 2003.

Chef/restaurateur, Cindy Pawlcyn, describes Erasto as a “perfectionist in the kitchen. He has a most impeccable palate and a gifted taste memory. He is a proponent of everything being made from scratch and with the freshest of ingredients. Erasto cooks with his heart and has very exacting standards. He is a natural leader by example and by his compassion.”

Erasto’s philosophy is to consistently deliver high quality food and to put his heart into new recipes. Erasto loves to use the fresh herbs from Mustard’s garden. It reminds him of his childhood and watching his grandmother select the proper ingredients for her meals.

Pablo Jacinto
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
St. Helena, CA

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen provides Executive Chef and Partner Pablo Jacinto with the perfect venue to showcase his unique culinary talent. With the restaurant’s co-founder Cindy Pawlcyn, Jacinto has created a menu where food is delicious and heartfelt, and honors the cultural and culinary influences of his past while showcasing the classical cooking techniques he has learned along the way.

A self-taught chef with more than 20 years of experience, Jacinto’s ascent to executive chef and partner encapsulates not only his own personal rise to one of the top positions in an acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant; it’s also a tale of living the American dream.

Jacinto was 20 years old when he and his brother Erasto emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico and began working for Cindy Pawlcyn as dishwashers at Mustards Grill in Yountville. Demonstrating a passion for food and determination to climb up the culinary ranks, the young Pablo cultivated his culinary skills in several of Napa Valley’s renowned kitchens including Mustards, where he formed an immediate bond with Pawlcyn. He followed working at Mustards Grill with positions at Tra Vigne, where he studied under Michael Chiarello and at Domaine Chandon, where he gleaned techniques from Philippe Jeanty. Over the years Jacinto developed his own signature bold, streamlined culinary style that resulted in being tapped for the executive chef position he holds today.

Sharing Pawlcyn’s cooking philosophy of utilizing fresh, seasonal produce into every menu, the Pawlcyn and Jacinto work very well together, using Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen as place to experiment with flavors and seasonal dishes. “In cooking, Cindy and I speak the same language. I grew up in a small village in Mexico where my grandmothers would create wonderful meals from fresh vegetables over an open fire,” he says. Incorporating the influences from his childhood and his unfussy presentations, Pablo’s hallmark at the restaurant has been the creation of simple, yet intensely flavored menu items that use as few components as possible.

Most recently, Pawlcyn, Jacinto and his brother Erasto collaborated on “Big Small Plates,” a cookbook showcasing the starters at Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. The book was named one of the best of the year by the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pablo resides in Napa with his wife and two daughters.

Amanda Lydon
Straight Wharf Restaurant
Nantucket, MA

Growing up in Massachusetts, Amanda Lydon spent every summer with her family on Nantucket. The summer after her freshman year at Harvard, where she studied English and American literature, she wandered into one of her favorite restaurants on the island, Straight Wharf Restaurant, and took a job there as a daytime prep cook. Back at Harvard, Lydon worked part-time in the kitchen of Upstairs at the Pudding, like so many of Harvard’s English majors. The work was far from intellectual, but she found it more challenging than anything else she’d ever done before.

After graduating from college, Lydon earned a scholarship to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and received a crash course in classic French cuisine and technique. Returning to Boston, she took a kitchen position at Chez Henri, where she not only had an opportunity to work under Chef Paul O’Connell, but she also met fellow cook and soul mate Gabriel Frasca. Together Lydon and Frasca took off for Europe. Their first stop was Provence and an apprenticeship at the Michelin two-star L’abbaye de Saint Croix. Next was an awe-inspiring stage with Spanish phenom Martin Berasetegui in San Sebastien, an experience that has continued to inspire her for many years. Returning to Boston, Lydon completed stints in the kitchens of some of the hottest spots in town, including Truc, Radius, and Upstairs on the Square, where she was co-Executive Chef with Susan Regis. Most recently, she has been at the helm of Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain. At Ten Tables, whose name aptly describes its size and intimacy, Lydon collaborates with an equally compact staff to offer original French/American cuisine based on local, organic ingredients. The vibe is warm and inviting, as if you’ve walked into a fabulous dinner party at home with family and close friends.

Amanda’s career has come full circle. For her next culinary adventure she has teamed up with Gabriel Frasca again, this time as co-Executive Chefs at Straight Wharf Restaurant. Together they will bring their world-class experience to bear on the seasonal New England menu of this summertime favorite.

Steven McHugh
Restaurant August
New Orleans, LA
Steven McHugh is from a large farming family – seven boys! – in a small Wisconsin town, far from the rich culinary tradition of New Orleans. Steven trained at Culinary Institute of America and has worked in some legendary New Orleans kitchens from Metro Bistro to Dickie Brennan’s Steak to Bacco. In 2003 Steve became chef de cuisine at Besh Steak. In the spring of 2005, Steven became the Executive Chef at Restaurant August. After Katrina, Steven worked 20-hour days side by side with Chef Besh reopening August and feeding FEMA workers. Steven oversaw the renovations and created the menu at La Provence that respectfully keeps alive the spirit of the beloved restaurant. The addition of several acres has allowed a kitchen garden, to provide the freshest possible produce and small livestock for the menu. Steven McHugh, farm boy-turned-chef, then turned his sights to new challenge, Executive Chef of the Besh Restaurant Group. In this role he will continue to lead all of the restaurants toward more sustainable farming and dining.
Jeff Tunks
DC Coast
Washington, DC

Chef Jeff Tunks is one of the best and brightest in the ever-growing constellation of new American chefs. There are few who possess as much confidence, extended experience, fine business acumen, and as deep a passion for simply prepared seasonal foods. Underneath a six-foot-three exterior and styled chef whites is a man with the soul of an artist, the passion of a perfectionist, and an unquestionable devotion to running a top-notch kitchen.

Like many in his field, Tunks attended the Culinary Institute of America; unlike many, however, Tunks received the prestigious Frances L. Roth Award for outstanding performance. From there, he served an externship under Dean Ferring at the Veranda Club in Atlanta, transferring with him to the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, where Tunks worked at Mistral, a sister restaurant on the complex. There he met his mentor, the classically French-trained chef Takashi Shirmaizu. It was under Shirmaizu’s tutelage that Tunks was introduced to the idea that at the foundation of every great dish must be superior ingredients and solid cooking techniques. Additionally, Shirmaizu’s Eastern influence on Western cuisine became the base for Tunks’ cooking.

Tunks first landed in the nation’s capital in 1987, having been recruited as opening executive chef at the popular River Club Restaurant in Georgetown, where he experimented with varied dishes of the Mid-Atlantic region. In 1991 he ventured west to the luxury seaside resort Loew’s Coronado Bay, where he used the riches of the Pacific to his advantage at the award-winning Azzura Point. Tunks’ next challenge was yet again coastal, this time the Gulf coast. At The Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, Tunks secured a “Best Restaurant” rating from Gourmet in 1997 and he earned five Mobil stars for the Grill Room, the highest marks bestowed by the association. The Grill Room was the only new culinary establishment that year to acquire five stars.

Shortly after securing the Mobil rating, Tunks decided it was time to go it alone, taking a team of talented chefs with him from New Orleans. With the opening of DC Coast in June of 1998, Tunks created the perfect stage for his distinctive cuisine. Showcasing ingredients indigenous to the tri-coastal areas, Tunks developed a modern American cuisine all his own. A success from the outset, DC Coast has garnered outstanding reviews from Gourmet (one of the top 5 restaurants in Washington), Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Wine Spectator, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. In August 2000, Tunks and his partners launched TenPenh, where they have been delighting diners with Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine. Bon Appétit (one of the top tables in Washington), Wine Spectator, The Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, Departures, and Travel + Leisure have praised TenPenh since it arrived on the DC restaurant scene. September 2003 saw the rise of yet another side of Tunks’ culinary passions, Latin American and the Caribbean fare, with the opening of Ceiba restaurant. Two years later amid great anticipation, in September 2005, Tunks launched Acadiana, featuring modern interpretations of Louisiana fish house classics, a cuisine dear to his heart since his years in New Orleans. It has been named one of The Top 20 Restaurants in America 2006 by Esquire Magazine.

Tunks was named Chef of the Year 2003-2004 by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Chefs. Washingtonian magazine named Tunks and his partners Restaurateurs of the Year in 2005. But never let it be said that one chef is an island. Tunks knows how to build a team to his best advantage. Over the years, his vision and good sense has created a diverse group of chefs who have helped him forge ahead with his dream projects: Cliff Wharton, Chef de Cuisine at TenPenh, followed Tunks to Washington from New Orleans; Wharton, who was raised in The Philippines, was a natural choice for TenPenh’s Asian-inspired menu. Chris Clime, Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana, has been with Tunks at both DC Coast and TenPenh, and was the Chef de Cuisine who opened Ceiba. Brendan Cox, Chef de Cuisine at DC Coast, brings a strong sense of Mid-Atlantic regional cuisine to the modern American seafood-based menu of DC Coast. One chef, four completely different types of cuisine. A satisfied Tunks can ride his wave.

2008 Chefs

John Doherty
The Waldorf-Astoria
New York, NY

Perhaps it was prophesy when the graduating class of 1978 at the Culinary Institute of America voted John Doherty as student most likely to succeed, because by the time Doherty turned 27, he was named Executive Chef at The Waldorf=Astoria.

The year was 1985 and Doherty became the youngest person ever named to the position of Executive Chef in the New York landmark's notable history. Today, 20 years after his appointment to the post, the passionate, affable culinary leader holds the distinction of having cooked for more presidents, royalty and heads-of-state than any other chef in the country. Photographs of Doherty alongside some of the world’s greatest leaders, including several past presidents, dress his office wall overlooking the impressive, block-long main kitchen. In the fall of 2006, Doherty released his first cookbook, The Waldorf=Astoria Cookbook, featuring over 120 recipes that cover the best in the Waldorf=Astoria dining experience.

“Being called on to cook for special guests is one of the biggest thrills of my job. But I also love the challenge this hotel presents to me every day. Our international reputation means that the expectations of guests coming to stay at The Waldorf are enormous, and I look forward to that test of our abilities. It is what gets me up in the morning and what has brought me back here each day,” Doherty says.

Whether it was gleaned from the inspiration of his grandmother’s rustic cooking, work stages he performed at Europe’s two- and three-star Michelin restaurants like George Blanc in Macon, or his early training under Waldorf chefs – he began in the hotel’s kitchen as an intern at age 19 and worked his way to the top – Doherty’s culinary philosophy is simple: quality ingredients, classic technique and a focus on flavor.

“I prefer just three key ingredients per dish, highlighting the best of the season and focusing on cooking methods that enhance existing shapes, flavors, textures and colors instead of complicating them.” Doherty’s approach to food has recently transcended the hotel’s pre-existing restaurants, to launch the recently opened Chef’s Table, an exclusive dining venue in the heart of The Waldorf’s main kitchen. Therein, Doherty and his team of chefs and cooks take to the stove, preparing elaborate, multi-course dinners for up to 30 guests. Formerly available only to special guests, royalty and the like, the moveable feasts are now open to the public and are held twice monthly. The highly successful Chef's Tables have also become a testing ground for Doherty’s creativity, where dishes that may be one day served to the President or appear on a future menu are featured.

Beyond cooking technique and creativity, Doherty’s admirable leadership abilities are key to the success of The Waldorf’s culinary operations, which garner more than $45 million in annual sales and are responsible for cuisine at some of the country’s loftiest galas, events and fundraisers; 24-hour room service; and three distinct, successful restaurants, Peacock Alley, Bull and Bear, and Oscar's.

Doherty says he mapped out a leadership plan to take the Waldorf kitchen into the future when he became chef. “I expected it would take me at least five years, maybe seven to realize my vision to elevate us to become a contemporary, world-class kitchen. I’ll concede that for once, my timing might have been off! However, I’ve achieved my goal and beyond, taking the kitchen to new standards and into the new century.”

His management approach has also endured. Here again, Doherty insists on a three-ingredient recipe of “giving crystal clear direction, setting measurable expectations and holding people accountable. They are essential criteria for a successful team.”

His inspired team – which today includes seven chefs and 120 culinary staff – also has impressive alumni, including Executive Chef Laurent Manrique of San Francisco’s Aqua; Chef Paul Sale of New York’s Blue Fin; New York’s 11 Madison Park Chef Kerry Heffernan; and Neil Gallagher, Executive Chef, Oceana. The new college culinary career book So You Want To Be A Chef features Doherty and his Waldorf role. His Chef’s Table has been the focus of the PBS show, At The Chef’s Table and Doherty has appeared in numerous Travel Channel, A&E and Food Network programs. He is a frequent guest speaker at national culinary colleges and industry events and is an advisory board member to New York’s City Harvest, The French Culinary Institute and the Culinary Institute of America. The culinary program at Johnson & Wales University granted a scholarship in his name (2005), he was recently awarded a Silver Spoon Award by Food Arts and the March of Dimes, Long Island Chapter, named him Chef of The Year (2000).

The father of three – Jenna, Patrick and Evan – lives on Long Island with his wife Donna.

Carlos Guia
Louis’s Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV

Executive Chef Carlos Guia spent the first 13 years of his life in Venezuela, where he experienced long days in the kitchen with his family preparing food with powerful flavors. As a result, his strong passion for food started at an early age. Guia began working in professional kitchens while in high school. Solidifying his career choice, he studied at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

Upon graduation, Guia worked at the posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, where he met Executive Chef John Doherty. Doherty took Guia under his wing, exposing him to all areas of the Five Diamond hotel. Four years later, while Guia was working as chef saucier, Doherty suggested that Guia continue his work in Europe. With that advice, Guia headed to Europe were he apprenticed with renowned French Chef Georges Blanc, English Chefs Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White and Belgian Chef Roger Souvereigns. After returning to the U.S., Guia began working as chef saucier at the renowned Le Bernardin in New York City. He was then offered a job as chef de partie at the world's longest-running four-star restaurant, Lutèce. Under the direction of Chef Andre Soltner, Guia continued to refine his classic style.

In 1995, Guia chose to make his home in New Orleans. After meeting Ella Brennan and Chef Robert Bruce, he joined the team at the Palace Cafè as a sous chef. Within four months, he had been promoted to chef de cuisine. Guia then joined Red Room prior to its opening in 1997 and served as executive chef for two years until he reunited with the Brennan family and moved to Las Vegas to work at Commander’s Palace where he was executive chef for six years.

Guia was nominated for Best Chef Southwest by the prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2006.

Guia now joins Louis’s Las Vegas and Fish Camp as executive chef, introducing authentic Lowcountry cuisine from the South to Las Vegas for the first time. With years of experience in the kitchen, a palate for intense flavors and roots from the South, Chef Carlos Guia is just what Chef Louis Osteen ordered to oversee his first restaurants outside of South Carolina.

Cindy Hutson
Ortanique on the Mile
Coral Gables, FL

Cindy Hutson is a self-taught chef who developed a passion for cooking at the age of nine. Inspired and amused by the “Original” television culinary genius of the “Galloping Gourmet” and “Chef Tell”, she would emulate their creations on Saturday afternoons. In her teen years she was exposed to Italian and Portuguese cuisine through her best friends father, a successful restaurateur from New Jersey. After leaving New Jersey to head for the sunny skies of Miami, she honed her skills as a sport fishing captain and mate on a 36 foot Bertram Yacht. It was over those years of fishing, she procured a touch for handling and preparing many ocean delicacies.

Taking time out from fishing in 1985, Hutson married Jamaican born, Charles Hutson. Together they opened Blue Mt. Imports, a coffee imports company. During her travels back and forth from the Blue Mts. and beautiful Jamaican coastline, Hutson began cooking Island cuisine. She relished in the highly aromatic herbs and spices that grew in the mountains, bringing them down to prepare fresh caught Parrotfish from the North Coast reefs. Her Island hopping included the Bahamas, Barbados, Martinique, The Virgin Islands, Mexico and more. With every island stop she learned something about that islands history and cuisine.

In late 1993 Hutson met new partner, Delius Shirley. It was Shirley who convinced her to go into the restaurant business with him. In November 1994 they opened “Norma’s on the Beach”. “Norma’s on the Beach” was touted as “the best Caribbean restaurant in South Florida” by publications such as USA Today, New York Times, London Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ocean Drive magazines. In 1996 they were awarded the coveted “5 Star Diamond Award” for the fabulous dining at Norma’s on the Beach.

In 1996 Mr. Robert Johnson owner of Black Entertainment Television dined at “Norma’s on the Beach”. Johnson too, was impressed with the restaurant, the menu, and the execution of tasty island cuisine. Shortly after, he hired Hutson & Shirley, to consult on two new restaurant concepts “BET on Jazz” in Washington D.C. and “Soundstage” in Disney World. It was Johnson who financially backed Hutson’s new “Cuisine of the Sun” at “Ortanique” Coral Gables. The upscale Coral Gables location was her new home, opening in July 1999. Hutson flourished in her larger surroundings (120 seats) delving into South American, Asian, Caribbean, and American Fusion cuisine. Famed critic John Mariani, awarded “Best New Restaurant 1999” Esquire Magazine, “Exceptional” Miami Herald, “Top 20 Restaurants” from Florida Trend, “Best New Restaurant” Bon Apetit, “Americas Top Tables” Gourmet Magazine, Mobil “4 Star Award 2001 – 2002”, “Top Ten Best List” Zagat Survey 2002 – 2003, Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” 2002, 2003 and the list goes on. In 2005-2006 Ortanique received Five Star Diamond Awards consecutively, Zagats Extraordinary rating, “Top Female Chef of Las Vegas” by American Chefs Association, and continued to receive Wine Spectators Award of Excellence.

Hutson did not stop there, She and partner Delius Shirley opened two other concepts, “Copra” Baltimore,MD and “Bogwalk” Destin FL. At the present they have held onto Ortanique Miami and Copra freeing her to do Guest Chef appearances, teaching, and consulting.

Donald Link
Hebsaint
New Orleans, LA

Inspired by his Grandfather, Donald Link began cooking at a very young age. He was working in the kitchen at age 15 washing dishes and soon began cooking After years of experience working in Louisiana restaurants, Donald moved to San Francisco in 1993. After working one year at the wildly popular Cha Cha Cha, Link attended the California Culinary Academy. During this time Donald cooked at many San Francisco restaurants, including the eccentric Flying Saucer, the newly opened Scala’s Bistro, Cole Valley’s Zazie, and at the Elite Café.

In 1995, Chef Link pursued his externship at Susan Spicer’s Bayona in New Orleans and continued on to become sous chef. In 1997, he returned to San Francisco to work with Loretta Keller at Bizou and to open Jardinière with Traci Des Jardin. On the West coast he again refined his style with a more acute appreciation of raw ingredients and a more delicate approach to technique with an emphasis on lightening sauces. This led to an Executive Chef opportunity at the Elite Café in San Francisco’s Fillmore District where he received rave reviews-- being hailed as “the premiere chef doing Creole food in the Bay area;” appearing on local cooking shows and participating in many charity events around Northern California.

Chef Link returned to New Orleans in 2000 to open Herbsaint Restaurant in the Warehouse District--where his non-compromising eye for quality ingredients and local produce underscore his stylish dishes – rich with flavor, while remaining light. Out of these basic principles, innovative yet simple preparations have led to some of the most original and favored dishes in the city at Herbsaint-- whose menu is peppered with house-made staples such as pastas and cured meats from its’ small kitchen. Chef Link learned about acute attention to detail of preparation from his childhood and expanded these ideas with a tireless energy for sourcing and producing ingredients. These ideas and a lot of sweat have converged at Herbsaint to what he can now consider a personal style of cooking. Also reflected on the menu at Herbsaint is the bounty of near and far with rabbits and suckling pigs from nearby southern Mississippi, locally caught wild shrimp and regular shipments of fresh seafood from the West and East coasts.

In the Spring of 2006, following six months of delays due to Hurricane Katrina, Chef Link opened Cochon. Opening Cochon has been a lifelong dream for Chef Link, who grew up in Louisiana’s Cajun Country beside his grandparents in their home. Keeping true to these roots, Link will keep Cochon an authentic Cajun and Southern style restaurant featuring the foods and cooking techniques he grew up preparing and eating. This commitment is evident in the dishes on the restaurant’s menu such as Spoon Bread with Okra and Tomatoes; Smoked Duck Breast with Marinated Green Beans and entrées from the wood burning oven like Rabbit and Dumplings; Louisiana Cochon du Lait with Turnips and Cracklings; and his signature Catfish Sauce Piquant. In addition to the genuine Louisiana menu at Cochon, Chef Link and co-owner Chef Stephen Stryjewski will oversee an in-house “Boucherie,” including house-made Boudin, Andouille, and Smoked Bacon.

This year, Chef Link has been honored with two nominations from the world-renowned culinary organization, The James Beard Foundation: Best Chef: South (Link’s second nomination for Best Chef: South) and Best New Restaurant: Cochon-- co/owned by Stephen Stryjewski. The James Beard Foundation nomination culminates a string of awards and accolades Chef Link has received since opening Herbsaint Restaurant in 2000 including but not limited to being listed as one of the “top ten” restaurants in New Orleans by the Times-Picayune; featured in the “America's Top 50 Restaurants” Gourmet Magazine in 2006; numerous accolades from the New York Times; and bestowed the honor by New Orleans Magazine for “Best Chef of 2002.”

Chris Prosperi
Metro Bis
Simsbury, CT

Christopher Prosperi is chef and co-owner of Metro Bis restaurant in the affluent Hartford suburb of Simsbury, Connecticut which is the highest ranked restaurant in the state for American food according to the Zagat Survey. The New York Times also declared that “Metro Bis is worth a detour.” Chris is a weekly recipe columnist for the Hartford Courant and his work regularly appears across the country via the Tribune wire service.

He travels extensively each year teaching cooking classes and composing multi-course dinners which promote his easy and innovative form of American bistro cooking at venues including the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World (Orlando, FL), The Chef’s Holidays at Yosemite (Yosemite, CA), Justin Vineyards Guest Chef Series (Paso Robles, CA), The Nantucket Wine Festival (Nantucket, MA), The Book & The Cook (Philadelphia, PA), and the Scottsdale Culinary Festival (Scottsdale, AZ) to name a few. In the fall of 2007 Chris will be a guest chef in Tuscany during a Bike Rider’s tour.

Chris is a regular bi-weekly guest on the local NBC affiliate and has also appeared throughout the country on radio and television programs such as WNBC “Today in New York”, “The Food & Wine Radio Network with Jennifer English”, “Cook’s Table with Jim Coleman”, and “Channel 12 News.” Chris has also acted as guest co-host on the “Food Smooze” on Connecticut’s NPR with Faith Middleton. He conducts weekly cooking classes at Sur La Table in addition to teaching quarterly at Delia: The Viking Home Kitchen Showcase and The Silo Cooking School. Chris’ recipes have been included in “Wife of the Chef: The True Story of a Restaurant and Romance” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2003) by Courtney Febbroriello (his wife), “Food Lover’s Guide to Connecticut” (Globe Pequot Press, 2003) by Patricia Brooks and Lester Brooks, “The Tomato Festival Cookbook” (Storey Books, 2004) by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, “Diabetes Cookbook for Dummies, 2nd Edition” (Wiley, 2005) by Alan L. Rubin, “For The Love of Food: Recipes and Stories From The Chefs of the IACP” (FRP, 2005), and “Best American Recipes 2005-2006” (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens.

Chris is a member of The American Chef Federation, the Society de Philanthropic, the Association of Food Journalists, La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the James Beard Foundation (where he does annual dinners), and the International Association of Culinary Professionals where he serves on the executive committee for cookbook award judging. He graduated second in his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has an expanding product line under the “Prosperi” label that currently includes three salad dressings. Chris’ passion for food is evident as "the holy joy of creation literally lights up his face as he works the stove."

Pilar Sanchez
Restaurant Pilar
Napa, CA

With a background consisting of a combination of cultures--California roots, Spanish and Mexican bloodlines and her time living in France--Pilar Sanchez brings a rich perspective to her cuisine and to Food Network's Melting Pot.

A native Californian, Pilar held positions at the Four Seasons Clift Hotel and Ernie's in San Francisco and at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara. She also lived in Paris, where she and her husband, Didier Lenders, had opened the overnight success Café del Sol. For two years, the restaurant brought accolades from Parisian restaurant reviewers.

Pilar began her culinary career just out of high school, when she ventured to France to cook for field workers at a vineyard in the Bordeaux region. "We harvested everything ourselves and cooked straight from the garden. We milked the cows, made our own breads, and made sausages and hams from the pigs we raised," Pilar says. "It taught me to respect the honesty of flavors."

Pilar brought her skills to The Restaurant at Meadowood in July 1997, where the menu reflected the local bounty and the changing of the seasons in California's wine country. In 1998, the Napa Valley Vintners Association approached her to be the 1998 Napa Valley Wine Auction Grand Master Chef. Pilar jumped at the role, which involved sourcing ingredients and creating a dinner for no fewer than 2,000 guests. She was then honored in November 1998 as the only American and only female chef invited to cook at the Annual Houston Grand Opera Wine Classic.

Pilar launched 1999 with an appearance in The Best Hotel Chefs in America series at the James Beard House in January. And as one of the hosts of Food Network's Melting Pot, it looks as if she's well on her way.

John Tesar
The Mansion on Turtle Creek
Dallas, TX

Culinary inspiration came early for John Tesar. As a child growing up in the Hamptons, his mother’s passion for cooking was contagious. Dining on lamb chops, fresh fish and steak, there were never any leftovers or frozen dinners served in the Tesar household. His favorite reading material consisted of restaurant reviews and food sections of popular New York magazines and newspapers. His dream was to be a chef in New York City.

While attending New York University, John worked for several restaurants in the Hamptons before making the decision to go to Paris and study French cuisine at the prestigious La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine. He returned to the Hamptons and bought his first restaurant at the age of 24. Although John was experiencing a successful career in the Hamptons, his heart was set on owning a restaurant in New York City.

After manning the kitchen at some of New York’s hottest, trendiest restaurants, John’s childhood dream finally came true as he opened his first New York restaurant, 13 Barrow Street and received glowing reviews. Next, he opened Vine restaurant on Wall Street and managed 44 X Hell’s Kitchen, which landed him a spot on The Today Show, Rosie O’Donnell Show and Food Network.

After September 11, John moved west to experience a different taste of the culinary world. He joined East-West Partners Tahoe Mountain Club as corporate executive chef. He led the culinary program for three luxury golf courses, an upscale lake front restaurant and the creation and design of a mountain top resort.

In 2003, celebrity chef Rick Moonen lured John back to New York by offering him an opportunity to head up the kitchen operation as executive chef for his highly-acclaimed rm restaurant. With John’s expertise, Moonen was able to expand his restaurant operation into Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel Resort & Casino. John was then sent to Las Vegas to oversee the operation of the 15,000 square-foot-restaurant, including an 80-seat fine dining room replica of rm restaurant in New York.

Offering extensive experience, vision and leadership, John Tesar was the perfect chef to lead the next era of fine-dining at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, A Rosewood Hotel. In October 2006, he joined The Mansion’s storied culinary team and soon unveiled a new menu of stylish, contemporary American cuisine. John continues to build on the incredible legacy founded at The Mansion. Since his arrival, his cuisine has already garnered extensive praise, including five-star reviews from both the Dallas Morning News and Modern Luxury Dallas.

Brian Young
The Tavern on the Green
New York, NY

“The way some people follow sports is the way my family follows restaurants in Vancouver”, jokes Brian Young, who, like most Chinese offspring, grew up in a household where food was the focus of family gatherings. He remembers his parents carefully planning family Sunday dinners, from choosing dishes to charting ingredient sourcing. One of his fondest childhood memories is of shopping in an open air market near his home in Vancouver, Canada. “There were huge tanks of fresh seafood and I loved pointing out which fish, crab or clam I wanted for dinner – it wasn’t a morose thing, rather it encouraged me to appreciate and respect the food chain.”

Young learned about food purchasing and cooking “through osmosis” from his family and by the age of 14 had decided he wanted to become a chef. When he graduated from high school at 16, Young headed for Paris to enroll in the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school. After his studies there, he got a job at the Michelin two-star Le Laurent, where he worked for a year, before embarking on a tour of France, during which he completed externships at Alain Chapel in Mionnay and The Crillon in Paris.

Now fluent in French, Young returned to North America in 1988 to take a job as at the acclaimed Wheatleigh in Lenox, MA, a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux international association of exclusive, luxurious hotels and restaurants. Not only did it add another impressive entry in his growing French cuisine resume, but the job changed his life – Young met his wife, Gia. Still he always considered Wheatleigh a stepping stone. Young’s career sites were firmly set on New York City and its roster of four star restaurants. In 1991, he broke from his classic French focus to work at the seminal Quilted Giraffe in New York, preparing an avant-garde fusion of French and Japanese cuisine. Young returned to his gastronomic roots at Le Bernardin for a three year stint with Eric Ripert, Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze, starting as a line cook and working his way up to chef de cuisine. The next three years were spent at The Sony Club as chef de cuisine working with Barry Wine, Morgen Jacobsen, Heather Carlucci and Morimoto.

Young’s next move was to POP, which he opened as executive chef. He subsequently played the same roll at Citeralla and at Harvest on Hudson, which became one of Zagat’s top-rated Westchester County restaurant during his tenure and where Young gained some experience in directing a kitchen geared to serving significant volume. “On Fridays and Saturdays, we were often doing up to 700 covers a night; it was eye opening, forcing me to think differently about how a kitchen should work,” he recalls.

As fate - or coincidence - would have it, it was during his 2 years at Harvest on Hudson, that Young first entered the 13,000 square foot kitchen of Tavern on the Green. “One of our mutual vendors brought me over for a tour. Of course I was struck by the enormity of the operation and intrigued by its challenges. At the time I remember thinking ‘I could do this; I’d like to do this!’” However, there would be a detour before Tavern’s would be a kitchen he could call his own in the guise of Mainland, an upscale contemporary Chinese restaurant for which Young was offered the opportunity to become a partner, as well as executive chef. It was the first time he had drawn upon his Chinese heritage in his professional life and the city’s food press responded very favorably. But the partnership proved fractious, so Young bowed out of it at about the same time that Tavern on the Green’s management was embarking on a search for a new chef.

Young made his interest in the job known and convinced owner Jennifer LeRoy he was the man to fulfill her goal of elevating the food at Tavern on the Green, to make it more stylish contemporary and sophisticated. Young joined the Tavern team in March 2007 with a vision of the melting pot sensibility that defines 21st century American cuisine for its menus and the mantra of “bringing exceptional quality to exceptional volume.” He used the latter to recruit a number of culinarians with whom he had worked previously to his management team, most of whom left executive chef or chef de cuisine positions to join him. Like Young, they were excited by the challenges Tavern presents and inspired by his determination to infuse the food with simple, ingredient driven cuisine, based on purity and flavor.

Having what he recognizes as the luxury of so large and experienced a team in place, enables Young to more fully enjoy his free time at home in Dobbs Ferry, NY with Gia and their three children. Still, he’s often not far from the kitchen, continuing his family’s tradition of big Sunday dinners, cooking for his extended family, neighbors and friends. When not cooking for recreation, Brian is a sporting clay (also known as golf with a gun) enthusiast. Young points out “On some days at Tavern, with 1200 à la carte reservations for dinner and simultaneous multiple private events, it’s like knocking those clays down.” “Shooting” down one order at a time, Young brings his highly regarded culinary sensibility, creativity, and efficiency to the Tavern kitchen.

2007 Chefs

Zach Bell
Café Boulud
Palm Beach, FL

Accepting his first position as Chef at Daniel Boulud’s new Café Boulud in Palm Beach, Zach Bell has returned home to Florida, where he made his culinary start. Zach first joined the Chef at New York’s Café Boulud in January 1999, soon after the restaurant’s opening. “For four years Zach has been a great asset to us and has more than demonstrated the maturity, depth of culinary knowledge, organizational skills, and above all, great palate that will serve him well in this new challenge,” explains Daniel Boulud. At Valencia College, Zach began to study physical therapy, but again found himself drawn to the kitchen. He worked as a cook for the Orlando Marriott, gradually moving up within the hierarchy. With one year remaining in school, Zach transferred to the culinary program at Johnson & Wales where he finished his senior year. A kitchen externship led him to the William’s Island Yacht Club, introducing the young cook to Chef Charles Saunders' California style cuisine and giving him experience stoking the flames of a wood burning grill. While still a student, Zach joined chefs Marc Poidevin and Sascha Lyon at Miami’s Biz Bistro, where he remained well after graduation. These first steps in a French kitchen established the direction for his future. Zach had been at Biz Bistro for barely two years when Chef Poidevin invited him to follow the team to Le Cirque 2000 in New York. Without hesitation Zach settled in an East Village apartment, barely ten days later. Clearly it was well aimed, as after only two months in New York, Le Cirque Chef Sottha Khun promoted Zach from the banquet kitchen to chef de partie tournant, and later to saucier.

At Le Cirque, Zach worked alongside then sous chef Andrew Carmellini went on to open Café Boulud with Daniel Boulud in October 1998. Just three months later Zach followed. He joined Andrew as saucier and became Café Boulud’s sous chef within the same year.

“Zach is an energetic and talented young chef who has absorbed the best of what French technique has to offer,” says Daniel Boulud. “I remember the first meal he cooked for me years ago in Miami and was convinced of his passion from that moment.” Zach and Daniel continue to collaborate on the Café’s Palm Beach menu, drawing upon the favorites they crafted together with Chef Andrew Carmellini in New York.

Robert Clark
C Restaurant
Vancouver, B.C.

Clark began his career training at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario. After graduating in 1982, Robert spent ten years training in some of Toronto's finest kitchens: the King Edward Hotel, The Founders Club at the SkyDome, and the legendary Three Small Rooms at The Windsor Arms Hotel. During his early career, he apprenticed under and worked with some of Canada's "top toques": Jamie Kennedy, John Higgins, and Michael Bonacini to name a few. In the early nineties, after an eighteen month working and tasting journey through Southeast Asia and Australia, Clark and his wife decided to relocate to Vancouver. In 1992, with owners Adam Busby and Sam Lalji, Clark helped open Star Anise to critical acclaim. It remains the only restaurant to ever win the Vancouver Magazine awards for “restaurant of the year” and “best new restaurant” in the same year.

Harry Kambolis opened C Restaurant in 1997, but not before luring Clark back from another restaurant in the United States to join his team as Chef de Cuisine. Within one year, Clark was promoted to the position of Executive Chef. Since then, Clark's leadership at the helm has propelled C to become one of the prime dining destinations in North America. C's distinctive cuisine and wine lists have garnered innumerable awards, and won raves from critics across the continent.

Clark is a firm believer that, as a chef, he has to be conscience about the food choices he makes. More significantly, he embraces a responsibility to inspire change within the industry he has devoted his life to.

To that end, Clark was honoured at the 2006 Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions weekend May 20th as the years Canadian Seafood ambassador and recognized for his outstanding dedication to working with sustainably harvested seafoods. He was also the first and only chef to have been honoured by the BC Seafood Sensations and the BC Salmon Marketing Board with the SUPPORTER OF INNOVATION AWARD (2002). He regularly contributes his time, in tandem with Kambolis, to being a culinary ambassador: promoting British Columbia as a burgeoning seafood and agri-food producing region, and Vancouver as a world-class restaurant destination.

Clark also participates in exchange programs where he can promote local products and share his philosophies. He has traveled through Europe, China, and the United States, exchanging concepts, learning from others, and bringing back new ideas to enhance his ever-evolving menus at C.

Kevin Garcia
‘Cesca
New York, NY

For many Americans, Italy means Tuscany. And all it takes is one drive through a vineyard-covered valley, one walk along the hilltop streets of San Gimignano, or one hearty four-course meal in a friendly trattoria to know why. Wine flows like water. Fruits and vegetables burst with flavor. And glistening, golden extra-virgin olive oil lubricates a lifestyle that makes Americans crave la dolce vita.

Kevin Garcia, chef of ‘Cesca restaurant in Manhattan, and formerly of Lucca in the Boca Raton Resort & Club, studied cooking at Johnson & Wales and worked at the Italian-inflected Al Forno while in school. He was captivated by Tuscan food while working at Pino Luongo's Coco Pazzo in Manhattan. Within four years he was its chef de cuisine. After a brief catering career, he became personal chef to Ron Perelman, CEO of Revlon, and then left Manhattan to open Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Prime Steak House at Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was Drew Nieporent of the Myriad Restaurant Group who tapped Garcia to run the kitchens at Lucca; Myriad operates the restaurant for the resort.

From Lucca, Garcia went back to New York where he joined famed Mario Batali’s kitchen team as chef de cuisine at the hit restaurant Del Posto. Last year he was again sought out to take over as Executive Chef at ‘Cesca, replacing Chef Tom Valenti.

Angela Hartnett
Cielo-Boca Raton Resort & Club
Boca Raton, FL

At the age of 35, Angela Hartnett is one of the most high-profile women in the restaurant world. During her childhood, Angela’s Italian grandmother and mother instilled in her an appreciation and love of good food, and after completing a degree in Modern History at Cambridge Polytechnic she secured her first job in Barbados at the Sandy Lane hotel. On returning to the UK, Angela joined the young team at Aubergine, cooking under Gordon Ramsay. Working alongside a predominantly male brigade, who predicted she would last no more than a week, Angela soon proved her worth during a grueling year and saw the restaurant achieve its first Michelin star.

Six months followed in the kitchens of Zafferano before moving to L’Oranger where she worked under the watchful eye of Marcus Wareing climbing the ranks to become sous-chef before moving with Marcus to Pétrus. Within seven months of it opening she had become Head Chef and helped the restaurant achieve a Michelin star. After launching Amaryllis in Scotland in April 2001, Angela turned her attention to the launch of Gordon Ramsay’s Verre in Dubai.

In 2002 she returned to Britain to open ‘MENU’ and ‘The Grill Room’ at The Connaught, where she combines a modern European menu with an Italian influence, while continuing the classicism long enjoyed by Connaught diners.

In 2003 she won the Square Meal Guides' BMW Best New Restaurant award and in 2004 she won her first Michelin star.

In May 2004 Angela won a legion of new fans appearing alongside her mentor Gordon Ramsay in ITV's highly successful series 'Hell's Kitchen'. Further television appearances include a one hour program on 'Tonight with Trevor McDonald' advising children with poor diets on the benefits healthy of eating, presenting a Christmas series with GMTV and competing for Wales in the Great British Menu competition for BBC Two in 2006. And to add to an already impressive list of accomplishments, in the Spring of 2007, Angela will debut Cielo—a modern Italian masterpiece in the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida.

Joel Huff
Silks
San Francisco, CA

In an ever more cross-cultural world, it may come as no surprise that the ideal chef for Silks restaurant is a California-raised surfer who cites culinary experience in Europe, the Pacific Rim and his years as a sushi chef among his influences. Born and raised in a third-generation farm family in Oxnard, Huff attended Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. On his way to becoming a fireman, a friend invited him to come along to Denmark and cook for a summer. The experience changed his life. Upon returning to California, he enrolled in the culinary arts program at Santa Barbara City College and then attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.

He continued to hone his education cooking at San Ysidro Ranch, then later moved to Los Angeles to work as chef de partie at restaurant L’Orangiere. In 1999, Huff moved back to the coast where he worked for four years as a sushi chef at Juro Cho in Ventura. By now, fully immersed in the world of food and with fond memories of his time spent cooking in Denmark, Huff decided it was time to acquire first hand knowledge about cuisine in other countries. He bought a ticket around the world cooking in kitchens in Australia and Thailand.

Australia proved to make a big impression and he moved there working for two years at Restaurant VII, a French restaurant with Japanese influences. While in Australia he met his wife, and in 2003 decided it was time to return to the United States. Huff then went to New York and joined the culinary team as sous chef at Asiate, the restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Hotel New York. A French restaurant with Japanese influences, Asiate proved to be the perfect place to refine his skills under the direction of his old friend and mentor, chef Nori Sugi.

When Huff heard about the search for chef de cuisine at Silks, he knew it would be an ideal fit and was determined to make his mark at the cook-through tasting, a chefs equivalent of an audition. The culinary team was impressed by his originality, creativity and enthusiasm and Huff started his new position in February 2005.

“San Francisco has always been a crossroads of the world, especially the Pacific Rim,” says Huff. “Travel has brought me in contact with flavors and techniques that I’m incorporating in the menus at Silks, to create something I hope people will find really exciting. With the sophisticated and well traveled clientele of Silks, I’m gratified at how those ideas have been received so far.”

Pano I. Karatassos
Kyma
Atlanta, GA

Pano I. Karatassos, executive chef of Kyma, Atlanta’s most exciting Greek restaurant concept, has an inherent passion for food. A celebrated young talent in the culinary industry, Pano has made significant contributions to his family’s business, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group - founded by his father I. Pano Karatassos – and to fine dining throughout the country. Training under three of America’s best chefs and at the renowned Culinary Institute of America, his culinary journey has come full circle – with a return to his roots in Atlanta’s fine dining scene.

Prior to assuming the role of Executive Chef at Kyma and leadership within Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, Pano worked at prestigious restaurants around the country. He spent one year as Saucier under Chef Thomas Keller at the Mobil 5-Star French Laundry in Napa Valley and two years as Saucier under Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Jean-Georges in New York City. He also spent two and a half years at Le Bernardin in New York, where he did his culinary externship and then continued after graduation. Under Chef Eric Ripert at Le Bernadin, Pano completed every kitchen station and finished as Tournant.

Before his training in New York and California, Pano cooked at his father’s Atlanta restaurants since he was 16. From his experience at Pano’s & Paul’s to The Fish Market at Lenox Square to 103 West, Pano learned the basic fundamentals of cooking. Pano graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1996, and from Florida International University (FIU) in 1993 with a degree in Hospitality Management, following coursework at Florida State University.

Kyma, which means “wave” in Greek, opened in December 2001. In a short time, Chef Pano’s cooking garnered much attention for the restaurant. Kyma was named one of the top 20 restaurants in the country by Esquire in 2002 and has been featured in Wine Spectator, Cooking Light, Gourmet and In Style magazines. Kyma’s sister restaurants include Pano’s & Paul’s, 103 West, Buckhead Diner, Chops / Lobster Bar, Pricci, Veni Vidi Vici, Atlanta Fish Market, Corner Café / Buckhead Bread Company, Nava and Bluepointe.

Chef Pano served as one of four national spokespeople for the American Lamb Board in 2003 and was selected as the featured guest chef in the acclaimed Telluride Food & Wine Festival in 2004. He participates in a variety of community fund raising efforts for organizations such as Share Our Strength, Atlanta Community Food Bank and The Atlanta Speech School. Today, Pano and his wife, Angela, reside in Atlanta with their sons, Pano and Lucas.

David Medure
Restaurant Medure
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Chef David Medure may not have a classic or even “typical” culinary background, yet in a few short years he has worked and trained with two of Florida’s top chefs at The AAA Five Diamond Grill Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, and at Matthew’s Restaurant in Jacksonville.

The rising star chef honed his culinary reputation at Todd English’s acclaimed Olives restaurant in 1996 as Chef Tournant where he trained with Todd English.

Most interesting and telling of David Medure is his commitment to learning every aspect of culinary preparation, not by the traditional schooling, but by doing.

Medure is passionate about simple flavors and fresh ingredients. He believes that good foundations lead to the finest dishes. “I tend to follow the classic French techniques of cooking and am adamant about creating the flavorful stocks. I believe that a well-made stock is the most important ingredient in any sauce as it adds a complex element to any preparation,” said David Medure.

Medure’s career actually began serving food at The Ocean Bar & Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, where he quickly realized he was much more interested in how the food was prepared than serving it. On nights’ off and during his free time, David began to volunteer in the garde manger at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, The Grill, a AAA Five Diamond restaurant, where he assisted in whatever food preparation and fabrication was necessary for that day. In 1996, Medure was finally hired to work full-time and worked his way up through the ranks in The Grill’s kitchen where his older brother Matthew was Executive Chef.

In December 1997, Medure left The Grill to help his brother open Matthew’s Restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. As Chef de Cuisine, he played an important role in making Matthew’s one of the top restaurants in Florida.

Three years later, David Medure assisted his brother in opening Restaurant Medure in Ponte Vedra, where he is Chef de Cuisine. As Chef de Cuisine, Medure is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the restaurant and for the creation and execution of the nightly menu and the restaurant’s Chef Table.

Michel Richard
Citronelle
Washington, DC

Michel Richard was a pioneer in creating the revolutionary French/California cuisine. His style is light, fresh and intelligent, focusing on innovative combinations, witty presentations and always an element of texture. “His restless California cuisine is beautiful, offbeat and constantly changing,” says Ruth Reichl of the New York Times.

Richard knew he wanted to be a chef when he first glimpsed a restaurant kitchen at the age of eight. His fate was decided. At fourteen, Richard apprenticed in a restaurant-run patisserie in Champagne, France. Three years later he moved to Paris where he quickly rose to the top position at Gaston Lenotre’s esteemed pastry shop.

But, like many other chefs of his age growing up during the Bocuse revolution, Richard wanted to move to America. The opportunity came in 1974 when Lenotre opened a pastry shop in the States. Perhaps, America was not yet ready for Lenotre’s sophisticated French fare, the patisserie soon closed.

In 1987, Michel opened Citrus as Executive Chef and owner, adapting his native French cuisine to the tastes of Southern California. Citrus put Michel Richard on the culinary map, and in 1987 was voted The Best Restaurant in the United States by Traveler’s magazine in 1988, Michel Richard was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who” in American Food and Wine. Cont’….

Michel is the author of Michel Richard’s Home Cooking with a French Accent, published by William Morrow in 1993. His many philanthropic endeavors include a Gala for which he organized 70 of France’s greatest chefs to honor Julia Child and raised money for the American Institute of Wine & Food. Michel was a nominee for James Beard’s, Chef of the Year Award for 1996. The same year, he received the Five-Star Fleur de Lys Award for Outstanding Restaurant. The October 2001 issue of Gourmet, listed Michel Richard Citronelle as one of the Top 20 Restaurants in the Country, and by October of 2004 Gourmet put Michel’s photo on the front cover, an unprecedented honor.

In May 2002, Michel was voted by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington as the Best Fine Dining Restaurant and Chef of the Year, an accomplishment that no other has attained in the history of the RAMW. Citronelle is repeatedly the recipient of such high honors as Exxon Mobile Four Star and AAA Four Diamond Award awards. In 2002 Michel Richard Citronelle became an invited member of the internationally acclaimed Traditions & Qualité, Les Grandes Tables du Monde, and 2003 brought the highest honor of becoming a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux organization, of hotel and restaurants originated in France.

Constantly creating something new, Michel has recently released his second book, Happy in the Kitchen, published by Artisan, and is opening a new restaurant, Central, in Washington, DC.

Jeremy Sewall
Lineage
Brookline, MA

A native of upstate New York, Chef Jeremy Sewall spent his childhood summers in Maine with family feasting on lobsters, clams, chowders and other New England specialties.

After graduating from the esteemed Culinary Institute of America with honors, Sewall returned to Maine and worked at the White Barn Inn, in Kennebunkport, a Relais and Chateau property. The European values of the Inn made his move to Europe a natural one. After working in various restaurants in London and Amsterdam, he returned to Boston and began working at the famed L’Espalier, known for their exacting standards and classic French applications.

A stint as an Executive Sous Chef for a Fortune 500 company’s executive dining room and Sewall was off to the West Coast, where he was immediately recognized for his technique and passion by Bradley Ogden, the Chef-owner of the Lark Creek Inn, in Larkspur, California. Hired as Sous Chef, he was quickly promoted to Chef in 1999.

In 2000, just one year after his promotion to Chef at the Lark Creek Inn, Sewall was one of five chefs across the country to be nominated as a Rising Star Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation.

He moved back to the East Coast to open Great Bay Restaurant in Boston as Executive Chef where he and the restaurant garnered many accolades from the New York Times, Esquire, Gourmet and the Boston Globe.

He left Great Bay to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant. In lat February of 2006, Sewall and his wife Lisa former pastry chef at L’Espalier together opened Lineage. Located in the heart of Coolidge Corner, Brookline, Massachusetts, Lineage takes its name from Sewall’s own ancestor Judge Samuel Sewall of the Salem Witch Trials fame who owned most of what is now called Brookline in the late 17th century. The Sewalls have returned home.

Sewall uses his appreciation for fresh ingredients to create a personal interpretation of modern American cuisine. In the short time Lineage has been opened it has received much local and national praise, including “Restaurants Top Tables” in Bon Appetit. “Best Dessert” from Boston Magazine and Sewall was recognized as “Boston’s Best Rising Star” by the Improper Bostonian.

2006 Chefs

Juan Antonio Cortis Campo
El Legado de Castille y Leon
Madrid, Spain
At El Legado de Castilla y Leon, great wine goes hand in hand with great food. Sommelier Juan Antonio Cortis complements Chef Aragon's innovative cuisine with an intriguing and comprehensive wine list. Mr. Cortis shares his passion for fine wines as a columnist in numerous publications, and by providing winetasting courses at the restaurant.
Clay Conley
Azul at the Mandarin Oriental
Miami, FL

After an international search, Mandarin Oriental, Miami selected 31-year old Chef Clay Conley as Chef de Cuisine at Azul, the hotel’s 120-seat waterfront restaurant. Among its stellar honors, Azul received AAA Five Diamond Awards for 2003, 2004 & 2005, making it the only restaurant in Miami with this prestigious honor.

The rising star chef honed his culinary reputation at Todd English’s acclaimed Olives restaurant in 1996 as Chef Tournant where he trained with Todd English. At Olives, his positions included executive chef and culinary of The Olives Group overseeing 17 restaurants including the opening of Olives in Tokyo.

Chef Conley brings his sophisticated, eclectic cuisine of Mediterranean flavors with Asian influences to the menu at Azul. Lucky diners can sample vibrant entrees from the ‘Sea and Land,’ including “Miso Marinated Halibut,” Edamame Stir-fry, Sake Butter Sauce and Shrimp Dumplings and “Moroccan Lamb,” Grilled Lamb Chop, Harissa Marinated Loin, Braised Shank Bastilla with Smoked Eggplant.

Raised in rural Maine, Chef Conley began his career path at an early age working in a restaurant at the age of 12. He always knew he wanted to pursue a culinary calling, and subsequent international travels to Europe and Southeast Asia broadened Conley’s exposure to world cuisines. This was especially true in Japan, where he spent six months and became inspired with the elegance of food preparation and the culinary traditions. Chef Conley attended Tulane University in New Orleans before going on to study at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Conley’s achievements include being invited as a guest chef at the world-renowned James Beard House in 2002.

David Aragon Diez
El Legado de Castille y Leon
Madrid, Spain

David Aragon, one of the new breed of Spanish chefs lighting up the culinary world with innovation and bold flavors, comes to us from Madrid. He presides over the kitchens of the renowned El Legado De Castilla y Leon (The Legacy Of Castile And Leon), one of the top restaurants in the region.

Since 2002, Chef Aragon has served as Executive Chef at El Legado de Castilla y Leon. His previous positions include Chef at Vivaldi de Leon y Restaurante Cestar in Astorga, and Hotel Barcels Ponent Playa Cala D’or in Palma de Mallorca. His extensive culinary studies include the Instituto de Eras de Renueava, and traditional Japanese cooking training in Japan. Chef Aragon's creative dishes are the result of his diverse training and knowledge, and diners receive the benefits. He is a member of the Association of European Chefs.

Drew Van Leuvan
Spice
Atlanta, GA

Chef Drew Van Leuvan, a 14-year veteran of the food industry, brings his passion for creating pasta and pastry dishes to Spice in the position of Executive Chef. His blend of culinary expertise and creative genius creates a simple yet tantalizing menu that will leave Atlantans wanting more. Van Leuven had already set a precedent for fine dining in Atlanta at Toast, and as the proprietor of Pan de Mie Pasta Company, a purveyor of hand-made pasta serving 28 establishments in Atlanta and Athens, GA.

Prior to heading culinary direction for Toast, Chef Van Leuvan perfected his culinary skills in the kitchen of Spice Restaurant, where he served in the capacity of Chef de Cuisine, and as Sous Chef at Asher Restaurant.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Chef Van Leuvan boasts an impressive background, having labored under the tutelage of such acclaimed chefs as Jean Louis Palladin, Guenter Seeger, Michael Tuohy, Timothy Dean, Mark Dommen, Daryl Evans and Thomas Catherall.

At Spice, Van Leuvan’s menu is inspired by reinvented French classics with a Mediterranean flair, and boasts many pasta and pastry creations. With a refreshingly simple approach to cuisine, his specialties bring new life to dishes such as corn and mascarpone agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms; and caramelized salmon with asparagus, tender scallops, English peas and cipollini onions. Desserts are just as irresistible, such as individual blueberry pies, a delightful take on the rustic clafouti.

Darren McRonald
Bellavitae
New York, NY

Tucked away on a quiet street in New York City is Bellavitae, where head Chef Darren McRonald treats guests to the sort of quietly exquisite Italian-inspired cuisine where the ingredients take center stage. Bellavitae’s warm décor and wood-burning oven set the stage for memorable meals that change with the seasons.

Chef McRonald’s career has spanned legendary establishments, including many years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley where the use of local and organic produce blossomed into a new philosophy of dining and agricultural sustainability. His previous positions also include The Four Seasons in Costa Rica.

At Bellavitae, Chef McRonald’s menu embraces the philosophy of producing authentic Italian regional specialties from an in-house Bellavitae Pantry (many items are available for purchase to use in your own kitchen) featuring the best of Italy’s famed products. From these basic building blocks come mouthwatering, classical creations. The list ranges from handmade pastas and crostini, to antipasti and desserts so special you can imagine them being made in a rustic kitchen far away from the bustling streets of Manhattan. Infusing modest dishes with exotic accents, Chef McRonald offers the modern food aficionado a culinary journey that is new every time.

Andrea Curto Randazzo and Frank Randazzo
Talula
Miami Beach

Together, chefs Andrea Curto-Randazzo and Frank Randazzo have shown what great things can come out of a shared passion for cooking, and life. The husband and wife team, who met while working at New York’s Tribeca Grill, created Miami Beach’s Talula in 2003 to critical acclaim which included The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet. Each of these two accomplished chefs brings a unique collection of experiences to the table.

ANDREA CURTO-RANDAZZO

For Andrea Curto-Randazzo, cooking is tightly woven with memories of family. Raised in an Italian family in Vero Beach, Florida, she was inspired by her grandmother’s spectacular cooking to pursue a career in the culinary arts. It would eventually lead to national fame including a cover of Food & Wine. Starting out after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America with honors, she worked at New York’s Tribeca Grill under Don Pintabona and incidentally, met Frank Randazzo, her future husband and business partner. Fast forward to 1996, when she returned to South Florida to take on a position as pastry and sous chef at The Heights, and once again crossed paths with Randazzo.

In 1998, she made a decision that would be pivotal to her career, joining the staff of Wish at The Hotel on Miami Beach as an executive sous chef under executive Chef Gary Robbins. She was promoted to executive chef after his departure, and her culinary talents catapulted her into the spotlight. Wish was like a wish come true, as it soon became named “Best New Restaurant” by Esquire food critic John Mariani and received the prestigious Mobil four-star rating. In 2003, Curto-Randazzo realized her own dream of opening a restaurant with now-husband Frank. Named Talula www.talulaonline.com, it has become a South Florida dining hotspot, where eclectic American cuisine is sparked by Italian nuances, and flavors from Asia and the Southwest.

FRANK CURTO-RANDAZZO

Working at Forest Inn, a fine-dining Italian eatery in his native Staten Island, as a teenager, little could Frank Randazzo know that one day he would open up his own ultra-popular restaurant, with his wife and partner no less. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, Randazzo’s career took him to Boston where he worked at The Ritz-Carlton in Back Bay, and Providence’s 3 Steeple Street. Later on in New York City, he would hone his skills at some of the city’s finest restaurants such as Aquavit, Arizona 206 and Tribeca Grill—where he would first meet future wife and co-creator chef Andrea Curto.

Frank and Andrea would find they had another position in common when he headed south to take on the executive chef position at The Heights in Coral Gables, Florida. Under his guidance, The Heights earned an “Exceptional” rating from The Miami Herald, a “Best of the Brightest” by South Florida magazine and “Best New Restaurant” of The Heights by Miami New Times. He continued to perfect his talents at The Gaucho Room, a high-end steakhouse at Loews Miami Beach which garnered both the Mobil four-star and AAA four diamond rating under his direction.

In 2003, Frank accomplished a long-held goal when together with wife/chef Andrea, he opened Talula. Drawing locals with an acclaimed menu influenced by flavors from around the world, including the Caribbean, Asian, Latin America, America and Italy, Talula’s multicultural mindset is a fitting addition to Miami Beach’s thriving arts district. In Fall 2005, the couple celebrated their most memorable collaboration when they welcomed the birth of their daughter.

Philippe Reynaud
The Ocean Reef Club
Key Largo FL

French-born Chef Philippe Reynaud is Executive Chef of the Ocean Reef Club, an exclusive club community at the northernmost tip of the island of Key Largo. Although he is classically trained and his cuisine is rooted in traditional French technique, you will find that his menu reflects a mosaic of influences culminating from extensive training in Normandy, Provence, Spain and North America.

Reynaud embarked on his culinary journey at the age of 16 when he began a three-year apprenticeship at France’s renowned Casino de Cannes and Casino de Deauville. After graduating from the Culinary Academy of Nice in 1979, he then refined his skills at the famed Restaurant Hostellerie le Canneton in Cabourg, and Restaurant du Lac d’Azur in the Landes region of France.

In 1981 he began his professional life in the United States as executive chef at the renowned Westwood Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles, a position he held for seven years. He then spent eight years as executive chef at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles.

Since June 2000, Chef Philippe has been a member of Ocean Reef Club's elite managing team; he oversees the culinary operations and concept development of the club’s many kitchens and thrives on creating original menus for special events and celebrations.

Chef Philippe is a member of the American Culinary Federation, The Euro-Toques, La Chaine des Rotisseurs and the James Beard Foundation.

Michael Touhy
Woodfire Grill
Atlanta, GA

Chef Michael Tuohy, has earned his culinary stripes through a variety of notable ventures. Today, as Chef/Owner of Woodfire Grill, he and his staff are especially proud to have been the focus of such acclaim by such publications as Food and Wine Magazine, Gourmet and Wine Spectator.

As its name implies, Woodfire Grill is known for fire-roasted and grilled organic specialties, in a warm, rustic setting. Meats and local produce are combined creatively in a fresh, seasonal menu. The spin-off Café at Woodfire is located in the "Front Room" of Woodfire Grill. It features a romantic neighborhood ambience with European appeal, where the menu is inspired by the day’s freshest ingredients…. cured meats, artisan cheeses, Paninis, house-made breads and pastries, soups, salads, and house-made sausages.

Tuohy’s career began in San Francisco under the tutelage of Chef Joyce Goldstein of Square One Restaurant. In 1986, Tuohy’s move to Atlanta to open Chefs’ Café would prove to be an excellent decision, as the establishment was soon selected as one of Atlanta’s top five restaurants by Zagat, the Atlanta Journal & Constitution and Atlanta Magazine. Tuohy was also the force behind both Chefs’ Grill and the Ocean Club Restaurant & Bar, and was a partner in the acquisition of Indigo Coastal Grill as well as General Manager of Tom Tom Bistro.

In early 1999, Tuohy launched his own restaurant consulting service which included work for Murphy’s, Coyote Café Cookbook, Francesca’s in San Antonio, Fishmonger Seafood Grill, and Nashville’s Sunset Grill and Midtown Café. He then served as Managing Partner/Executive Chef at Murphy’s restaurant until deciding to launch his newest concept, Woodfire Grill.

Tuohy has served on the local chapter board of the American Institute of Wine & Food, Atlanta’s Table, Georgia Grown Co-op for the Organic Growers Association, High Museum Wine Auction, and he Chaired the Olympic Task Force for the Georgia Hospitality and Travel Association. He is also co-founder of the Downtown Restaurant Association.

Chip Ulbrich
Bateaux
Beaufort, SC

After a rich career in various regions of the United States, Chef Charles (Chip) Ulbrich has returned home to the beautiful Carolina Low Country as Executive Chef/Partner at the newly opened Bateaux restaurant overlooking downtown Beaufort, South Carolina. Ulbrich has played an important part in elevating the ever-evolving food culture of the South. Most recently he had been influencing the culinary scene in Atlanta as Executive Chef of Fifth Group Restaurants’ celebrated AAA Four Diamond, Food Studio restaurant and Bold American Catering. Fans appreciate his own blend of contemporary methods of presentation, fresh local ingredients and classic culinary traditions.

Ulbrich’s prestigious positions include Sous Chef at the Jenny Lake Lodge, Wyoming, and the Williamsburg Inn, Virginia, both Mobil Five Star properties. He also served as Chef Tournant, Commis, and Chef de Partie at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. In 1983 he completed a comprehensive, European style culinary apprenticeship program run by the Rock Resorts Company, accredited by The American Culinary Federation Education Institute. He learned under the tutelage of great chefs such as Hans Schadler, Bob Walton, and Peter Wynia, at properties including The Woodstock Inn & Resort in Vermont, the Little Dix Bay Resort, and Caneel Bay Hotel in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

In 1987, Chef Ulbrich established residence in the South Carolina Low Country and served as the Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director for an exclusive residential community, The Dataw Island Club in Beaufort, South Carolina. In 1998 he brought his passion and finesse to the AAA Four Diamond Award-winning Beaufort Inn, and soon transformed The Inn's dining room into one of the South's finest and most talked about restaurants.

In 2001 The James Beard Foundation recognized his achievements by inviting him to be the guest Chef-Host for a dinner at the James Beard House, New York City. Today, with his new venture in Beaufort, he surprises and excites his diners with a cuisine that is both elegant and inspiring.

In 1996 Mr. Robert Johnson owner of Black Entertainment Television dined at “Norma’s on the Beach”. Johnson too, was impressed with the restaurant, the menu, and the execution of tasty island cuisine. Shortly after, he hired Hutson & Shirley, to consult on two new restaurant concepts “BET on Jazz” in Washington D.C. and “Soundstage” in Disney World. It was Johnson who financially backed Hutson’s new “Cuisine of the Sun” at “Ortanique” Coral Gables. The upscale Coral Gables location was her new home, opening in July 1999. Hutson flourished in her larger surroundings (120 seats) delving into South American, Asian, Caribbean, and American Fusion cuisine. Famed critic John Mariani, awarded “Best New Restaurant 1999” Esquire Magazine, “Exceptional” Miami Herald, “Top 20 Restaurants” from Florida Trend, “Best New Restaurant” Bon Apetit, “Americas Top Tables” Gourmet Magazine, Mobil “4 Star Award 2001 – 2002”, “Top Ten Best List” Zagat Survey 2002 – 2003, Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” 2002, 2003 and the list goes on. In 2005-2006 Ortanique received Five Star Diamond Awards consecutively, Zagats Extraordinary rating, “Top Female Chef of Las Vegas” by American Chefs Association, and continued to receive Wine Spectators Award of Excellence.

Hutson did not stop there, She and partner Delius Shirley opened two other concepts, “Copra” Baltimore,MD and “Bogwalk” Destin FL. At the present they have held onto Ortanique Miami and Copra freeing her to do Guest Chef appearances, teaching, and consulting.

When asked “are you spreading yourself too thin?” Hutson reply’s “This culinary travel is what I thrive on teaching other chef hopefuls about our earth’s bounties and edible history. Their indigenous ingredients regionally prepared. What more could an artist ask for?

2005 Chefs

Miles Angelo
The Caribou Club
Aspen, CO

Miles Angelo has developed a following among the elite dining crowd in Aspen, Colorado, a Rocky Mountain destination known for its snow-capped peaks, crisp alpine air and rolling streams. Aspen, a mountain playground for the rich and famous, is also known for its multi-million dollar homes, fine boutiques, and great cuisine. A native New Yorker and relative newcomer to the Aspen scene, Miles Angelo lures foodies with a daring menu at a private eatery called the Caribou Club. His menus, sprinkled with Southwestern flavor, might include dishes such as caribou tartar on brioche with foie gras, or barbecued duck quesadillas.

Angelo's culinary adventures began in his youth, as he went hunting and fishing with his father in upstate New York, foraged for wild mushrooms, and tended to the family's prolific vegetable garden. After college, he moved to Southern California and ended up becoming executive chef at the North Beach Bar and Grill in Venice, called "one of the ten hottest restaurants in Los Angeles" by Ruth Reichl. When he moved on to work with John Sedlar at Abiquiu in Santa Monica, Angelo developed an insatiable interest in Southwestern fare.

It was during his work at Angelo 206 that he first crossed paths with Caribou (the restaurant). Angelo's name had become synonymous with all things chipotle at Angelo 206, where New York's Gael Greene commented that he cooked "as if he had inhabited Frida Kahlo's inner eye." Caribou’s owner Harley Baldwin, stopped in for dinner one night, and was so impressed with the food that he not only demanded an introduction to the chef, but extended an invitation for Angelo to come West for a visit. Visions of big game and clean mountain air were too tempting to turn down, so Angelo packed his bags and headed to Aspen where diners can experience what John Mariani calls a "true palate power surge."

Jim Dodge
The Getty Center
Los Angeles, CA

Among the world’s chef icons, Jim Dodge, a renowned pastry chef and author, is included in almost everyone’s short list of those who have had the greatest influence on American cuisine in past 20 years. Dodge's hospitality “pedigree” originated in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where his ancestors were innkeepers for seven generations. From early training and direction at his parents' resort, The Inn at Steele Hill, Dodge went to work for James Smith at Wentworth-by-the-Sea, in Portsmouth, NH, and ultimately met Swiss Chef Fritz Albicker, who changed his interest from becoming an hotelier to a chef.

Later, at Albicker's Strawberry Court in Portsmouth, Jim learned how to meld Swiss influence with his New England heritage, resulting in the unique method of preparation and styling that sets him apart as a chef-extraordinaire. He next moved to the West Coast to be the Executive Pastry Chef at the Stanford Court in San Francisco from 1978 to 1988. In October of 1991 he opened The American Pie, a restaurant and pastry shop offering modern American fare in Lang Kwan Fong, Hong Kong. After opening a wholesale bakery and second American Pie in Hong Kong, Jim Dodge moved back to the States to become the Senior Vice President at New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, where he raised the Institute's standing in the culinary world. He is currently General Manager of Food Services at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Jim has published several books, including the award-winning cookbook, The American Baker, and is a contributing editor to the newly revised Joy of Cooking. He as been a contributing editor to several magazines and has received numerous honors, including the "Honor Roll of American Chefs", The James Beard Cookbook Award, and the "Gold Plate Award". Dodge has appeared on the” Today" show, "The Home Show”, “Good Morning America" and "Great Chefs of San Francisco". He was one of the featured chefs in Julia Child’s boo, “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs”. He donates his time regularly to charities throughout the country, and has been an active member of the Boca Bacchanal Committee, serving as Advisory Chef Chairman.

Carmen Gonzalez
Carmen the Restaurant
Coral Gables, FL

Not many aspiring chefs can say they rubbed elbows with true masters of the industry during their early days of culinary training, especially at renowned restaurants such as The Quilted Giraffe, one of New York’s finest dining establishments. However, Chef Carmen Gonzalez can attest, having the opportunity to showcase her culinary skills there upon graduating from The New York Restaurant School.

Upon completion of her training, Gonzalez relocated from New York to Miami. Since then, her passion for excellence and undying dedication to her career has enabled her to acquire a following of loyal clientele in South Florida for more than 13 years. In 1989, Gonzalez opened the highly acclaimed Clowns in Coral Gables, Florida commencing the journey for her food aficionados who trekked with her to The Miami Club in downtown Miami and then to Tamarind at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. During her reign at Tamarind, the Miami Herald stated, “It’s been a long time since a restaurant struck with such stimulating yet thought-out dining. Credit belongs to star chef Carmen Gonzalez.”

Today, Gonzalez is a veteran chef and celebrated culinary artist who has been in the food arena of over 20 years. Her creative flare for cooking is apparent on every plate she prepares. In March 2003, Gonzalez opened the doors to her latest venture, appropriately called Carmen the Restaurant (CTR) in Coral Gables, Florida, where she is the executive chef and sole proprietor.

Her dishes are unique creations of Post New American fare with distinct Latino flavor, which is a reflection of Gonzalez’s heritage that emulate Puerto Rican food customs including yuca, mofongo, plantains, and island mojito sauce. Since its opening, CTR has received rave reviews from several local and national publications. In November 2003, John Mariani, Esquire magazine, named CTR “One of the Best New Restaurants in America” - the only restaurant in Florida that year to make the celebrated list. The Miami Herald awarded the food and service with an “Outstanding” review, The New York Times proclaimed, “One the cities hottest hangouts” and The Miami New Times boldly stated, “The problem is that there are no problems.”

CTR has also received recognition from Food and Wine Magazine and Bon Apetit Magazine. Gonzalez continues to receive accolades from the industry’s most influential media including ZAGAT, which gave impressive ratings and a stellar review and Florida Trend’s infamous restaurant guide, which listed CTR among the state’s Best New restaurants. Gonzalez has also appeared on local television, David Rosengarden’s “Today on Food” on the Food Network, as well as the Today Show, MGM Latino, Televisa, and Univision.

Gonzalez’s loyalty to the community parallels her work in the kitchen. For over a decade she has been devoted to many charitable organizations and has received some of South Florida’s most notable awards for her commitment to helping those in the community. She has been a loyal supporter of Share Our Strength (SOS) for the past 15 years, Camillus House and a host of other local and international organizations including the renowned James Beard Foundation.

In addition to supporting countless community-driven associations over the years, Gonzalez has the found the time in a rather strict schedule to commit to two more charitable organizations, Feeding the Mind Foundation (FTM) and Chef Carmen Cooks for a Cure (CCCC), the latter through which she has pledged to raise funds for the ongoing research at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Gonzalez has been the recipient for the Up and Comers of South Florida 1991, Woman of the Year 1996 from the Coalition of Hispanic American Women (CHAW), and Florida’s Finest 1996 awarded by Governor Lawton Chiles. In 1994, Gonzalez was presented with an honorary doctorate of culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, an honor she shares with Julia Child and Madeline Kamman, making her at the time the third woman to earn this prestigious accomplishment.

Reaching the ranks of a celebrated star chef, a childhood aspiration of Gonzalez, and having the resources to help those who are less fortunate, a passion she has had since she can remember, Carmen Gonzalez feels as if she’s arrived at her final destination. “This is what I’ve always dreamed of,” she proudly states.

Special Guest Honoree: Marcella Hazan
Edgar Leal
Cacao
Miami, FL

From teenage dreams in Caracas Venezuela, to realizing a vision of creating one of South Florida’s most critically acclaimed restaurants, Edgar Leal is a profile in passion. Founder of Cacao in Coral Gables, recently named Best New Restaurant by both The Miami Herald and Florida Trend magazine, Leal boasts a list of accomplished culinary positions. At the age of 17, he became a chef in his native city of Caracas, Venezuala. After two years of training, his hard work was rewarded with the opportunity to work under celebrated Chef Pierre Blanchard at Caracas’ Deuxime Etage Restaurants.

After working for several years in Spain under a winner of the national award of gastronomy in Spain, Chef Iñaqui Izaguirre at Casa Carmona Restaurant in Seville, Leal returned home to Caracas where he would become Executive Chef of ARA Restaurant within three years. Guest chef at several prestigious festivals including at the world-renowned Le Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, Monaco, Leal decided it was time to perfect his skills at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, where he earned an A.O.S.

There in Gotham City, Leal interned at one of the ten best restaurants in the world, Daniel, as well as at the Three Star Michelin-rated Bulli in Barcelona, Spain. Today, Leal continues to add to his long list of distinctions which include being the first Venezuelan to present a dinner at the James Beard Foundation House in New York City in 2003.

His passion for life extends to his hobbies. A classical musician, Leal enjoys playing violin and classical guitar, savoring leisure time with wife Mariana Montero De Castro (Garde Manger/Chef de Partie at Cacao) and close friends, and traveling to places rich in history. While only 34, his dedication to enriching South Florida’s culinary scene is already being felt.

Nancy Oakes
Boulevard
San Francisco, CA

Chef Nancy Oakes is San Francisco’s most beloved Chef, and with good reason. It’s not often that a Chef can convey her art so clearly to both her customers and peers, but Nancy holds a level of culinary excellence, and awareness of her customer’s deepest yearnings for great food that few Chefs have attained. She is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Boulevard, http://www.boulevardrestaurant.com/ a synthesis of her talents and philosophies which opened in 1993. Here, guests are soothed by a menu of comforting foods, fresh ingredients, personalized service and a general sense of artful décor and presentation.

A self-taught chef, Chef Oakes gleaned lessons from teachers such as Girard Boyer, Taillevent and Guy Savoy, under whom she served informally, and travels such as a trip to Italy where she learned the simple beauty of Italian cooking with Faith Willinger. Chef Oakes takes great pleasure in delivering a sensuous dining experience that lives up to San Francisco’s love of great food prepared with exquisitely fresh ingredients.

The peacock mosaic that covers Boulevard’s floor might well symbolize Chef Oakes’ love of flavor and creativity. The restaurant is housed in a vintage building that is one of the few survivors of the city’s famed 1906 earthquake. Inside, meals feel like they are personally prepared for you—because they are. Chickens are freshly cooked over the fire in a wood-burning oven, and baked treats are cooked in small batches that seem home-baked. “There are no shortcuts,” she says. Her quest for the finest ingredients is truly refreshing. “We choose diver scallops rather than dredged, and fruits and vegetables straight from the farm or the farmer's market.”

The result is a restaurant that is a San Francisco legend. Honored by area publications and readers’ pools, Boulevard has also won critical acclaim including being named the favorite restaurant in San Francisco by the Zagat guide for six years running. Chef Oakes’ many awards include the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award, for “Best Chef in California” in 2001; and nominee for both the 2002 and 2004 “Outstanding Service Award” by the Foundation.

Prior to Boulevard, Chef Oakes opened L'Avenue, an acclaimed 50-seat San Francisco neighborhood bistro which gained a loyal following, much like that at Boulevard. Prior to L’Avenue, she created the popular waterfront restaurant Barnacle, and worked at elegant eateries such as Alexis on Nob Hill during her studies at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Louis Osteen
Louis’s at Pawley’s
Pawley’s Island, SC

Credited with making Lowcountry cooking a celebrated genre and household name, Louis Osteen is a South Carolina original himself. The creator of Louis's at Pawleys http://www.louisatpawleys.com/ and the Fish Camp Bar, and author of LOUIS OSTEEN'S CHARLESTON CUISINE: RECIPES FROM A LOWCOUNTRY CHEF, Osteen has blazed a path in American indigenous cooking that began with a passion for Southern cooking in 1975. He began as an apprentice with Chef Francois Delcros, the premier chef of Atlanta at that time.

Today, Osteen has been named James Beard “American Express Best Chef Southeast” 2004 and nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Best American Chef: Southeast 2004. Back in 1990, Osteen was just starting to heed his destiny when he decided to move to Pawleys Island with wife Marlene, and open the Pawleys Island Inn. The move would set the stage for igniting an appreciation for Lowcountry cuisine which was in step with a movement for appreciating grassroots cooking. Immediately, rave reviews flowed in as Osteen dazzled visitors with his interpretations of honest recipes showcasing fresh seafood and local ingredients.

After a decade, Osteen took his craft to a larger audience at the Omni Hotel at Charleston Place, where the Charleston Grill gained considerable acclaim after being named by Esquire magazine as one of the country's "Top 25 New Restaurants." Nearly a decade later, the restaurant made the move to Charleston’s historic district, and Osteen continued his work as a luminary of Charleston cooking.

But this chef, affectionately coined "the spiritual general of ... the new Charleston chefs" by Bryan Miller of the New York Times, yearned to return to scenic Pawleys Island, and in 2001 made a move as brave and refreshing as his cuisine—he returned to fulfill a dream of recreating his former restaurant in a place where Lowcountry magic was in the air.

Clearly, Osteen can boast a list of distinctions that few chefs can. From being the “Distinguished Visiting Chef” chair at Johnson & Wales University, to serving on the board of directors of DiRoNa, he is committed to every aspect of his art. And his expertise has led him to entertain Presidents and members of royalty including the Prince of Wales during a visit to Charleston in 1990, and a 1994 training of the staff of a naval aircraft carrier entertaining then President Clinton and other heads of State during the 50th Commemorative Ceremony of the Normandy Landing.

Osteen’s abiding love for the magic of Lowcountry cooking has been nothing short of infectious. His recipes have been features in numerous publications including in Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Wine Spectator, Southern Living, GQ, Food & Wine, the New York Times, and Town & Country. His television appearances include CBS This Morning, TV Food Network's Cooking Live with Sara Moulton, and the Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs of America. With accolades such as the “Distinguished Restaurant of North America” Award and Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, Osteen’s legacy is sure to continue for decades to come.

James Reaux
Boca Raton Resort & Club
Boca Raton, FL

In his role as Executive Chef, James Reaux oversees the entire culinary operation for Boca Raton Resort & Club. This includes the kitchens of Boca's 19 dining and entertainment outlets and private dining (room service), as well as banquet service for the Resort's 144,000 square feet of event space.

Chef Reaux joined the Resort & Club in 1995 after serving at a number of luxury, sea-side resorts including the Century Plaza Hotel and Towers in Los Angeles, California, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii and the Westin Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina. At each property, he honed his talents and further advanced his love for utilizing the sea's riches to his advantage. Earning popular food critics' approval, he was noted not only in Los Angeles, but around the world for his unique technique of blending flavors from coast to coast. Since arriving in Boca, he has incorporated variations of Florida's "New World" cuisine to his own, creating a signature style of Coastal Cuisine.

Chef Reaux has developed his signature cuisine as a melange of regional and cultural styles with an American contemporary flair and accents of a European palate. He emphasizes seafood, characterized by unusual savory combinations and skillful cooking. Without question, Chef Reaux is noncommittal to one culture for the basis of his dishes.

During his 20-year career as a renowned chef, Chef Reaux has received numerous accolades including seven gold medals for his diverse food preparation and presentation from the American Culinary Federation; several appearances at the James Beard House; and a gold medal from the Japan Cooks Association. He has received widespread media coverage including an appearance on NBC's "Today" Show.

Fulvio Siccardi
Ristorante Conti Roero
Monticella d’Alba, Italy

Fulvio Siccardi was born in Torino, Italy in 1969. In 1988, his road to culinary acclaim began when he started working in the kitchen of Michelin-starred restaurant Cascina Nuovo in Isola d’Asti.

Over the years Chef Siccardi honed his skills, working in several different venues in Italy and Switzerland, including a second three-year stay at Cascina Nuovo. In 2000 he became Chef del ristorante at Le Clivie in Piobessi d’Alba. Under his tutelage, the restaurant soon earned a Michelin star.

In August 2004, Chef Siccardi and his wife began a new venture when they opened their own restaurant, Ristorante Conti Roero, in Monticello d’Alba. Chef Siccardi has used the opportunity to concentrate on using the extraordinary food and wine products of Italy’s Roero region. While his food is both traditional and creative, always trying new approaches, it never forgets the gastronomical heritage of the Roero.

Ken Vedrinski
Sienna Restaurant
Daniel Island, SC

At Executive Chef and Partner at Sienna, http://www.siennadining.com/ selected by Esquire magazine as one of the “Top 20 Restaurants of the Year” in 2004, Chef Ken Vedrinski lives his passion for producing illustrious cuisine, and ensuring every guest’s satisfaction. Set in Daniel Island’s friendly small-town atmosphere, just five miles from downtown Charleston, Sienna is an expression of Chef Vedrinski’s enormous accomplishments in fine dining, and the heart and soul of contemporary Italian cuisine. Chef Vedrinski’s quest to provide the ultimate dining experience is inspired by his own memories of family meals filled with the essence of Old World Italian cuisine.

At Sienna, Chef Vedrinski delights in creating a menu which changes daily, brimming with freshly made specialties reflecting Italy’s celebrated regions. After earning a degree in Restaurant Management from Columbus College, he trained underneath some of the world’s most talented chefs including an apprenticeship under master chef Hartmut Handkeat at the Athletic Club in Columbus. Chef Vedrinski was later awarded an honorary doctorate degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University.

Among Chef Vedrinski’s many accomplishments are helping to lead the opulent Woodland’s Resort and Inn’s Dining Room to a coveted AAA Five Diamond Award and South Carolina’s only Mobil Five-Star rating (one of only 14 in the United States). In 2002, the restaurant received the only perfect food score in North America by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler. Chef Vedrinski’s high-end dining experience also encompasses Sous Chef positions at Chicago’s Five Diamond, Five Star Four Seasons Hotel and at Atlanta’s Swissotel—both hotels’ restaurants were named among the Best New Restaurants in the United States by Esquire magazine under his leadership.

Today at Sienna, diners are rewarded with exquisite cuisine that is a culmination of Chef Vedrinski’s years of experience. The mood is stylish and energetic, and diners might receive a Southern welcome from the Chef himself as he makes a tour through the dining room, always imparting a personalized touch.

Rich Vellante
Legal Sea Foods
Boston, MA

2004 Chefs

Roberto Donna
Galileo
Washington, D.C.

Born in the Piedmont region of Italy, Roberto Donna’s fervent mission is the promotion of authentic Italian cuisine. As a James Beard Award winning Chef and Restaurateur in Washington, DC, Roberto is committed to introducing others to the real flavors of Italy, which he provides in his six restaurants.

Roberto arrived in Washington, DC at age 19 with four years of cooking school education from his native Torino and experience working in kitchens throughout Europe. In 1984, he opened Galileo and gained a strong following in Washington, DC and throughout the nation. Creating restaurants ranging in style from his formal Galileo and Laboratorio del Galileo, to his casual Il Radicchio, Roberto’s restaurants appeal to the full range of culinary tastes in the capitol region and beyond.

Roberto Donna’s efforts have received worldwide attention and recognition. Wine Spectator has called Galileo one of the “10 Best Italian Restaurants in America,” and the magazine has continuously presented Chef Donna with its Grand Award of Excellence for Galileo’s extensive wine cellar since 1997. In 1996, Galileo was named one of the twenty finest Italian restaurants in the world by the President of Italy, and Roberto published his first cookbook “Cooking in Piedmont with Roberto Donna.”

Additional recognitions include the 1996 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic, the induction of Galileo into the Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame, and the DiRoNa (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) Award from 1990 to the present. In 2002, Chef Donna was presented The First Annual Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners Award, which is presented to chefs worldwide for their efforts to promote authentic Italian cuisine.

Nationally, Roberto Donna is Vice-Chairman of the Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani, a national organization with the goal of emphasizing authentic Italian food and culture in the United States. Locally, he is an active supporter of the DC Central Kitchen and the American Institute of Wine & Food. As an active member of Share Our Strength and The James Beard Foundation, Roberto participates in numerous charitable events in Washington, DC and across the country. Roberto Donna’s civic-minded activities are his way of giving back to the community that has helped him succeed in achieving his dreams.

Ken Frank
La Toque
Rutherford, CA
Mark Gaier & Clark Frasier
Arrows
Ogunquit, ME
Maurilio Garola
La Ciau Del Tornvento
Treiso, Italy

Maurilio Garola was born in 1958 in the town of Avigliana, Italy, a little west of Torino. He did not attend formal school to be a chef, but instead is self-taugh, through personal experience.

He started this education working at Gastronomia Castagno di Torino, almost as a joke, but he soon found his calling in the kitchen. In 1989, after 10 years working and gathering experience at various locations, he opened his first restaurant, called la Ciau. In 1997, he moved the restaurant to Treiso, near Alba, where it is now located, under the name La Ciao del Tornavento.

In 1996 he was awarded a star from the Michelin Guide, which he has held ever since. He has also been recognized for excellence by The Wine Spectator for 2002 and 2003.

Robin Haas
Chispa
Miami, FL

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Robbin Haas’s love of food began at the tender age of 12 when he began working in a small hotel in Buffalo. Haas worked on kitchen chores while his mother worked as the lead waitress. He realized the important relationship between personal service and happy customers from his mother – a concept he has carried with him throughout his illustrious career. Haas’s creative flair and culinary expertise has enabled him to develop innovative tastes mitigating him as a true culinary artist. In addition, Haas’s natural knack for business and entrepreneurial talent allows him full run of the restaurant gamut.

Since his arrival in South Florida in 1988, Haas has been involved with an impressive list of venues. He spearheaded the opening of the Four Seasons Ocean Grand then became executive chef at Turnberry Isle Resort & Club. In 1994, Haas left Turnberry to revamp the Colony Bistro in Miami Beach and was named one of the top 10 chefs in America by Food and Wine magazine. That same year, the Colony Bistro was recognized as one of Esquire’s top new restaurants. Soon after, Haas took on a challenge as the executive chef and managing partner of Bang in Miami Beach. Haas’s desire to spread his wings lead him to his next venture where he partnered with renowned chef/restaurateur Mark Miller in 1996 to open up several Raku “Asian Diners” in the United States. This concept was inspired and mirrored as a result of his travels to the Orient where he resided for several months to learn the first hand styles and differences of the Far East.

Haas was lured back to South Florida by his love for tropical flavors and presided over his own company prior to joining China Grill Management as executive/consulting chef for China Grill Café and Red Square. It was not long after that Red Square was named one of Esquire’s Top New Restaurants in 1998. In 1999, Haas opened the highly successful Baleen to rave reviews at the Grove Isle Club and Resort in Coconut Grove. Soon after, Baleen in San Diego and Naples, Florida followed along with 6-7 in Seattle and Portofino in Redonda Beach, California.

Haas assumed the role of Vice President of Restaurant Concepts for Noble House Hotels, Resorts, & Hideaways where he supervised the workings of several restaurants as well as the creative development of culinary trends between 1998 and 2002.

In September 2003, Haas will “spark” curiosity among food aficionados with the much-anticipated opening of his latest venture Chispa, a contemporary Latin restaurant and bar inspired by the history and traditions of the Hispanic culture. Chispa, which will be located in Coral Gables, is the ideal complement to Haas’ distinguished portfolio featuring innovative dishes reflective of Hispanic heritage such as Masitas de Mahi Mahi, Sour Orange Mojo, Wood Roasted Shrimp, Lechon Asado Rissoto, Spit Roasted Young Suckling Pig and a selection of creative ceviches. Chispa is destined to attract a varied clientele indicative of Miami’s population entertaining its clients with a unique combination of cuisine, ambiance, music, and service. Haas wanted to create a restaurant that celebrated the eclectic mix of America and felt this was an ideal time to open a fine dining locale that represents a melting pot of cultures. The 40-foot bar will capture patrons with its novel design and featured drink specialties including Mojitos, Caipirnhas, artistic Martinis, and over 20 wines by the glass.

South Florida and the Orient are not the only places that Haas has focused his culinary attentions. He has received international accolades from his extensive travels around the world showcasing his culinary skills in Russia, Finland, Europe, Mexico, South America, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. He has also visited and resided in numerous cities in the Unites States, but testifies that Miami is his home. South Florida residents and visitors have recognized Haas’ creative use of Southern ingredients and local fare for decades making him a trendsetter for Miami’s notorious fine dining scene. The use of locally procured products allows Haas to preserve the culinary heritage of the region putting South Florida cuisine on the international map while further establishing his position as one of the founding fathers of New World Cuisine.

Nick Morfogen
32 East
Delray Beach, FL

Nick Morfogen, Executive Chef/Partner of 32 East in Delray Beach, Florida, is a classically trained graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and winner of its prestigious "Most Likely To Succeed" Award in 1988, but his connection to the kitchen goes back to his childhood. Working in his family's three successful Chelsea House restaurants in the New York area, and the wonderful "flavor memories" of the traditional Greek cuisine of his heritage set Nick's life in motion towards a career as a chef.

After interning with Eberhard Mueller at LeBernadin in New York City and post graduate stints at several other icon restaurants there, such as La Cote Basque and Le Cirque, Nick traveled west to Colorado and then the Napa Valley of California. As Executive Sous Chef at Tra Vigne, the rustic simplicity of the finest and freshest ingredients inspired him to develop his distinctive style and passion for flavorful innovation. He honed that style as Executive Chef at Ajax Tavern in Aspen, Colorado and Nick and Max's in Boca Raton, Florida.

In 1999, 32 East owner Barbara Straub pursued Nick to take over the kitchen of her Delray Beach restaurant, and he has presided over the multi-award winning Contemporary American Menu there ever since. Fabulous ingredients, exciting new ideas, creativity with taste and the precision of technique are all combined in Nick Morfogen's unique yet modest approach to his craft. "It's all about the food at 32 East.”

Oliver Saucy
Café Maxx
Pompano Beach, FL

Oliver Saucy is the Culinary Director/Partner at Innovative Restaurant Concepts, LLC, owner of Cafe Maxx in Pompano Beach, Florida, East City Grill restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama and Weston, Florida and Bistro 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is known among southeast regional chefs for his "right on" instincts for ingredients that work well together and his classical training, which he uses as a foundation to construct recipes that produce an explosion of flavor.Oliver is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, but he actually learned to cook from his father, Eric, who recently retired from a long and illustrious career as a Senior Chef/Instructor at the CIA.

A regular participant and guest chef at harvest festivals and wine auction events in California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Oliver Saucy often calls public attention to the importance off promoting bio-diversity and sustainable food choices among farmers and growers. He is committed to always using the best possible food products, and clear pure flavors shine through all of his culinary creations.

Continually shopping for the newest products available across the country, Oliver selects the best and freshest ingredients from the Mediterranean, Tropical, "Southern Comfort", Southwestern and Oriental food baskets and then combines them with Florida's bounty of tropical spices, fruits, vegetables and Atlantic Coast seafood. As a result, the menus at Cafe Maxx occupy a position on everybody's short list of the area's top purveyors of Southeast Florida's splendid new regional cuisine.

Todd Slossberg
Hotel Jerome
Aspen, CO
Rich Vellante
Legal Sea Foods
Boston, MA

Richard Vellante, in his sixth year as Executive Chef, brings the personal focus and quality perspective of a chef-owned establishment to Legal Sea Foods Inc. For five years he owned and operated Vellante’s in Milford and earned a three star rating from the Boston Globe.

After graduation from Hamilton College, Vellante studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and subsequently served as Chef in Waltham’s acclaimed Allegro. He studied an additional two years in Italy, cooking his way through several provinces using traditional, farm-fresh ingredients and seafood. “The passion and simplicity of food in the Italian culture greatly influenced my approach to cooking and culinary techniques.”

Richard Vellante’s experience and background are ideally suited to the Legal Sea Foods mandate of serving only fresh, top-quality seafood. Vellante develops the menus and oversees the Legal Sea Foods culinary staff in 26 restaurants. In l990, he was earmarked for a Chef 2000 award, foretelling his likely emergence as an industry star for the next millennium. Indeed, Vellante was voted “Menu Strategist of the Year” in 2003 by Restaurant Business magazine, and counted among the nation’s Top 50 R&D Chefs by Nation’s Restaurant News.

Vellante prepared a New England clambake for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” in April 2002, and taught a class at his alma mater, The French Culinary Institute, in June 2002. In addition, Vellante spearheaded Legal’s Spring 2002 menu promotion, The Spices of Life. In this effort, he worked with two master chefs from India to create a special Ayurvedic-influenced menu of exotic spiced foods from Southern India. A media blitz spurred a press tour along the Eastern Seaboard in which Vellante appeared on many radio and television programs in Boston (MA), Washington, DC, and Boca Raton (FL). The Indian promotion also saw Vellante hosting a seminar for The Smithsonian Institution during the tour.

For the popular TV Food Network, Vellante has appeared with chef/host Bobby Flay in a Boston segment of “Food Nation” and also an episode of “Sara’s Secrets” with chef/host Sara Moulton. He has twice been guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House and Culinary Foundation in New York City, most recently in February 2002. In August 2002, Vellante was the featured guest on “B.Smith with Style,” as he showed the well-known author and style authority around the historic Gloucester (MA) Fish Display Auction and dispensed advice on choosing supremely fresh and healthy seafood.

He has been featured on the CBS Morning Show’s “Chef on a Shoestring” as well as cable television’s “Healthy Kids” show. Vellante has twice led Legal’s sponsorship of “Days of Taste,” the American Institute of Food & Wine’s educational program for schoolchildren. Culinary and nutritional training for young kids is a particular interest for Vellante, since he is himself the proud father of two children.

2003 Chefs

Jody Adams
Rialto
Cambridge, MA

Jody Adams' passion for food began at her family's dinner table when she inherited her mother's fondness for cooking. Yet, it wasn't until she was a college student at Brown University that her interest in food took a professional turn. She worked as an apprentice for Nancy Verde Barr, a professional food writer and teacher, and eventually became her class assistant. She also helped Nancy test the recipes for her book on Italian immigrant cooking, We Called It Macaroni (Knopf, 1991).

Jody's culinary career in Boston began in 1983 at Seasons restaurant under chef Lydia Shire. Three years later, at Hamersley's Bistro, she became Gordon Hamersley's sous chef. She moved to Michela's in 1990, and was executive chef there until 1994. While at Michela's, Jody became known for her carefully researched regional menus that combined New England ingredients with Italian culinary traditions. In September 1994, Adams, opened Rialto with restaurateurs and partners Michela Larson and Karen Haskell. Four months after the new restaurant's opening, The Boston Globe awarded Rialto four stars, the newspaper's highest rating, proclaiming that, "eating Jody Adams' food at the stunning new Rialto is like stepping into a winter greenhouse just at the moment a spectacular hothouse orchid bursts into bloom, filling the senses."

Jody opened her latest venture, blu, in downtown Boston in November of 2001 with Larson, Haskell and Gary Sullivan - all partners in The Sapphire Restaurant Group.

Adams recently published her first cookbook, titled In the Hands of a Chef: Cooking with Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant (HarperCollins, January 2002). She co-wrote the book with her husband, Ken Rivard. A culinary star, Jody was inducted into Nation's Restaurant News "Fine Dining Hall of Fame" (May 2000) and is the recipient of "The Perrier-Jouet Best Chef Award: Northeast" (May 1997.) Other publications which praised Jody's talent include Boston Magazine, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Esquire, Food and Wine and Restaurant Hospitality.

Michelle Bernstein
Azul at the Mandarin Oriental
Miami, FL

Before being chosen to take the helm at Azul at Mandarin Oriental - Miami, Chef Michelle Bernstein was already a rising culinary star. A native of Miami, Florida and a graduate of Johnson Wales University, Michelle trained with Jean Louis Palladin at the Watergate in Washington, D.C., honed her skills at Alison on Dominick and Le Bernadin in New York, was Executive Chef and co-owner of The Strand, named one of Miami's top restaurants by Food and Wine.

Azul, the intimate and elegant restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental - Miami Hotel on upscale Brickell Key, is a showcase for Michelle's signature style of blending Latin flavors with Asian, New Caribbean and classic French influences. Known for vibrant, fusion inspired entrees and exciting "New Beginnings" appetizers, the menu at Azul is inventive and eclectic, reflecting Miami's international culture.

Chef Bernstein and Azul have received numerous awards, including; 2001 Best Restaurant of the Year, Esquire Magazine, One of the World's "Best New Restaurants", Conde Nast Traveler, and one of "America's 50 Best Hotel Restaurants", Food and Wine. Named one of South Florida's top chefs by Ocean Drive Magazine and Co-Host of The Food Network's "Melting Pot", Michelle Bernstein is articulate, detail-oriented and passionate about her cuisine. Whether it is an exciting, complex Caribbean Bouillabaisse, or an elegantly simple Short Ribs of Beef with Thai Chilies, her food is as breathtaking and perfect as the waterfront setting of Azul.

John Besh
Restaurant August
New Orleans, LA

John Besh learned the rich cultural mix and legendary culinary traditions of Southern Louisiana at an early age. Born and raised on the bayou, hunting and fishing were his favorite pastimes and he was well acquainted with the bounty of his locale. He worked in local restaurant kitchens as a teenager, and it was then that the seed of interest in food and dining took root and rapidly began to blossom.

After completing classical training at the acclaimed Culinary Instate of America, Besh furthered his education with internships, cooking with top toques in such renowned establishments as Maxim’s in New York, The Windsor Court’s Grill Room in New Orleans, and celebrated restaurants throughout Europe.

In the Black Forest region of Germany, he interned at the Michelin-starred Rmantik Hotel Spielweg, under the direction of famed German chef Karl Josef Fuchs. This was his first exposure to truly localized cuisine, a concept that remains essential to his cooking and menu development. He also trained in the south of France with Alain Assaud, a disciple of Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge, noted grand masters of French cuisine, at his eponymous bistro in St-Remy, Provence. Besh absorbed and further refined his classical sensibilities there, while the flavorful stews and roasts of the region informed his understanding of his own native cuisine, the Creole cooking of Southern Louisiana.

After serving with the Marines in Operation Desert Storm, Besh returned to Louisiana, working to transform an old mansion in Albita Springs into the award-winning Artesia restaurant, where the menu featured contemporary French fare with a local accent. Then, in July 2001 he joined some old friends from The Windsor Court who were engaged in a $3.5 Million restaurant creation-renovation to help develop a new venue for exceptional cuisine, Restaurant August. He currently presides over the menu at the instantly popular and critically praised New Orleans restaurant, which he describes as “very French with a contemporary cache, and steeped in local ingredients.”

Among his accolades Besh has been hailed as “Best New Chef of 1998” in New Orleans and listed among Food & Wine’s “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America”. He presented a dinner at the James Beard House in NYC in June, 2002. His restaurants have been featured and have received awards from Gourmet, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Nation’s Restaurant News, Wine Spectator, Food & Wine, Southern Living, House Beautiful, The Wall Street Journal the New York Times and Bon Appetit.

Jim Dodge
The Getty Center
Los Angeles, CA

Among the world’s chef icons, Jim Dodge, a renowned pastry chef and author, is included in almost everyone’s short list of those who have had the greatest influence on American cuisine in past 20 years. Dodge's hospitality “pedigree” originated in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where his ancestors were innkeepers for seven generations. From early training and direction at his parents' resort, The Inn at Steele Hill, Dodge went to work for James Smith at Wentworth-by-the-Sea, in Portsmouth, NH, and ultimately met Swiss Chef Fritz Albicker, who changed his interest from becoming an hotelier to a chef.

Later, at Albicker's Strawberry Court in Portsmouth, Jim learned how to meld Swiss influence with his New England heritage, resulting in the unique method of preparation and styling that sets him apart as a chef-extraordinaire. He next moved to the West Coast to be the Executive Pastry Chef at the Stanford Court in San Francisco from 1978 to 1988. In October of 1991 he opened The American Pie, a restaurant and pastry shop offering modern American fare in Lang Kwan Fong, Hong Kong. After opening a wholesale bakery and second American Pie in Hong Kong, Jim Dodge moved back to the States to become the Senior Vice President at New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, where he raised the Institute's standing in the culinary world. He is currently General Manager of Food Services at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Jim has published several books, including the award-winning cookbook, The American Baker, and is a contributing editor to the newly revised Joy of Cooking. He as been a contributing editor to several magazines and has received numerous honors, including the "Honor Roll of American Chefs", The James Beard Cookbook Award, and the "Gold Plate Award". Dodge has appeared on the” Today" show, "The Home Show”, “Good Morning America" and "Great Chefs of San Francisco". He was one of the featured chefs in Julia Child’s boo, “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs”. He donates his time regularly to charities throughout the country, and has been an active member of the Boca Bacchanal Committee, serving as Advisory Chef Chairman.

Hiro Sone & Lissa Doumani
Terra
St. Helena, CA

Chef Hiro Sone and his wife, Pastry Chef Lissa Doumani, owners of the much celebrated Terra Restaurant in St. Helena, California, portray the quintessential story of "East meets West." The husband and wife team met in 1983 as Hiro was training at Spago, Wolfgang Puck's renowned Los Angeles eatery. He later traveled to open the new Spago branch in Tokyo the following year and act as sous chef. Lissa followed him there to train their pastry chef in desserts.

After their Tokyo venture, the two decided to move back to Los Angeles together, and shared the same sentiment of wanting to open their own restaurant. And so, in 1988, Terra was born.

The cooking at Terra is a direct reflection of their heritages, travels, memories and personal tastes. Dishes resemble traces of Hiro's Japanese ancestry and his classical French and Italian training at Tsuji Cooking School. Flavors stemming from Lissa's Lebanese and European background, as well as her Napa Valley roots, clearly prevail in their menu. Each of the components of the seasonings from travels, inspiration from their love of Napa Valley and the wines it produces is fundamental to the foods they prepare.

Celebrating its 14th year, Terra has received honors and accolades including the DiRoNa Award since 1994, the "Wine Spectator Award of Excellence" for their wine list and service, and most recently, a 2002 "Ivy Award." Chef Hiro received the "Robert Mondavi Culinary Excellence" award and The James Beard House recently nominated him as "Best Chef in California." In the Bay Area Zagat, Terra is consistently in the top ten for food, service and décor.

Cesare Giaccone
Ristorante Dei Cacciatore
Piemonte, Italy

The heart of Piemontese cuisine is the "earth to table" simplicity of its rustic, full-bodied food; spit-turned, grilled meats, homemade pasta and the freshest regional vegetables all complemeted with the wines famous to the area, which some consider to be the best in Italy and among the best in the world: Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera. Every year, thousands of cognocenti descend upon the Piemonte region of Italy, which is located near Turin in the Northwest corner of the country, to eat, cook, sell and buy the exotic and deeply flavorful white truffles which grow there, perfuming the local restaurants in the Fall with their musky, inticing aroma. And if the visitors are lucky, they dine at Ristorante dei Cacciatori, located in the Piemonte hills.

Chef Cesare Giaccone is the dean of traditional Piemontese cusine, and chef/owner of Ristorante die Cacciatori. Nestled in the hilltop town of Albaretto della Torre, near Alba, in the hear of the Piemonte, it was namned by Patricia Wells, the respected restaurant writer in the International Herald Tribune as one of the ten finest restaurants in the world. In 1996, Irene Virabilia of the Los Angeles Times called Cesare the world's finest Italian chef. For wine lovers, the most remarkable recommendation came in 200o, when noted wine authority Robert M. Parker, Jr. included Cesare in his list of the year's 10 Most Memorable Meals, stating if he had to choose one plate on planet earth, it would be one of Cesare's. In short, there is no better way to savor the flavors of Northern Italy than to sip a great wine from the Piemonte regaion as you enjoy a meal prepared by Chef Cesare.

Nick Morfogen
32 East
Delray Beach, FL

Nick Morfogen, Executive Chef/Partner of 32 East in Delray Beach, Florida, is a classically trained graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and winner of its prestigious "Most Likely To Succeed" Award in 1988, but his connection to the kitchen goes back to his childhood. Working in his family's three successful Chelsea House restaurants in the New York area, and the wonderful "flavor memories" of the traditional Greek cuisine of his heritage set Nick's life in motion towards a career as a chef.

After interning with Eberhard Mueller at LeBernadin in New York City and post graduate stints at several other icon restaurants there, such as La Cote Basque and Le Cirque, Nick traveled west to Colorado and then the Napa Valley of California. As Executive Sous Chef at Tra Vigne, the rustic simplicity of the finest and freshest ingredients inspired him to develop his distinctive style and passion for flavorful innovation. He honed that style as Executive Chef at Ajax Tavern in Aspen, Colorado and Nick and Max's in Boca Raton, Florida.

In 1999, 32 East owner Barbara Straub pursued Nick to take over the kitchen of her Delray Beach restaurant, and he has presided over the multi-award winning Contemporary American Menu there ever since. Fabulous ingredients, exciting new ideas, creativity with taste and the precision of technique are all combined in Nick Morfogen's unique yet modest approach to his craft. "It's all about the food at 32 East.”

Oliver Saucy
Café Maxx
Pompano Beach, FL

Oliver Saucy is the Culinary Director/Partner at Innovative Restaurant Concepts, LLC, owner of Cafe Maxx in Pompano Beach, Florida, East City Grill restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama and Weston, Florida and Bistro 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is known among southeast regional chefs for his "right on" instincts for ingredients that work well together and his classical training, which he uses as a foundation to construct recipes that produce an explosion of flavor.Oliver is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, but he actually learned to cook from his father, Eric, who recently retired from a long and illustrious career as a Senior Chef/Instructor at the CIA.

A regular participant and guest chef at harvest festivals and wine auction events in California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Oliver Saucy often calls public attention to the importance off promoting bio-diversity and sustainable food choices among farmers and growers. He is committed to always using the best possible food products, and clear pure flavors shine through all of his culinary creations.

Continually shopping for the newest products available across the country, Oliver selects the best and freshest ingredients from the Mediterranean, Tropical, "Southern Comfort", Southwestern and Oriental food baskets and then combines them with Florida's bounty of tropical spices, fruits, vegetables and Atlantic Coast seafood. As a result, the menus at Cafe Maxx occupy a position on everybody's short list of the area's top purveyors of Southeast Florida's splendid new regional cuisine.

Allen Susser
Chef Allen’s
Aventura, FL
Alice Weingarten
Alice’s at the LaTeDa
Key West, FL