Worlds of Flavor®

2018 Presenters




LISA ABEND is a journalist and Time correspondent based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is the author of The Sorcerer’s Apprentices, which chronicled the 2009 season of Ferran Adrià’s world-famous elBulli in Spain. As a freelance writer, she has written on seeking solitude in the Scottish Highlands for Afar, learning the Basque language for The Atlantic; on volunteer bit torrent translators for Wired; on the plight of Roma women for Ms.; on prime minister Zapatero’s republican upbringing for The American Prospect; on the recovery of the Iberian lynx for National Wildlife; and on the situation in Western Sahara for The Economist. She contributes to several major American food magazines, and has written features on a Marrakech cooking school (Bon Appétit); on culinary travels through Extremadura (Gourmet); on a collective of grandmothers in Catalonia who preserve traditional cuisine (Saveur) and on learning to love pig face (Food & Wine). Her food writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and the Christian Science Monitor. She hosted an episode on Andalusia in the third season of PBS’ Diary of a Foodie. In a previous life she was a professor of Spanish history at Oberlin College.


Chef-Owner, Zoe's Ghana Kitchen

ZOE ADJONYOH is on a mission to bring African food to the masses. Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and cook from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana. There she spent time exploring recipes in her grandmother’s kitchen and at the famous Kaneshi street market, where she met with cooks who shared their own takes on traditional recipes. Described by The Observer as a “standard bearer for West African food” and picked up by Nigel Slater as one to watch on the topic of immigration food in Britain, Zoe has been making waves in the food scene ever since her first sell-out successful supperclubs in 2011 at her home in Hackney Wick. Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to popup venues across London and Berlin as well as prominent streetfood festivals around the UK, including Bestival and Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective. Named as one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen is the epitome of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice, alongside Zoe’s contemporary West African creations. Zoe’s stunning debut cookbook Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was published by Octopus Books in 2017.

Reem Assil

REEM ASSIL is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA. She is the owner of Reem’s California, inspired by her passion for Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them. She opened an Arab fine dining concept, Dyafa, in partnership with Michelin-award winning chef Daniel Patterson, earning it a place on Bib Gourmand’s List in its first year. Reem has garnered an array of top accolades, including being named a James Beard semifinalist in the Best Chef: West in 2018 and 2019, Thrillist’s 2018 Chef of the Year, San Francisco Magazine’s 2018 Chef of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle’s 2017 Rising Star Chef, and most recently, Star Chefs’ Rising Star Chef 2019. Reem’s California was also named one of Food & Wine’s 2018 Top 10 Restaurants of the Year. Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem worked as a labor and community organizer at SEIU 1877 and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). She has spent more than a decade training organizers and leaders all over the country with multiple social justice non-profits. Reem worked with Bay Area’s esteemed cooperative bakery Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria, Grace Street Catering, Local Flavors, and several local chefs before opening Reem’s. She is a graduate of the competitive food business incubator program, La Cocina, Centro Community Partners, and ICA Fund Good Jobs. (Oakland, CA)


Chef-Owner, Midunu

SELASSIE ATADIKA is chef-owner of Midunu. After more than a decade spent engaged in humanitarian work with the United Nations and years of self-teaching in the culinary arts, she completed coursework at The Culinary Institute of America. She is a founding member of Trio Toque, the first nomadic restaurant in Dakar, Senegal. Selassie brought her innovative approach to African cuisine back home in 2014, with Midunu, a nomadic and private dining enterprise in Accra that embodies “New African Cuisine.” Midunu is a culinary lifestyle company that celebrates Africa’s cultural and culinary heritage. Its goal is to create experiences where culture, community and cuisine intersect. Midunu employs local, seasonal, and underutilized ingredients including traditional grains and proteins to deliver Africa’s bounty to the table. With an eye towards biodiversity and sustainability, it curates white-linen nomadic events, private dining, retail and lifestyle products, and a bespoke event space. Midunu’s Nomadic Dinners have attracted attention with diners from five continents. Selassie has been sought for her thought leadership by CNN African Voices, The Financial Times, The Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), OmVärlden, as well as mentioned in Vogue, National Geographic’s The Plate, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Ebony. She holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in geography modified with environmental studies from Dartmouth College. In 2017, she was named one of the EAT Foundation and Culinary Institute of America’s Plant-Forward Global 50 Chefs.

Mauro Barreiro

Chef-Owner, La Curiosidad de Mauro Barreiro

MAURO BARREIRO is chef at La Curiosidad. Born in Cádiz in 1982, he discovered his passion for cooking at 17 when he first worked in a restaurant, which led him to attend culinary school in his hometown. He then trained as a pastry chef at the renowned school of Espai Sucre, the acclaimed dessert restaurant in Barcelona. He also continued to learn by staging and working in several Michelin-starred restaurants in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Andalusia, and Belgium. Mauro is the creator of revolutionary projects such as Balea, the first restaurant in the province of Cádiz that bet on a revolutionary gastronomy, and Skina in Marbella, where he held a Michelin star. After having lived many experiences, he returned home to create La Curiosidad, a restaurant where he cooks in the tradition of Cádiz. At La Curiosidad, his cuisine combines boldness and imagination with love for the product and for tradition. The restaurant rapidly obtained a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide and a Sun in the Repsol Guide.

Rick Bayless

Chef-Owner, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, Xoco, Leña Brava

Most people know RICK BAYLESS from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, beating out the French and Italian with his authentic Mexican cuisine. His highly rated public television series, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, is in its ninth season and is broadcast coast to coast. In 2012, Rick was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Best Culinary Host. Rick has 12 cookbooks. His second book, Mexican Kitchen, won the Julia Child IACP cookbook of the year award in 1996, and his fourth book, Mexico–One Plate at a Time won James Beard Best International Cookbook of the Year award in 2001. Fiesta at Rick’s spent a number of weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Rick’s side by side award-winning restaurants are in Chicago. The casual Frontera Grill was founded in 1987 and received the James Beard Foundation’s highest award, Outstanding Restaurant, in 2007. The 4-star Toplobampo served its first meals in 1991. And the wildly popular, LEED GOLD-certified, fast-casual Xoco has been around since 2009, serving wood-oven tortas, steaming caldos, golden churros and bean-to-cup Mexican hot chocolate. Rick’s quick-service Tortas Frontera have changed the face of food service at O’Hare International Airport, while Frontera Fresco has brought Frontera flavors to several Macy’s stores and Northwestern University. His award-winning Frontera line of salsas, cooking sauces and organic chips can be found coast to coast. Rick and his staff established the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 to support small Midwestern farms. Each year, grants are awarded to farmers for capital improvements to their family farms, encouraging greater production and profitability. To date, the Foundation has awarded 128 grants totaling over $1.3 million. In 2007, Rick and his team launched the Frontera Scholarship, a full tuition scholarship that sends a Mexican-American Chicago Public School student to Kendall College to study culinary arts. In 2007 Rick was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his many philanthropic endeavors. Rick has received a great number of James Beard Award nominations in many categories, and he has won seven: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Who’s Who of American Food and Drink, Best Podcast, plus two for his cookbooks. The Government of Mexico has bestowed on Rick the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle–the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people. Recently, Rick finished up a sold-out 5-week run on stage at Lookingglass Theatre, where he created Cascabel–offering theater goers the story of a meal, told through flavor, memory, song, dance and amazing physical feats.

Ali Bouzari

Chief Science Officer; Healdsburg, CA

ALI BOUZARI, PHD is a culinary scientist, author, educator, and co-founder of Pilot R&D, a culinary research and development company, and Render, a new food company that collaborates with the best restaurant chefs in the country to reinvent the way food lovers eat. As a chef with a PhD in food biochemistry, Ali has helped to lead the charge in changing the way we think about cooking by teaching and developing curriculum at top universities, from ivy league schools to The Culinary Institute of America, and collaborating with the country’s most innovative restaurants including State Bird Provisions, Benu, Eleven Madison Park, The Restaurant at Meadowood, and the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. Ali has been featured on Forbes’ and Zagat’s 30 Under 30 lists, as a contributor to Popular Science, WIRED, Eater, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and as a guest expert on NPR, TEDx, Cooking Channel, and Iron Chef America. His book, Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food, won the 2017 IACP award for Best Reference Book. In April 2018, he launched a monthly column in the San Francisco Chronicle that looks at the science behind successful restaurant dishes.

Cristina Bowerman

Chef, Glass Hostaria

CRISTINA BOWERMAN, one of the few Italian women chef awarded a Michelin star and other prestigious awards, was born in Cerignola, Italy. After receiving a law degree in 1992, she left Puglia for California, where she alternated forensic studies and graphic design with working at Higher Grounds, a San Francisco coffee house where she developed her passion for cooking, building on her mother’s and grandmother’s teachings. She then earned a culinary arts degree in Austin, Texas. Upon returning to Italy in 2004, she gained an important first experience at the Convivio Troiani in Rome, before moving to Glass Hostaria, a restaurant that then had been opened for one year. There, Cristina started to offer her highly original cuisine, resulting from the different experiences—personal and professional—she made abroad, from the many internships at leading restaurants around the world that she attended to acquire new knowledge, to learn and refine the techniques she took back to Rome and reworked with her own twist. She managed to conquer a wide audience of locals and internationals with her kitchen, sometimes provocative and unsettling, but always recognizable and tasty, able to communicate—in an interesting mix—global and local, modernity and tradition. In 2008 she received two forks in The Gambero Rosso Guide, in 2010 she was awarded a Michelin star—the only female chef to receive one that year, and in 2013 she was awarded the prize “Woman Chef of the Year” by Identità Golose. In November 2012, after a radical renovation of a former Alfa Romeo factory in the Prati district of Rome, Romeo Chef & Baker was born: cooking and baking, a counter with a rich selection of excellent products, gourmet sandwiches and coffee. With Ape Romeo and Frigo, she became a food truck pioneer. In 2015 Romeo at Testaccio Market in Rome opened. The newest member is Romeo C&B, which represents an innovative and wide concept of Italian prêt- à-porter food culture at its best: haute cuisine, delicatessen, bakery, ice-cream parlour, pizzeria, cocktail bar, catering, food store and food-related events location, conference room, all under the same roof. Cristina told her exciting story in a book published in 2014 by Mondadori: From Cerignola to San Francisco and Back: My Countercurrent Life as a Chef. Beyond the creativity and quality of her culinary inventions, Cristina has an emblematic career as she managed to emerge in an environment extremely biased towards males. This value has been recognized at TEDxMilano Women. In 2015 she was the only woman selected as Chef Ambassador at Expo Milano 2015. In November 2015 she received the Prize “Aila Progetto Donna” from Associazione Aila Italian Foundation for the Fight against Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis. Among her most beloved commitments, in 2015 she was the star of the biggest ACTION AID campaign ever. She is also very committed in the organization of Fiorano For Kids, annual event to raise funds to research on the therapeutic role of specific diets in the treatment of epilepsy in children. Since March 2016, Cristina is in the Food Act Committee, the act between Italian cuisine and the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Forestry Policies. In March 2016 she was awarded the prize “Identità nuove sfide” at Identità Golose 2016, and in June of that year she was selected as president of the Association of Italian Ambassadors of Taste. She supervises the food programs of Assaggio Bistrot by Autogrill at the Fiumicino Airport and of MAXXI - Museo Nazionale Delle Arti del XXI secolo, both in Rome. In May 2017 Cristina was awarded the “Non omnia possumus omnes,” 9th edition National Literary Prize Nicola Zingarelli.

Erik Bruner-Yang

Chef-Owner, Maketto, Honeycomb, Brothers and Sisters, Spoken English

ERIK BRUNER-YANG is a two-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee and the chef and owner of Maketto and Honeycomb in Washington, DC. He is also the founder of Toki Underground. Winner of the “Restaurant of the Year” Eater Award and Everyday Casual Restaurant of the Year RAMMY Award, Toki Underground continues to be nationally and locally recognized for its creative menu featuring hybrid Taiwanese style ramen, authentic Taiwanese dumplings, and Asian-inspired cocktails. In 2014, Erik introduced Honeycomb, a local Asian grocery offering local produce and homemade sauces and ferments located at Union Market. In 2015, he opened Maketto, a communal marketplace and lifestyle brand combining retail, restaurant, and café located at 1351 H Street NE. Maketto was selected as one of Eater’s 21 Best New Restaurants in America and is DC’s New Restaurant of the Year by RAMW. Erik and his restaurants continue to receive rave reviews both locally and nationally from Bon Appétit, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Eater, and many more. Erik recently opened two new concepts, Brothers and Sisters and Spoken English, in The Line Hotel in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, DC.

Manoella Buffara

Chef-Owner, Manu

MANOELLA BUFFARA is a prominent name in contemporary gastronomy. At her restaurant Manu in Curitiba, she cooks and experiments with indigenous Brazilian products, mostly from the region of Paraná. She inherited all of her respect for ingredients from her father, who was a farmer. Selecting products according to their seasonal availability and the objective to be as fresh as possible make for a menu in constant mutation. Manoella was raised in the countryside around goats, cows, vegetable gardens, cornfields… She learned early on to value land and animals, and what they can offer if treated with affection and care. With her grandmother, she learned how important our hands are, to discover temperatures, cooking points, time to make bread, and the love we should have for food. Patience has been a guiding principle as Manoella built her career and Manu: one must know how to wait and let things sometimes develop on their own, without trying to selfishly control them. Each ingredient has its cooking time and its individuality. Cooking is respecting the time of things. Each food demands a dress, a face, a tradition. From the three-digit dish set up in the acclaimed restaurant to the snack just out of the questionable oven of a simple corner bar, every food has its time and place. Manoella is guided by the moto “Be proud of your roots, be proud of your land, be proud of your family and your culture.”

Val M. Cantu

Chef-Owner, Californios

VAL M. CANTU is the chef-owner of Californios in San Francisco’s Mission district. At the age of five, his father moved the family to a small town in central Texas and opened a Mexican restaurant and tortilleria. Val graduated with a degree in English and Business from the University of Texas at Austin before returning to cooking. In Austin, he worked at Uchi, before moving to the Bay Area. Once in San Francisco he spent a year as sous chef at Sons and Daughters in Nob Hill, and then quickly began working on Californios. Having fallen in love with the bounty of the Bay Area, Californios first appeared as a pop-up while he searched for a physical space. Val was named a Rising Star Chef by StarChefs and the San Francisco Chronicle in 2016, and one of America’s Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine in 2017.

Justin Carlisle

Chef-Owner, Ardent

JUSTIN CARLISLE grew up on a small beef farm in rural Wisconsin and food has always played a large part of his life. Starting in small restaurants, his passion for cooking grew and helped develop a love of food and a hard work ethic. His restaurant Ardent—opened in October of 2013, has been named one of the 15 best new restaurants by Condé Nast Traveler; Best Restaurant in the State of Wisconsin by Business Insider; and was named a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Justin is a James Beard Awards nominee for Best Chef Midwest for 2015, 2016, and 2017. Plate named him one of the top 30 chefs to watch in 2016. During his time as a chef, Justin has continued to support the local food movement and use a modern technical approach to it.

Photo credit: Huge Galdones

Jeremy Chan

Head Chef/Co-Owner, Ikoyi

JEREMY CHAN is head chef/co-owner of Ikoyi. He was born in the UK to a Chinese father and Canadian mother, grew up in Hong Kong, the UK, and the US and spent much of his life living and working around Europe. He received a bachelor’s degree in languages and philosophy from Princeton magna cum laude. He then went into renewable energy private equity, a career path that proved ill-suited to his interest, as Jeremy spent all his days off obsessing and thinking about food and read any book he could get his hands on until he convinced himself he would become a chef. He left his job and started working in kitchens about six years ago, asking, questioning, and writing everything down in every kitchen where he worked. Jeremy spent time in Michelin-starred kitchens, including at Hibiscus in London, in the test kitchen at Noma in Copenhagen, and most recently at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal back in London. He left to open Ikoyi with his old friend and business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale. The food at Ikoyi is a culmination of his entire life experience around food, aesthetics, culture, and interpretation of gastronomy applied to West African ingredients. At Ikoyi, they only create new dishes, driven by the products, combinations, and historical implications of the region. The food is not authentically West African. They explore medical journals to understand the applications of peppercorns in many of their dishes, trace the history of grains to gain a better understanding of origin and influence, and work with researchers of umami from various institutions. There is also a strong artistic influence in the concept around the look and texture of food, while the cooking aspect may be more technical.

Tracy Chang

Chef-Owner, PAGU

TRACY CHANG’s love for the restaurant industry began at an early age at her grandmother’s Japanese restaurant in Cambridge. Her grandmother, Chin-Fun Shiue, immigrated to Boston in the 1980s and decided to open not only one restaurant, but several. At an early age, Tracy observed her grandmother’s hard work and leadership that created opportunities for other immigrants. While earning her bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston College, Tracy worked jobs in various industries. Each job had a common focus: service and leadership. She co-founded the food and recipe column in the BC Heights with her roommate and often gathered friends and professors together to participate in making homemade dumplings, noodles and dessert. Her hunger for restaurant experience led her to work at O Ya while she finished her finance degree. She sought to learn pastry from the crème de la crème, and went on to study with MOF Pâtissier Nicolas Bernardé at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. From Paris, she traveled south and over the border to Spain, where she won a scholarship to cook alongside Chef Martín Berasategui at his Michelin three-star restaurant in San Sebastian. Three months into her scholarship with Berasategui, he offered her the rare opportunity to be his “mano derecha,” and she spent the rest of the year travelling alongside him to all events from Alicante to New York. She coordinated television production with Berasategui and David de Jorge on the set of Robin Food, as well as directed his public lectures, lead his marketing and communications department, and launched his social media initiatives. An unexpected family emergency led Tracy to return to Boston, where she spent the next year taking care of her father and her pup, Phoebe. While she helped nurse her dear ones back to health, she re-grouped with her former O Ya co-workers to conceptualize and co-found Guchi’s Midnight Ramen (GMR), directing back of the house preparations as well as front of the house service and hospitality. In the fall of 2012, Tracy officially joined as a teaching fellow with the Harvard Science and Cooking program. She coordinated public and student lectures with world-renowned chefs. She is still involved in the program, working with Professor Michael Brenner, Preceptor Pia Sorensen, the Alicia Foundation, and Pere Castells, and visiting chefs from around the world. Through hosting events in Boston and Cambridge in the tech and start-up scene, Tracy not only met like-minded, visionaries with a common knack for gathering movers and shakers in the community, but also formed lifelong friendships. With the help of Jesse Baerkahn and his team at Graffito SP, she found the perfect home for PAGU, 310 Mass. Ave., nestled between Central Square and MIT, the hub of innovation. Tracy is excited to feed the community and continue her grandmother’s legacy. She looks forward to cultivating more than a restaurant, cafe and bakery; by bringing talented friends together over soulful food and sparkling conversation, they will create boundless opportunities for collaboration and innovation.

Jacquelyn Chi

Director for programs and special projects for the Strategic Initiatives Group

JACQUELYN CHI is director for programs and special projects for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). In this role, Jacquelyn supports program planning for the college’s annual thought leadership conferences and initiatives, and oversees the Appetites + Innovation National Leadership Collaborative for Retail Foodservice (A+I). Launched in 2015, A+I aims to advance culinary excellence, health and wellness, sustainability, and cultures of innovation in retail food service. In 2013, Jacquelyn project-managed the CIA’s first mobile app for its flagship Worlds of Flavor® International Conference & Festival, which won the 2013 Cvent Plannie Award for “Best Use of a Mobile App”. Prior to joining the CIA, Jacquelyn earned her master’s degree in international communication from American University, where she researched food as a tool of public diplomacy, and the social construction of authenticity in foreign eating experiences. She has also served as photographer and videographer for a Turkish coffee truck diplomacy project; managed social media for a start-up food company; and worked in a chocolate factory. Jacquelyn holds a bachelor’s degree in radio-television-film from Northwestern University.

Kyle Connaughton

Chef-Owner, Single Thread

KYLE CONNAUGHTON is the chef-owner of SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, which earned two Michelin stars just 10 months after opening. In addition, he is the co-founder of the culinary development firm Pilot R&D. Kyle grew up cooking in some of Los Angeles’ best restaurants, including Spago Beverly Hills, Kishi, Lucques, AOC, and the Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Huntington. He attended The Southern California School of Culinary Arts and two Japanese culinary schools. Outside of Los Angeles, Kyle spent three years working for the three-Michelin-star chef Michel Bras’ Japanese outpost. While in Japan, Kyle also worked in some of the top kaiseki, sushi, soba, and izakaya-style kitchens. He then moved to the UK to open The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen with Heston Blumenthal, as the head chef of research and development. For five years, Kyle oversaw the development work for the three-Michelin-star The Fat Duck, which was voted The Best Restaurant in the World in both 2006 and 2007. In 2010, Kyle returned to the U.S. to work on several development projects, including contributing to the Modernist Cuisine book series. Other projects have included program and curriculum development for The Culinary Institute of America’s bachelor of professional studies in culinary science. His book Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Claypot Cooking was published by Ten Speed Press in October 2015.

Robert Danhi ‘91

Founder, Chef Danhi & Co

ROBERT DANHI ‘91 is an award-winning author, James Beard finalist, television show host, and R&D chef with 25 years of extensive research in Southeast Asia and a lifelong commitment to the demystification of Southeast Asian cuisine for home cooks, aspiring chefs, and his industry peers. This curator of culture was recruited to host Taste of Vietnam, a 26-episode television show exploring 19 of the undiscovered provinces of Vietnam, currently being broadcasted internationally. Robert was selected to be one of the main judges of Top Chef Vietnam, a 17-episode reality TV show that is based on the USA Emmy-award winning series.  As a photo-journalist he published, authored, and photographed his first book, Southeast Asian Flavors, a deep-dive into the culinary cultures of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. His most recent book, Easy Thai Cooking: 75 Family-Style Dishes You Can Prepare at Home in Minutes, showcases simple recipes that result in the genuine flavors of Thailand. Upon earning his degree from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 1991, Robert honed his skills in varying restaurant positions from Los Angeles to Hawaii. In 1999, he returned to his roots as a faculty member at the CIA in Hyde Park and continues to teach for them as an adjunct faculty member. Bringing all of his passions and expertise together, Robert founded Chef Danhi & Co in 2005, a consulting firm based in Los Angeles that works with food manufacturers, restaurants, educational organizations, and professional associations. This full service agency’s expertise resides in menu and product R&D, sales and marketing support, and educational and training programs.


Chef-Owner, Mi Tocaya Antojeria

DIANA DÁVILA is the executive chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. A native of the Chicago suburbs, she grew up in kitchens and began working in her parent’s taqueria at the age of 10. She began her professional career at her family’s upscale dining concept, Hacienda Jalapeños, where she received high praise in the form of a two-star review from Phil Vettel at the Chicago Tribune and was called a “Mexican marvel” by the Chicago Sun-Times. Most recently, Diana was featured as one of 21 Chicagoans in the Chicago Reader 2015 People Issue. To continue her culinary exploration, she studied under Chef Susana Trilling at the Seasons of the Heart culinary school in Oaxaca, Mexico, and then cooked at Butter. In 2007, she accepted a new opportunity to work alongside Guiseppe Tentori as the fish cook at the Michelin starred Boka. In 2008, she took a break from the Chicago winters and landed in D.C, where she spent four years under the wings of well-known restaurateur, Jackie Greenbaum. She helped her conceptualize, develop and build Greenbaum’s innovative restaurant concepts; Jackie’s, Sidebar and El Chucho as an executive chef and most recently as chef consultant of Bar Charley. Her work in the nation’s capital was heavily lauded and while there she was recognized by Washingtonian as one of 13 “Culinary Rising Stars” in 2010 as well as one of five “Female Force” chefs by Washington Life in 2011. After returning to Chicago and opening the innovative Cantina 1910 Diana was ready to open a restaurant that truly represents her culinary voice. She is excited to share her takes on familiar Mexican favorites, favorite regional specialties, and dishes inspired by her Mexican heritage with Chicago at her first restaurant, Mi Tocaya Antojeria.

Sau del Rosario

Chef-Owner, Café Fleur, 25 Seeds

ROSAURO “SAU” DEL ROSARIO is a native of Pampanga, one of the Philippines’ culinary centers and a region that boasts of prominent families in the restaurant and cuisine-inclined circles. His family comprises four generations of chefs, including Sau’s grandfather. He received a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant administration from the University of the Philippines, which gave him overview of the colorful world he was about to enter but did not hint as to the exciting, globe-trotting career that awaited him. Sau was trained and worked under Michelin-starred Chef Christian Plumail of Restaurant L’univers in Nice, France. His experience there appended his already comprehensive understanding of French cookery by adding a dimension of French regional cuisine to his knowledge. Continuing in Paris, he worked with Michelin-starred Chef Jacques Divellec of the well-known seafood restaurant Le Divellec. His Parisian experience also gave him a deeper understanding of the culture and lifestyle of the French. Paris remains Sau’s second home to this day. He then worked as executive chef in the famous restaurant LUNA in Shanghai, China for years before joining Raffles Hotel and Resorts for three years. Sau also worked in Manila with hotels like Shangrila, Peninsula, New World, Westin, and Pan Pacific. He often travels promoting Filipino cuisine all over the world, from Dubai and Seoul to Tokyo and Melbourne. Sau is the author of 20 Years of Love and Cooking; a food writer for Food magazine; a TV host for four cooking shows; and the founder and president of the organization Culinarya Pampanga. He is also a part of the Slow Food Movement in the Philippines. Three years ago, Sau opened his signature restaurant, Café Fleur, in his hometown of Angeles City, showcasing local cuisine (Pampangueño) to promote in the preservation of heritage cuisine and heirloom recipes of the region. His second project, equally close to his heart, is 25 Seeds, a farm-to-table restaurant also located in Angeles City.


Benjamin “BJ” Dennis

The Gullah-Geechee Chef

Born and raised in Charleston, SC, personal chef and caterer BENJAMIN “BJ” DENNIS infuses the flavors and culture of the Lowcountry into his Gullah Geechee cuisine, bringing a new taste to ever expanding culinary palate of the south. What differentiates BJ’s food from his contemporaries in “southern” cooking is the homage he pays to the Gullah Geechee culture, brought to the Americas by West Africans, and disseminated along the West Indies and the American South. BJ infuses the techniques of his ancestors, learned from four years of study in St. Thomas, as well as the lessons of his grandparents about eating from the land, to create fresh interpretations of local dishes focusing on in-season, locally sourced vegetables and seafood. BJ has an associate’s degree in hospitality / tourism management and the culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of Charleston and has worked in a number of award-winning southern dining establishments including Carolinas, Anson’s, Oak Steakhouse, Hank’s Seafood, and 82 Queen. His cuisine has been featured in local, national and international events including the BB&T Wine+Food Festival, Cook It Raw, Meatopia, and The Food Film Fest. His “pop-up” dinners, at local establishments such as Butcher & Bee, Elliottborough MiniBar, Republic Reign, Le Creuset, Roadside Seafood, and Proof, are sought-after culinary adventures on the underground dinner circuit. His pop-up at Labo Culinaire Foodlab in Montreal, Quebec in May 2015 took the Gullah food and culture to an international arena. BJ was also a chef participant at the Terroir food symposium in Toronto, Canada’s biggest food conference, in May 2015. Recent appearances on P.B.S Moveable Feast and Bravo’s Top Chef have taken him and Gullah Cuisine to a national television audience.

Greg Denton ‘96

Chef-Owner, Ox and Bistro Agnes

GREG DENTON and GABRIELLE QUIÑÓNEZ DENTON opened Ox Restaurant in April 2012, SuperBite in April 2016, and Bistro Agnes in January 2017 in Portland, Oregon. They are the 2017 winners of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest, and 2014 Food & Wine Best New Chefs. Ox Restaurant, which serves Argentine-inspired Portland food, was named The Oregonian’s Restaurant of the Year in 2013, one of Bon Appétit’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants, Eater’s 2012 Portland Restaurant of the Year, and was a semi-finalist for the 2014 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in America. SuperBite received Eater’s 2016 Portland Best Spin-Off of the Year Award and was named one of Thrillist’s Best New Restaurants of the year, before the space transitioned into Bistro Agnes. Their debut cookbook, Around the Fire, was released in March 2016 (published by Ten Speed Press), to critical acclaim. Born in Schenectady, New York and raised in Rutland, Vermont, Greg knew he wanted to be a chef from age four. He started working in kitchens at age nine. Gabrielle’s passion for food developed at a young age as well, during summers spent in her grandmother’s kitchen in the Andean highlands of Ecuador. Both Greg and Gabrielle graduated from culinary school with honors, Greg in 1996 from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and Gabrielle in 1999 from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Greg Drescher

Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Industry Leadership

GREG DRESCHER is vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He oversees the college’s leadership initiatives for the foodservice industry, including academic and other strategic partnerships, conferences, invitational leadership retreats, digital media, and other global initiatives. He is the creator of the college’s Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival (now in its 21st year), as well as a portfolio of health and sustainability leadership initiatives including Menus of Change and Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, jointly presented by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, co-led by the CIA and Stanford University in association with more than 50-plus leading colleges and universities; and the recently launched annual Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit and Plant-Forward Kitchen digital media platform. Co-developer of the CIA’s new partnership with the University of Barcelona—the Torribera Mediterranean Center, with its focus on the healthy, traditional Mediterranean Diet and regional food studies—and a strategic advisor to the European-based EAT Foundation, Greg works internationally to advance innovation at the intersection of health, sustainability, culture, and culinary insight. In 2005, Greg was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, and in 2007 and 2009 he shared a second and third James Beard Award for his team’s work in developing the CIA’s Savoring the Best of World Flavors digital media series, filmed on location around the world. He served on the National Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States (final report 2010). In 2011, he was inducted as a member of the Accademia dei Georgofili, Europe’s oldest agricultural academy based in Florence. In 2017, Foodservice Director included Greg in its 20 People Shaping American Foodservice Today. Before joining the CIA 24 years ago, he jointly spearheaded a collaboration of some of the world’s leading health experts and organizations—including the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and WHO—in authoring the The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: A Cultural Model for Healthy Eating. The cumulative results of this research were published in a special edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1995), creating an evidence-based foundation for much of the academic, policy, and media interest in the Mediterranean Diet that followed. (Sacramento, CA)


Editor, FSR

LAURA D’ALESSANDRO is editor of FSR magazine. Before joining the FSR team in January, Laura made those viral recipe videos at Tastemade in Los Angeles. While living in LA, Laura also worked independently as a food blogger, recipe developer and workshop leader specializing in plant-forward meal prep. She also comes equipped with a decade of journalism experience and a master’s degree in digital storytelling from American University.


Journalist and Cookbook Author

JODY EDDY holds an English degree from The University of Minnesota and is a culinary school graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. She has cooked at Jean Georges, The Fat Duck, and Tabla and is the former executive editor of Art Culinaire. She is the author of the books The Hygge Life, Cuba: Recipes and Stories From a Cuba Kitchen, and the IACP Judge’s Choice Award North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland published by Ten Speed Press, and of the James Beard-nominated cookbook Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants by Running Press. She writes for Travel+Leisure, Saveur, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Plate, and VICE, among others. Her cookbook profiling monastic food around the world will be published by Norton in 2019. She is the author of, leads culinary tours for executives, is a recipe developer for various large-scale food and beverage companies, has presented at international food writing conferences and has consulted on food sovereignty issues for NGO’s. She is currently co-producing a television show focused on the meaning of food for a major network.


Chef-Owner, Emmer & Rye

KEVIN FINK is owner and executive chef of Emmer & Rye. He found his love for food, restaurants, and hospitality at an early age when he would trail his father working in the restaurant industry, learning the ins-and-outs of the culinary operations. Emmer & Rye brings a unique dining experience to Austin, as the restaurant is the city’s first to offer contemporary American seasonal small plates passed on circulating carts as part of their meal. Guests are able to order these items in addition to a weekly rotating menu using local farm-to-table ingredients. Emmer & Rye opened in late 2015, and Kevin was quickly named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” and one of the “Best New Restaurants 2016” by Bon Appétit. He also received the StarChefs Rising Star Award in 2017. After the start of his career 15 years ago, Kevin’s culinary achievements include: cooking at 13 Gobbi in Florence, Italy, and front of house service at Thomas Keller’s iconic restaurant, The French Laundry, which was awarded Restaurant Magazine’s World’s Best Restaurant in 2003. Kevin continued his career by staging at Copenhagen’s Noma, holding the same Restaurant Magazine rank for three years following The French Laundry. From there, he continued on to the competitive Noma Test Kitchen, where he created unique techniques and dining trends. Kevin currently resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Alicynn.

Monique Fiso

Chef-Owner, Hiakai

From an after-school job as a sandwich hand at the tender age of 14, to the Michelin-starred kitchens of New York City, MONIQUE FISO always wanted to be a chef. She completed her studies at the Wellington Institute of Technology and while still still in school talked her way into her first fine dining job working for Chef Martin Bosley at the eponymous Martin Bosley at the Port Nicholson Yacht Club. Working full time while studying paid off and Monique finished top of her class. With a hunger for adventure and a desire for a challenge, she booked a ticket to New York City, home of some of the world’s best restaurants. After dropping her bags at a hostel, Monique headed for Michelin-starred PUBLIC restaurant and was immediately put to work. Over the next seven years, she honed her skills as a sous chef in some of New York City’s top kitchens: The Musket Room, PUBLIC Restaurant, A Voce, Saxon+Parole, Double Crown, to name a few. In 2016, she returned to New Zealand full time and began the pop-up dining series, Hiakai. Using traditional Māori cooking techniques and ingredients in combination with her Michelin-star training, Monique has taken Māori cuisine to a whole new level of sophistication and pushed it into the next chapter in its food story. Since arriving back in New Zealand, Monique has also become a regular contributor to MiNDFOOD Magazine, Māori Television, and Morena on TVNZ1.

Andrew Friedman

Journalist and Author

ANDREW FRIEDMAN has chronicled the life and work of some of the best American chefs. Most recently, he is the author of Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits, and Wanderers Created a New American Profession. He previously wrote Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Bocuse d’Or, the World’s Most Prestigious Cooking Competition and coedited the internationally popular anthology Don’t Try This at Home. He has also coauthored more than two dozen cookbooks and memoirs with chefs including Alfred Portale, Paul Liebrandt, and Michael White, and collaborated on the New York Times bestselling memoir Breaking Back with tennis star James Blake. Andrew writes about chefs on his Toqueland blog and interviews them on his Heritage Radio Network podcast Andrew Talks to Chefs.

Photo courtesy of Evan Sung.

Diego Galicia ‘10

Chef-Owner, Mixtli

DIEGO GALICIA ‘10 was born in Toluca, Mexico in 1984 and moved to San Antonio in 2002. He studied psychology at The University of Texas at San Antonio a few years before graduating from The Culinary Institute of America. While a student at the CIA, he was employed at Restaurant Lüke, owned by Chef John Besh, and a local french bakery where he did Sunday brunch. Diego has had the opportunity of working back in his native Mexico at Azul Condesa, owned by renowned Chef Ricardo Muñoz, and stints at Michelin-starred restaurants Atelier Crenn in San Francisco and Moto in Chicago. In the spring of 2017, Diego and his partner, Rico Torres, were named Food & Wine’s best new chefs. In February 2018, the San Antonio Express-News named Mixtli best restaurant in San Antonio, while Diego and Rico were James Beard Awards semifinalists for Best Chef: Southwest. Mixtli is a very personal and intimate project that reflects Diego’s love and passion for his native country.

Mark Garcia ‘91

Head of Marketing, Food Service and Culinary, Avocados From Mexico

MARK GARCIA ’91 is the head of marketing, food service and culinary for Avocados From Mexico. He has more than 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, including major resort hotels, casual and fine dining restaurants, national chains, food manufacturers, large CPG companies, and gourmet retailers. Mark is known throughout the industry as an innovative, creative, and results-driven executive, is frequently tapped as a keynote speaker, and has authored two books. As head of marketing for Avocados From Mexico, Mark and his team work as product ambassadors to all segments of the foodservice world.


Editor, NPR’s The Salt

MARIA GODOY is a senior editor with NPR’s Science Desk and the host of The Salt, NPR’s food vertical. Maria covers the food beat with a wide lens, investigating everything from the health effects of caffeine consumption to how what we eat defines our cultural and personal identities. With her colleagues on the food team, she’s won a James Beard Award for best food blog, first place in the blog category from the Association of Food Journalists, and a Gracie Award for Outstanding Blog from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation. Previously, Maria oversaw political, national, and business coverage for Her work as part of NPR reporting teams has been recognized with several awards, including a 2010 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for coverage of race and the 2008 presidential election, and a 2009 DuPont for a series on the sexual abuse of Native American women. Born in Guatemala, Maria now lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with her husband and two kids. (Washington, DC)

Joyce Goldstein

Chef, Author

Joyce Goldstein is a chef, author, and a consultant to the restaurant and food industries. For 12 years she was chef-owner of the ground-breaking Mediterranean restaurant, Square One, in San Francisco, which received numerous prestigious industry awards for food, wine and service. Prior to Square One, she was chef of the café at Chez Panisse and has since been a frequent visiting executive chef at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the CIA in the Napa Valley. Chef Goldstein received the 1993 James Beard Award for Best Chef in California. A prolific author, her cookbooks include The Mediterranean Kitchen, Back to Square One: Old World Food in a New World Kitchen, winner of both the Julia Child and James Beard Awards for Best General Cookbook of 1992, and Kitchen Conversations, an IACP book award nominee in 1997. Among her most recent books are Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness, Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen, Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, Enoteca: Simple, Delicious Food from Italian Wine Bars, Saffron Shores, Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean, Solo Suppers, Savoring Spain and Portugal, Mediterranean Fresh, and Tapas.


Head Chef, Franklin

ANALIESE GREGORY is head chef of Franklin. Originally hailing from New Zealand’s North Island, and also spending a few years of her childhood travelling remote areas of Australia with her parents, Analiese took up cooking at the age of 15 before graduating with a diploma of culinary arts from Auckland University of Technology. Her extensive CV starts with her time at Logan Brown in Wellington, before traipsing across the world to work in Europe’s most prestigious kitchens, including time at two Michelin-starred venues, The Ledbury and Le Meurice, S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best ranked Mugaritz, and the revered three-Michelin-star restaurant of Michel Bras. Back in Sydney, Analiese then spent 5 years alongside Peter Gilmore, heading the team at Quay, including when it joined the S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best list. Following her time at Quay, Analiese then jetted off to the deserts of Morocco in 2014, running a pop-up restaurant out of Numero 7. She then joined the team behind ACME in the kitchen in January 2015, before it was decided that they wanted to open a bar reflective of the natural wine bars they encountered in Europe. It was from March 2016 that Analiese then headed up her own Sydney kitchen at Bar Brosé, cooking a menu defined by what she would want to cook for friends if they were coming over for a dinner party. Countryside beckoned over big city, and having already established strong ties with Tasmania after numerous weekend visits to both friends and producers, Analiese decided to make the seachange in July 2017 to head the kitchen at Franklin. This now sees Analiese diving for urchin on her way to work, establishing personal relationships with her growers, and preparing produce driven menus at the restaurant. She was named a 2015 Time Out Hot New Talent, received 1 Hat and Best Bar Food for Bar Brosé in the 2016 Good Food Guide, and again received 1 Hat in the 2017 guide for Franklin.

Michael Harlan Turkell

Photographer, Author, Radio Host; /

MICHAEL HARLAN TURKELL is a photographer and author who has spent over a decade as a journalist in the food media world. He has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in Visual Storytelling, photographed over a dozen cookbooks, co-authored Chris Cosentino’s OFFAL GOOD, and wrote and photographed his own, ACID TRIP: Travels in the World of Vinegar, which recently won an IACP award. Michael also hosts THE FOOD SEEN on, a podcast during which he brings together guests working at the intersections of food, art, and design that has twice been a finalist for a Stitcher Award, as well as the special eight-part series MODERNIST BREADCRUMBS, in collaboration with Modernist Cuisine’s Modernist Bread book. He is also the new host of Burnt Toast, the Food52 podcast. He also started the Japanese-inspired event series called SUMO STEW, which live streams sumo matches from the grand tournaments in Japan while serving chankonabe, the stew they cook and eat to fortify themselves before wrestling. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wine writing wife, and their cat #masontoday. (Brooklyn, NY)


Chef-Owner, Stages at One Washington

EVAN HENNESSEY lives in Dover, New Hampshire and together with his brother owns Stages at One Washington restaurant. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu at the Atlantic Culinary Academy in 2001 and has since cooked alongside some of the best chefs in the country, including Charlie Palmer at New York City’s Aureole, Grant Achatz at Trio in Chicago, Andrew Carmellini at Café Boulud, Thomas Rice and Ken Oringer at Clio, and Eli Kaimeh and Thomas Keller at Per Se. Evan has worked as the executive chef of 43 Degrees North and The Dunaway Restaurant, as well as chef de partie of the 100 Club, all in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Evan is trained in classical French techniques and methods and now serves what he calls progressive New England cuisine, utilizing locally farmed and foraged foods to create artistically inspired dishes. In the fall of 2015, Evan was named as one of 30 “Chefs to Watch” by Plate. In 2014, he was named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Awards in the category of Best Chef: Northeast. In 2013, Evan traveled to New York City and won the VitaMix Challenge, a national competition that included a field of several hundred chefs. He is also a 2014 StarChefs Rising Star. Stages at One Washington has gained such accolades as #1 Hottest New Restaurant in New Hampshire (NH Magazine), 15/20 score from (highest rating given in the state), the Award of Excellence from the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs for outstanding food and service, and named 47th Best Restaurant in the US by Opinionated About Dining. Evan is also very active in the local food industry, giving many demonstrations and talks at various local schools, farmer’s markets, and conferences. He is a proud member of Chefs Collaborative, a non-profit organization aimed and bringing farmers and chefs together in order to revive heirloom vegetables, heritage meats and dairy as well as spread the education of sustainable agriculture and food sourcing. He focuses on supporting local farms through use of their products in his cooking. He also participates in cooking events such as the Taste of the Nation, Passport Beer and Food Festival, and the Heirloom Harvest Barn Dinner.

Cathy Nash Holley

Editor in Chief and Publisher, Flavor & The Menu

CATHY NASH HOLLEY has been publisher and editor-in-chief of Flavor & The Menu since it began nearly 20 years ago. With its annual Top 10 Trends issue, Flavor & The Menu is a valuable resource for the foodservice industry, serving as a source of flavor and menu trends, strategies and innovation. In addition to overseeing the magazine, Cathy gives presentations on flavor trends at industry events, and is immediate past-president of the International Foodservice Editorial Council. She lives in Maine with her teenage twins. (Portland, ME)

Katianna Hong ‘05

Chef, The Charter Oak

KATIANNA HONG ‘05, chef of the acclaimed The Charter Oak restaurant, which is nominated for a 2018 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, has worked her way up in some of the best kitchens in the country. She moved to the Napa Valley over six years ago to work as a line cook at The Restaurant at Meadowood. In 2014, she became Christopher Kostow’s first-ever chef de cuisine. During that time, Katianna was the only female chef de cuisine in a U.S. Michelin three-star restaurant. Born in Korea and raised in upstate New York, Katianna trained as a Junior Olympian in gymnastics. After some time in college, she decided her passion was in the culinary arts and she studied at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and at the UNLV School of Hospitality. Following her education, Katianna went on to work for Chef Josiah Citrin of Michelin two-star acclaimed Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica, California. In 2015, Katianna was honored as Rising Star Chef by San Francisco Magazine, and was recently named a “Maker of the Napa Valley” by Visit Napa Valley in partnership with AFAR Magazine. The Charter Oak is a new restaurant in the heart of the Napa Valley, by Chef Christopher Kostow and Nathaniel Dorn of the Michelin-three starred Restaurant at Meadowood. It is centered on a celebratory, family-style dining experience, with simple, approachable, and seasonal food—grilled meats, beautiful vegetables from the farm, local wines, and unparalleled cocktails. Its menu reflects the products of the Napa Valley through an elemental cooking style, with a hearth at its center, and by highlighting one or two ingredients at a time.

Andrew Hunter ‘88

Foodservice and Industrial Chef, Kikkoman

Andrew Hunter ‘88 is the foodservice and industrial chef for Kikkoman, where he develops custom and ready-to-use sauce solutions for manufacturing partners, as well as menu concepts for a broad base of restaurant, college and university, and healthcare customers. Andrew has worked as chef de cuisine for Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Café, vice president of culinary development for Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, and managed the culinary operations for Darden Restaurants’ 600+ unit Olive Garden restaurants. He earned an AOS in culinary arts from The Culinary Institute of America, a BA in culinary history from New College, and an MA in museum studies from San Francisco State University. In 2011, he spent Thanksgiving in Afghanistan and cooked a “Dinner of a Lifetime” for U.S. Special Forces in forward operating bases.

Mario Jiménez Córdoba

Executive Chef, El Faro

MARIO JIMÉNEZ CÓRDOBA is executive chef of El Faro de Cádiz (Cádiz), the first restaurant of the Gastromonic Group El Faro, Cádiz, which also includes El Faro de El Puerto, Ventorillo El Chato, Catering El Faro, and Barrasi7e. After training at the Superior School of Hospitality of Seville and being part of two-star Michelin restaurants Les Cols (Catalonia) and L’Escaleta (Alicante), he joined the kitchen team of El Faro in September 2016 with a clear idea: “Cooking Cádiz from the coast to the orchard and the mountain.” His cooking philosophy is centered around the sea and cooking its products in the most respectful way, as his grandparents taught him. Mario supplements the traditional bases of the cuisine of Cádiz with new culinary techniques. “In our family we understand that the future is cooked with the base of the past and the product of the present, which are the three generations of El Faro,” Mario likes to say.

Joseph “JJ” Johnson ‘07

Chef-Owner, Ingrained Hospitality

JOSEPH “JJ” JOHNSON ‘07 is the James Beard-nominated chef best known for cooking food of the African diaspora at the beloved Harlem restaurants, The Cecil and Minton’s, where he most recently served as executive chef. JJ’s signature style of transforming simple cuisine with bold flavors and unexpected ingredients was inspired by the Caribbean flavors he grew up with, combined with African and Asian tastes acquired from his travels around the world. Now, JJ has created a new restaurant group, InGrained Hospitality Concepts, and has teamed up with Will Sears on two new restaurant projects, including an upcoming grain and rice concept, ingredients that JJ has spent the last several years studying alongside Glen Roberts of Anson Mills. His first cookbook, Between Harlem and Heaven was released in February 2018. He was the first chef in residence of Chefs Club, a restaurant located in New York City’s NoLiTa neighborhood, cooking a menu of “Afro-Asian” cuisine, something he feels is tangible evidence of the migration of people, and the creativity that it begets. JJ has been named among Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the food & wine category, Zagat’s 30 Under 30, and Eater’s Young Guns.

Chris Kajioka ‘03

Chef-Owner, Senia

CHRIS KAJIOKA ‘03 is one of Honolulu’s most well-known and beloved chefs. Since childhood, he has never wanted to be anything other than a chef, and he has proven that he knows no bounds in perfecting his craft. Chris, a Honolulu native, received a degree in the culinary arts from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After graduation, he went on to work at Ron Siegel’s Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco and then Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York. Making his way west yet again, Chris worked his way up to sous chef at Aziza in San Francisco and then continued on to Blaine Wetzel’s Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington. Returning to his native Hawaii in 2012, he became the executive chef at Vintage Cave. Chris’ classical culinary training combined with his affinity for his own Japanese heritage results in his own unique style: inventive dishes incorporating techniques from contemporary French cuisine with a distinctly Japanese sensibility. At Vintage Cave, he earned nominations for the James Beard Rising Star Award and Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef, as well as being awarded a place in the “Top Ten Dishes of 2013” from Food & Wine. Closer to home, Chris has become a central figure in the Honolulu food community and remains a staunch supporter of local farms, artisans, and time-honored small businesses. In 2015, he joined forces with British chef Anthony Rush and began work on their forthcoming restaurant, Senia, which opened in December 2016 in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Senia offers a cuisine showcasing their mutual culinary pedigree, and explores and celebrates Hawaii’s abundance of ingredients.

Kelly Killian

Consulting Creative Director

Kelly Killian is a content expert whose roles in media have included overseeing editorial strategy for FoodService Director and Restaurant Business (ASBPE’s 2015 Magazine of the Year) and serving as editor-in-chief of Restaurants & Institutions magazine. Over her 25-year career—spanning B2B and consumer media as well as content marketing—she has covered everything from restaurants to real estate to weddings. Kelly studied English at the University of California, Berkeley and is an alumnus of the Radcliffe Publishing Course (now the Columbia Publishing Course).



Founder & Managing Director, Cuisine Concept Co., Ltd.

Chef PONGTAWAT “IAN KITTICHAI” CHALERMKITTICHAI’s path to culinary success started from very humble beginnings in Bangkok accompanying his mother to the wet market at 3 a.m. to shop for her neighborhood grocery to studying in England and Australia to opening restaurants around the world. During his first career with the Four Seasons hotel group, Ian became in 1998 the first Thai national to become executive chef of a five-star hotel property. In 2004 he relocated to New York and created Kittichai Restaurant, which featured among Food & Wine’s Best New Asian Restaurants 2005 and Travel + Leisure’s Best New American Restaurants 2004, and appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, GQ, and the New York Times, among many others. In 2008 he left Kittichai Restaurant, formed his international food & beverage management and consulting firm, Cuisine Concept Co., Ltd., and opened the highly acclaimed Restaurant Murmuri in Barcelona, Spain. Currently his Cuisine Concept Co., Ltd. has some of the most recognizable international hotels, restaurants, and food companies on its client roster. In 2010, he opened Bangkok’s first gastro bar, Hyde & Seek, and the celebrated Koh by Ian Kittichai, his third signature Thai restaurant, in Mumbai, India. In 2011 he opened Ember Room, a progressive Thai comfort food restaurant, with Chace Restaurant Group, became a partner in and the culinary director of Spot Dessert Bar, both in New York City, and debuted his flagship Thai restaurant and lounge, Issaya Siamese Club, in Bangkok; it received the 21st position on the 2017 S. Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Also in 2012 he opened Smith, Bangkok’s first international “nose to tail” concept eatery, Asian bun eatery, Jum Mum, on St. Mark’s Place in New York City, and a second branch of Spot Dessert Bar in New York City. In 2014 Ian opened Issaya Cooking Studio in partnership with Sub-Zero & Wolf appliances, Issaya La Pâtisserie, and his Asian gastro bar, Namsaah Bottling Trust,  in Bangkok. He is the author of Chef Ian’s Kitchen Revealed, a Thai-language cookbook that received the Gourmand Best Chef Cookbook: Thailand Award in 2011, of Issaya Siamese Club: Innovative Thai Cuisine by Chef Ian Kittichai, which placed third for the Best Cookbook of The Year 2014 by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, and of La Pâtisserie Issaya Pastry Cookbook. In January 2012 Ian debuted to a 15,000,000 fan following as one of the permanent Iron Chefs on the Iron Chef Thailand television show. From 2001 to 2014 he hosted the weekly cooking show Chef Mue Tong (The Golden Hand Chef), which could be seen in over 70 countries. He can currently be seen as the lead judge on MasterChef Thailand. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property, and the Agence Française de Développement honored Ian as the first Asia Geographical Indication Ambassador, and in 2015 he was awarded the designation of Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French Republic for his outstanding contributions to gastronomy and agriculture, the only Thai chef to have received this designation.

Christopher Kostow

Chef, The Restaurant at Meadowood and The Charter Oak

CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW was awarded his first Michelin star before the age of 30. He takes a thoughtful approach to food, drawing upon his own American upbringing and the bounty of the surrounding Napa Valley. His cooking focuses on seasonality, utilizing ingredients from the nearby farm that he and his team operate for The Restaurant at Meadowood and the recently opened The Charter Oak. A Chicago native, Christopher trained in kitchens far and wide: from a Paris bistro to the Michelin-starred Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier. Upon returning to the US, he worked as sous chef under Daniel Humm in San Francisco, then became chef at Chez TJ in Mountain View, California, garnering the restaurant many accolades including two Michelin stars. When he arrived at Meadowood in 2008, Christopher maintained two Michelin stars, was nominated for Best Chef: Pacific by the James Beard Foundation, and named as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2009. In 2010, he garnered a rare four stars in the San Francisco Chronicle and was soon awarded the highest ranking of three Michelin stars from the esteemed 2011 Guide. He is the second American-born chef and third youngest chef ever to receive three Michelin stars, which he has still retained, along with his Chronicle four-star rating. In 2013, Christopher was awarded Best Chef: West by the James Beard Foundation, and honored as a finalist for Outstanding Chef in 2017. Christopher’s first book, A New Napa Cuisine (Ten Speed Press, 2014) was awarded Book of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2015.


Chef-Owner, Mourad

Considered by many as the pioneer of modern Moroccan cuisine, MOURAD LAHLOU never envisioned becoming a world-famous chef. The Marrakesh native immigrated to the United States when he was 18 years old to attain a degree in economics at San Francisco State University. Then fate had other plans for him. Most of the lessons Mourad learned about food came from his mother, who cooked traditional Moroccan recipes, and grandfather, who took him to the daily market. The self-taught chef, who never worked under any other chefs before running his own restaurants, also took early direction from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. Missing his country’s cuisine, Mourad recreated versions of his favorite Moroccan dishes from memory with local ingredients, using his own inventive techniques. Mourad opened his first restaurant, Kasbah, in 1996. Eventually becoming frustrated with the formulaic approach to Moroccan establishments in America, he closed Kasbah in 2001 and opened Aziza in San Francisco’s Richmond district, with the goal of creating a more modern and sophisticated Moroccan-inspired dining experience. In 2010, Aziza, named after his mother, became the first Moroccan restaurant in the world to receive a Michelin Star. In January 2015, he unveiled Mourad, a restaurant that showcases a further evolution of his modern Californian-Moroccan cuisine. The same year it opened, Mourad received another Michelin star for his eponymous restaurant. After winning the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, he released his debut cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan, which Bon Appétit deemed one of best in 2011. The James Beard-nominated chef’s modern reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes showcase the great flavors of his native cuisine in harmony with the artisanal ingredients available in Northern California. Mourad is an advocate of many national food initiatives and policies. In 2012, he was tapped to become a Culinary Ambassador by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He is also a supporter and spokesperson for Tom Colicchio’s Food Policy Action group, aimed at reducing food waste in the U.S.

Edward Lee

Chef-Owner, 610 Magnolia, MilkWood, Whiskey Dry, Succotash

EDWARD LEE is the chef-owner of 610 Magnolia, MilkWood and Whiskey Dry in Louisville, KY and the culinary director for Succotash in National Harbor, Maryland and Penn Quarter, DC. He has received multiple nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards Best Chef: Southeast. He appears frequently in print and on television, including earning an Emmy nomination for his role in the Emmy Award–winning series The Mind of a Chef. Most recently, he wrote and hosted the feature documentary Fermented. Lee’s self-authored cookbook, Smoke & Pickles, (Artisan Books, 2013) chronicles his unconventional journey from the kitchens of Brooklyn to becoming a lauded Southern chef. His signature blend with Jefferson’s Reserve, called Chef’s Collaboration Blend, is a luxury small batch bourbon he developed with Trey Zoeller. His newest book is Buttermilk Graffiti (Artisan, April 2018), which celebrates the melting pot at the center of American cuisine.


Chef-Owner, Candlenut

MALCOLM LEE is the head chef and owner of Candlenut in Singapore. The restaurant specialises in Peranakan heritage cuisine with a modern approach. A culture on its own, born from Malay and Chinese heritage, Peranakans are unique to the straits of Southeast Asia – namely the cities of Singapore, Malacca, and Penang. This colorful culture and its cuisine however, are slowly disappearing with recent generations. Malcolm, a Peranakan himself, does not deny his initial passions for cuisines of the West like most his age. Working in food establishments in the United States and operating a Western café-bar during university days, he was set on recreating all that he had experienced overseas. However, his rediscovery of familiar Asian flavors came through the achievement of being the very first Singaporean recipient of the Miele Guide Scholarship, granting him a place at the At-Sunrice Globalchef Academy. His time there enabled him to re-experience his Asian culinary roots, and thus played a large role in his decision to preserve Peranakan cooking. Bringing these experiences together, Malcolm seeks to serve his heritage through a menu of refined taste and techniques, hence creating Candlenut’s authentic yet innovative Peranakan flavors. His hard work and passion for heritage cuisine and culinary innovation was acknowledged when Candlenut became the first Peranakan restaurant to receive a Michelin star in 2016, and again in 2017. Other recent accolades include the Restaurant Association of Singapore’s Best Asian Fine Dining award in 2017.

Rick Lopez

Executive Chef, La Condesa

A native Texan, RICK LOPEZ began his culinary journey in Maine when he accepted a seasonal internship at Oakland House Inn in the heart of the Blue Hill Peninsula. He soon found his way back home in San Antonio working for Chef Scott Cohen in La Mansion’s fine dining restaurant Las Canarias. He concurrently attended ACF-accredited Austin Community College and received his associate’s degree of applied sciences in culinary arts. After a strong desire to return back to the East Coast and fulfill a dream of working in New York City, Rick began a stage at Café Boulud, which led to a full-time position, working directly under future James Beard Rising Star Chef Gavin Kaysen. It was there that he learned how to become a disciplined cook and began the process of becoming a chef and a mentor to other young cooks. After Café Boulud, Rick went on to work under Terrance Brennan at Picholine and Ed Brown at 81 on the Upper West Side. Returning to Texas in 2009, Rick accepted the position of sous chef with fellow Café Boulud alum Shawn Cirkiel. Shortly after, Rick was given the opportunity to become sous chef alongside executive chef Rene Ortiz at James Beard Award-nominated La Condesa. After his first year, he was promoted to chef de cuisine and in August of 2013 named executive chef at La Condesa.

Stefano Masanti

Chef, Il Cantinone

STEFANO MASANTI is a Michelin-star chef and is the founder and visionary of one of northern Italy’s most beloved restaurants, Il Cantinone, in the mountains north of Milan near the Swiss border. He also spends seven months of the year working as the event chef for V. Sattui Winery in the Napa Valley. Born in Milan in 1970, Stefano grew up in the Lombardian resort town of Madesimo, where he recalls his first day in the kitchen, at just 5 years old, helping his grandfather churn vanilla ice cream for the family business, Hotel Andossi. He received his bachelor’s degree in hospitality at the Hotel Institute Crotto Caurga Chiavenna, followed by three years at the University of Milan, where he majored in public relations. Additional professional development includes time in France’s Ecole Lenotre, Alain Ducasse’s culinary school, Ducasse Education, and the culinary institute in Brescia, Italy. Stefano has participated in countless conventions throughout Europe and has appeared as guest chef for a variety of events and culinary programs around the world, including those in Madrid and San Sebastian, Spain; Milan, Italy; and New York and California. He has helped launch a number of restaurants and hotels in Poland, Germany, Hong Kong, Swiss and Italy; and for years he successfully managed Il Cantinone, the highly acclaimed, Michelin-star restaurant adjacent to his family’s hotel in Madesimo. An accomplished master of charcuterie, Stefano was named “Craftsman of the Year” in all of Italy by the 2009 Identità Golose for best Valchiavenna bresaola. Il Cantinone was named restaurant of the Year in all of Italy for the use of local food by il Gambero rosso Guide. Stefano has twice appeared as a guest chef for V. Sattui Winery’s annual Harvest Ball since 2009, and joined V. Sattui’s most loyal club members on an Italian cruise in 2015, where he hosted two cooking schools aboard the ship.

Anne E. McBride

Worlds of Flavor Program Director

ANNE E. MCBRIDE, PHD is the newly appointed deputy director of the Barcelona-based Torribera Mediterranean Center, a joint initiative of the University of Barcelona and The Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) recently launched to advance research and education around Mediterranean food, health, and culinary innovation. She also serves as program director for the annual Worlds of Flavor® International Conference & Festival and the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit at the CIA. She holds a doctorate degree in food studies from New York University, and focuses her research on the changing role of the chef in the 21st century. Anne has co-authored seven books and regularly writes on topics related to professional and experimental cooking for both academic and consumer audiences, including past contributions to Plate, New Worlder, Bake from Scratch, Roads & Kingdoms, Food Arts, Gastronomica, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, Savoring Gotham, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, and Food Cultures of the World. She is the director of the Experimental Cuisine Collective at NYU, an interdisciplinary group of more than 2500 scientists, chefs, media, scholars, and food enthusiasts. She also teaches in the food studies departments of NYU and the New School. A native of Switzerland, Anne is the chair of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards, a member of the Menus of Change Scientific and Technical Advisory Council, and a past board member of the Association for the Study of Food and Society, New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, and Culinary Trust. She was named to the Heritage Radio Network Hall of Fame in 2019, and is a frequent presenter and moderator at academic and professional conferences around the world. (Barcelona, Spain, and North Plainfield, NJ) @annemcbride

José Mendin

Chef-Owner, Food Comma Hospitality Group and Pubbelly

Chef/restaurateur JOSE MENDIN, who co-founded and created the Pubbelly Boys restaurant group in 2010, recently announced the formation of Food Comma Hospitality Group (FCHG). In 1998, Jose moved from his native Puerto Rico to Miami to enroll at Johnson & Wales University, graduating in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in the Culinary Arts. That same year, he was tapped to join the opening team of Nobu Miami, and then again in 2002, Nobu London. In 2003, he relocated to Spain, moving out of his comfort zone to absorb the country’s vast culinary influence. Working with Jesus Ramiro in Valladolid and Juan Pablo Felipe in Madrid at the Michelin-starred El Chaflan, he cooked for international celebrities and notables, including the King of Spain. There he learned how to revitalize and re-imagine ancient and traditional recipes by maintaining the integrity of a dish’s roots while infusing it with modern touches. Armed with an international culinary pedigree and expertise in cutting-edge Asian and Spanish-influenced cuisine, in 2004, Jose moved back to Miami and helped chef Jordi Valles open Mosaico, a groundbreaking Spanish restaurant. He then parlayed his foundation in Asian-influenced modern cuisine to a position with Sushisamba Miami Beach. Serving initially as chef de cuisine, he rose to assistant corporate chef for the company in just two years, overseeing all of the brand’s innovative U.S. restaurants, including the 2008 opening of the award-winning Sushisamba Las Vegas. In 2009, he was tapped to open outposts of Mexican restaurant Mercadito in Chicago and Miami, where he met chef de cuisine, Sergio Navarro. Jose and Sergio partnered with Andreas Schreiner in 2010, creating The Pubbelly Boys Restaurant Group. In the years that followed, Jose received many honors, including the StarChefs Rising Star Restaurateur Award (2016), and James Beard Foundation nominations for Best Chef: South from 2012 to 2016. National media acclaim has included Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Departures, and The Cooking Channel, among many others. In 2016, he ventured into the digital publishing world with a cookbook featuring many of his signature dishes, appropriately dubbed Food Republic by Jose Mendin, a collaboration with Norwegian Cruise Line. Most recently Jose, Sergio, and director of operations Maximiliano Silva established FCHG, encompassing a roster of innovative modern restaurants and bars including Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi (at American Airlines Arena, Brickell City Centre, Casa de Campo, and Miami Beach), Food Republic aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Escape, Baja Bao, and PB Ysla in Jose’s hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. In November 2017, the team opened their most ambitious venture to date Habitat, inside the 1 Hotel South Beach, a sprawling eco-conscious beachfront property located at 2395 Collins Avenue.

Lucia Muñoz-Carlisle

Owner, The Laughing Taco

LUCIA MUÑOZ-CARLISLE is co-owner of The Laughing Taco in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a Mexican taquería that serves tacos inspired by the street tacos found in northeast Mexico, specifically in her hometown of Monterrey. Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Lucia grew up in a family where cooking was part of her day by day; and without pursuing a cooking career, she is surrounded by food. She moved to Milwaukee in 2014 when she married Chef Justin Carlisle (Ardent, Red Light Ramen). Apart from sharing the business with her husband, she is a linguist and works as Spanish teacher and translator in Milwaukee.

Shinobu Namae

Chef-Owner, L'Effervescence

SHINOBU NAMAE is the chef-owner of L’Effervescence in Tokyo, which he opened in 2010. The restaurant, which focuses on modern gastronomy based on Japanese terroir and European techniques, received a Michelin star in its first year and a second star in 2014, and ranked first among French restaurants in the 2012 Zagat Survey Tokyo, with 27 points. In 2017, it was no. 12 on San Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Shinobu received a degree in politics from KEIO University. He worked at Michel Bras’ three-Michelin-star restaurants in Laguiole, France, and Hokkaido, Japan, where he was sous chef. Before opening L’Effervescence, he was the sous chef of Heston Blumenthal’s acclaimed The Fat Duck in Bray, England, and also worked in the restaurant’s pastry department.


Chef-Owner, Toyo Eatery

JORDY NAVARRA never really intended to enter the food and beverage industry. First a history major on a baseball scholarship, he jumped from that to a business course, then to music. After attempting to wear several hats, he changed paths drastically, once again, and wound up working the inner trappings of the kitchen. He received a diploma in culinary and kitchen management at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management. From there, he served his time in kitchens that include Fat Duck in the UK, followed by Bo Innovation and Ryu Gin in Hong Kong. Upon his return to the Philippines, Jordy continued his work in the service industry, focusing specifically on the diversity of the country’s flavors and local produce. This innate curiosity in understanding the flavors of his homeland has led him to explore the distinctiveness of the various regions of the Philippines. He has encountered mulberry growers up north, salt makers, fishermen, and farmers on his travels. Toyo Eatery has become his avenue for learning more about the country’s culture through the tastes that each place renders. In his restaurant, several young minds comprise the kitchen and the restaurant floor, all of whom share that same focus and drive to uncover what the islands have to offer. Inspiration for meals here are drawn from a hodgepodge of things, whether it be Filipino barbecue cooked on street corners in the afternoon, or simply a children’s folk song that gives a rundown of vegetables. Comprehending the diversity in simplicity has become the mantra that Jordy and his team turn to with each dish that they create. The plates that pass their hands aren’t about the reinvention of flavors; rather, they speak of their rediscovery. Toyo Eatery received the 2018 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Miele One to Watch Award.


Chef-Owner, Daigo and Sougo

DAISUKE NOMURA is internationally recognized for his award winning kaiseki-style Japanese vegetarian cuisine and innovative use of seasonal ingredients that showcases his creativity. Having served as the head chef at Daigo for over a decade and obtaining a two-star Michelin rating, Daisuke opened Restaurant Shojin Sougo to provide a new style of Shojin Ryori that incorporates modern and exciting new approaches to the centuries old techniques involved in traditional Shojin Ryori. He participated in EXPO Milano 2015, Worlds of Flavor 2010, and was selected in the list of Plant Forward Global 50 in 2017.

Daniel Olivella

Chef-Owner, Barlata

DANIEL OLIVELLA is the chef-owner of Barlata tapas bar in Austin, Texas. A native of Barcelona, he has been cooking in the USA for the past 35 years. Daniel started his career in Chicago at family-owned restaurant La Paella in 1979 as an all-around family member. There, under the supervision of his French-raised uncle, he was trained on traditional French and Spanish service and food preparation. In Chicago he went on to work for the Lettuce Entertain You group, before moving to San Francisco in 1987. There, he worked as a line cook at Delfina, Zuni Café, Zazie, and the Maltese Grill.  He went on to become the opening chef of Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. In 1999, Daniel opened his own restaurant, B44 Catalan Bistro, which specialized in Catalan cuisine. He was named a Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2001 by San Francisco Magazine. Daniel opened his first Barlata concept in March 2009 in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. In 2013, he moved the Barlata Tapas Bar to the South Lamar district to Austin. His book Catalan Food, was published by Clarkson Potter in September 2018 (Austin, TX)


Chef-Owner, Studiokitchen

SHOLA OLUNLOYO is a classically trained cook and member of the Pennsylvania food community, where he has carved out a creative niche in modern cooking process instruction as a consulting chef. He maintains a development test kitchen to support his manufacturer and client projects and is classically trained with a knowledge base that appeals to restaurant operators interested in creating higher consistency in food, controlling cost by using modern cooking processes to create value and high impact flavor. His approach is flavor forward seasonal cooking with a variety of geographical influences.


Executive Chef, Kith and Kin

KWAME ONWUACHI ‘13 is executive chef of Kith and Kin. Kwame’s mother first exposed him to cooking in the family’s Bronx apartment, where he helped peel shrimp and fabricate vegetables for her catering company. At age 11, he moved to Nigeria to live with his grandfather, who introduced him to a much different culture and cuisine from that of New York City. After returning to the United States and graduating high school, Kwame moved to Baton Rouge, where he got his first kitchen job cooking for the crews cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. The job allowed him to save enough money to move back to New York City, where he found a job waiting tables at Craft. Wanting to venture out on his own, he sold candy on the subway, raising $20,000 in two months. The funds allowed him to start his own catering company, Coterie Catering. Kwame found his passion for cooking through catering and yearned for formal training, so he enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. The training led to jobs at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred New York City restaurant, and Eleven Madison Park, the upscale Madison Avenue restaurant headed by famed chef Daniel Humm. In 2014, Dinner Lab selected Kwame to join eight other chefs for its pop-up dinner competition that awards the winner a chance to open new restaurant. He spent nine months cooking across the country, eventually winning the competition. Kwame went on to participate on Top Chef, ending as a semi-finalist in the top 6. He also was named among Forbes and Zagat’s 30 under 30 lists. He has cooked at The White House, James Beard House, as well as Chef’s Club in New York City. Kwame has secured a book deal with The Knopf Doubleday Group for a memoir and is now the executive chef of Kith and Kin in Washington DC.


Chef-Owner, Hugo's, Caracol, and Xochi

HUGO ORTEGA, winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards, started with very humble beginnings. He was raised in Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico, and learned his love of cooking from his mother and grandmother, a revered mole maker. At age 17, he left Mexico for Houston and began his career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher and busboy at Backstreet Cafe, before graduating from culinary school and later becoming its executive chef and owner, along with wife Tracy Vaught. His American dream continued when they opened Hugo’s in 2002, featuring regional Mexican cuisine; Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen, in Houston’s Galleria area in 2013; and Xochi, celebrating the flavors of Oaxaca, in early 2017 in the Marriott Marquis Houston Downtown. Hugo has published two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Café (2013). He was a James Beard Award finalist for six consecutive years, 2012-2017. Hugo is one of Houston’s most acclaimed chefs and believes that a chef is only as good as the last meal he cooked. He is also a partner in Origen restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico. Hugo remains a fixture in his four restaurant kitchens, is an avid bicyclist, and enjoys spending time at the beach with his family.

Mai Pham

Chef-Owner, Lemon Grass and Star Ginger

MAI PHAM is the chef-owner of the nationally acclaimed Lemon Grass Restaurant and Star Ginger in Sacramento, California. A recognized expert on Asian cuisine, she is known for her fresh Southeast Asian cuisine featuring the bright flavors of Vietnam, Thailand, and beyond. She has hosted “Vietnam: My Country, My Kitchen” on the Food Network and authored Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. That cookbook received a James Beard Award nomination and was named among the best cookbook titles in 2001 by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She has also authored The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking, which was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air and in Martha Stewart Living. Her newest book, Flavors of Asia, a collaboration with The Culinary Institute of America, features the best recipes from seven countries in Asia. In recent years, Mai has partnered with campus, corporate, healthcare, and government dining entities to launch Star Ginger outposts, which feature on-trend Southeast Asian flavors, from hearty authentic Thai curries and grilled meats to fresh, flavorful Vietnamese noodle soups and salads, among others. Born in Saigon and raised in Vietnam and Thailand, Mai worked as a television journalist for various ABC News affiliates and later as a speechwriter for a California governor before returning to her love of food and cooking.

Michael Pirolo

Chef-Owner, Macchialina

Born in Queens, New York, but raised in Avellino, Italy, MICHAEL PIROLO comes from a fiercely passionate food family. So much, in fact, that at the age of 21 he enrolled in culinary school in Torino, Italy—-a formal education that led to apprenticeships at Michelin-starred establishments such as La Voglia Matta in Bologna and Café Groppi in Piemonte. After finishing his degree, he relocated to New York and changed tracks, immersing himself in French cuisine before relocating to Philadelphia to take the role of sous chef at Alfred Portale’s Striped Bass. During Michael’s time at Gilt, the restaurant earned two Michelin stars. Following his love of Italian cuisine and striking up a professional bond with celeb chef/restaurateur Scott Conant, he joined Conant’s Scarpetta restaurant in New York, then relocated to Miami to take the helm as chef de cuisine of Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. There, Michael made a name for himself and rose through the media ranks as a rising star in Miami’s culinary community, an earnest, hard-working, careerist “chef’s chef.” A rare 4-star review from Miami Herald food critic Victoria Pesce Elliot helped elevate his profile and set the stage for Michael to move out on his own. He opened Macchialina with partner Jen Chaefsky on Miami Beach’s Alton Road in 2012. The restaurant opened to much acclaim, earning the duo accolades including being ranked among the top “South Florida Food 50” by The Miami Herald in 2015. In 2016, Michael was named a James-Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: South.

Chandra Ram ‘99

Editor, Plate

CHANDRA RAM ‘99 is the editor of Plate, an award-winning food magazine read by chefs all over the country. She spent more than 15 years in the restaurant industry as a cook and consulting chef before turning to food writing and editing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University Chicago, an associate’s degree in culinary arts from The Culinary Institute of America, and has passed the certificate level of the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, and has won multiple awards for her writing and editing, including eight Jesse H. Neal awards and the McAllister Editorial Fellowship. She is the author of The Complete Indian Instant Pot® Cookbook (Robert Rose) and the co-author of The Eiffel Tower Restaurant Cookbook (Chronicle Books) and Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces (Ten Speed Press). (Chicago, IL)


Chair, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, New York University

KRISHNENDU RAY, PHD, is the chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University. Prior to that he was a faculty member and an acting associate dean at The Culinary Institute of America. He is the author of The Migrant’s Table (2004), The Ethnic Restaurateur (2016), and the co-editor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia (2012). He is currently the president of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS).


Proprietor, RReichl Publishing LLC

RUTH REICHL began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. She moved to Berkeley, California in 1973, and became co-owner and cook at The Swallow Restaurant. In 1978 she became restaurant critic for New West and California magazines, and went on to be the restaurant critic and food editor of the Los Angeles Times. From 1993 to 1999 she served as restaurant critic for the New York Times. In 1999 she moved to Gourmet, where she was editor in chief for ten years. Ruth has authored four memoirs, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You, Mom, Finally. Her novel, Delicious! was published in 2014, and her cookbook, My Kitchen Year, 136 Recipes that Saved My Life, in 2015. She edited The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes ten books. She was executive producer and host of the public television series, Adventures with Ruth and a judge on Top Chef Masters. She is the recipient of six James Beard Awards. At the moment she is at work on a memoir of the Gourmet years and another novel, both to be published by Random House.


Diego Rossi

Chef-Owner, Trippa

DIEGO ROSSI is chef-owner of Trippa. A young chef from Verona, after highschool training he nourished his experience in important Michelin-starred kitchens such as Hotel Bauer in Venice with Chef Giovanni Ciresa, the St. Hubertus with Norbert Niederkofler, the Locanda Margon with Alfio Ghezzi, and Delle Antiche Contrade in Cuneo as a resident chef. In 2014 he decided lo leave behind “gourmet cuisine” and its sophistications because he firmly believes in a sustainable cuisine. His dishes are characterized by the research and use of seasonal products only, wild herbs, offal and “poor fish.” He opened Trattoria Trippa (trattoria means “tavern”) with his business partner Pietro Caroli in June 2015, with the aim of serving people excellent ingredients in an informal ambience. Every day the menu is created based on what the market offered, this way it changes daily and the ingredients are always super fresh.

Anthony Rush

Chef-Owner, Senia

Anthony Rush is partner and co-chef (with Chris Kajioka ‘03) of Senia in Honolulu, Hawaii. Originally from Devon, the bucolic countryside of southwest England, Anthony took a home economics class in secondary school and realized that cooking brought happiness not only to himself, but to those around him as well. His path became clear. While he was still in school, Anthony began his training at The Horn of Plenty, one of the great country houses of rural Britain, and by 16 he was working in their kitchen full time, developing the culinary skills that would later carry him halfway across the world and back. At 17, he entered his first UK cooking competition and won second place in the Southwest Young Chef of the Year. It was also during his time at The Horn of Plenty that the restaurant gained its first Michelin star. When he was only 20, Anthony joined David Everitt-Matthias at Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, England. It was just the two of them in the kitchen when the restaurant was awarded its second Michelin star. Anthony went on to place third in the 2000 National Young Chef of the Year. Two years later, a three-day stagiaire placement at the iconic The French Laundry in Yountville, California led to a permanent position in Thomas Keller’s lauded restaurant. Thus began some of Anthony’s most formative professional years. He was part of The French Laundry team when the restaurant was ranked at the top of San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and he was chosen to help open Thomas Keller’s second landmark restaurant, Per Se, in New York City. In 2004, when a fire temporarily closed Per Se, Anthony returned to England and joined the ranks at another three Michelin starred restaurant, The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s epicenter of modern cooking that was ranked number two in the World’s 50 Best list that year. Returning to New York and the Keller fold a year later, Anthony insisted on mastering all the stations in the Per Se kitchen before being promoted to Sous Chef. Returning to the UK in 2008, Anthony rounded out his professional experience. First working privately, he then turned his hand to casual dining. As the European culinary director for a Chicago-based hospitality group, he successfully launched multiple casual venues, both restaurants and private members clubs. Returning to the world of fine dining, he recently joined Simon Rogan’s culinary team and was consulting head chef at Fera at Claridges.

Photo by Olivier Konin


Food, lifestyle, and travel writer

ADAM SACHS is a three-time James Beard Journalism Award winning food, lifestyle, and travel writer and three-time ASME-nominated editor. He has served as editor in chief of SAVEUR, and previously as contributing editor at Travel + Leisure, Bon Appétit, Details, and Condé Nast Traveler, as well as editorial director of Tasting Table and as a staff writer at GQ. In addition to these titles, his writing has appeared in The New York Times T Style Magazine, SAVEUR, Food & Wine, Allure, Garden & Gun, the anthology Best Food Writing, and many other publications. A Kentucky native, Adam now lives in Brooklyn with his family. A committed kitchen tinkerer, he regularly subjects friends and family to his spirited, obsessive (and occasionally successful) culinary projects. (New York, NY)



Founder/CEO, The Sioux Chef

The Sioux Chef Founder/CEO SEAN SHERMAN, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, has been cooking across the US and Mexico over the past 30 years, and has become renowned nationally and internationally in the culinary movement of indigenous foods. His main focus has been on the revitalization and evolution of indigenous foods systems throughout North America. Sean has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world. In 2014, he opened the business named The Sioux Chef as a caterer and food educator in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. He and his business partner Dana Thompson also designed and opened the Tatanka Truck, which featured pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories. In October 2017, Sean was able to perform the first decolonized dinner at the James Beard House in New York City, along with his team. His first book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen was recently published and was chosen one of the top ten cookbooks of 2017 by the Los Angeles Times and the Smithsonian Magazine. The Sioux Chef’s team of twelve people continues with their mission to help educate and make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible.

Barbara Sibley

Chef-Owner, La Palapa

Barbara Sibley was born and raised in Mexico City. Her interest in indigenous cuisines was deepened by her studies in anthropology at Barnard Collegem where she joined the Committee on the Barnard Medal. Her New York restaurant career began at age 17 at La Tulipe, a New York Times three-star French restaurant. Her extensive experience led her to open La Palapa Cocina Mexicana in 2000. As a truly authentic Mexican restaurant, La Palapa has been awarded the “Disctinctivo” by Sabores Autenticos de Mexico Foundation. In both Mexico and the US, Barbara has guided press tours and travelled to Meredith for APEAM, the Mexican Avocado Producers and Distributors organization. La Palapa is known for its pioneer cocktail program in the use of infusions and flavors in tequilas, due to this Barbara has done extensive product development for corporations such as Kraft, Jose Cuervo, Sauza, and Bacardi. As an expert in authentic Mexican cuisine at La Palapa, she has appeared in many publications and on numerous television shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, CBS Sunday, Chopped, and NY1 en Español. Barbara is a past President of the Board of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, has been inducted as a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier, and is a member of the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. She has been awarded the High Road award for her labor practices by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY). Barbara has lectured on women entrepreneurs at the Culinary Institute of America. She has testified before Congress regarding the need to increase the federal tipped minimum wage as a gender issue affecting mostly single mothers and has met with Secretary of Labor Thomas Peres to discuss High Road restaurant policies. In addition to her career as a restaurateur, since 1997 she has been co-director and founder, with her sister Jennifer Clement, of the San Miguel Poetry Week, an annual poetry conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In 2009, she co-authored Antojitos: Festive and Flavorful Mexican Small Plates (Ten Speed Press). Since 2012 she has had the honor and pleasure of being part of the team restoring the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. An exercise in zen and archeology, as creative director her mission has been to preserve this important East Village landmark. In 2015 she opened La Palapa Taco Bar in the new Urbanspace Vanderbilt Market.

Sarah Simmons

CEO, CITY GRIT Hospitality Group

Named one of the 50 best chefs in New York City in 2014 by Food & Wine, SARAH SIMMONS is the CEO of CITY GRIT Hospitality Group, the founder of CITY GRIT Culinary Salon, and executive chef/owner of Birds & Bubbles, a full-service restaurant in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In 2010, she was named “America’s Home Cook Superstar” by Food & Wine as part of its search for the nation’s best home cook. This recognition inspired her to leave the corporate world to pursue cooking full-time and focus on bringing the CITY GRIT concept to market. Since opening CITY GRIT in September 2011, Sarah has been recognized as an influencer and tastemaker in the industry and acknowledged for both her culinary and business talent. In 2012, she was once again recognized by Food & Wine as one of “America’s Best New Cooks” alongside nine other chefs including Mike Solomonov and Alex Stupak. In 2013, she was recognized by the Charleston Wine + Food Festival as a “New & Notable” chef, and was named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, which called her “the chef cooking up the most exciting dining experience in New York.” CITY GRIT continues to be recognized as “One of the Most Innovative Restaurants in the Country” (Zagat in 2014) and Sarah’s first full-service concept, Birds & Bubbles, opened in 2014, earning her numerous accolades including three stars from Time Out NY and two stars from Adam Platt, New York’s extremely discerning food critic, and recognition by the New York City Michelin Dining Guide. In 2015 she opened Rise Gourmet Goods & Bakeshop, her first counter-service concept in her hometown of Columbia, SC, earning “Best New Restaurant” by the readers of The Free Times. In 2017, Sarah relocated the CGHG companies to Columbia, SC to focus on economic development, workforce training, and community growth in the city. She currently serves on the city’s Food Policy Council and is on officer on the Board of Directors for the City Foods Cooperative Marketplace. In addition to running CGHG, Sarah is a member of the Williams-Sonoma Chef Collective, is frequently featured at food festivals and events across the country and is a recurring guest judge on Food Network competitive cooking show, Beat Bobby Flay.


Somer Sivrioglu

Chef-Owner, Efendy and Anason

SOMER SIVRIOGLU is the chef-owner of Efendy and Anason restaurants in Sydney, Australia and a judge on Master Chef Turkey. He spent the first 25 years of his life in his native Istanbul, Turkey. With a chef as a mother, Somer grew up around kitchens; before moving to Australia to complete his MBA, he worked in corporate hospitality, opening a number of concepts before realizing his own dream, a modern Turkish restaurant, Efendy in 2007. Efendy won a number of prestigious national and local awards in Australia, representing authentic Turkish kitchen with a modern presentation. In 2016, he opened his second concept, Anason, inspired by meyhanes of Istanbul. Anason won the best new restaurant award in Sydney in 2016 and best specialty restaurant award nationwide in 2017. Somer regularly represents Turkey on national media and in many prestigious national and international events. His first cookbook, Anatolia, won the prestigious IACP award for best international cookbook in 2017. (Sydney, Australia)

Tara Stevens

Journalist and Cooking Instructor

TARA STEVENS’ career as a food and travel journalist began 20 years ago, working for publications as diverse as The Art of Eating, Fool, and Conde Nast Traveler as well as various British broadsheets. In 2009 she wrote a book entitled Clock Book: Recipes From a Modern Moroccan Kitchen, which kickstarted her adventure in Fez. The following year she bought and renovated a small, traditional dar in the Fez medina. In September 2013 she launched her Chefs in Residence project at what was then Resto 7. In it she invited chefs from all over the world—-her inaugural chef was Jerome Waag from Chez Panisse—-to come to live and cook in the Fez medina for a period of 3-4 months. The remit being chefs could only source products from within the medina itself or from nearby farms and that they had to strive to help create a vision of a new Moroccan cuisine and in so doing pave the way for the next chapter in its culinary evolution. The project ran until June 2015. Simultaneously, she launched her cooking school, the Courtyard Kitchen, in April 2015, when, in keeping with her vision for chefs in residence she offers classes that are deeply entrenched in eating seasonally and locally, while continuing to build on the idea of propelling a modern Moroccan cuisine forward. Tara will be hosting her first Courtyard Kitchen pop-up at El Fenn, Marrakech from early November 2018 to mid December 2018.

Tuffy Stone

Chef-Owner, Q Barbecue

TUFFY STONE is a classically trained French chef, television personality and accomplished pitmaster who just so happens to be the most successful guy on the competitive barbecue circuit over the last few years. He has been a judge and host on the Destination America reality television show BBQ Pitmasters since 2009. Tuffy is the head cook on the team “Cool Smoke”, and co-owns four Q Barbeque restaurants in Richmond, Va. He recently opened a fifth restaurant, Rancho T, in April 2015. He has earned Grand Champion titles in nearly every major barbecue competition on the circuit—in 2013 Tuffy took home two World Champion titles while only cooking eight contests and he followed up in 2014 with another World Championship title, winning the American Royal Open. That year he also won 1st Runner Up at the Houston Live Stock and Rodeo World Championship, and took 2nd place in ribs at Memphis in May. Tuffy has won contests all over the country, including back to back wins at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Grand Champion at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in 2013 and 2015, and First Place in Whole Shoulder at the 2010 Memphis in May World Championship to name a few. In 2015 Tuffy took home the top prize in competition barbecue, winning Grand Champion at theKingsford Invitational.



Originally from Chiang Mai, Thailand, HONG THAIMEE is one of the most visible faces of
Thai food in the US. As chef/owner of three NYC restaurants, she brings her true Thai flavors to a broad New York audience. She is a chef/entrepreneur, humanitarian activist, inspirational speaker, and ambassador for Thai food. Hong put aside a successful career as a model and business executive in Bangkok to come to New York. With a business degree but little kitchen experience, she talked her way into cooking jobs at Jean-Georges’ Spice Market and Perry Street restaurants, where she mastered classic technique for five years. She left Jean-Georges in 2012 to open Ngam in the East Village and focus on the Thai flavors of her childhood. The place (now known as Thaimee Table) quickly caught on, and was ranked as the Best Thai Food in NYC by The Village Voice in 2013. With her own restaurant as a base, Chef Hong grew substantial catering and education businesses, all driven by her desire to serve people and spread the word about real Thai flavors. True Thai, her 2015 cookbook with Rizzoli, captures many of those flavors. In 2017, she opened Thaimee Box, a fast casual spot, serving curry bowls and weekend tea. Her pop-up in Williamsburg topped many favorites lists. Soon after, she opened Thaimee Magic, a
kiosk in Gansevoort Market, serving the Magic Noodles that took over social media and topped Zagat’s 12 Instagram dishes of the year list. Hong appears regularly in media and at events around the world. Her Iron Chef episode with Bobby Flay remains a crowd favorite, as do videos for Buzzfeed, Insider and Tastemade. In 2018, she will cook at James Beard House, The Culinary Institute of America, and at many popups with chef friends around the world. She will also appear on multiple episodes of Iron Chef
Gauntlet and star in the new Kitchen Wars Thailand.


Chef-Owner, Yolele Foods

PIERRE THIAM is a celebrated NY-based chef, restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author, and entrepreneur. His second cookbook, Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, was a 2016 James Beard Award finalist. Pierre was born and raised in Senegal. He is known for his innovative cooking style, at once modern and eclectic yet rooted in the rich culinary traditions of West Africa. Through his many media appearances, including CNN’s popular Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, he has become a culinary ambassador dedicated to promoting West African cooking throughout the world.


Chef-Owner, Black Axe Mangal

LEE TIERNAN is the chef-owner of Black Axe Mangal. In September of 2015, following a successful pop-up in a Copenhagen night club, Lee and Kate Tiernan (formerly of the St. John Restaurant group) spread their wings and opened their first brick and mortar eatery, calling it Black Axe Mangal in London. Black Axe Mangal, commonly known as B*A*M, is unapologetically a non conformer, a place where the food takes centre stage. The menu is neither traditional nor authentic but challenges its guests to embrace a new dining experience of modern British fusion. The faces of the band KISS adorn the large wood oven, raunchy graffiti cover the floor, and a distinctively heavy rock soundtrack plays loudly to compliment the high impact flavors. Lee spent 11 years working his way up through the ranks of Fergus Henderson’s St. John Restaurant Group, taking the position of Head chef at St. John Bread and Wine in 2011. He has travelled extensively cooking at events, fundraisers and guest chef dinners. Notably with Joe Beef in Montreal, Momofuku Shoto in Toronto, The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, Mission Chinese Food in New York City, Le Fooding in Paris, Almeni in Italy, The Gelinaz Shuffle in London and Brazil, and many more in the UK and abroad. Most recently he was the first chef to “take over” the kitchen and dining room at St. John Restaurant in Clerkenwell as part of The Evening Standard London Food Month Festival. Lee has an ongoing relationship with VICE media as one of their hosts.

Ton “Thitid” ‘12

Chef-Owner, Le Du, Baan, Backyard

Growing up surrounded by delicious home-cooked meals, his mother and grandmother’s flavors have contributed largely to the passion THITID “TON” TASSANAKAJOHN ‘12 has for cooking.  Upon the completion of his economics degree from Chulalongkorn University, he left for the United States to pursue his dream at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. The top-score CIA graduate then received an MBA in hospitality from Johnson & Wales University. During his time in New York, Thitid worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park, The Modern and Jean Georges. Not only does he have passion for food, but his enthusiasm for wine also led him to become a Certified Sommelier (CS) from the respected Court of Master Sommelier. He has brought home experiences and vision to elevate Thai cuisine and give it a stand among the world’s leading cuisines. Now the rising young chef is running one of the most exciting kitchens in Bangkok, Le Du, which holds the 14th position among the 2018 S. Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, as well as the always-reliable comfort Thai food restaurant Baan.


Chef-Owner, Mixtli

RICO TORRES is the chef-owner at Restaurant Mixtli, a tasting menu-only restaurant focused on exploring regional Mexican cuisines that opened in October 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. He was born in El Paso, Texas in 1978. Early on he was immersed in the heritage of Zacatecas and greater Mexico, both in travel and through daily life. Even as a child Rico knew the kitchen held his heart. In October 2003, he started Rico Caters, a small catering service that quickly became known for its innovative cuisine and exceptional customer service. Rico continues to dedicate himself to his craft and career by putting an emphasis on his belief that “love and nutrition can make all the difference.” At Mixtli, he puts a laser focus on the true flavors and techniques of Mexico. In the spring of 2017, Rico and his partner, Diego Galicia, were named Food & Wine’s best new chefs. In February 2018, the San Antonio Express-News named Mixtli best restaurant in San Antonio, while Dieog and Rico were James Beard Awards semifinalists for Best Chef: Southwest.

Ming Tsai

Chef-Owner, Blue Dragon and ChowStirs

MING TSAI is the James Beard Award-winning chef/owner of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon in Massachusetts. Blue Ginger officially closed as of June 3, 2017 after 19 years of dedication and wonderful service. Blue Ginger provided Ming with a national platform to make thousands of people happy through food, and truly created a family among staff, managers and regulars. The closing of this chapter is also the opening of a new chapter, allowing him to open a new concept called ChowStirs, slated to open Q1 2018. An Emmy Award-winner, Ming hosts PBS-TV’s Simply Ming, now in its 15th season. Ming is the author of five cookbooks: Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai, Simply Ming, Ming’s Master Recipes, Simply Ming One-Pot Meals and Simply Ming In Your Kitchen. Ming supports many charities including Family Reach, a non-profit whose mission is to provide financial relief and support to families fighting cancer, of which he is currently the president of the National Advisory Board.

Kelly Weikel

Director of Consumer Insights, Technomic

KELLY WEIKEL specializes in using her background in psychology to understand the “why” behind consumer decisions. Her focus is on uncovering the underlying consumer needstates and motivations that shape foodservice behaviors and providing insights on consumer attitudes and usage across foodservice products, amenities and brands. Kelly leads Technomic’s Consumer Trend Reports and Access, a series of more than 20 annual studies that keep U.S. and Canadian foodservice professionals up to date on evolving trends in food and beverage categories, restaurant sectors, dining occasions, consumer segments and more. She also works with clients creating multi-sponsored, custom ad-hoc and full-service research solutions and is a frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. She holds a BA in psychology from Loyola University Chicago and is currently attending Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management for her MBA with a concentration in marketing and social enterprise.