Executive Chef for Sodexho at the Mayo Foundation House in Rochester, Minnesota
Tim McCarty is Executive Chef for Sodexho at the Mayo Foundation House in Rochester, Minnesota. Chef McCarty’s position provides him a unique opportunity to be creative and serve an interesting clientele. For the past 16 years, he has served 22,000 dinners a year—an average of two to three dinners per night—at the former home of Dr. William Mayo, founder of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Chef McCarty feels his 31years of experience in the food industry has molded him specifically for this job.
Chef McCarty began his cooking career in high school as a dishwasher in a small restaurant where the cook, an old gentleman, enjoyed making him big burgers because he knew he’d eat them. He then taught him how to make the burgers, along with everything else. Suddenly, young Chef McCarty was doing all of the cooking for the restaurant.
He went on to college, but soon realized he would rather work in food service. His professional career took him from First Cook at Mayo Clinic’s employee cafeteria to Sous Chef at Rochester’s Radisson Hotel Centerplace to Executive Chef at Austin Country Club. It was at the country club where Chef McCarty had serious experience cooking with pork.
Working in Hormel’s home city (Hormel is part-owner of Austin Country Club), Chef McCarty received a self-described “huge education” in cooking with pork. Growing up, he remembers that everyone cooked pork to “death.” But with technology, vaccination, and better feeding, Chef
Chef McCarty has shared his experience and skill with Minnesota’s Taste of Elegance by serving as a judge. His first entry in Taste of Elegance (1998) took third place; in 2001, he took first. He also placed with his entries in the 1999, 2000, 2005,and 2006 contests. He also wins awards for his pork entries in other competitions. His most recent entry in Sodexho’s Rave Review Cooking Competition—Spring Herb
Seasons of My Heart
Susana’s love of Mexican food was born when her grandmother from Tampico, Mexico, gave Susana her first tamal. She began formal study of Mexican cuisine in 1977 at Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas.
Since then she has been a chef, caterer, author, and food consultant. She was the owner of the New York City restaurants, Bon Temps Rouler and Rick´s Lounge in the early 80´s. Susana has lived in Oaxaca since 1988 giving classes in her kitchen at Rancho Aurora where she wrote My Search for the Seventh Mole, A Story with Recipes (1996) and Seasons of My Heart; A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico which is accompanied by a 13 part PBS series of the same name (1999).
In 2000 she built her “Temple of Cooking”: a fabulous gathering center where she holds classes, hosts TV filming, special parties and events. As a renown authority on Oaxacan cuisine, Susana has filmed and hosted numerous TV programs in her beautiful kitchen including: Two Hot Tamales (Food Network, 1995), One Plate at a time with Rick Bayless (2000) and A Cooks Tour with TV Chef Anthony Bourdain (2001).
Susana has also guided culinary tours of Oaxaca’s markets and street stands on TV shows: with Burt Wolf, Andrew Zimmern for his show Bizarre Foods and more recently with Jeff Corwin for his series Extreme Cuisine (Food Network, May 2009). Susana’s biography will soon be featured in At the Table With …(Food Network Canada, Fall 2009). The Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and Hong Kong BBC have also featured her delicious recipes.
Currently, lovers of Mexican gourmet cuisine can catch Susana on the Diary of a Foodie on PBS. In 2007, Susana became the Culinary Director for Rosa Mexicano Restaurants in the USA. Their work together is featured in the October 2008 issue of Traditional Home Magazine. Other magazines that have covered Susana’s work include: Travel and Leisure, Gourmet Magazine, and More Magazine, Food Arts, Texas Monthly, Fortune Magazine.
As an international chef and culinary expert, Susana has traveled to Australia, Asia, and Scandinavia as well as throughout the USA and Mexico to teach, consult and present in various Mexican Embassies. She is a member of the IACP and has been a featured chef of the James Beard Foundation.
In 1999 she was part of the Culinary Institute of America’s World of Flavors Conference, and in 2002 she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oaxacan International Food and Wine Festival. Susana has been Guest Chef at Rancho de la Puerta (2007), the Ojai Spa (2008), the Chocolate Festival at the Fairchild Botanic Tropical Gardens, Coral Gables, Florida (2008 & 2009) and diverse Food and Wine Festivals
Charming, creative and clairvoyant, that’s chef Jehangir Mehta his best. His flair for finesse and perfection reflecting in his personality and his cooking. A participant in Food Network’s Next Iron Chef Redemption 2012, the runner-up at the Next Iron Chef 2009, a participant in the Iron Chef America and a guest on Martha Stewart Living, chef Jehangir Mehta has built quite a fan following. However, patrons at Graffiti, Mehtaphor, and Graffiti Me, Jehangir’s three restaurants in Manhattan don’t watch television to be ardent fans. They simply love the food and the man who created it. It is no wonder then that fifty percent of Jehangir’s clients are repeat customers.
Prior to his own restaurant soiree, Jehangir was the highly acclaimed pastry chef at some of New York City’s finest restaurants including Aix, Union Pacific, Compass, and Jean-Georges, and also the author of Mantra: The Rules of Indulgence (Harper Collins).
Jehangir’s other passion is to help kids enjoy food and eat healthy, and was a pioneer in this field when he started Candy Camp ten years ago, which was a fun filled private cooking class for children. Since then he has worked closely with Whole Foods in a nationwide program called Kids Adventure with Chef Jehangir, as well worked with Scholastics and the Kids Food Festival. However he is known best for his own initiative; Gastro Kids After School, a program, that runs at Mehtaphor.
Jehangir is an alumni of Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, and prior to that, an alumnus of the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering, Technology and Applied Nutrition in Mumbai. Jehangir also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of Mumbai.
After graduating from the CIA, Jehangir’s first job was at L’Absinthe in New York in 1996. Thereafter, he landed a position he truly longed for at Typhoon Brewery, where he worked as the pastry chef to the brilliant James Chew of Vong fame. From there it was a short yet logical jump to Jean-Georges in 1997. The following year, Jean-Georges Vongerichten selected him to open his new restaurant, Mercer Kitchen, quickly to become one of the hottest destinations in New York. Desiring a change of pace from the high volume of Mercer Kitchen, Jehangir accepted a position to work with Rocco di Spirito 1999 at Union Pacific, and in 2001 he joined Jean– Georges colleague Didier Virot who was opening his own restaurant. Following a short-lived but highly acclaimed run at Virot, Jehangir solidified his reputation for creating unorthodox, intellectually driven desserts as pastry chef of Compass. During this time, he extended his partnership with Didier Virot, and in 2002 opened the Upper West Side culinary destination Aix. Following a brief stint at Sapa, Jehangir was keen to set off on his own and opened his first restaurant Graffiti in 2007, Mehtaphor in 2010 and Graffiti Me in 2012. At all his restaurants, Jehangir’s dishes have been inspired by his love for spices and ingredients and his trademark style has been featured in not only traditional food magazines but also Vogue, and the New Yorker.
Apart from his restaurants Jehangir also runs a successful event management business that does catering for private events and weddings.
Executive Chef Zach Lutton began his culinary career with Chef Bruce Auden in the Biga on the Banks kitchen while attending college. He later cooked for Central Market and worked under Chef Laurel Waters at the Laurel Tree before moving to New York to further his culinary education. Upon graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Chef Zach Lutton decided to move back home to San Antonio, Texas to be closer to friends and family. He worked as Sous Chef at the Dominion, then Executive Chef for Compass Group. He began to notice that there was a major shortage of healthy, delicious food in San Antonio, and that it was a difficult place to be health conscious. He began cooking healthy meals, at first for himself, and then for friends and workout partners, receiving rave reviews along the way. After witnessing the physical transformation of several close friends, he and business partners, brother Vince and their mom Elaine, realized they could potentially give this city a great service. By opening Zedric’s, they could provide a healthy, flavorful and convenient alternative to fast food while still retaining the bold, spicy flavors of south Texas. Growing up in a family laden with Physicians, Zach had strong influences concerning wellness through healthy eating and exercise. Thus began Zedric’s, where everything is fresh, healthy, and you never have to feel guilty about going gourmet!
Executive Chef at Las Ramblas Restaurant at The Hotel Contessa
John attended Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, majoring in Pre-Dental/Pre-Med, but decided that his passion was in cooking and pursued (2004) a degree in art focusing on sculpture and photography. From there John attended the inaugural class at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte North Carolina, where he received his Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts and graduated with honors in 2006.
After culinary school John had the fortunate opportunity of being part of the opening team at The Umstead Hotel, a boutique hotel in Cary North Carolina, where he eventually became the fine-dining Sous Chef. Collectively, they accomplished the difficult feat of earning the prestigious 5 Star 5 Diamond award within four months of opening. John represented The Umstead Hotel when he traveled to and cooked at the James Beard House in NYC, which he considers, “one of the most humbling experiences of his life”.
Since then John has held notable positions at distinguished properties. Fine dining Sous Chef at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, voted number one in the Continental US and number fourteen in the world by Travel Leisure magazine. Sous Chef at the Westin La Cantera Resort, here he honed his skills in a high-volume restaurant and was exclusively in charge of “out of the box” events. Executive Sous Chef at Elian Hotel Resort, where he was exclusively selected to be part of the opening team.
John joins Hotel Contessa as Executive Chef where he brings his extensive experience at several acclaimed dining establishments and world-class resorts to create and work hands-on with the menu to bring continued innovation to the property.
Executive Chef at Q on the Riverwalk at Hyatt Regency San Antonio
Executive Chef at Q on the Riverwalk at Hyatt Regency San Antonio and Hyatt Executive Chef for over 21 years Chef David Wirebaugh has spent 30 years, over half of his life, working in Hyatt Kitchens. He developed a passion for cooking and serving his country when he was a Galley Captain in the United States Navy. After an honorable discharge in 1981, he decided to dedicate himself to pursuing his culinary passion. He started as a line cook at the Hyatt Regency Lexington where he held several apprentice positions until he was promoted to Banquet Chef. He eventually worked his way up to become Executive Chef at many fantastic Hyatt Hotels and Resorts throughout the country such as Winston-Salem, NC; Key West, FL; Albuquerque, NM; Orlando, FL; Atlanta, GA; and most recently Wichita, KS. He also continues to have that passion for serving his country by working with organizations such as, Hands On Educational Services, an alternative Vocational training program for people with disabilities, the Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital, and Catholic Charities.
Prior to joining the Hyatt Regency San Antonio in November of 2010, Chef Wirebaugh led the culinary team of Hyatt Regency Wichita for 7 years. During that time, he executed the opening of Harvest Restaurant & Bar. This was one of Hyatt’s first ‘Farm to Table’ concepts. Since joining Hyatt Regency San Antonio, Chef Wirebaugh has been instrumental in the opening of ‘Q on the Riverwalk’ with the famous Wall of Fire!
Executive Chef at Achiote River Café at The Grand Hyatt San Antonio
With a global education and background that most people only dream about, Larry Eells has traveled the world and truly lived the life. As a young boy in a military family, Eells spent the majority of his childhood hopping from place to place. From Okinawa, the Philippines, Shanghai and Hawaii to Albuquerque, San Diego, Minneapolis and Dallas, his taste buds have savored worldly cuisines from nearly all ends of the earth.
Eells recalls the tremendous influence that these travels have had on his experiences in the kitchen. His culinary travels have provided him with an unparalleled vault of inspiration. Fusing a cultural mix of American Indian and Mexican flavors, Hawaiian grill, Asian cuisine and an ongoing love for seafood, fresh flavors and creative instinct, Chef Eells takes great pride in cultural learning to develop his palate and menus. His inspiration is drawn from tasting influential food, asking questions and immersing himself in the local culture and society in which he lives.
Chef Eells has held a 30-year culinary career with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, working nearly every position in the kitchen at nine properties across the United States, opening four hotels and forging incredible, long-lasting relationships along the way. Most recently, Eells was the Executive Chef at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Hawaii, a position he held for the past six years before moving to Grand Hyatt San Antonio in the Spring of 2012.
Chef Eells will oversee the entire culinary operation at Grand Hyatt San Antonio—which on average includes several thousands of meals per day. He is not simply the new chef behind Achiote River Cafe & Bar which specializes in Asian/Latin cuisine and was named one of San Antonio’s top 10 restaurants. He is responsible for managing 45 kitchen staff at any time, all catering needs (including weddings and conferences) Bar Rojo and the hotel’s room service operation.
Born and raised in Galveston, TX, Jeffery Balfour developed a love for his native cuisine and the freshest ingredients, all of which are evident on his ever-changing menu. After realizing his culinary passion 16 years ago while studying at the University of Texas at Austin, Balfour switched gears and transferred to Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. While working in kitchens in Houston, including the former La Reserve, a Mobil Four Star-rated restaurant, located at the AAA Five Diamond Omni Houston Hotel, he honed his skills in French and American cuisine under several of the nation’s top chefs.
In 2002, Balfour moved to San Antonio and was in charge creating the food service concept for a new downtown hotel property, Hotel Valencia Riverwalk. Under his direction, Citrus Restaurant became known as one of San Antonio’s most innovative fine dining restaurants. The restaurant has been profiled in Southern Living, San Antonio Woman, San Antonio Current, SA Magazine, SA Express News, Bon Appetit. and has appeared on both Rachael Ray and Top Chef. Citrus was featured in San Antonio Express News in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 as a “Best Hotel Restaurant”, taking silver in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and gold in 2010 and 2012. In 2011 he was given 3rd place Best Chef by the Reader’s Choice in SA Current. Later that year Balfour tied for Best Chef in the city, Editor’s Choice for SA Magazine. Citrus has been recognized numerous other times, being included in the top 20 restaurants in the city in 2013 by SA Magazine and winning three consecutive first prizes at Blue Star Arts and Eats. Balfour took first place in the 2011 Paella Challenge, as well as other awards and recognitions.
Chef Balfour and Pearl are excited to announce they are collaborating on a restaurant to open on the ground floor of the historic Pearl Brewery brew house. Balfour will own and operate the restaurant, which is slated to open in fall 2014.
He is active in the San Antonio community, giving his time to local charities. He is an Alumni of Leadership San Antonio .
Balfour is married with 2 children and spends his free time with his children who are active in swimming, mountain biking, skateboarding, baseball and the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio.
Jason Dady Restaurants
Named “Rising Star” chef by Restaurant Hospitality, 40 under 40 “Rising Star” by San Antonio Business Journal, Best Chef in San Antonio by the San Antonio Current, 4-Diamond Award (The Lodge), AAA 2009, 3-Diamond Award (BIN 555), AAA 2009, Best New American Restaurant in San Antonio by Zagat Survey® 2006 and 2007, Most Romantic Restaurant (The Lodge) by the San Antonio Express-News in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2007, Best place for a Special Occasion in 2003 by the San Antonio Express News, Best of the City 2007 by San Antonio Magazine, Best New Restaurant (Bin 555) for 2006 by the San Antonio Current, 2005 New Achiever Award, Texas Tech University College of Human Sciences
Chef Dady has pioneered an innovative culinary culture in San Antonio and has developed a reputation of top quality, excellence and professionalism in food, service and hospitality through each of his five San Antonio dining establishments. As Executive Chef and Owner of The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, Bin 555 Restaurant and Wine Bar, Tre Trattoria and Two Bros. BBQ Market and recent expansion of Tre Trattoria at The Fairmount Hotel. Dady has a passion preparing the best ingredients to perfection and providing exceptional service for each and every guest.
Dady’s love for food and hospitality began at the side of his grandparents. One set of grandparents own a small tavern for over 40 years where customer service is the priority, while his other grandfather was a master butcher who handed down his personal set of knives Jason still uses today.
Dady holds a B.A. in Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management from Texas Tech University and moved to San Francisco to continue his culinary education at the California Culinary Academy (CCA). He worked at the world-renowned Stars Bar and Dining. After graduating from the CCA he set his sights on Napa Valley and the Beringer Wine Estate. There he perfected his wine pairing techniques and New American-style cuisine.
Dady moved to San Antonio sensing an opportunity to bring his simple principles of providing warm, attentive service and exceptional cuisine to one of the fastest growing cities in the country. In October 2001, at the tender age of 24, Dady opened The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills along with his wife, Crystal, and brother, Jacob. The Lodge Restaurant brought new life to the Slimp Estate Mansion built in 1929 as a private home nestled on 44 acres on the highest hill in the area, the namesake for the city of Castle Hills.
Corporate Executive Chef, Craig Bianco, developed a passion for this industry and for food at an early age. Following in his Grandfather and Father’s footsteps, he is now serving as the third generation in his family to establish culinary arts into a successful career. Craig began his apprenticeship in Park Slope, Brooklyn where he learned to develop his own unique style and taste under Chef Angelo Serpe. From there he went on to study culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America and began working at exclusive restaurants and hotels in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Virginia Beach.
He continued with his career at The Harris, Bally’s, and Paris in Las Vegas and The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco as the Executive Chef. For the past four years, Craig balances his life and work in San Antonio, TX. as Corporate Executive Chef for the RK Group LLC.
Executive Chef of Boiler House
Jeff White has over 24 years of experience, creating masterpiece menus for prestigious, award winning restaurants. His imaginative culinary skills and passionate disposition about his craft have resulted in a bronze medal and a People’s Choice Award from the American Culinary Federation. Furthermore, in 2005 Chef White was invited to showcase his talents at the illustrious James Beard House in New York City. Now the Executive Chef at Boiler House, his innovative talents are a key ingredient to creating extraordinary event on behalf of clients.
Born in California, but living in Texas his whole life he began cooking at a young age and working various positions in his parents restaurants. After realizing it was his passion to cook, he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, shortly after graduating from high school. Not soon after graduating from the CIA he partnered up with his father Stan Holt, his brother Judson Holt and Paul McElroy to create a restaurant management company and to open several “Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants” in the Houston area. He also along with his father opened “Roadster’s Grill” in Houston. As well with restaurant development he has had the opportunity to work in various food media projects involving food styling and consulting. Currently he is Chief Development Officer and Partner for RDM Inc. a restaurant management and development company operating and expanding the Lupe Tortilla’s restaurants in the Texas market. He is also a privileged member of the Alumni Committee, along with the Society of Fellows at the Culinary Institute of America.
Chef/Owner of BLISS
Mark Bliss is a native of Northern California. He began his culinary career after moving to Texas in 1981. He worked in several hotel and restaurant kitchens, including Polo’s at the Fairmount, where he met noted Chef Bruce Auden.
Next, Mark was hired as Executive Chef at Pour La France, based out of Aspen. When Bruce Auden opened Biga in 1991, he asked Bliss to join him as Chef de Cuisine. In 1996, Restaurant Biga was inducted into Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame, the youngest restaurant in the 25-year history of the magazine to receive this prestigious award.
In October 1997, Mark opened Silo as executive chef and managing partner. Located in the heart of San Antonio near Alamo Heights, Silo earned rave reviews locally and nationally, and was named the San Antonio Express-News “Critics Choice” for Best New Restaurant in 1997, and was voted Best New Restaurant in a readers’ poll. Bliss was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by Restaurant Institution Magazine.
Bliss left Silo in January of 2010. At that time Mark decided to take a personal sabbatical to reunite with family on the west coast, spend time with his wife and children, and to begin work on his own restaurant concept in San Antonio. BLISS Restaurant opened in the winter of 2012.
Mark has been married to his wife and business partner, Lisa, since 1986. They have two grown children, Sarah and Evan.
Executive Chef of Zoko Restaurant Bar & Grill
Earlier this year, Chef Clint Connaway opened ZOKO Restaurant Bar & Grill in Stone Oak area, where patrons can enjoy a European Cuisine with Texas Hospitality, and of course his now famous Paella. Chef Connaway trained with world-renowned Belgian Chef Willem DeFroy at Sambuca’s in Dallas. He sharpened his fine dining techniques at Bistro
Louise in Fort Worth then in San Antonio for seven years with Chef Damien Vatel at Bistro Vatel; followed by two years as Executive Chef for Max’s Wine Dive.
Chef Clint likes to surprise his guests with the unexpected. “It’s fun to see people enjoy new tastes and I like to shake things up. When you look at food as art, you allow yourself to color outside the lines… rules are made to be broken.”
Executive Chef James Canter was classically trained in the Tampa Bay area, and went on to broaden his culinary perspective on the national circuit culminating in twenty plus years of professional experience and extensive knowledge in global cuisine. James recently relocated from the San Francisco and the Tampa Bay area’s where he worked with local fishermen, farmers, and ranchers to provide local sustainable products for his clientele at many diverse venue’s from coast to coast. Now James’ efforts are to provide the Victoria County Club with the same sensible cuisine where he will be manning the helm. James has also been the Executive Chef for the St. Petersburg Museum Of Fine Arts as well as being the Chef owner of San Francisco’s exclusive organic South American Pena. He is also filming an “edutainment” type cooking show for T.V. as well as looking forward to connecting the community with their local food sources and bringing “sustainability” to the forefront. Some of Chef Canter’s other accolades include two and half stars “Best Places of Northern California”, 2008 best new restaurant Tampa bay area, Gold medal-Sous Chef ACF hot foods competition, most sophisticated lunches, St. Petersburg Times, and he has had the honor of leading up the culinary team for Vice President Dick Cheney (Big Horn River Resort) and many other dignitaries and celebrities. Chef Canter has also been bestowed the honor of 2nd and 3rd place “RGV Iron Chef” and 1st place “Iron Chef” paella (Culinary Institutes of America, San Antonio) and “Best in show” at Paella lovers united, as well as Alhambra restaurant being awarded “Top 100 Texas restaurants, Texas Monthly Magazine” Chef Canter went to the Rio Grande Valley to pursue and achieve his passion of starting McAllen and Weslaco’s very first organic farmers market at the Alhambra patio and in down town Weslaco. James is also a founding captain of the Texas Food Revolution which helps in educating the local community as to the benefits of choosing the agricultural bounty that is available locally and demonstrates on how to use these products. He currently resides in McAllen, Texas with his wife and three sons and is very happy to be here so that he can provide leadership and support for the “green movement”.
Executive Chef at The St. Anthony Riverwalk Hotel
Executive Chef since 2011, Native San Antonian Chef Michael Mata has a culinary history that’s anything but typical. Anyone who samples his savory dishes would be surprised to know that his training did not begin in the classroom.
Chef Mata’s passion for cooking began at a very young age. While his friends were dreaming of becoming firefighters and astronauts, Michael wanted to cook. His fondest memories take him back to his childhood kitchen where he spent countless hours watching his mother and grandmother prepare delicious dishes that always brightened the faces of every family member. At age 11, he bravely attempted to cook his grandmother’s infamous Spanish Rice with the hopes of seeing those same smiles, and the rest is history.
Fueled by a passion to create delightful food that evokes emotion and creates memories, Chef Mata has always been eager to learn. Beginning in 2005, he worked full time in the St. Anthony kitchen and spent the rest of his time apprenticing in premiere San Antonio restaurants under acclaimed chefs, including Jonathan Parker (Pesca at the Watermark Hotel & Spa), Scott Cohen and Isaac Cantu (Las Canarias at La Mansion). He learned about the Louisiana flavor of “family, friends and hospitality” while studying under John Besh and Steve McHugh at Luke. He even spent his free time at Yokonyu learning the proper, ancient technique used to roll sushi.
Chef Michael Mata excites his guests’ palates and provides delicious foods that create memories. His guests have come to expect unique dishes flavored by passion, ambition and raw talent.
Chef/Owner of La Masia Catering
Chef Alejandro Rodriguez was born and raised in Spain. He moved to San Antonio 16 years ago after learning the traditional culinary arts of Catalan cuisine. He recently graduated from St. Phillips Culinary School and established “La Masia Catering.” Passionate about gastronomy, Alejandro is excited about learning fine food from around the globe.
Executive Chef of Luke Restaurant
Chef John Russ was born and raised in New Orleans and grew up with a deep love and appreciation for food. He began his culinary career first at The Ritz-Carlton then Restaurant August where he began to form the relationship with John Besh and his company that would bring him to San Antonio. During his time at August, he learned the importance of forming relationships with farmers and fisherman, which would later be reinforced by his time working on farms in Alabama, New Hampshire, New York and Maryland. Chef Russ spent years in Europe opening hotels, training staff, setting kitchens up for success all while gaining an appreciation of the European kitchen, which focuses on the education and evolution of the staff. After time in New Hampshire, New York and Maryland, spent honing his skills and revitalizing restaurant kitchens, Chef Russ returned to the Besh Restaurant Group as Chef de Cuisine on the invitation of Chef Besh. He now leads the kitchen at Luke San Antonio as Executive Chef.
Owner/Executive Chef of Cured
Steven McHugh is from a large farm family – seven boys – in a small Wisconsin town, far from San Antonio, Texas, and farther still from the rich culinary culture of New Orleans, Louisiana, where his career as a fine dining chef took flight.
But his interest in the restaurant world started back on the farm, when he followed an older brother at age fourteen to work in a nearby tavern, washing dishes. Within a year he had been elevated to short-order cook, flipping burgers and loving every minute of it. A jazz saxophone scholarship got him to college, but he soon realized that he would rather study cooking – so he made his way to the Culinary Institute of America. For his externship at the prestigious school, Steven requested a placement in New Orleans, where he figured that he could soak in the jazz scene as well as culinary experience. He was right. Upon graduating, he got himself right back down, working with Creole chef Chris Brown at Metro Bistro, as well as for Dickie Brennan and Ralph Brennan of the legendary restaurant family.
On the strength of a single dinner at John Besh’s Restaurant August, McHugh dropped off his résumé, and was hired on as chef de cuisine at Besh Steak, in Harrah’s Casino. He then made his way to the flagship restaurant, August. It was in that kitchen of incredibly high culinary standards that his creative energy soared. After Katrina, McHugh worked 20-hour days at Besh’s side, going through gallons of bleach to scrub out the restaurant, and serving breakfasts to hundreds of FEMA workers from a trailer. “A couple of fine-dining chefs, slinging scrambled eggs for 600 – we didn’t know what we were doing!” laughs McHugh, who was glad to be serving in the trenches. He worked his way around the Besh Restaurant Group, becoming chef de cuisine of La Provence, where the former farm boy established a kitchen garden and farmyard. As the floating chef, he was responsible for off-site catering and banquets. Finally leaving his beloved New Orleans to bring Lüke, Besh’s old fashioned German-style brasserie, to San Antonio – he met with Texas-sized success.
In January 2010, the thoughtful and energetic chef faced his greatest challenge by far: a diagnosis of cancer. “I remember the moment clearly, because I was in New Orleans, and the Saints had just beaten the Vikings in the Championship Game,” he says, wryly. He set out to beat his own opponent, non-Hodgkins lymphoma with two tumors, one the size of a grapefruit – with fierce determination, two operations, and a year of chemotherapy. “My oncologist happens to be a huge foodie, which brought an unlikely element of pleasure to the process,” he notes. Now in remission, his check-up visits are more often consumed with the subject of food, than cancer.
McHugh’s new lease on life propelled him forward toward a long-held dream: a restaurant of his own. Its name is “Cured.” Located in Pearl, San Antonio’s groundbreaking culinary center that occupies the campus of the city’s late great Pearl Brewery, Cured refers to more than just the fact of recovered health. It is all about the house-cured meats and a menu of equally time-consuming culinary elements that have been lovingly hand-crafted with just as much care and faith from the finest, freshest local ingredients in a gastro-pub style ambiance. Bitters for the cocktails. Vinegars for the pickling. Pickles – you get the idea. Years in the making, but held to McHugh’s own brand of perfection, his gastro-pub opened at the end of 2013.
Cured, the restaurant, says McHugh, cures hunger and thirst. But it does more than nourish the body; it feeds the soul, through McHugh’s commitment to helping others. “I studied social work once upon a time when I was in college, and that sense of wanting to make a positive difference in people’s lives has never left me. Now, with my own place, I have the perfect platform for that. I can make it up as I go along.” For starters, he’ll be donating a dollar for every charcuterie board ordered to a different charity each quarter.
“Beyond what was on the plate at Cured, I want to achieve the sense of warmth and support that I remember growing up on the farm, where our kitchen table was the gathering place for the whole community. I want every person’s experience to be more than just a meal.”
Restaurateur/Owner of Cordua Restaurants
Michael Cordúa, one of Texas’ most respected and celebrated restaurateurs, is owner and executive chef at seven award-winning Houston-area restaurants, including Amazón Grill, Américas Post Oak, Américas Woodlands, Américas River Oaks, Artista, Churrascos River Oaks and Churrascos Westchase. Since making his debut in 1988, Cordúa has been recognized as a pioneer of South American cuisine and has received national acclaim for his creative ideas and artful presentation. He was named one of America’s “Top Ten Chefs” by Food & Wine and is the only Texas chef to be inducted into the “Food & Wine Hall of Fame.” He is a recipient of the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence, a member of the Continental Congress of Chefs & Sommeliers and a current semifinalist for the 2011 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurateur award.
With inspiration from his uncle’s restaurant in Managua, Cordúa conceived Churrascos, the first upscale Latin American-style restaurant in America. Critics were immediately enamored with the tantalizing dishes and unusual blending of spices and ingredients. Churrascos was featured in the New York Times and was named one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine. Following the success of Churrascos, Cordúa debuted Américas, a high-concept eatery specializing in the diverse cuisines of North America, Central America and South America. The concept provided Cordúa the opportunity to expand his prolific cooking talents to even further heights, and Américas was named “Restaurant of the Year” by Esquire magazine in November 1993. Américas added a second location in 2008 and a third that opened in September 2010.
Executive Chef of True Flavors Culinary Planners
Chef Flor Vergara was raised in Mexico City and specializes in authentic Mexican and Mediterranean flavors. From early on, Flor found that her favorite place to be was in the kitchen learning the traditions and flavors of Mexico. Her favorite dishes include barbacoas, moles, adobos, and antojitos. Chef Vergara has acted as executive chef of several different restaurants, including Matisse, Bourbon Street, Cibal, and Scouzzi’s. In all of her roles she has been able to develop eclectic menus and international flavors. In addition to creating beautiful culinary masterpieces, Chef Vergara also enjoys spending time with her husband, Wilbert, and her two dogs, Silver and Shadow.
Chef/Owner of Copa Wine Bar
“It’s the world’s most expensive spice,” said Angie’s dad to a highly inquisitive 5 year old one day while her parents were preparing her favorite meal. Thus began her obsession with paella and she’s been striving to perfect it ever since. Angie grew up in a household where the Castellano Spanish language and its culture were taught to her by her mother Carmen. Carmen is from the La Mancha region of Spain-the epicenter of Spanish saffron production. Angie spent many of her summers in Spain with her extended family and Paella always spoke of celebration and tradition. A self-taught Chef, she’s prided herself in celebrating her family’s culture in the way she cooks, and was even the inspiration for her business Copa Wine Bar. Copa is a casual eatery with an emphasis on Mediterranean foods and wine that harkens back to the Tapas bars that she loves so much. Angie and her husband Jeff Bridges take pride in having founded “A Taste of the North Side,” which has become one of San Antonio’s premiere Fiesta events, and due to the hardworking efforts of its countless volunteers and sponsors, has raised several million dollars benefiting the Brighton Center of San Antonio. Angie and her husband Jeff Bridges own and operate Copa Wine Bar, a winner of numerous “Best of San Antonio” recognitions over the last eight years, and most recently a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” for their wine list. Copa is in the Stone Oak area of San Antonio, Texas
Chef/Owner of Azuca Nuevo Latino
Chef Rene Fernandez discovered he had an exceptional passion for food and the culinary arts as early on as eight years old, when he remembers becoming enamored with the “beautiful and abundant” paella he first sampled in a Spanish restaurant in Mexico City. He did some studies at the Culinary Institute of America, as well as took specialty courses in food and beverage at Cornell University. He is also a proud member of Chaine Des Rotisseurs. Though born and raised in Mexico, Chef Fernandez began his career working as a cook at a country club in Houston. He then joined the Sheraton in Mexico City as their chef Garde Manger, and then on to Manaus, Brazil at the Tropicana Hotel, and again on to the Hyatt Hotel in Acapulco, a 700-room resort where he worked as Sous Chef for three (3) years. Eventually he moved on to Guatemala at the Westin Comino Real where he had finally earned the honorable title and responsibility of executive chef. From there he continued his career as an executive chef working at various exotic locals, from Mexico City and Cancun to Aruba and Puerto Rico.
Collectively, Chef Fernandez worked a total of 17 years at Hyatt Hotels alone. In fact, it was circa 1993 at the Hyatt Regency in Merida, what they call the white city in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, where Chef first met Pierre Kranzle, his current business partner. It was during his tenure at the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio when Chef Rene and Kranzle chose to partner up their individual expertise and creative energies to form their first endeavor – the Nuevo Latino restaurant, Azuca. Azuca, having quickly proven itself to be a success, enabled these two visionary entrepreneurs to open up Zucchero, a restaurant dedicated to contemporary Italian cuisine. Chef Rene is supported and inspired by his wife, Norma and his two sons, Diego and Daniel. A little known interest of his is ice sculpture, but his true love will always and forever be esculent art for the palate.
Private Chef/Entrepreneur, Two-Time Paella Lovers United Cook-Off Winner
Originally born in Panama, with Spanish blood and an incredible enthusiasm for rice and cooking.
Chef Eric has more than 25 years experience making traditional Paella.
A private chef and entrepreneur, Chef Eric lives in Austin, Texas, “La meca de la buen comida”, and is the two-time winner of Austin’s Paella Coof offwith his team “Los Piratas del Sabor” in 2008 & 2009.
As a devoted chef he has experience developing new recipes, several products and a food writer & critic.
Chef/Owner of Arcade
After graduating from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Chef Jesse accepted a job at Francesca’s at La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, Texas. Quickly working up the ranks in the kitchen, he also acquired his Introduction Certificate of Sommeliers from the Guild of Master Sommeliers in 2000. In late 2006, Pano Karatassos of Atlanta’s Buckhead Life Restaurant Group invited Chef Jesse to accept the executive chef position at Nava. Apart from acclaim in Atlanta publications, he has also recently been featured in Restaurant and Institutions, Plate, and Restaurant Forum and just recently, Chef Jesse was on a list of Atlanta’s top new chefs in the Atlanta dining scene. He was also named Best Latino Chef in the U.S. at the Flavors of Passion Awards. He recently served up his own barbecue at Culinaria’s Burgers, BBQ and Beer. The Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the historic Pearl Brewery is his new venture and one of Eater’s Most Anticipated Openings of 2013.
San Antonio Food Bank Community Kitchen Executive Chef
Growing up, David always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an accountant. However, he found he could not sit in an office all day and gradually began to realize a greater purpose was calling him. Working his way up through the ranks, David helped open Sea World Texas’ Cypress Restaurant, which was a classic French cuisine restaurant. Here, he began his passion. He found an interest not only in food, but also in the history behind it. He worked his way into hotels, continuing his education in the culinary arts over 15 years. Over the next 10 years, he further expanded his horizons and knowledge through catering. This journey led him to the San Antonio Food Bank where he is currently the Executive Chef of their Community Kitchen. The Community Kitchen serves over a thousand meals a day to disadvantaged and food insecure children. This has allowed him much more gratification than he could ever imagine. Through the San Antonio Food Bank, he has been able to give back and make a difference in his community, all while fostering his passion for the culinary arts.