Aaron Franklin

Franklin Barbecue
You can say that brisket was in Aaron Franklin’ blood. His parents owned a barbecue stand in his native Bryan, Texas. But barbecue runs thick in the veins of every Texan, and when Aaron began experimenting with brisket and a backyard smoker a decade ago, it just so happened that with him it ran thicker than most.

With the encouragement of friends, Aaron and his wife Stacy debuted Franklin BBQ in late 2009 on an empty East Austin parking lot. Here early patrons noticed that from a walk-up window of their travel trailer turned brisket stand, the Franklins were selling some of the best barbecue they’d ever tried. By February, the line snaked around the block. In less than two years, the duo could count contributors from Bon Appetit, The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and Cooking Channel among a growing chorus hailing Franklin among the American BBQ elite—mentioned in the breath as Smitty’s, Kreuz’s, and other stalwart temples to the holy craft of smoked meat that line the Central Texas brisket belt.

Aaron and Stacy quickly outgrew their trailer, now parked behind a bricks-and-mortar restaurant a few blocks south. And despite the new digs and every reasonable effort to increase production, Franklin BBQ’s line is as long as ever, and the restaurant has sold out of brisket every day of its existence.

John Tesar

Two-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist and “Top Chef” contestant Chef John Tesar is known for his stylish, modern American cuisine prepared with classic European techniques. His innovative culinary perspective and no-nonsense personality have garnered much acclaim throughout his 20+ years in the restaurant industry, including national nods from Esquire, Food & Wine, New York Magazine and The New York Times, appearances on The Today Show and The Early Show and winning the inaugural season of Food Network’s Extreme Chef.

After receiving classical French training at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, Tesar started his culinary career at Club Pierre in Westhampton, followed by stints at 13 Barrow Street, 44 & Hell’s Kitchen, Vine and cooking alongside Anthony Bourdain at the Supper Club in New York. After New York, Tesar headed to Las Vegas to work with Chef Rick Moonen at RM Seafood and in 2007, moved to Dallas to take the helm at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, earning two five-star reviews.

A highly sought-after consultant, Tesar is the genius behind the menus at DRG Concepts’ Dallas Chop House, Dallas Fish Market, Wild Salsa and Chop House Burger as well as The Cedars Social and The Commissary, earning a Best New Restaurant award in D Magazine with his revolutionary CVap cooked burgers.

In November 2012, Tesar opened Spoon Bar & Kitchen, receiving recognition in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Best New Restaurants in the World,” Bon Appetit Magazine’s “The Best New Restaurants of America in 2013” and Esquire magazine’s “The Best New Restaurants of 2013.”

Two years later, in May 2014, Tesar opened his concept Knife in The Highland Dallas Hotel (formerly Hotel Palomar Dallas) to critical acclaim and guest praise. A reinvention of the steakhouse experience, the chef-driven restaurant features all-natural born and raised Texas beef, pork and lamb in dry-aged prime cuts and specialty cuts such as chuck flap, beef tongue and Akaushi beef. Named one of Eater National’s “Most Anticipated Openings of Spring 2014,” Knife is Tesar’s vision of what a contemporary steakhouse should be.

Always looking ahead for the next project, Tesar is redesigning the food & beverage program for Embassy Suites in Wilmington, North Carolina with a coastal seafood restaurant and rooftop burger, beer and wine bar, as well as developing a hotel in Memphis on the Mississippi River that will feature a bakery. He is also working on a sustainable seafood book called “Seafood Without an Ocean,” published by InkWell Management and slated to release in spring 2015.

From bringing seafood to the heart of Texas to reinventing the traditional steakhouse, Tesar continues being a visionary and putting Dallas on the map as a true foodie destination.

Jason Dady

Jason Dady Restaurants
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.

Michael Fojtasek

Michael Fojtasek began his culinary career at FINO Restaurant in Austin. Shortly after walking into the FINO kitchen, Michael realized he wanted to spend the rest of his life working in restaurants. Michael quickly worked his way from stagiaire to prep cook and then to line cook.

After a culinary trip to some of New York’s finest dining establishments with Kent Rathbun, Michael was offered a position at Rathbun’s Dallas restaurant, Abacus. Mobil Four Star, AAA Four Diamond and Bon Appetit’s Best of the Year 2001 were some of the accolades already given to Abacus when Michael joined the team. It was also his first opportunity to work in fine dining.

After succeeding as a capable line cook at Abacus, Michael attended The Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena. While attending the West Coast extension of the world’s best culinary college, Michael pursued a required working externship with Per Se to continue his education.

After landing a job working in the Per Se kitchen for one night only, Chef Jonathan Benno offered him the chance to spend his externship working with the Per Se team. Per Se had accumulated a Michelin Three Star, New York Times Four Star, and San Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World Number Six when Michael began work there. At the end of his externship, Michael was extended an open opportunity to work at Per Se or for Chef Benno.

Michael returned to Northern California to finish culinary school. His experience at Per Se provided an opportunity to work at The French Laundry for a couple of weeks prior to school beginning. Following this time, Michael worked as daily volunteer in The French Laundry garden.

After his final semester, Michael moved back to New York City to work at Chef Benno’s Italian restaurant in New York City’s Lincoln Center, Lincoln Ristorante. Working the pasta station at Lincoln taught him what it takes to be a line cook in New York at the top.

In late 2011, John Shook and Vinny Dotolo, of Animal and Son of a Gun in Los Angeles, caught Michael’s attention. He moved across the country, again, to work at Son of a Gun. Michael once again quickly became a leader in the kitchen. His culinary skill, dedication to the restaurant and bi-weekly trips to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, earned him a Sous Chef position.

Currently, he is working to open Olamaie this winter together with Co-Executive Chef Grae Nonas and General Manager Ben Hickerson. Olamaie will bring the taste of the South with a new modern spin to downtown Austin with seasonal dishes and farm-to-table ingredients.

Grae Nonas

Born in New Jersey and raised in New York and New Hampshire, Grae Nonas’ childhood years exposed him to all that New England had to offer including the vastly diverse, ever-changing culinary world. Grae discovered his passion for food early on and began his career in kitchens at the age of twelve.

Grae attended the Culinary Institute of America in 2006. Towards the end of his studies he was accepted for an externship at a one Michelin star restaurant, Osteria Di Passignano, in the heart of beautiful Tuscany. It was there that Grae discovered his passion for Italian food and started to hone his craft of the ‘traditional’ with a modern approach.

When he graduated from CIA in late 2008 he stayed on that path and was hired to work the pasta station with Chef Anne Burrell at Centro Vinoteca. After Centro, Grae embarked on a culinary sabbatical to the West Coast to stage at some of Portland’s most acclaimed restaurants. But the trip was cut short when he was quickly recruited to help open Mario Batali’s Tarry Lodge back in New York with Chef Andy Nusser (Chef/Partner at Casa Mono and Tarry Lodge).

After two years, Grae left his Sous Chef position at Tarry Lodge to help open Pesce, the fish inspired Italian restaurant inside Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York City. Once Pesce was up and running Grae headed back to Westchester County to join the newly open Restaurant North (owned and operated by Danny Meyer alumni) as Sous Chef. After spending almost three years in large-scale restaurants, North was the perfect introduction to small-scale service.

In early 2011, Grae made the leap from New York to Los Angeles. The transition wasn’t easy for the native New Yorker but after a few months Grae got his foot in the door at Animal Restaurant. After only six months, he was offered the Sous Chef position at Animal’s newly opened sister fish restaurant, Son Of A Gun. Under the helm of Frank W. Anderson, Grae got first hand experience in running a small restaurant and transitioned into being an integral part of the operation.

Currently, he is working to open Olamaie this winter together with Co-Executive Chef Michael Fojtasek and General Manager Ben Hickerson. Olamaie will bring the taste of the South with a new modern spin to downtown Austin with seasonal dishes and farm-to-table ingredients.

Kevin Fink

Emmer & Rye
Kevin Fink found his love for food, restaurants, and hospitality at the age of eleven when he would trail his father working in the restaurant industry, learning the ins-and-outs of the culinary operations.Since beginning his career fifteen years ago, Fink’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 World’s Best Restaurant by Restaurant Magazine in 2003. Fink continued his career by staging at Copenhagen’s Noma, which held the same Restaurant Magazine rank for three years following The French Laundry. From there, Fink continued on to the competitive Noma Test Kitchen, where he was able to create new techniques and dining trends.Fink went on to work alongside the Department of Health to build systems and restructure policies, allowing him to be at the helm of a renowned charcuterie, curing, and smoking program. Fink also served as director of operations for the successful and award-winning Zona 78 Italian Kitchen in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to Austin to be chef de partie at Austin’s Olamaie.Fink opened Emmer & Rye on Rainey Street in Austin, Texas in November 2015. Fink brought a unique dining experience to Austin, as Emmer & Rye is the first contemporary American restaurant in Austin to offer dim sum service as part of their meal, where guests are able to order items directly off of circulating carts, along with a weekly rotating menu using local farm-to-table ingredients.

Rene Ortiz

Launderette, Fresa's Chicken al Carbon & Angry Bear
Known as one of the most recognizable chefs on the Austin culinary scene, Rene Ortiz has made an indelible mark with his Latin American influences. As a James Beard Foundation Award nominee for “Best Chef: Southwest”, Ortiz quickly became locally loved and nationally recognized while serving as the chef of Austin’s La Condesa and Sway. Ortiz helped curate and develop the culinary concepts that evolved La Condesa and Sway into award-winning restaurants.

With locations in both Austin and Napa Valley, La Condesa was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for ‘Best New Restaurant’, while Ortiz was at the helm. In July 2014, Ortiz had the incredible opportunity to cook for the President at a fundraiser in Austin on behalf of Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon, where he served a refined chicken fajita taco dubbed “El Presidente.”

A native Texan, Ortiz began his career as chef de cuisine for Robert Clark at Vancouver’s Star Anise, named Canada’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ in 1996 by Gourmet Magazine. He spent two decades traveling the world and working his way through the brasseries and bistros of Western Europe cultivating his international culinary skills.

Upon his return to the states in 1998, Chef Ortiz worked under notable chefs such as Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse and the late Jean-Luis Palladin.  He then became chef de cuisine for Douglas Rodriguez at Patria, dazzling diners with his modern Latin American fare. In 2003, Mark Miller sent Chef Ortiz to Sydney to revamp menus at his restaurants Wildfire and Ocean Room.  He also opened and served as Executive Chef at one of New York City’s most coveted restaurants and Time Out magazine’s ‘Best New Restaurant’ of 2007, La Esquina.

In 2013, Ortiz joined forces with Margaret Vera and Tracy Overath, along with longtime culinary partner Laura Sawicki, to form a new restaurant group and is currently chef and partner of Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon. The group is feverishly working on their new project, Launderette, a neighborhood café slated to open this winter, where Ortiz will serve as the executive chef.

Laura Sawicki

Launderette, Fresa's Chicken al Carbon & Angry Bear
Whimsical, complex and beautiful, Laura’s baking and desserts embody her background in art history and a lifelong passion for food. After attending undergraduate school at Colorado College, she earned a degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 2005. After honing her skills at City Bakery in New York City, Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, Tom Colicchio’s Craftbar and Marlow & Sons, both in New York City she moved to Austin, Texas to open La Condesa and oversaw its subsequent expansion in Napa as well as the pastry program at Sway.

Made only from seasonal ingredients, Laura’s work has gained a devoted local following and high praise from both local and national press. She was recently named Best New Pastry Chef 2012 by Food & Wine magazine.

Ben Runkle

Salt & Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria
Ben Runkle is a former vegan who’s passion for fresh, flavorful and sustainable food drove him to reevaluate his dietary and career choices. Runkle began his career as a butcher’s apprentice at Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop in Pt. Reyes Station, CA and was privileged to continue his education with David Budworth at Avedano’s Holly Park Market and Taylor Boetticher at the Fatted Calf. In 2009, he and his wife Natalie Davis moved to Austin, TX and started Salt & Time. Originally focused on producing Old World style salumi and charcuterie, Runkle partnered with Bryan Butler in 2010 to grow Salt & Time into Austin’s first whole carcass Butcher Shop, Salumeria and Restaurant. Runkle’s time in Texas has influenced his culinary point of view and he takes great pride in developing new products that highlight native flavors and ingredients.

Matt McCallister

FT33 is Chef Matt McCallister’s first solo venture, opened on October 13, 2012 in Dallas and serving “season-inspired modern cuisine.” He showcases the highest-quality products and treats them with respect. “I don’t print my menu until I know which ingredients are best that day,” he explains. “That should be the natural progression, rather than do the reverse, creating a dish and forcing whatever ingredients are available into it.” McCallister also has a penchant for creating unorthodox pairings of ingredients. McCallister has received rave reviews based purely on his signature progressive technique, and modern farmers' market-inspired fare.

Before becoming a thoughtfully progressive culinarian in the Dallas dining scene, McCallister was torn between the visual and culinary arts. “Art was a passion that always competed with food, but cooking gives me an opportunity to blend the two,” says the Scottsdale, AZ, native, whose artistic sensibilities were influenced by his designer mother and scientific curiosity can be attributed to his research engineer father.

In 2006, McCallister landed a job at Stephan Pyles Restaurant in Dallas. With no formal training the aspiring chef began working at the renowned temple of fine Southwestern cuisine. He rapidly ascended the kitchen hierarchy, becoming sous chef in just over a year and executive chef within three years. McCallister left to travel and work under some of the country’s greatest chefs over the course of the next two years; José Andrés, Mark Vetri, Sean Brock, Grant Achatz, and Daniel Boulud. Upon returning to Dallas in 2011 he started putting his plans together to open FT33, his first solo venture with his wife.

Extending the reach of his food philosophy, the chef and his wife founded Chefs for Farmers, a grassroots organization supporting local farmers by introducing their products to chefs, and vice versa. He is also a member of Foodways Texas and Southern Foodways Alliance.

Andrew Wiseheart

Contigo Austin & Chicon
Growing up Andrew Wiseheart’s mom was a fixture in the family’s kitchen. When his dad took a turn at mixing things up for the family, Andrew was often the only one brave enough to try his dad’s creations. Today, Andrew credits those kitchen adventures with developing his affinity for unique eats with inspiring him to become a chef.

Andrew left his native San Angelo, TX to pursue formal culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. Knowing the best training comes from kitchen experience, he moved west to Napa Valley. His time in Napa proved to be priceless, as he was able to gain experience at Ken Frank’s La Toque, which was honored with a Michelin Star during his tenure and later in life at Angèle Restaurant cooking French comfort food.

Craving another food journey, Andrew headed to Europe. During his stay in Italy, Andrew worked at Gilda, a restaurant in Modena, Italy. Going to great lengths to expand his culinary knowledge, he hitchhiked across Europe and upon reaching Slovenia; he began walking. He has taken two trips to Croatia, where he cooked for a family in exchange for rent and spent time making olive oil, doing masonry work and harvesting grapes. “All of my travels are food enthused, and revolve around the local markets and agriculture,” he says.

After various jobs in Europe and Napa, Andrew packed his bags and headed back to Texas in 2009 where he partnered up with Ben Edgerton to open Contigo Austin, the restaurant concept inspired by Contigo Ranch, a South Texas hunting destination owned by the Edgerton family. Ben and Andrew, childhood summer camp comrades, reconnected through restaurant industry friends after Andrew’s move south.

Now serving as part owner and executive chef at Contigo Austin, Andrew will be cooking up epicurean bar food, including Fried Quail Legs with hot wing sauce and Rabbit & Dumplings. The unique offerings available on Contigo Austin’s menu are a direct reflection of the complex palate Andrew developed over the years, a combination of tasting his father’s experiments and working in well respected Napa kitchens. Andrew has created a menu at Contigo Austin that combines his creativity and skill Texas roots and worldly travels. Andrew is particularly excited to finally share his housemade charcuterie. In addition to creating the menu, Andrew is responsible for everything from maintaining the culinary vision for Contigo Austin to cooking on the line with his crew, no task is too small.

Andrew is continuously inspired by his family and girlfriend, Amber. When he’s not leading the kitchen of Contigo Austin, the South Austin resident enjoys what he calls “food stuff,” including gardening, pickling, curing and playing with recipes. Never losing sight of his Texas roots, he enjoys all facets of ranch work at C- Bar Ranch, the West Texas ranching destination on which he grew up and continues to serve as a muse for dishes on the menu.

John Bates

Noble Sandwiche Co
Prior to launching the Noble Sandwiches in September 2010, John was involved with two well-known Austin restaurants, as a sous chef at Wink and then as the executive chef at Asti Trattoria for 2 ½ years. John attended culinary school at Del Mar College in his native Corpus Christi, graduating in 2000, and credits his work in a variety of restaurants since 1991 in helping him to refine his culinary skills and define his approach. Determined to fill a culinary void in Austin, he teamed up with longtime friend Brandon Martinez to create the Noble Sandwich Co., where, as he puts it, “with a dedication to artisan cooking craftsmanship, you can make almost anything you want”. He is excited to open a second location of Noble Sandwiches in fall 2013.

Zack Northcutt

Swift's Attic
“The ability to transform raw ingredients to a final, edible and shareable experience that strengthens bonds with friends, family and communities,” is what Zack Northcutt describes as his inspiration to delve into the culinary arts.

Trained at the Texas Culinary Academy, Zack has been in the food industry for more than 10 years working in kitchens of various restaurants and developing his own personal chef style. Having previously worked at a number of notable restaurants such as Haddingtons, Mulberry, Jean George’s “Bank” and more, Zack now has his plate full as Swift’s Attic’s sous chef. Drawing from a strong work ethic, as well as a good network of farmers, ranchers and purveyors, is what sets his chef stylings apart from that of his peers. Having been the subject of many features in notable publications such as Texas Monthly, Austin Monthly, Tribeza, Austin American Statesman, CNN and more, this Austin foodie brings the heat to the Swift’s Attic kitchen.

Adam Brick

Apis Restaurant & Apiary
Boasting a world-class resume, our Chef de Cuisine, Adam Brick, brings soigné and precision to all kitchen operations at Apis. Adam always knew he was going to be a chef. During his time at Austin Montessori School, he helped construct the kitchen in which he then experienced the majority of his adolescent education. Professionally, he grew up working his way thru some of Austin's legendary kitchens, on his way to culinary school at CIA in Hyde Park, NY. After graduation Brick went on to work at some of New York City's hallowed kitchens including Restaurant Daniel, Aureole and Momofuku Ssam Bar. More recently Adam was recruited to work for Mike Isabella in Washington DC to open Kapno, where he developed menus, recruited talent and was even featured in the Washington Post for his elaborate tasting menu popup called The Gems. On his days off Brick can be found poling the flats of the Texas coast on his boat. Recently, Adam has connected Apis with his alma matter, Austin Montessori, through a farm-education outreach program and was recognized by Zagat's "30 Under 30 Best Young Innovative Chefs."

Taylor Hall

Apis Restaurant & Apiary
Chef Taylor Hall is living his dream here at Apis. A native Texan, Taylor Hall found his love of cooking as a young man in his family's North Texas kitchen. From his first job at New Orleans's time-honored Brennan's in 2000, Taylor knew that his place was in the professional kitchen and the world of gourmet cuisine. In 2001, he graduated with a B.A. from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and in 2005, he completed the culinary arts program at California Culinary Academy of San Francisco while working at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio. He went on to join the Rosenthal Brothers at Town Hall and Salt House, and completed his time in San Francisco at Nancy Oakes's and Pam Mazzola's James Beard Award-winning Boulevard.In 2007, Taylor and his wife, Casie, returned to Texas, to start a family and strike out on their own in a boutique catering business, affording them the opportunity to learn the culinary inclinations of Central Texans. In 2009 he became the head chef for Supper Underground and also began the process of planning, designing, and building what would become Apis Restaurant and Apiary.When not at Apis, Taylor spends time at home with his family or running the trails at Pace Bend Park. He can also occasionally be spotted at Poodies Roadhouse sipping a Shiner Bock.

Kristine Kittrell

Weather Up
Kristine Kittrell was a traveler before she was a cook. Originally from Canada, she migrated to the Caribbean after college and discovered ceviche, jerk pork, and fried plantains (among other un-Canadian cuisines). After two years, she left to visit parts of the Mediterranean, Mexico, and South Asia, digesting the culinary culture at every stop. When she landed in Austin in 1997, Kristine began working at Jeffrey’s Restaurant. Kristine left Jeffrey’s in 2003 to found El Chile Café y Cantina. Two years later, she helped open that restaurant’s “little brother,” El Chilito.

After 5 years with El Chile, Kristine left to further her culinary studies. She spent time staging in Barcelona, working at Michellin starred Comerc 24 and Cinc Sentits and a summer studying pastry in Vancouver B.C. She then when on to co-host the supper club and catering company, The Moveable Feast with the divine Gina Burchenal. Currently, she resides at Mulberry Restaurant where she is the Executive Chef.

Jesse Griffiths

Dai Due
Jesse Griffiths is the chef and owner of Dai Due Butcher Shop and Supper Club. Both businesses focus on traditional, local and sustainable approaches to food in the Central Texas region through sales of artisanal items at the farmers' market, roving dinners and classes on hunting, fishing and preserving. Dai Due has won two local hero awards in Edible Austin, and Jesse was nominated for Food and Wine's People's Best New Chef in 2011.

For more than 5 years, Dai Due has only served locally-grown vegetables, meats and dairy products at over 130 farm dinners and the weekly farmers' market. This September will mark the release Jesse's first book, Afield: a chef's guide to preparing and cooking wild game and fish - a how-to manual for direct sourcing of food.

Steve McHugh

Steve 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 with the support of his wife, Sylvia: 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.

David Bull

Second Bar + Kitchen
Growing up in his family’s restaurant, David Bull learned the inner workings of a kitchen and the role a restaurant plays in the community. These experiences not only showed him his love of cooking, but also taught him that creating lasting memories through taste, smell and the feelings associated with them, connects people to each other. He believes a restaurant is responsible for growing these bonds and giving back to the community that supports it, and that philosophy drives everything he does at Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen and Bar Congress.

Chef Bull graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1994, and then joined The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas. He moved quickly through the ranks at The Mansion to earn distinction as the youngest-ever sous chef employed by the venerable hotel. He then moved to Austin, serving as executive chef of the Driskill Grill, where he and his team earned the Austin American-Statesman’s Number One Restaurant Award for three consecutive years. With Chef Bull at the helm, USA Today recognized the five-star Driskill Grill as one of the country’s Top 50 Hotel Restaurants.

Food and Wine Magazine honored Chef Bull as one of “The Best New Chefs 2003.” In 2006 he appeared on the Food Network as an Iron Chef America competitor. And in 2007, Chef Bull was nominated for the prestigious James Beard award for “Best New Chef Southwest.”

In 2007 Chef Bull was named chef partner of La Corsha Hospitality Group, an Austin-based company that restores and operates historic landmark hotels. As chef partner he oversees all culinary operations for La Corsha Hospitality Group.

In 2009 Chef Bull released his interactive cookbook, Bull’s Eye on Food, and helped start La Corsha Restaurant Partners, the creative team behind Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen and Bar Congress.


Jeff Martinez

El Chile
When El Chile Cafe y Cantina opened in 2003, it enjoyed a raving reception as a top Tex-Mex restaurant not only in Austin, but throughout the state. Its distinguished foray into the Austin dining scene is thanks in large part to the talent of Chef Jeff Martinez who together with El Chile owner Carlos Rivero created a menu that balanced fine culinary technique and skill with the rich and layered flavors they had grown up with in San Antonio.

Cooking has always been a part of Martinez’s life. In fact, he remembers writing his first recipe for his parents when he was in grade school. And though it was more of an ingredients list for the humble hot dog, the concept of thinking through how to prepare something tasty stuck with Martinez into his young career. His first jobs were in kitchens prepping and line cooking. It wasn’t until he landed a job at Biga—which later became Biga on the Banks—for Bruce Auden that he realized a profound love for making food.

Two years later, he made his way to Austin. While his first choice was to get a job in the highly competitive kitchen of Jeffrey’s, he bided his time at former Clarksville vegetarian favorite, West Lynn Cafe until a spot was available at Jeffrey’s. The first person he spoke to about a job at Jeffrey’s was then chef de cuisine Alma Alcocer. The two developed a strong working relationship with Martinez honing his skills in technique and flavor profiles from Alcocer.

At the same time, he met Carlos Rivero, who was managing Jeffrey’s at the time. As the two became friends, they both began to talk about ideas for a future restaurant. Before long, Rivero had solidified an opportunity to open El Chile and chose Martinez as his first pick for chef. Though Martinez had little experience with Tex-Mex cooking, he relied on his understanding of fine dining and his expanding palate to guide him in creating what would become some of El Chile’s most prized dishes including the Pescado Entortillado (tortilla-crusted Gulf drum) and the rich and smoky mole enchiladas.

In an effort to round out his culinary education, Martinez left El Chile after five years for an opportunity to learn alongside esteemed chef Diana Kennedy at Fonda San Miguel. His two years at Fonda combined with a few summer culinary courses in the Yucatan, his understanding of authentic Mexican fare deepened.

“Even though I’m from San Antonio, I knew little about Mexican food, but gaining this experience with authentic, traditional Mexican food really opened my eyes,” says Martinez.

Having gained a broader depth of skill in Mexican cuisine, Martinez and Rivero took up talks again to reinvent some of the menu at El Chile, in 2012, Martinez was brought back to the helm of the restaurant to combine his creativity with his great appreciation for Latin flavors. While Martinez has kept many restaurant favorites, he has also introduced a number of fresh and vibrant weekly specials as well as new permanent menu items including spicy short rib nachos and crab tostada served with smoky bacon guacamole.

While his time away from El Chile was bittersweet, his new understanding of Mexican cuisine awakened an even more passionate inspiration to take the well-loved restaurant to the next level.

“It was great to get the experience while I was away from El Chile,” says Martinez. “But it’s also really good to be back home.”

Jodi Elliott

Bribery Pastry Kitchen
Jodi’s love of baking developed at an early age in the kitchen with her Grandmother, “Meme.” A picky eater, but a sweets lover, Jodi enjoyed the playfulness and nostalgia that went along with baking. With the encouragement of her mother, she started her pastry career at age 16 at a local café in San Antonio, TX. Jodi comments, “I was lucky to find my passion early on even before I knew what a pastry chef was.”

Following her high school graduation, Jodi attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park where she met Ned. While earning her culinary degree, Jodi worked at Gramercy Tavern under highly-acclaimed Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming. After graduating from the CIA in 2001, Jodi moved to London and took a position at the Savoy Hotel. After a year in London, she returned to New York in 2002 and continued her culinary career at such heralded restaurants as Bouley, Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria and Michael Symon’s Parea. It was during Jodi’s time as the Pastry Chef at Parea that the restaurant earned a two-star review from the New York Times.

Scott Roberts

The Salt Lick
As the current owner of The Salt Lick, Scott Roberts carries on the family business and continues to serve mouthwatering barbecue to thousands of folks each week.

Tatsu Aikawa

Ramen Tatsu-Ya
Tokyo born and Austin raised, Tatsu has spent most of his life in restaurants. At a young age he took a job as a dishwasher and continued on this trajectory working his way from line cook to sushi chef to executive in respected Austin restaurants such as Musashino. More recently, he made a jump to LA where he spent time working in one of the nation's most respected kaiseki, the 2 Michelin-star rated, Urasawa. While in LA, Tatsu was able to reconnect with Japan by eating his way through the myriad of local ramen shops. This inspired him to perfect an original broth recipe, which spawned dreams of his own ramen-ya.

In the summer of 2012, Tatsu found himself back in Austin planting roots and executing his vision with the help of his good friend and cohort, Takuya Matsumoto and younger brother, Shion Aikawa.

Nicholas Yanes

Native Texan, chef Nicholas Yanes earned his Associates of Culinary Arts degree at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR. His resume includes positions as creative director, chef de cuisine and consulting chef at various restaurants and country clubs including Nana, Dallas Fish Market, Oceaniare Seafood Room and Coyote Ridge Country Club in Dallas and most recently Uchi restaurants and St. Phillip Pizza Parlor in Austin. That experience paved the way for the exciting new venture that is Juniper.In preparation, Yanes spent time in the Northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardi and Emilia-Romagna. Using notes from his travels, Juniper’s menu combines premier ingredients and old world technique to create comforting, yet inventive classic cuisine that connects the northern regions of Italy as well as other adjoining areas with Central Texas.

Janina O'Leary

Janina O’Leary is no stranger to the world of fine pastry. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute with a Grand Diploma in Pastry Arts, O’Leary stepped out the classroom and into her training under Laurent Tourendel in 2004 at BLT Prime in New York City. Following her time at BLT Prime, O’Leary had the opportunity to work in some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens, including three Michelen star restaurants Daniel and Per Se. Working under culinary giants, Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller respectively, O’Leary mastered the art of pastry in fine dining establishments which primed her for her New York Times four-star rated restaurant, Del Posto.

Her talents were in demand outside of the restaurant as well. In 2009, she consulted on recipe development and photography for a Martha Stewart cookbook. O’Leary opened New York City’s Village Tart as Executive Chef before heading back to her native Texas to assume the position of Executive Pastry Chef at Trace at the W Austin. Having been mentored by greats like, Chef Sebastian Rouxel of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, O’Leary gained exceptional expertise that supports her passion for great desserts. She is an incredible talent offering incomparable sweets as part of the “conscious cuisine” concept of Trace. O’Leary was named a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist in 2013 for “Rising Star Chef of the Year”.

Todd Duplechan

Born and raised in Richardson, Texas, Todd Duplechan, co-owner and executive chef of Lenoir and co-owner of Métier’s Cook Supply, alongside wife Jessica Maher, was exposed to a wide range of cuisines as a child. While his parents divorced when he was young, he developed a love for food from both sides of the family. His mother’s side regularly hosted weekend family cookouts and his father’s always cooked at home, including the turtles and rabbits his family raised, and introduced him to an assortment of ethnic restaurants around Dallas. Because of this, Duplechan knew he always had a passion for food, which would eventually lead him to open Lenoir and Métier’s Cook Supply with Maher in Austin.Duplechan’s initial training for his culinary craft came from his family and from working. Starting early as a teenager, Duplechan worked at Solly’s BBQ in Dallas, a family friend’s business, where he absolutely loved every minute of it. He made the move to Colorado, where he originally had his sights set on being an architect, but alas, cooking just felt like the natural fit for him. Working a few years at various sushi restaurants, Duplechan started to develop his culinary career professionally. He received his Associate’s Degree at the Art Institute of Denver’s culinary school, and upon graduation, worked under a sushi master for two years at Tommy Tsunami’s in Denver and then as a sous chef at Sambuca, at both the Denver and Atlanta locations. Expanding his horizons, Duplechan traveled to Europe for six months, where he worked at an olive farm in Tuscany and in guest services in Corfu, Greece, before moving to Grand Cayman where he took on the position of a hotel chef. A year and a half later, Duplechan returned stateside to New York City to work at Danube and Tabla, and eventually as executive sous chef under James Beard-nominated Dan Kluger at The Core Club. Duplechan met wife, Jessica Maher, in the shared locker room of Danube and Bouley, where Maher worked. They spent many a night at nearby bar, Reade Street Pub & Kitchen, during after-work hours with other kitchen staff. The two eventually moved to Austin, where Duplechan was hired as the opening chef of the Four Seasons Hotel’s Trio restaurant, until he and Maher opened Lenoir in 2012.Since opening Métier’s Cook Supply in August 2014, Duplechan divides his time between Métier and Lenoir. At Métier, Duplechan chats with customers about knives and cookware, and he acts as house knife sharpener, teaching monthly classes on knife sharpening and skills in the store. In addition, he is the house expert on cast iron, taking worn-down cast iron pots and pans and refurbishing them to nearly new. Typically opening the store in the morning and working until the afternoon, he then heads to Lenoir next door to prep and run the pass for the evening, or cook for a scheduled private event. As executive chef at Lenoir, Duplechan creates the menu with his team, and works with the cooks on development on the line. Tasks vary from day to day, including picking up produce at the farmers’ market and cleaning up the landscaping. He also serves as both the store and restaurant’s handyman—within reason, until it requires professional help.Duplechan prides himself on his work ethic, willing to learn about and work toward almost anything. He puts his creativity to use in his everyday work, never satisfied with what he produces and constantly working on self-improvement. Among his mentors, he counts Floyd Cardoz, former chef and owner of Tabla, as well as Dan Kluger, former chef de cuisine of Tabla, chef of The Core Club, and most recently the chef of ABC Kitchen. Both taught him a great deal about cooking and organization, as well as talent development—something he is still working on.When not talking customers’ ears off about the latest Japanese knife in stock at Métier or working on the seasonal menu at Lenoir, Duplechan enjoys fishing, hunting, biking and playing guitar. He and Maher also have two boys, Remy and Hollis, and a shepherd mix named Dodger, who keep them plenty busy. As a growing city with a vibrant culture, Duplechan chose Austin because of the opportunities it offers, including opening a restaurant.

Ned Elliot

Foreign & Domestic
Ned Elliott grew up gardening in a home where food played an integral role in daily life. Ned was raised by two women, his mothers Sandra and Linda, who shared their love of gardening, cooking and baking with him. Sandra the cook, taught Ned about the importance of fresh ingredients. From Linda, the baker, Ned learned patience. Both taught him that life should be about continuous learning, a philosophy that was reinforced by Chef Ducasse and his mentor Chef Doug Psaltis.

My mantra is attention to detail,” says Elliott. “Chef Psaltis instilled this in me and it is an important part of how we define Foreign & Domestic.”

It was at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in 1999 that Ned met his future wife, Jodi. Eager to further his career outside of his schooling, Ned left the CIA and began staging at various restaurants in New York City and eventually landed a job at Tabla Restaurant. He continued building an impressive resume as he worked for such prestigious New York restaurants as the Essex House under Chef Alain Ducasse, Picholine, Country and on the opening team at Thomas Keller’s Per Se.

Erica Waksmunski

Parkside Projects
Erica Waksmunski was born in New Orleans and grew up in Virginia. She has always had a culinary passion, and attended Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she earned her Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts.

Erica began her career at Everest in Chicago, where she worked her way up from an intern to sous pastry chef. She went on to work as a pastry chef at Flyte World Dining and Wine in Nashville, and then moved to Chez TJ in Mountain View, California. Throughout her career, Erica has staged at multiple Michelin Star-rated restaurants, including Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, Plumed Horse in Saratoga, Ubuntu in Napa and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California.

Erica focuses on creating seasonal desserts that incorporate savory flavors, and her strength lies in using classic techniques while adding modern elements to dishes. One of Erica’s biggest stand-out traits is her belief in collaborating with the people she works with in the kitchen and also throughout the pastry field.

Naomi Pomeroy

Beast (Portland)
Naomi and her sous chef Mika Paredes first welcomed customers to Beast on September 27, 2007. Accolades and awards have followed: features in Gourmet and Elle Magazine; Bon Appètit named Naomi as one of the top 6 of a new generation of female chefs in September 2008; Food and Wine Magazine has recognized her as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America for 2009. Locally, Naomi was voted Chef of the Year for 2008 by Portland Monthly, Beast was honored as Restaurant of the Year for 2008 by the Oregonian, and chosen as best Brunch by the Willamette Weekly.

In 2009, Naomi bought out her partners to become the sole owner of Beast. In March of 2010, She was selected as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Awards in the category "Best Chef Pacific Northwest". In October of 2010 Marie Claire Magazine named Naomi one of the 18 most powerful women in business. In Spring of 2011 she appeared as a contestant on the 3rd season of Bravo’s series Top Chef Masters.

Adam Sappington

The Country Cat (Portland)
Adam Sappington, former Executive Chef at Wildwood restaurant in Portland, Oregon, has been performing in the kitchen for more than twenty years. A self-taught chef and mid-western boy at heart, Sappington’s passion for food goes back to the way he was brought up on the farmlands of central Missouri, where he spent hours with his mother in the kitchen and attended the local farmers market with his grandmother. “It’s the value of a sense of place, and the comfort of being together at the dinner table that lured me into this industry,” says Sappington. “I love how food is innately conversational and brings people together.”

In 1995, Adam met his soon-to-be wife Jackie while cooking at Wildwood. “We fell in love over the stove.” Married in 2000, the couple knew that a family-driven restaurant would ultimately be in their future.

In 2007, Jackie and husband Adam opened their dream venture — The Country Cat Dinner House & Bar — a soulful restaurant in Southeast Portland that is helping to build a neighborhood community united by a love for food and honest relationships. When choosing locations for The Country Cat, Jackie and Adam wanted a place that encapsulated the family values that laid the strong foundation for their careers. Montavilla was the perfect fit. “Seeing the cross section of people that come into the restaurant is a testament for me,” says Jackie. “We get a great mix — young hipsters, church goers, 80 year-old Grandpa’s singing Ray Charles out loud — all are welcome at our table.”

Adam’s menu at The Country Cat is driven from his value system and regional, white tablecloth dining experiences — it’s smoky, rustic and earthy with bold, playful flavors and a ‘wow factor.’ Adam remains dedicated to the philosophy of using fresh, seasonal ingredients, while infusing his mid-western roots and love and appreciation for family dinners.

Adam and Jackie Sappington have two sons and are both active members in the community. They currently participate in an outdoor learning garden to teach youngsters about fresh food and gardening, giving them a sense of the seasons.

Michael Paley

Hotel Ella
Chef Michael Paley joined New Waterloo, an Austin-based hospitality management and real-estate development company, in fall of 2014. As executive chef of Hotel Ella, a historic boutique hotel, Chef Paley oversees in-room dining, banquets and Goodall’s Kitchen, the hotel’s casual American bistro. At South Congress Hotel, opened in fall 2015, Paley helms restaurants Café No Sé, a continental all-day cafe, and Central Standard, a classic American bar and grill. He also oversees in-room dining, banquets and catering for the entire property.

Headshot photo by Gina Weathersby.

James Holmes

Olivia, Lucy's Fried Chicken
A fifth generation Texan, Chef Holmes is the quintessential proud Texan. Growing up with a father and grandfather working in the oil fields, Holmes was raised with a certain work ethic available only in West Texas. With memories that pay special attention to food, Holmes fondly remembers his grandfather taking BBQ out to the oil rigs for lunch. Holmes left Texas to attend college at the University of Oklahoma where he received his Bachelor’s degree with concentrations in Communications and Political Science. He then moved to New York to attend The Institute of Culinary Education, where famous chefs like Julia Child and James Beard were frequent guest instructors. Upon graduation, Chef Holmes began his career working at Joseph’s Table in Taos, New Mexico. Holmes furthered his kitchen resume in renowned New York City restaurants including Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Terrance Brennan’s Picholine. Ready for a new adventure, Holmes relocated to Strausbourg, France and worked at La Panier du Marche.

Chef Holmes eventually made his way back to Texas and opened Rose-Hill Manor in Fredericksburg. He then settled in Austin and worked for the Texas Culinary Academy where he was a Chef Instructor for Ventana Restaurant. After Ventana, Chef Holmes helped open the Alamo Drafthouse where he assisted in turning the cinema’s dinner and a movie pairing into a culinary experience. Holmes then migrated into the catering world, and worked for Out There Catering where he managed backstage catering for popular Austin music venues.

While Holmes’ tireless work often leaves him exhausted, he still makes time for his family. Daughters Olivia and Lucy—for whom the restaurants were named—and his wife and business partner, Cristina, are his driving force every day. Next in line to his love of cooking and family, are his loves for West Texas Mexican food, live music (especially Willie Nelson) and not surprisingly, bacon.

Callie Speer

Growing up in Texas, Callie Speer never imagined she would eventually become an acclaimed and award-winning pastry chef. Speer took to pastry easily after having studied in the physics department at The University of Texas, since experimenting with temperatures and ingredients came naturally to her. With these skills, Speer brings ingenuity and a love of throwback desserts as Head Pastry Chef at both Swift’s Attic and Delish Bakery.

“I joined the Swift’s team almost a year before the restaurant opened,” says Speer, who has previously worked at other Austin top restaurants, including Mar, Jeffrey’s and Parkside. “When Chef Mat Clouser asked if I was interested, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew immediately I wanted to be part of such a creative and passionate group of people.”

Prior to Swift’s Attic and Delish Bakery, Speer created a dessert to be paired with esteemed Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s meal at a James Beard Foundation dinner in 2009. In 2013, she was nominated for Food and Wine’s “People’s Best New Pastry Chef” honor. Speer is inspired by everyday and nostalgic food items to create innovative desserts, such as the Swift’s Attic staple, Popcorn and A Movie, and Fruity Pebble Macarons and Pretzel Magic at Delish Bakery.

Bryce Gilmore

Barley Swine
After moving and roaming in and out of Texas, Bryce Gilmore, owner of Barley Swine, has finally settled down and allowed his roots to grow in Austin. His journey from bussing tables to managing a restaurant has been one that’s spanned over ten years and had him migrating from Texas to San Francisco, to Colorado and back. With all his experience and know-how, Bryce was honored in 2011 to be named a Food & Wine Best New Chef, and this year was named a James Beard nominee for Rising Star Chef and Barley Swine was named a Best New Restaurant by GQ magazine in March.

Bryce grew up in the restaurant industry. With chef and restaurateur father, Jack Gilmore of Z’Tejas Southwest Grill and recently Jack Allen’s Kitchen, his destiny was in cooking. He started bussing tables at 14 and then began serving food through his high school years. Ready to move behind the line, he moved to San Francisco after high school to attend the California Culinary Academy. Following his graduation he returned to Austin and worked at two well-known local institutions, Wink and Moonshine, before working as a sous chef at Café 909 until 2007. Missing the San Francisco coast, Bryce headed west to work at Nancy Oakes’ Boulevard. After a year, the travel itch returned this time leading him to the Rocky Mountains where he work at Montagna Restaurant at famed hotel The Little Nell in Aspen, Co. His time in Aspen proved to be a great one, where he learned the importance of quality ingredients and where he met Barley Swine sous chef Sam Hellman-Mass. After a year in Colorado, Bryce was ready for 300 days of sunshine a year and came back to Austin. The food trailer scene was booming and Bryce jumped on the bandwagon—with one stand-a-part element, a focus on local purveyors and ingredients. In 2009, when all his ducks were in a row, he opened Odd Duck Farm to Trailer in South Austin.

Odd Duck Farm to Trailer is a place where Austin foodies flock for fresh, gourmet small plates. Gilmore creates his dishes with fresh and locally sourced ingredients, and prices them for the “average Joe”. He has gotten major recognition from local as well as national media and was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America. Following much success with his acclaimed cooking, Gilmore decided to open his first brick and mortar restaurant that encompasses his love of beer and food, especially pork. And thus came the aptly named, Barley Swine. Gilmore’s duties cover all aspects of running a successful business including managing personnel, sourcing and prepping ingredients, overseeing service from the kitchen, maintaining the financials and making sure “he has no life outside of the restaurant”. He has the best of both worlds: experience to execute dishes at a high level and the ability to still get creative with food.

As a cook, Gilmore always enjoys playing around with new techniques and flavor combinations. “By working with the farmers on their new crop or the animals they raise, we have a passion to create something that will bring joy to our customers while still being true to the ingredient.” Gilmore says of the importance of using local ingredients.

When not cooking at Barley Swine, Gilmore is busy shopping at farmers markets, supporting local food charities and planning his next culinary venture. And when moments of freedom arise Bryce can be found spending time with his wife, Molly, watching football and relaxing by the lake with a beer in hand; a quintessential Austinite.

Jack Gilmore

Jack Allen's Kitchen
Jack Gilmore’s bold, flavorful style hails from his experience across the Gulf Coast Region of the South, his upbringing in the Rio Grande Valley, and extensive work with Master German chefs. However, his legendary hospitality is 100% Texan. Gilmore began his culinary career working with “old school” Cajun chefs in South Padre Island, Texas. Seeking new challenges, Gilmore relocated to Austin where he helped open the original Chez Fred’s and longtime seafood favorite Louie’s on the Lake, before moving to Louisiana.

Returning to Texas in the mid-1980s, chef Gilmore worked under Master German chefs in Fredericksburg, which truly helped shape his culinary vision. In those kitchens, he learned to “put everything you have learned together and use it,” Jack remembers. “The Masters taught me to be humble when it does not work out and glad when it does.” Gilmore came back to Austin in 1990 to create the culinary vision for the legendary Z’Tejas Grill, a perfect fit for his unique background and talent. As the founding executive chef for the Austin-based operation, fresh ingredients and signature elements marked his distinctive style. In October of 2009, Jack and partner Tom Kamm left Z’Tejas to create their dream project - Jack Allen’s Kitchen, focusing on farm to table fresh ingredients, spirited Texas cuisine, and ‘Jacked up’ hospitality. Since its opening in December 2009, the restaurant has enjoyed rave reviews, loyal-already fans, and big time crowds.

“We focus on fresh ingredients in everything we do – from the produce to the meat to even the local honey and olive oil we use,” he says proudly. “Jack Allen’s is 80% local after only four months of operation. I tell the farmers, ‘Bring me everything you’ve got – it won’t go to waste.’ For example, if I get a bunch of great tomatoes, we might use the extras in tomato jam. I can get really creative.”

“Growing up in a coastal border town of South Texas, my meals came from the fresh seafood of the Gulf of Mexico and farm fields full of fruits and vegetables. I remember experiencing many layers of flavors,” explains Jack. “My number one goal is to honor the ingredients, and we work hard to create bold, fresh flavors in every dish we serve.” Cocktails, using premium liquors, creative combinations, and fresh squeezed juices, are a big part of the successful equation at Jack Allen’s Kitchen.

When not in the kitchen, Gilmore enjoys spending free time with his wife LuAnn, and their two sons, Bryce and Dylan. His hobbies include gardening, cooking in his outdoor home kitchen, water skiing, and Longhorn football. He is actively involved in the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, and received the Carolyn Nelson Award in April 2010 for his dedicated support of the organization.

Reece Lagunas

Whole Foods Market®
Reece Lagunas grew up in Indiana, and moved to Texas at 16 years old. When asked about his earliest memories of considering butchering, he remembers sneaking into a hog processing plant as a boy, running into the biggest, baddest guy he’d ever seen and then lucking into a free tour of the place. He also remembers chasing chickens in the yard with his grandmother. But he says none of that has anything to do with his career as a butcher — that was all chance.

“My Mama told me Whole Foods Market was a good company to work for, and on faith, I decided to pursue a job,” Reece says. It took two years and a move to Milwaukee to land that first gig on the meat team, where he discovered his passion. He says he didn’t choose to be a butcher, “It chose me!” Being a butcher is “all-encompassing in my life,” says Reece, and he has become quite a talented butcher at 24 years old! Last year he was a finalist in Whole Foods Market’s Best Butcher Contest.

Reece thought he’d be a teacher, now he believes he has become a teacher of a different sort, and he’s working on a butchery text book. He’s interested in developing a comprehensive college-level meat program to help train Americans in order to find real, good jobs. He credits his butcher mentors at the 6th and Lamar store with teaching him careful attention to detail, and the importance of good food. He appreciates the animal compassion ethics and integrity at Whole Foods Market, saying, ”I’ve never had to butcher a tortured animal.”

Reece is passionate about sharing his knowledge – he just celebrated a year on his blog He’s also passionate about providing great customer service. He hates responding “I don’t know” to questions and he goes out of his way to find answers – he refuses to let a customer walk away unsatisfied.

Robyn Mayo

The Carillon
Upon graduating Florida Culinary School, Pastry Chef Robyn Mayo joined the culinary team at the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach. Originally part of the Garde Manger kitchen, an opportunity in the pastry department presented itself, and excited by all the different aspects of the pastry world, Robyn turned her focus to the sweeter side of the kitchen. In 2001, she transferred to Boston and transitioned into restaurants, as the Pastry Chef at Ambrosia on Huntington. Under the guidance and ownership of Chef Anthony Ambrose, Robyn reinvented the fine dining concept into Blackfin Chophouse and Raw bar, with Asian and steakhouse-inspired dishes.

After a few years, Robyn wanted to be closer to family and southern roots. Chef Robyn joined the great culinary powerhouse at Canoe in Atlanta, GA. Being the Pastry Chef gave her the opportunity to refine her skills and taught her to manage many different aspects in dining, such as organizing private parties and banquets, and wedding cake production. She spent four challenging and rewarding years there.

Her passion for learning ever evolving and a fascination with bread led to an opportunity with Linton Hopkins on the start- up team of "H&F Bread Co.” Head Baker Rob Alexander was her mentor in the Artisan bread world, and she learned all the nuances of great, simple, ingredients that could produce wonderful bread. She was promoted to Head Baker, honed her skills, and continues moving forward in this field. She is proud to be called "Top Artisan Baker" by her colleagues, peers and Dessert Professional magazine.

With the opportunity to combine her skills in pastry, bread, fine dining and larger events, Robyn joined the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center and The Carillon team in 2014.

Sarah McIntosh

Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, chef and owner of épicerie Sarah McIntosh had always loved blues and soul music, LSU football, and particularly, the culture of food in the southern and Cajun cuisine-rich state. Her family was very much food-oriented and celebrations were often met with great food and wine. With the ability to express creativity in a culinary profession, McIntosh was inspired to take her passion to the next level.

McIntosh developed her culinary skills at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Austin, TX where she graduated first in her class. She worked at the renowned Bouchon and Ad Hoc in Napa Valley, served as the sous chef at Austin’s beloved Olivia restaurant, and few other small restaurants during her ten-year tenure in kitchens. Eventually, she brought her own vision of an uncomplicated café and grocery in one, with épicerie, which roughly translates to “grocer’s shop” in French and is popular in various parts of Europe and Louisiana. With the restaurant, Sarah is able to bring the simplicity of delicious French Louisiana fare that she became so familiar with growing up in Louisiana while providing the perfect neighborhood spot for those living in the Rosedale area. Patrons can always expect something new and fresh from McIntosh, from her mouth-watering boudin, to the housemade, seasonal pasta—one will never tire of her ever evolving menu.

When not in the kitchen, McIntosh can be found eating out, gardening and hanging out with her husband Jackson and her dogs Kiki and Layla. She loves having parties, crawfish boils, or really, celebrations for any reason.

Anthony S.
& Chad P.

Lick Honest Ice Creams
We opened Lick Honest Ice Creams in the fall of 2011 because we wanted to offer what we call “honest ice creams” to savvy palates in Austin. We both grew up in small rural communities, enjoying homemade ice cream: Anthony from Hallettsville in South Central Texas and I from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We met in New York City in the winter of 2005 and immediately connected (small town minds in the big city). As the years passed and after many visits to my hometown, Anthony began to truly appreciate what I grew up with…local, small town ice cream shops that made seasonal flavors with locally sourced ingredients: fresh, unique and delicious! With each lick, Anthony wondered what kind of flavors he could craft from the ingredients he grew up eating in Texas. I never ate ice cream at a chain, and, from 2005 on, Anthony didn’t either.

In New York, Anthony (who had actually moved to the city with hopes of being a writer for a food magazine) worked as a caterer and event planner, where he deepened his love of working with food. He became inspired by the menus he helped develop and the dishes once they were prepared, so he began mentally storing these for future use. Eventually, my career took us away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the Midwest. As several years passed, ice cream was eaten, recipes were written, and the dream of honest ice creams began dancing in our heads. All the while, with each trip to visit Anthony’s family and friends, I was falling more and more in love with Austin and becoming inspired by its creative spirit and local flavors. Finally, the right time came to sell our home, move to Austin, and begin building Lick Ice Creams.

Scott Higby

After eight years chopping, expediting, grilling and more in the TRIO kitchen, Scott Higby could be the poster child for working your way up the proverbial ladder.

Born in Houston, Scott grew up in the small West Texas town of Snyder, where he says his passion for cooking came about the old-fashioned way. “I basically cooked all of my own meals at home, and I found I really enjoyed it,” says Scott. “During high school, I read a lot of books and they inspired me to pursue cooking as a career.”

One of the most dog-eared copies in his collection was Michael Ruhlman’s Making of a Chef, a James Beard-nominated book about a writer who went to the Culinary Institute of America. According to Scott, the book was a motivating force behind his decision to attend Sclafani Cooking School in Metairie, La. in 1998.

After graduating from cooking school, family obligations took him back to West Texas where he attended junior college at Western Texas College, feeding his passion for food in his spare time with weekly cooking stints at the local VFW Hall.

He headed east in 2001 to attend Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. While his classes taught him essential business lessons, being hands-on in the kitchen remained his first love so he continued to work odd restaurant jobs throughout college, first at Palmer’s Courtyard in San Marcos, followed by two years as a cook at Austin’s Magnolia Café.

In 2005, Scott left the eatery famed for its pancakes to become, fittingly, a breakfast cook at Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s restaurant, then known as The Café. Over the next six years, he made his way around the kitchen working in positions ranging from saucier to chef de partie to morning sous chef and garde manger sous chef.

These jobs ultimately prepared him for a promotion to banquet chef in 2011, a high-profile role responsible for overseeing food preparation for the hundreds of catered events that take place at the hotel each year. “The amount of food that gets pushed through this kitchen is incredible. Considering the volume of people we serve and the limited space we have, it’s pretty amazing what we accomplish,” says Scott.

Scott’s promotion to the top rung of the ladder – chef de cuisine, the lead culinary role in the restaurant – came about in September 2013. In this position, he oversees all food for TRIO, the Lobby Lounge and banquet functions. A big job for any chef, but one he tackles with matter of fact simplicity.

“If you start with the best ingredients and the right technique, you really don’t need to add a lot.” It probably doesn’t hurt that his ideal meal involves a good grilled steak, one of the main pillars of the TRIO menu.

Asked to pick a favorite ingredient, he responds in true music-loving Austin fashion: “That’s a killer question – it’s like asking me to pick my favorite band.” One thing he says with conviction, though, is that ingredients from the earth taste best when they’re local and seasonal.

“Working for Four Seasons, and particularly TRIO, is very challenging since all of our guests are very high expectation,” says Scott. “But I like that because once you get through the day and you’ve managed to exceed their expectations, you feel great.”

Eric Lucas

Whole Foods Market®
Eric Lucas began working in the restaurant industry in 1989 and instantly realized he wanted to be a chef. In 1993 he began that journey at a Culinary school in California, and upon completion he began working in various restaurants as Sous & Executive Chef, before deciding to make the move to Austin with his wife in 2007. He took his first job in Austin as Executive Chef for FINO, then later moved into a position at Dell Computers as Cooperate Executive Chef.

He was drawn to Whole Foods Market 2 years ago and began his career there as Executive Chef, where he makes plenty of time for his hobbies: the great outdoors, traveling with his wife, and cooking in his own home.

Bud Royer

Royers Round Top Cafe
Bud, “The Pieman” Royer, the iconic funky founding father of Royers Round Top Café, and Royers Mail Order Pies, along with his wife, Dr. Karen, and their four children moved to Round Top in 1987, some 25 years ago, to take over the tiny 40-seat Round Top Café. With no culinary training or kitchen experience, Bud and his family have built and marketed the café into a well-recognized brand and a real Texas institution.

The menu at Royers Café will surprise you. Instead of the typical country fare, you’ll find "Texas country bistro serving gourmet comfort food.” Although Round Top is a town of only 90 people and an hour’s drive from both Austin and Houston, word of mouth has traveled far. The story of this iconic Texas bistro has drawn the attention of many regional and national publications. This small eatery has literally redefined the phrase “word of mouth” marketing in the restaurant business. The Royers also ship thousands of their pies to every state in the country in addition to our troops in the Mid-East through their mail order website

They’ve opened their first Royers Pie Haven—a full coffee bar serving sweet pies, savory pies, pastries & ice cream—located just across the street from the café. In their spare time they cater the café experience at events large and small throughout the state. As Bud says, “We are not in the food business but the marketing business!” He proudly stands on the shoulders of his family who makes all this happen!

Angel Begaye

Angel Begaye is the Pastry Chef at TRACE. Begaye joins the TRACE team from fellow Starwood property The Phoenician in Scottsdale, AZ where she was with the Luxury Collection Resort for over seven years.

Begaye graduated from Le Courdon Bleu in 2006. Honing her pastry skills during her tenure at The Phoenician, a 4 star 5 diamond resort, she demonstrated passion and enthusiasm as she quickly moved up the ranks of the acclaimed restaurant. While overseeing dessert production from fine dining to ice cream for four restaurants, banquets, catering events and weddings, she gained new expertise, becoming proficient in pastillage show pieces, chocolate and sugar work as well as specialty and wedding cakes, in addition to developing menus and focusing on community involvement. With a particular fondness for specialty desserts, wedding cakes and showpieces, Begaye planned and executed the grand holiday buffets as well as the annual gingerbread house.

Giving her the ability to express her creativity and natural talent, Begaye assisted Chef Roy Pell in 2009 and 2011 at Coupe du Monde, one of the top worldwide competitions for pastry professionals, in the categories of Chocolate Showpiece and Ice Sculpture.

Inspired by her family, she sites early experiences cooking with her grandmother as a foundation for her love of food. Begaye brings a renewed excitement about fine pastry to the already stellar TRACE team, adding her own creative touch while maintaining focus on well balanced flavors. In addition to overseeing all pastry production for the hotel’s in-room dining, banquets, and catering, she will also manage production of all wedding and specialty cakes for the W Austin.

John Bullington

Austin Java
Chef John Bullington, once well known for his world fusion cuisine at the helm of Mars Restaurant, has spent the last seven years boldly altering the American foodscape with the marriage of film and food for the Alamo Drafthouse. The result has been a string of over 120 successful feast menus melding the food on film with the food on the plate. John's menus have been inspired by the cuisine of the films' locations such as a six course Russian menu inspired by Dr. Zhivago and six courses of Bedouin delights for Lawrence of Arabia. The menus are also derived from the food included in the film, which is the basis for his nine course menu inspired by The Lord of the Rings trilogy presented during the course of viewing all three films in one sitting. In addition to that he has created specials with new releases to add an extra dimension to films that transport the fans into their favorite movies.

Bullington attended the Texas Culinary Academy graduating in 1994 and has worked in restaurants for 23 years. His main hobby is gardening, creating a beautiful space to relax in yet still enjoy its bounty in his kitchen. In 2004, the opportunity came to open the Alamo Drafthouse at South Lamar and really explore the possibilities of cinema and food. He truly loves what he does and would have it no other way.


Harold Marmulstein

Salty Sow
Chef Partner Harold Marmulstein was led to pursue a culinary career after working with his dad as a kid at a bakery in upstate New York. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he moved to Atlanta where he became the founder and former owner of the award-winning Dick and Harry’s Restaurant. Marmulstein has been working as an executive chef for more than 25 years in fine-dining restaurants, receiving awards from Zagat, Condé Nast, and Gourmet Magazine, to name a few.

Kendall Melton

Odd Duck
Kendall moved to Austin from Los Angeles in 2009 to attend Texas Culinary Academy. After graduating from the Pastry & Baking program, she worked at a bakery in North Austin, decorating cakes and creating small desserts for the residents of the neighborhood. A chance meeting led her to Andrew Wiseheart and Ben Edgerton, who invited Kendall to join Contigo in May of 2011, and Kendall developed the bread and pastry program for Contigo until May of 2014. During this time, she lived in Paris, France, working in patisseries in Montmartre, learning the fine art of French pastry. She also worked in Chartres, France, at Minoteries Viron, being educated on the local mills' grain processes and bread making talents.

Jeff Balfour

Born and raised in Galveston, Texas, Chef Jeff Balfour developed a love for his native cuisine and the freshest ingredients. Balfour realized his culinary passion over fifteen 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, he honed his skills in French and American cuisine under several of the nation’s top chefs.

In 2002, Balfour moved to San Antonio after given the honor of creating the food service concept for Hotel Valencia Riverwalk. Under his direction, Citrus Restaurant became known as one of San Antonio's most innovative fine dining restaurants. Citrus has been recognized numerous times and consistently named among the top hotel restaurants in San Antonio, including being named as a “Best Hotel Restaurant” by the San Antonio Express-News in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Balfour also received one of the culinary world’s top honors, being chosen to showcase his talents at the James Beard House in New York.

Balfour is excited to bring a new concept to the historic Pearl’s brewhouse with the opening of his restaurant, Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery. The restaurant, which is Balfour’s modern take on Texas’ cross-cultural cuisine, is slated to open this winter.