Two-time James Beard Award winning chef Gabriel Rucker is chef and co-owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro in Portland, Oregon. His edgy, highly original, and recipe-free masterpieces, evocative of French bistro signatures and classic American fare, have gained him both regional and national acclaim. When school no longer peaked his interest, Rucker moved to the kitchen where his natural talent took flight. 2003 landed him a coveted job at Paley’s Place and, after two years in the esteemed kitchen, he moved on to the Gotham Building Tavern as sous chef. In June of 2006, Rucker opened Le Pigeon and became an overnight success. In 2011, Rucker and his business partner Andrew Fortgang opened Little Bird, a Downtown Portland bistro that went on to win Oregonian’s 2012 Restaurant of the Year. Rucker and his team released their first cookbook, Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird (Ten Speed Press), in September 2013. Forwarded by Chef Tom Colicchio, the cookbook is a serious yet playful collection of 150 recipes celebrating Rucker’s high-low extremes in cooking, combining the wild and the refined in a unique and progressive style, receiving national acclaim from media and chefs alike, including Andrew Zimmerman’s Top Cookbooks of 2013, Food Republic’s Top 20 Cookbooks, one of Financial Times’ Books of the Year, Food Network Favorite Fall Books, praised in UK Independent,Wall Street Journal, Eater, and The Week, and was a finalist for the 2014 IACP Cookbook award.
Alison Trent is an internationally-trained chef originally from Australia. Her culinary journey includes formal training in New York City, two years at Los Angeles’s Providence, three years at Napa Valley’s The French Laundry, four years at Bouchon Beverly Hills, (all Michelin-star restaurants), onto her current role as Executive Chef for Ysabel and Laurel Hardware in West Hollywood.With creative menu control of these trending restaurants, Chef Alison is able to showcase her seasonal take on New-American Cuisine. She strives to use only the highest quality ingredients with a conscientious stand on sustainability. Her menu’s reflect her thoughtful and eclectic approach to food, and celebrate her love for flavor forward and aesthetically beautiful dishes.
Most recently at Curtis Stone’s Beverly Hills restaurant, Maude, Executive Chef Gareth Evans has cooked at some of the most prestigious fine dining restaurants in the world. After starting his career in London with Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing at Savoy Hotel under Head Chef Josh Emmet, Evans moved to Paris to cook with Joel Robuchon. He became the Chef de Partie at La Table, and helped Robuchon’s famed restaurant advance from one to two Michelin stars. He then worked to open L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, where he served as Sous Chef. In 2007, he moved to the U.S. to cook at one of the country’s most notable restaurants, Thomas Keller’s Per Se in NYC, where he worked under the talented Jonathan Benno before heading West to join the opening team at Maude. Gareth was recently lauded by StarChefs as one of the Los Angeles Rising Stars.
Jonathan Whitener is the Chef/Owner of Los Angeles restaurant Here’s Looking At You, a “Restaurant of the Year” by Food & Wine Magazine in 2017. He was previously the Chef de Cuisine of Animal Restaurant for three years. In addition to being Sous Chef at Craft, Patina and Mezze, he also worked at the two Michelin-starred Restaurant Mirazur in the French Riviera, listed #4 in “World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” He is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. and is the owner of a pet pig named Winston now 7 years old.
For the past twenty years, Debbie Gold has remained one of Kansas City’s most innovative Chefs. Her accolades include a 1999 James Beard Award win, four JBA nominations, and a returning role as a Top Chef Masters competitor.
While in high school, the Chicago native found inspiration in the pages of Bon Appetit. Before long, Debbie had taken the first steps toward her now celebrated culinary career. After receiving a graduate degree in Restaurant Management from the University of Illinois, she spent two years studying in France at Ecole Hoteliere Tain l’Hermitage, while cooking at Michelin starred restaurants. Upon returning to the United States, Debbie continued her training with the legendary Charlie Trotter, holding down every position from the hotline to pastry. She went on to become the pastry chef at Everest, before accepting the role of Executive Chef at Mirador.
After leaving Chicago for another two years in France, Debbie turned her sights to Kansas City to begin her twenty year run. She was named Executive Chef for The American and garnered national accolades and recognition in her role. After seven years, she seized the opportunity to open her own spot, 40 Sardines. With Chef Debbie at the helm, the restaurant earned a coveted nomination for “Best New Restaurant” from the James Beard Foundation. After operating 40 Sardines for seven years, Debbie returned to her Kansas City roots and once again joined the team at The American.
But, this seasoned chef keeps an eye on what’s next. In 2017, with Kansas City in her heart, Chef Debbie accepted the call back to her hometown of Chicago. As Executive Chef of Schubas Tavern/Lincoln Hall’s newest endeavor, Tied House, Chef Debbie brings refreshed determination and a wealth of experience to the historic corner of the city. With Chicago stamped as Bon Appetit’s “2017 Best Restaurant City of the Year”, Debbie has found herself back in the heart of it all, still inspired by the very pages that set her off on this culinary adventure.
Eric Damidot’s passion for food and beverage spans many years of extensive and diverse culinary experiences. Beginning his culinary career in France, Eric gained tremendous skill and knowledge from positions he held in several Michelin Star restaurants, including Hotel Ile Rousse, Relais Chateau Chateauneuf, Hotel Royal Gray, and Le Chabichou.
Eric accepted a position as Sous Chef at the Five Star hotel, Relais Chateau L’Orangerie, which led him to move to California in 1994. Since his initial move to the United States, his career has continued to grow and has allowed him the opportunity to travel extensively around the US. He further developed his culinary and leadership skills in positions in Nevada that included Executive Banquet Chef at Bellagio Resort, Executive Sous Chef at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino, Executive Chef at Paris and Bally’s Hotel & Casino and Executive Chef at Caesar’s Palace Hotel.
In 2011, he moved to New Orleans where he worked as Executive Chef at Hyatt Regency New Orleans. He moved to Chicago where he opened the new Marriott Marquis hotel as part of the McCormick Place Collection in September 2017. He is now the Executive Chef at NoMI Kitchen in Park Hyatt Chicago.
Greg Mosko is a proud Chicago native who grew up in the western suburbs and graduated from Kendall College. After working in a number of local restaurant kitchens, he returned to the classroom to earn another culinary degree from the esteemed French Pastry School. Despite his original intent on being a savory chef, fate intervened during an externship while at Kendall College that led him to discover baking and pastry arts, which aligned perfectly with his skills and creativity.
After graduating, Greg headed west to Yountville, California to spend time in the pastry department of Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery restaurants. He next moved to Sausalito, California to open the Cavallo Point Resort before heading back to Chicago to assume the role of Pastry Chef at North Pond from 2009-2015. After overseeing the pastry kitchen for six years, he moved to the Park Hyatt Chicago and NoMI Kitchen, where he was the Pastry Chef at NoMI Kitchen from 2015 to 2018.
While at North Pond and NoMI Kitchen, he gained accolades in the culinary world from Food & Wine magazine “Best New Pastry Chefs” (2014), StarChefs “Rising Star” (2015), Chicago Tribune “Five to Know: Pastry Chefs” (2013), and many more. He was also nominated for a Jean Banchet Award for Culinary Excellence in 2014 and 2018, both for “Pastry Chef of the Year”.
Chef Greg joined Gage Hospitality Group in March 2019 where he will oversee the pastry program for award-winning restaurants including Acanto Restaurant + Wine Bar, Beacon Tavern, The Dawson and The Gage. At Gage Hospitality Group, Chef Greg will showcase his vast knowledge of pastry and continue to bring recognition to the already esteemed kitchens at each unique establishment.
Chef Matthew’s enthusiasm and commitment to culinary excellence have already made him a favorite among dinner party and private clients in Chicago and the Midwest. He’s an exclusive to Big City Chefs, who hand-select restaurant-quality and celebrity private chefs. Big City Chefs starred in the multi-season Food Network reality television show, “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.” A hospitality champion, where he’s earned his kitchen pedigree at some of the nation’s top restaurants, including celebrity chef Chris Cosentino’s iconic Bib Gourmands, Michelin-recommended Incanto in San Francisco and Florida’s Touch, among many others. Chef Matt has cooked his way through some of Chicago’s most esteemed establishments, including David Burke’s Primehouse, The Mid-America Club and Carnivale. This prolific, well rounded craftsman will make any private chef dining experience unforgettable.
Growing up in Southern California, David Rodriguez was no stranger to the kitchen. He was a home cook, making meals (usually with a Mexican bent) for friends and family. He’d never thought of cooking as a line of work, but those who had a seat at Rodriquez’s table thought differently. His family encouraged him to keep cooking, and with their support, his latent talent, and a new career-minded approach, Rodriguez enrolled at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. It was in school that he discovered his passion for pastry.
But it wasn’t until Rodriguez came on board at Michael Cimarusti’s Providence in Los Angeles that his pastry calling was crystallized under Pastry Chef Adrian Vasquez. After honing his skills and developing his voice at Providence, he moved on to work with StarChefs.com Rising Star Pastry Chef Jordan Kahn at XIV by Michael Mina. Rodriquez followed Kahn to Red Medicine, where he was part of the opening team as both pastry and sous chef, collaborating closely with Kahn. Today, as the executive pastry chef of Providence, Rodriguez’s career has come full circle. There, he showcases a style and artistry born of a life lived in the kitchen and earned a StarChefs Rising Star Pastry Chef Award in 2014. David is currently working on opening his own concept called Wander Bakeshop.
Chef Jenner Tomaska grew up in the southern suburbs of Chicago; at 14, he began his professional culinary career as a cook and dishwasher at a local restaurant. He went on to attend Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, graduating with degrees in both Culinary Arts and Food Service Management.
After graduation, Jenner worked in Hilton Head, South Carolina before returning to Chicago to explore the fine dining scene. He eventually found his way, working as a tournant at MK. The Restaurant under chefs Michael Kornick and Erick Williams. After two years at MK, Jenner left to join the team at Next Restaurant, where he was quickly promoted to Sous Chef and then Chef de Cuisine in May 2015. Jenner’s dedication, creativity and drive in the kitchen soon led him to be once again promoted, in April 2016 he was named Executive Chef of Next, reporting directly to chef Grant Achatz.
As Executive Chef, Jenner is responsible for the re-concept of the restaurant four times annually, where everything from the cuisine, plate-ware, and service is reimagined. Due to its ever-changing nature, Jenner’s culinary exposure and influence is boundless, lending to his technique and creativity.
Impressively, Jenner’s tenure includes 21 of the 23 menu transitions at Next, 18 four-star Chicago Tribune reviews and three, three-star Chicago Tribune reviews. He has twice been a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Rising Star Award and continues to share his knowledge and skill with his ever-growing social media community.
Kim Alter is the driving force behind Nightbird and Linden Room, which she opened August 2016 in the bustling Hayes Valley neighborhood as one of the most highly anticipated restaurants of the year. Alter formerly worked with the Daniel Patterson Group for three years at the helm of kitchens such as Haven and Plum in Oakland, California. Prior to that, she has worked in some of the Bay Area’s most notable restaurants such as Manresa (three-star Michelin), Aqua (two-star Michelin) and Acquerello (two-star Michelin).
Alter’s food often takes familiar dishes to new places with creatives spins on classics, while blending in hyper-seasonality from her daily farmer’s market visits. Alter earned a Food & Wine Magazine nomination for People’s Best Chef in 2012 and 2013 with her talent for bringing “down-to-earth boldness to cerebral dishes.” She won the title of “Best New Chef” from Oakland Magazine while at Haven, which was also named “Best New Restaurant” under her direction and awarded three stars from San Francisco Magazine. She grew up in Laguna Beach, California and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.
Most recently, Alter was a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist for “Best Chef: West.”
Kim Stodel is a mixologist, bar manager and craft cocktail consultant based in Los Angeles. He draws much of his inspiration and unique style from the fresh seasonal ingredients he finds at the farmers market every week and his colorful background, having been born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he’s not playing the ukulele, creating new recipes, or rediscovering old ones he can be found “working the stick” behind Bar Chloe in Santa Monica and the illustrious Michelin-starred Providence in Hollywood.
Jillian Vose is Bar Manager/Beverage Director at The Dead Rabbit in Lower Manhattan. Named after a street gang of the era, The Dead Rabbit is the culmination of Belfast barmen Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry’s lifelong dream. The bar has won eight Spirited Awards from Tales of the Cocktail, including World’s Best Bar, the industry’s highest accolade. Jillian has been instrumental in overseeing the comic book series menus, which transport Dead Rabbit gang leader John Morrissey to 1970s New York City. She also did so on the third edition of the drinks menu, which won World’s Best Cocktail Menu in 2015. In 2016, The Dead Rabbit was named as World’s Best Bar by 50 Best Bars and in 2017, Jillian was named as one of the 10 Best American Bartenders in the Spirited Awards from Tales of The Cocktail and then top 4 in 2018.
Since joining The Dead Rabbit in 2014, Jillian has travelled the world representing the bar, running seminars, managing pop ups, and guest bartending. Over the past four years she has bartended in London, Edinburgh, Tel Aviv, Athens, Tokyo, Paris, New Orleans, Shanghai, Oslo, Beirut, Dubai, Belfast, Iceland, Hong Kong and many more.
Previously, Jillian was Bar Manager at Death & Co, where she was responsible for running the bar program, including menu development and maintaining a strong staff and a well-oiled bar. At the same time, she served as a Whiskey Ambassador for Campari America, co-managing its Women & Whiskies program. Jillian also won the 2013 Rising Stars award from Star Chefs. She joined Death & Co after a stint at Maison Premiere, which she helped open, as well as Clover Club, both in Brooklyn.
Chef Joey Ward has found a lot of inspiration in the chefs he admires, particularly his grandfather who acted as a father figure for him and was a cook in the United States Navy. Joey has fond memories of spending his Saturday mornings tuning into the cooking shows that followed children’s cartoons on PBS. Shows like “Yan Can Cook” and “The Galloping Gourmet” got him hooked and he’s been turning his creativity into inspired culinary creations ever since.
“For me, cooking is a form of art. You must strive to appeal to all of the senses simultaneously, and if possible, evoke emotion,” says the passionate chef. “That is a very special part of why I cook – to take something as basic as a person’s need for nutrients and elevate it to a level of emotional stimulus, whether that be through surprise, wonderful flavors or showing the diner a great time in that moment.”
Originally from Powder Springs, Georgia, Joey knew from a very young age that he would some day become a chef. He spent his formative years working in the kitchen of the world class Cherokee Town & Country Club in Atlanta. Joey went on to graduate from the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 2005 with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts Management. He began his career in the South as the sous chef on the opening team of the St. Regis Atlanta but eventually left the hotel to work under Woodfire Grill’s former executive chef and Bravo “Top Chef” alum, Kevin Gillespie. After two years of guidance under Gillespie, Joey moved on to become the executive chef at H. Harper Station.
When it came time for Gillespie to turn his vision for Gunshow into a reality, he immediately called on Joey to provide the new concept with his exceptional flavor combinations, keen eye for presentation, and passion for creativity in the kitchen. Joey found Gillespie’s new approach to food preparation and service as a breath of fresh air for the Atlanta restaurant scene and has never looked back. Though Joey started as a cook when Gunshow first opened in May 2013, he was soon promoted to his executive chef role in December 2014.
A California native, Chef Adam Tortosa is the chef/owner of the Hayes Valley’s hippest sushi bar, Robin. After earning an international business degree from the University of Southern California, Tortosa geared his professional intentions towards a career in the kitchen. He sought out a coveted apprentice position under Los Angeles Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi and after months of observing, as well as practicing knife skills at home on box after box of cucumbers and daikons, Adam was permitted to handle a fish. “Every day for about a year, I was just in the back, gutting and scaling fish, and it was another year before I was allowed near tuna,” he recalls. “The experience taught me to be patient, to love the details, and to respect the product. That upbringing is the basis of everything I am now.”
Tortosa spent four years under Uechi and assumed a chef position at his mentor’s signature restaurant, Kiwami, while also assisting in running the kitchens at several Katsuya locations. After working under Chef Uechi and a short time under Chef Michael Voltaggio at Ink restaurant in West Hollywood, the time came for Adam to further push culinary exploration and travel north.
Adam moved to the Bay Area to lead the kitchen at 1760, the acclaimed second concept from the Acquerello team, which opened in August of 2013. After two years at 1760, Adam decided to revisit his passion for sushi and joined the team at Akiko’s in January of 2015. While working under owner Ray Lee and further honing his sushi skills, it didn’t take him long before dreams of his own project began to brew. In November 2016, Tortosa set out on yet another journey but this time at the helm of the ship, opening his own venture, Robin.
With Hayes Valley as its backdrop, Robin features a hyper-seasonal, omakase experience. The Bay Area’s bounty is celebrated throughout the restaurant in everything from the locally sourced fish, house-made Japanese condiments, custom pottery and tableware, unique artwork, and Bay Area hip hop as the evening’s soundtrack.
Francis Legge aka Chef Scottish Francis from MasterChef’s Season 5 was crowned the “Donut King” by Gordon Ramsay himself, after winning an intense donut challenge where he made twelve signature donut flavors in less than an hour.
With his passion for unique dishes, quirky fashion sense and British charm, he quickly became the fan favorite of his season. Immediately following MasterChef, Francis spent a year running demos and teaching children’s cooking lessons at the flagship store of Williams-Sonoma in Manhattan. He then moved into the role of Pastry Chef, at the former Gossip Coffee in Astoria, NYC, where he created some of the best donuts and desserts in NYC. His creation of the “Donutchino” was a viral sensation.
Recently, Francis has appeared on Chopped with Martha Stewart and opened up Sugar & Water, an artisanal donut shop in Astoria NYC where he is Co-Owner and Executive Chef. Here Francis uses his endless creativity to craft “out of the box” donuts and recently created the Dossant. He also has plans in the works to open up a Cream Puff store called the Choux Shoppe in early 2019.
Born and raised in the heart of Mexico, the son of a Japanese father and a Mexican mother, Katsuji Tanabe has worked inside LA’s most acclaimed kitchens, from the four-star Bastide Restaurant to Beverly Hills’ Mastro’s Steakhouse. Chef Katsuji Tanabe has partnered with local businessman Randy Doten, transforming the long-running Seta restaurant in uptown Whittier into The Nixon Chops & Whiskey, a classic neighborhood steakhouse. As one might expect with Tanabe, however, the restaurant also arrives with a slight Mexican accent and a few culinary flourishes from around the globe. “This restaurant is the culmination of my many years of travel,” says Tanabe. “All of the television productions in Mexico, Charleston, Chicago, New York and Boston have afforded me an extraordinary opportunity to learn alongside a wide range of talented chefs and restaurateurs.” A fan favorite from his three appearances on Bravo’s Top Chef television series (Mexico, Boston, and Charleston), NIXON is the fourth restaurant in Tanabe’s budding empire, including Mexikosher Los Angeles and New York City, and restaurant Barrio in downtown Chicago. The NIXON will serve as Tanabe’s home base, where he will be found most evenings cooking for and personally greeting his guests. “Meeting the new Nixon ownership proved to be a stroke of good luck for us all. Whittier provides a large and appreciative audience, as well as the opportunity to cook the foods that I love most, the foods of my heritage. This city offers the magic of a close-knit community that every restaurant hopes to earn and to serve for many years. The city has embraced us, and I feel extremely fortunate to now call this beautiful city my home.”