Michael Symon

Michael Symon

Chef Michael Symon cooks with soul, having grown up in a Greek and Sicilian family. The Cleveland native shares his exuberant, approachable cooking style and infectious laugh with viewers as an Iron Chef on Food Network, host of Burgers, Brew & ‘Que on Cooking Channel and formerly as co-host of ABC’s The Chew. He is the chef and owner of more than 18 restaurants, including Lola and Mabel’s BBQ in downtown Cleveland, B-Spot Burgers throughout Ohio, Angeline at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City and Mabel’s BBQ and Sara’s at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

Chef Symon made his debut on Food Network in 1998, hosted over 100 episodes of The Melting Pot, and won season one of The Next Iron Chef in 2008. He then appeared on four Food Network/Cooking Channel shows, hosting Food Feuds and Cook Like an Iron Chef, judging season three of The Next Iron Chef and competing on Iron Chef America. In September 2011, he joined the cast of The Chew on ABC as one of the show’s five hosts. He is also the author of five cookbooks, including “Playing With Fire.”

Since being named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine in 1998, Chef Symon and his restaurants have been awarded numerous honors. Gourmet magazine chose Lola as one of “America’s Best Restaurants” in 2000, Bon Appetit magazine included B Spot on their list of “Top 10 Best New Burger Joints” and he was the first chef ever to host the annual Farm Aid benefit concert. In 2009, he earned The James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Great Lakes.

Chef Akshay Bhardwaj

Akshay Bhardwaj Junoon

Chef Akshay Bhardwaj is a two-time Michelin Star Chef who found himself drawn to the restaurant industry at an early age. While attending Fordham University Gabelli School of Business in 2012, Akshay started an apprenticeship in the kitchen of Junoon under Chef Adin Langille.

His culinary career has been exclusively within the Junoon family. He began as a intern and worked his way up to Lead Line Chef training at different sections in the kitchen. Following a stint at Junoon Dubai, he returned to Junoon in New York to become Junior Sous Chef and eventually Sous Chef in 2015. Along the way, he learned French, Italian and even Japanese techniques working under various chefs, which he applies at Junoon to help push the boundaries of Indian cuisine. He was promoted as the Executive Chef in 2016. Chef Akshay’s cooking has a strong emotional component rooted in childhood food memories and how they made him feel.

In Nov 2018, Junoon was awarded and retained the Michelin Star for the eighth year in a row and holds the title of the only Indian restaurant in New York City with a Michelin Star. Executive Chef Akshay was one of the youngest Indian chefs to be recognized for this coveted award age 24 when Junoon got its Michelin Star October 2017.

Prior to embarking on the culinary path Chef Akshay studied Business at Fordham University and is completing a Business degree at Baruch College in New York. His interests include football, basketball, soccer, playing the piano and spending time with family. He visits India regularly, where he enjoys his grandmother’s cooking.

Art Smith

Art Smith James Beard Award Winner

Chef Art Smith is the chef and co-owner of Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs, Blue Door Kitchen and Garden in Chicago, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, and Art Bird & Whiskey Bar at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

Art Smith has received two James Beard Foundation awards, the culinary profession’s highest honor, and has cooked for some of the world’s most famous celebrities. He cooked for Bob Graham and Jeb Bush in the Florida Governor’s Mansion, and in 1997, Smith became the personal, day-to-day chef to Oprah Winfrey, a position that lasted ten years. Smith now coordinates and cooks for special events all around the world.

Smith is the author of “Back to the Table;” “Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families;” “Back to the Family;” and “Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort,” with a focus on healthy cooking and healthy living.

Chef Smith is the founder of Common Threads, a non-profit organization teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals since 2003. He believes that through hands-on cooking and introducing children to fresh foods we can help prevent childhood obesity, reverse the trend of poor eating habits, and learn about diversity and tolerance through the celebration of our cultural differences and our commonalities.

In 2015 Smith launched a non-profit organization, Reunion, Florida Garden and Kitchen School, in Madison, Fla. at the historic Wardlaw-Smith House near his childhood home in Jasper, Fla. At Reunion, students of all ages receive free classes on southern cooking traditions, horticulture, and weather forecasting via Weather Stem systems.

In 2008 Chef Art Smith received an Honorary MBA Degree, awarded by the School of Hospitality at Florida State University. On May 19, 2012 Chef Art Smith received an Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University, North Miami Campus.

Smith lives in Chicago and Florida with his husband Jesus Salgueiro, their four children Zumy, Zuky, Brando and Angel, and numerous dogs, cats, chickens, fish and turtles.

Chef Brandon McGlamery

Brandon McGlamery Luma on Park

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy, Brandon passionately pursued his culinary career, seeking exposure to both domestic and international techniques and experiences. He attributes much of his inspiration and success to time spent at notable Northern California dining destinations including his time spent at Stars, The Fifth Floor & Delfina in San Francisco, The French Laundry in Napa Valley, & Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was in these establishments that he first discovered his love for great ingredients and the craftsmanship of cooking.

Prior to moving to Florida, Brandon served as Chef de Cuisine at Bacchanalia in Atlanta, Ga., where he worked with his mentor, James Beard Award winner, Anne Quatrano. Brandon moved to Winter Park to Luma on Park in 2006, the restaurant received much critical acclaim including Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Award, Steward of the Monterey Bay Aquarium for Substainable seafood, and the AAA Four-Diamond Award. He has also been nominated as a James Beard Best Chef: Southeast in 2013 and 2017.

Jamie McFadden

Jamie McFadden Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine & Events

In 1990 he began to build his reputation as an award-winning chef working at various high profile restaurants including his own restaurant, Mimi’s Café & Wine Bar. In 1998 he founded Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine & Events and just celebrated 20 years in creating unforgettable events. In early 2011 Jamie introduced Central Floridians to his version of a tasting bar with his “bar J me” concept. To date this experience has received high marks in the press. In September 2011, the Orlando Sentinel stated, “barJme reinvents the chef table” and “dinner at the kitchen counter may never be the same”.

Other career highlights include preparing two Central Florida inspired meals at the James Beard House in New York City. Co-Founding The PEAS Foundation which provides food insecure households with Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Appearing and Cooking on NBC’s “Today Show” “Dinner in the Sky” segment with Bravo’s 3rd Season “Top Chef” winner Hung Huynh, Teaching at the Walt Disney World, Disney Institute, Participating in cooking events including Alexander Valley Vineyards and Gundlach Bundschu Wineries both located in Sonoma California, the Destin Charity Wine Auction, and the Culinary Vegetable Institutes Annual Food and Wine Celebration in Milan, Ohio. When not in the kitchen Jamie sits on the advisory boards of Edible Orlando Magazine, and The Second Harvest Food Bank’s Community Kitchen and he participated in the “Chefs Move Schools” program.

In 2007, Restaurant Forum named Chef Jamie one of Central Florida’s Top 20 Chef’s. He is the only caterer to receive this award. The Orlando Business Journal named Jamie one of Orlando’s “40 Under 40” which recognizes the rising young professionals who are shaping the economy of Central Florida. Jamie was also inducted into the Orlando Sentinel Culinary Hall of Fame and Best Chefs America along with being invited to sit on the national advisory board of BCA. In November of 2013 Chef Jamie launched “Celebrations” at The East End Market. This exciting venue houses a variety of Food Artisans, event planners, a restaurant and Cuisiniers unique event space for events up to 125 guests.

Most recently Jamie executed a life long dream with the release of his Snowbirds Vintners brand. Already critically acclaimed and award winning Jamie’s Snowbirds puts a whimsical twist on serious wines that are created to pair beautifully with many cuisines.

James and Julie Petrakis

James and Julie Petrakis The Ravenous Pig

Husband-and-wife duo, James and Julie Petrakis both grew up in Winter Park, Florida and met while studying at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Collectively, their resumes including working in kitchens spanning from New York City to Atlanta. It was during this time where they gained a strong appreciation for local and sustainable ingredients. The couple returned to Orlando to start a family and open their first concept, The Ravenous Pig, in 2007.

Today, James and Julie are culinary leaders spearheading Orlando’s bourgeoning food movement with multiple concepts in Orlando, including: The Ravenous Pig (2007), an award-winning American Gastropub; Cask & Larder (2012), a Southern Public House featuring seasonal ingredients located in Orlando’s International Airport; and The Polite Pig (2017), a fast-casual concept in Disney Springs combining local Florida flavors with wood-fired, smoked modern barbecue. Their newest venture is The Ravenous Pig Brewing Company (2019), a 3,000 square foot facility that produces namesake brews, available at both The Ravenous Pig, The Polite Pig and will also feature a future beer garden (2020). The brewery also brews the Cask and Larder beer line for their airport concept.

James and Julie have been recognized as semi-finalists by the James Beard Foundation for “Best Chef-South” for several consecutive years and “Outstanding Restaurateurs” in 2019. They have received notable accolades from publications, such as Food & Wine, Saveur, and Southern Living. They are also authors of The Ravenous Pig: Seasons of Florida cookbook.

Gabriel Kreuther

Gabriel Kreuther Executive Chef, Gabriel Kreuther

One of New York City’s most celebrated chefs, James Beard award-winning and Michelin-starred chef Gabriel Kreuther offers delicious fare and impeccable service with a distinctly New York spirit at his eponymous restaurant, Gabriel Kreuther and its neighboring chocolate shop, Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate.

A native of Alsace, France, Kreuther was born in a region whose history has produced one of the most renowned cuisines in France. Raised on a family farm in Niederschaeffolsheim, a small village north of Strasbourg, Kreuther grew up surrounded by fresh local produce and seasonal game and first learned the art of traditional Alsatian cuisine by cooking with his mother. During school vacations, Kreuther often visited his uncle, how owned a bustling hotel and restaurant in the nearby mountains, ad at barley 12 years old, Kreuther helped everywhere, soon discovering the kitchen.

In 1984 he enrolled in culinary school at École Hôtelière in Strasbourg, where he began his formal education and in 1987, won the prestigious “Concours National de Meilleur Apprenti Cuisinier de France – Fernand Point,” a highly competitive national contest that determines the “Best Kitchen Apprentice in France” from among 170 nominees.

After embarking on a work-exchange program in Washington D.C. and working his way up the ranks of Michelin-starred kitchens in Germany, France and Switzerland, Kreuther arrived in New York City in 1997, where he works as sous chef at the much-lauded La Caravelle before becoming chef de cuisine at Jean-Georges. In 2002, Kreuther assumed the role of executive chef at Atlelier at the Ritz Carlton’s iconic Central Park South location, during which time he was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs.” Under Kreuther, the restaurant was also nominated for the “Best New Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation, received a three-star rating from The New York Times, and also received The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences’ coveted “Five Star Diamond” award.

In 2004, Kreuther joined Danny Meyer to open The Modern, where his cuisine garnered the restaurant critical acclaim and numerous accolades including “Best New Restaurant” from Esquire Magazine, on Michelin star, the title of “Top Rated Newcomer 2005” by Zagat Survey, and “Best new Restaurant” by Time Out New York. The Modern also received a glowing three-star review from The New York Times, and the 2006 James Beard Foundation Awards for the “Best New Restaurant” and “Outstanding Restaurant Design.” Having been nominated in 2006, 2007, and 2008, Kreuther himself won the James Beard Foundation Award for the “Best Chef: New York City” in 2009.

After nearly a decade as the executive chef of The Modern, he moved on to open Gabriel Kreuther in June of 2015. Here, Kreuther combines his classic French training with his love of New York City dining to create a comfortably luxurious experience in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Since opening, Gabriel Kreuther has received three stars from The New York Times and has been awarded 2 Michelin-Stars. In March 2017, the restaurant joined the distinguished list of Relais & Chateaux properties.

In November 2016, Kreuther teamed up again with Gabriel Kreuther pastry chef Marc Aumont to open Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate right next door to the restaurant. Here, guests can select from a dynamic menu of freshly made chocolates inspired by everything from the changing season of New York City to the classic American flavor combinations.
When Kreuther isn’t in the kitchen, he is a member of the Bocuse d’Or Culinary International Counsel and was proud to be part of the 2015 coaching team for the sliver medal-winning United States team and mentor for the 2017 gold world championship team.

Melissa Kelly Executive Chef, Primo

Melissa Kelly is the Executive Chef and proprietor of the critically-acclaimed Primo, a restaurant located in mid-coast Maine. She is the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award winner of the American Express Best Chef: Northeast Award. She also received this award in 1999, making her the first 2-time winner of the same award.

Chef Kelly grew up on Long Island. Her earliest cooking lessons took place in her Italian grandmother’s kitchen. In fact, she still favors Mediterranean accented foods. First in her 1988 graduating class from The Culinary Institute of America, her resume includes stints with such culinary luminaries as Larry Forgione and Alice Waters.

Chef Kelly was named one of the  new chefs of the 90’s by Food & Wine Magazine. Nation’s Restaurant News, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Chocolatier, The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Town and Country and New York Magazine, among others, have all recognized her culinary talents. The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Inn, where Melissa was Executive Chef before opening Primo in 2000, was named one of “The Best New Restaurants” by Esquire Magazine and both “Gourmet Retreat of the Year” and a “Grand Winner” by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report.

In 2003, she partnered with J.W. Marriot to open a second Primo location in Orlando and since then a third in Tucson, Ariz.

Chef Kelly’s farm fresh regional cuisine with Mediterranean accents can be summed up best in the words of one reviewer, “worth a drive from just about anywhere.”

Kathleen Blake

Throughout her career James Beard-nominated Chef Kathleen Blake has promoted sustainability and using locally-sourced and organic ingredients.

Blake’s Central Florida profile rose in 2003 at Primo, a restaurant created by best friend and mentor Melissa Kelly at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes resort. Blake entered the downtown dining scene as executive chef at Urban Flats Flatbread & Wine Co. and later Pine 22.

She opened the critically-acclaimed Rusty Spoon in 2011 with an authentic focus on local farmers and purveyors. After a tremendous eight-year run, she sold the Rusty Spoon in 2019 to concentrate on consulting work.

Kathleen has been a semi-finalist five times for the prestigious James Beard Awards category Best Chef South.  She was nominated for both Golden Whisk and Community Service Awards by Women Chefs & Restauranteurs.

In 2018 Kathleen was presented with The Beacon Award by the Foodservice Council for Women and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show. The honor was created to recognize a female leader who has truly served as a Beacon for the industry through her leadership, contributions, and inspiration.

Blake is a frequent guest at the James Beard House in New York and is a staunch supporter of the James Beard Foundation’s Women Entrepreneur Leadership Program.  Her annual spring fundraiser “Women in the Kitchen: Legends, Mentors and Friends” at Lake Meadow farm raises awareness and scholarship funds for the program.

Paula Kendrick

Paula Kendrick

After graduating Florida State University’s Hospitality Administration program, Chef Paula Kendrick managed one of Tallahassee’s premier catering companies for ten years before opening Paula’s Cabana Café at Goodwood Museum and Gardens. Paula served as a strategic partner to Goodwood helping create brand visibility and name recognition for both the café and the Museum. From there, Paula partnered to open Black Fig, a gourmet food shop and catering company. She played a key role in the business start-up and helped to establish them as a “Best of Tallahassee” award winner in 2013 while also having the distinct honor of preparing dinner for the Governor of Florida. For the past six years, Chef Paula has worked as the Chef for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness program traveling the state to host trainings with cafeteria staff, teach students the importance of Florida agriculture through tastings and events, and host workshops for educators on Garden to Classroom.

Eric Lees

Eric Lees Executive Chef, Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia

As Executive Chef, Eric Lees helms Chicago’s Michelin-starred Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia.

Growing up in Blaine, MN, Lees’ love of cooking for friends and family motivated him to pursue a degree at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis. This training led him to take roles in Hyatt hotel kitchens in Minneapolis and Scottsdale before he returned to the Midwest as a lead line cook for Quince in Evanston, IL. Lees’ sense of adventure brought him to Sitka, AK in 2013, where he worked as Executive Chef of Fly-In Fishing Inn, an exclusive island fishing resort, and developed a passion for sea-to-table dining, utilizing seafood caught in the nearby harbor.

Returning to Chicago in 2010, Lees worked with James Beard Award-winning Matthias Merges to open acclaimed French / Italian restaurant A10 before helping Merges to open Yusho as chef de cuisine and earning multiple Michelin Bib Gourmand recognitions. Continuing his culinary journey, Lees joined the Spiaggia team in 2016 and was named Executive Chef in 2019 following a pilgrimage through Italy, studying technique and craft from some of the most esteemed culinary luminaries and artisans in the world. With an emphasis on local Midwestern ingredients and fresh seafood, Lees continues Spiaggia’s legacy, focusing on elegant and authentic dishes that showcase Italy’s diverse regional cuisines.

Chef Matthew Gallagher Vice President, Corporate Chef, Seasons 52

Chef Matthew Gallagher is Executive Chef at Seasons 52. He leads all culinary efforts in the research, development and ongoing evolution of the Seasons 52 menu.

Chef Matthew joined Darden in 2010 as Executive Chef for The Capital Grille, and was promoted to Director of Culinary Operations supporting Darden’s Specialty Brands in 2013. Most recently, he served as Director, Culinary Deployment and Operations, managing all aspects of menu deployment — including menu production, nutrition, allergen, menu analysis and operations excellence — for six Darden brands with more than 400 locations and $1.6B in sales.

Prior to Darden, Chef Matthew worked in locally inspired independent restaurants in New England. He also staged in Michelin and AA rated hotels and restaurants in England and Germany.

Chef Matthew earned his Culinary and MBA degrees from Johnson & Wales University.

Chef Bob Aungst 2019 Industry Chef of the Year – Florida

Chef Bob is a private, corporate and special events chef with a career spanning 25+ years. He was named the 2019 Chef of the Year for the state of Florida by Industry hospitality network. He’s also been recognized as one of the Top 8 Cooking Teachers in Orlando for the past three consecutive years. His specialty is in handcrafting unique and memorable culinary experiences that leave lasting impressions for guests.

A northern New Jersey and upstate New York native, Chef Bob began his culinary career as a non-traditional student while balancing a full-time real estate business and raising two kids. His first culinary internship was for the Kentucky Derby, and since that time, he’s worked 17 additional Derbies. Throughout his career, he’s had the pleasure of serving four U.S. Presidents, political leaders, royalty, celebrities, artists, and professional athletes. He is retained annually by Emirates to oversee their suite at the U.S. Open tennis tournament and is personally requested to oversee VIP hospitality at the Western & Southern Open, the Breeders’ Cup, and professional and collegiate football games.

Chef Bob is headquartered in Maitland, Florida, but travels worldwide. He represents over a dozen high-end appliance and culinary brands, as well as select premium spirits, breweries, and distilleries. He is also a certified Super and Mega Yacht Chef.

Chef Michael LaDuke Executive Chef, The Capital Grille

Chef Michael LaDuke is Executive Chef at The Capital Grille. He oversees the overall menu development and other culinary operations for the brand’s restaurants that are renowned for serving luxury steaks, seafood and fresh twists on appetizers and sides.

He has had multiple national television appearances, including hosting “The Next Food Network Star” with Bobby Flay and Michael Symon, as well as judging Chef Morimoto on “Iron Chef America.”

Chef LaDuke was recognized as Central Florida “Chef of the Year” by Restaurant Forum magazine for his menu improvements to the Brown Derby Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and was named to the “Premier Chefs of America” list in 1996.

A native New Yorker, Chef LaDuke holds an Associate’s degree in Professional Chef Studies from the State University of New York.

Chef Ray Comiskey Executive Chef, Eddie V’s

Chef Ray Comiskey is Executive Chef at Eddie V’s. He leads the research, conceptualization and development of its signature food and beverage menu, creating an indulgent dining experience for guests.

Having spent more than 30 years in the restaurant and culinary industries, Chef Comiskey has dedicated most of his life to creating unique and unforgettable experiences around food and drink. A high school vocational course allowed him to assist in the running of a licensed restaurant, providing him the rare opportunity to rise as a kitchen supervisor by the time he graduated. He attributes this experience to discovering his passion.

Furthering his education, Chef Comiskey earned an associate’s degree from The Culinary Institute of America in New York and a bachelor’s in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Johnson & Wales. He has worked in many restaurants over the years, including his role as corporate executive chef for Morton’s in Chicago, and 14 years as executive partner chef for The Capital Grille in Kansas City. Chef Comiskey has served as vice president and corporate chef for Eddie V’s since 2014.

In his personal time, he leads a Cub Scout pack of 67 young boys, teaching them everything from how to cook to camping skills.

Chef Steve Richard Executive Chef, Paddlefish

As a Massachusetts native, seafood is part of Chef Steve Richard’s DNA. Some of Richard’s earliest memories involve driving around New England with his grandfather and trying out different lobster rolls together at all kinds of places, from eateries located on the side-of-the-road to upscale restaurants. His grandfather’s love of seafood and of cooking for friends and family were both contagious.

Once in college at Northeastern University, Richard often found himself cooking for his roommates at any opportunity he could. After graduating and embarking on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, Richard decided to change course and follow his passion for cooking.

In the late 1990’s, Richard moved to Florida and started his journey to becoming a chef. He began at Wolfgang Puck Grand Café as a pantry chef and worked there part-time while taking every culinary class available at Valencia College. For the next seven years, he quickly worked his way through the ranks and became an Executive Sous Chef.

In 2007, Richard was named Executive Chef for Portobello Yacht Club. While there, Richard worked closely with James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano on the transformation of the restaurant into Portobello Country Italian Trattoria.

Richard was named regional chef for Levy Restaurants in 2011 and is excited to bring his talents to Paddlefish.

Chef Justin Plank Terralina Crated Italian, Executive Chef

Since he was six-years old, Justin Plank has been preparing dishes for the masses. From helping his mother cook meals for his eight brothers and sisters to feeding the guests who come to visit Terralina Crafted Italian at Disney Springs, Plank knows what it takes to create a dish that will appeal to a variety of tastes.

Plank graduated at the top of his class from the Florida Culinary Institute and won the opportunity to travel to Zurich, Switzerland, for his externship. While there, he earned the honor of becoming the chef of house. Since then, Plank has run different kitchens from Wolfgang Grand Cafe in Seattle, WA, to LeGrand’s Alaskan Prime Seafood & Steaks in Myrtle Beach, SC, to Park Plaza Gardens in Winter Park, FL. During his 2002 to 2007 tenure at at Park Plaza Gardens, Plank established the restaurant as an Orlando hotspot and was voted one of Central Florida’s top 10 chefs two years in a row.

Before joining the Levy Restaurants family, Plank switched gears by taking a job at Lake Port Square, an Independent Living Community in Leesburg, in order to be closer to his family. Instead of making the same meals every night for different people, Plank made different meals each week for the same people and it was a great change of pace from his usual work.

Eager to get back on his original path, Plank is excited to lead Terralina Crafted Italian’s kitchen. Working alongside James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano, Plank hopes to put his personal spin on traditional Italian dishes.

Chef John Tesar Knife Dallas, Executive Chef and Partner

In the midst of an influential culinary career spanning nearly four decades, Executive Chef and Partner John Tesar takes a classically trained chef’s approach to steakhouse cuisine at Knife Dallas, a sophisticated destination for inhouse dry-aged steaks sourced from nearby Texas farms. “For years, I thrived as the European-trained seafood chef,” Tesar explains, “so for Knife, I travelled to steakhouses around the country to find out how I could change and elevate the game.” Opened in May 2014 in the Highland Dallas hotel, Knife finds its drive from the products it sources through partnerships with nearby Heartbrand Beef and 44 Farms and the innovative, classically rooted techniques it employs in the kitchen, as well as the science behind its up-to-240-day on-site dry-aging process.

The success of Knife stems from Tesar’s distinct leadership philosophies. “It’s all about carrying on those classic traditions while keeping your mind open for growth and new experiences,” he says, valuing purity, hard work, style, and integrity. With the expansion of the Knife steakhouse brand throughout Texas and the country, as well as the introduction of Knife Burger and Knife butcher shops—first debuting in Plano, TX’s Legacy Food Hall in autumn 2017—Tesar relishes the enthusiastic support his concept garners from staff, guests, and critics. “To identify, execute, and multiply a niche like this is truly a treasure,” he says.

Prior to reinventing the Texas steakhouse landscape, Tesar enjoyed a lengthy career in fine dining that stemmed from his upbringing in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Inspired by his mother’s cooking, Tesar picked up a job in a Hamptons pub during the summer, when he would head to the laid-back enclave to surf and skate, and progressed naturally towards a career in food. With classical French training from Paris’s La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, Tesar worked at Westhampton’s Club Pierre, a premium French eatery, for six years until ultimately purchasing it. In addition, he furthered his craft throughout the ‘90s at iconic NYC restaurants including 13 Barrow Street, 44 & Hell’s Kitchen, Vine, and Supper Club—at which he worked alongside celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain—before leaving New York City behind in the early 2000s to join chef Rick Moonen in Las Vegas at RM Seafood.

With its blossoming food scene, Dallas drew Tesar to Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in 2006 to lead the high-end establishment as executive chef, rapidly garnering two five-star reviews. He later went on to open Spoon Bar & Kitchen to bring premium seasonal seafood to central Texas in 2012, meanwhile consulting on For more information or interview requests, please contact SMPR – info@strausspr.com 214.352.6700 numerous DRG Concepts properties including Dallas Chop House and Dallas Fish Market, as well as on The Cedars Social, The Commissary, and more. Spoon gained immediate recognition as one of the best new restaurants in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and Esquire, and Tesar’s visionary consulting worked helped shape the Dallas food scene.

Shifting his culinary focus to become an authority on steak, Tesar took on his steakhouse project in 2014 with the caveat that it be different from the rest—a distinction he achieved by investing in long-term dry-aging inventory and by contemporizing the classically stuffy steakhouse atmosphere into an intimate and engaging, product-driven experience. Recognition for Knife Dallas includes Eater National’s “Most Anticipated Openings,” Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants,” Zagat’s “Hottest New Restaurants,” Maxim’s “America’s Best Steakhouse Specialties,” D Magazine’s “Best Steakhouse in Dallas” 2015 and 2016, Gayot’s “Top 10 Best Steakhouses” 2017, and a feature on Esquire Network’s “Restaurant Revolution” program.

Never one to slow down, Tesar continues to grow the reach of his consultancy in addition to the expansion of the Knife brand. Set to begin welcoming guests in spring 2020, Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes will add to the luxury resort’s diverse collection of food & beverage outlets. Celebrating the bounty of Florida on land and at sea, Knife & Spoon will merge Chef Tesar’s cutting-edge meat and seafood techniques. The restaurant will offer an array of steakhouse favorites while emphasizing local seafood dishes, showcasing the abundance of the region.

When he finds free time among his busy schedule, Tesar often fills it by attending food festivals around the world to meet new people, work with new chefs, and learn new culinary techniques. An avid traveler, he naturally gravitates to the beach and the slopes to fulfill his lifelong appreciation for surfing and snowboarding.

Chef Ann Czaja Lindt Master Chocolatier, Lindt USA

Ann Czaja (pronounced Chai-ya) is a Lindt Master Chocolatier with Lindt & Sprüngli, the world’s leading producer of premium chocolate. Ann began her career in Zürich, Switzerland where she resided for 14 years. It was there that she first developed an interest in culinary arts. After working in the catering and restaurant industry for many years, she recognized desserts were her forte. Ann applied and was accepted into a traditional apprenticeship program to study pastry and chocolate. She quickly realized chocolate was her true passion.

Shortly after earning her credentials as a licensed pastry chef/chocolatier, Ann began working for Lindt & Sprüngli as a Lindt Master Chocolatier at their chocolate boutique in the Zürich airport. The store’s open kitchen allowed for live demonstrations on the art of working with premium chocolate while interacting with customers from around the world. In 2006, Ann returned to the United States and began working as the Lindt Master Chocolatier for Lindt USA.

Ann has hosted chocolate focused events, chocolate pairing classes, and culinary demonstrations, including discussions on the history of chocolate and Lindt’s contribution to the premium chocolate market. Bringing her passion for premium chocolate to life, Ann utilizes her experience and training to perfect premium chocolate offerings. She plays an important role in Lindt’s ongoing innovation as the Senior Product Developer in Research & Development for Lindt & Sprüngli USA.

Originally from Alexandria, VA, Ann holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Syracuse University and is currently a WSET Diploma candidate. She resides in New Hampshire with her husband.

Chef Laurent Hollaender, Executive Chef Grand Bohemian Hotel

A pioneer of American cuisine with more than 30 years of experience, Chef Laurent Hollaender serves as the executive chef of Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando overseeing all culinary activity at the Boheme restaurant and banquet events.

From an early age, Chef Laurent demonstrated a passion for creative cuisine and culinary knowledge. Pursuing these passions, he earned a culinary and hospitality degree from the Aristide Briand School in France. From there, he trained with several different exclusive programs and restaurants in France, leading to esteemed positions including sous chef at La Colline in Washington D.C. and L’Actuel in New York City. After an impressive run with these institutions, Chef Laurent brought his skills to the Kessler Collection.

Stemming from years of management experience, Chef Laurent has made strides in hiring and developing his team at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, ensuring consistent superior-quality dishes while executing many of the hotel’s successful events, including monthly themed dinners, Magical Dining Month and more.


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