2016 Talent

2016 Talent

Chef Giancarlo Ferrara, Amalfi Ristorante

The western coast of Italy summons visions of gorgeous views, salty air, and the freshest seafood & produce imaginable. Leave your passport at the door – Chef Giancarlo Ferrara invites you to experience the tastes, aromas, and passions of his homeland right here in Houston through a culinary experience years in the making.

Chef Danny Trace, Brennan’s

His ‘real’ education came first-hand in the kitchen of Commander’s Palace. Taking Commander’s Palace into broadcast viewers’ homes, Danny was the witty on-air cohort on “Off the Menu,” the restaurant’s hunting and cooking show that enjoyed a popular five-year run. In addition to his culinary creativity, Chef Danny is also known for his playful sense of humor, which has been known to make its way from the stovetop to the tabletop.

Chef Kitty Bailey, Costa Brava Bistro

Kitty Bailey, Owner/Chef, is a native of Houston, Texas. Her career in restaurant management began over 25 years ago in Austin before returning to Houston’s restaurant scene, including La Mer and Cafe Annie. This was followed by a lateral shift to catering management and a 13-year tenure at Abuso Catering Co., before coming full circle back to the restaurant business to launch Costa Brava Bistro in 2012. 

Chef Antoine Ware, Harold’s

In 2013, Alli Jarrett tapped Antoine Ware to be the Executive Chef at Harold’s Restaurant, Bar and Terrace, located in the heart of the Heights on 19th Street. Formerly known for its fine clothing, Harold’s now is a unique place where delicious southern cuisine is created, with a creole flare, sourcing vegetables and meats from local farmers. In addition to leading the culinary team at Harold’s, Ware oversees Alli’s Pizzaria located on the first level of 97-year-old building.

Chef Manabu Horiuchi, Kata Robata

Born in Shizuoka, Japan in 1974, Chef Hori had culinary dreams in his blood by the time he was 10 – inspired by his mother who was precisionist when it came to preparing meals and acquiring the ingredients that went in them. To this day he praises her skill in preparing his bento box, the popular Japanese lunch boxes used often by workers, commuters and students.

Chef Rick Di Virgilio , OPORTO Fooding House & Wine

Boasting 25 years in the culinary industry, Rick and Shiva’s concepts have received many awards including Best Curry and Best New Restaurant for OPORTO midtown and multiple award winners in the Houston Press.

Chef Anita Jaisinghani , Pondicheri

Anita opened Indika in July 2001 in a tiny suburban location in southwest Houston and has garnered rave reviews almost since opening day and continues to do so. She has been featured in many prestigious publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Time magazine. Indika expanded and moved to the urban Montrose district in April of 2006.In   March 2011, Anita opened Pondicheri, a casual breakfast/lunch/dinner seven days a week café, at the West Ave retail complex.

Brandi Key, Clark Cooper Concepts Director of Culinary Operations 

Most recently Chef Brandi dreamed up the idea to put Punk’s Simple Southern Food on wheels with the Punk’s Chicken Shack Catering Truck.  The Truck caters picnic parties and brings the Southern Hospitality of Punk’s to guest without the fuss.  The Chicken Shack participated in Royer’s Round Top Fried Chicken Throwdown and was named the Winner! Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner!

Chef Kaiser Lashkari, Himalaya

Enjoy our Hunter’s Beef Plate as Indian-style pastrami, a large portion of tender beef cubes, marinated and cured in traditional spices. Lunch specials at Himalaya Restaurant & Catering include boneless chicken curry, lamb masala, kebab and/or any grilled meat, raita salad, nan and rice, and dessert. Taste pleasing vegetarian specials are also available atHimalaya Restaurant & Catering. Our innovative menu offers something to please every palate.

Chef Ryan Hildebrand, Triniti

Since opening Triniti in December of 2011, Ryan and the talented team he has assembled continue to set a culinarystandard for “fine, casual” dining in Houston with dishes that are as visually beautiful as they are delicious. A Houstonnative, Hildebrand graduated from Baylor University with a degree in fine art before pursuing his culinary journey. Aftergraduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, he estaged at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole restaurant inNYC before returning to Houston to hone his craft working with some of Houston’s finest chefs — Mark Cox of Mark’s,Philippe Schmidt at Bistro Moderne, Jim Mills at the Houstonian Club, and Scott Tycer at Textile restaurant. 

Chef Graham Laborde, Bernadine’s

The first time Graham Laborde heard his grandmother speak the words, “If you’re not going to help, get out of the kitchen,” he was hooked on food and cooking. After graduating from Johnson and Wales school in Rhode Island, Graham returned home to Louisiana where he started his cooking career in New Orleans at restaurants such as Commander’s Palace, Stella, and Boucherie. He worked as Operations Manager for Black Hill Ranch and Texas Ranchers Network before joining the Treadsack team. Graham opened Bernadine’s in December of 2015 and has helped bring his Grandmother’s recipes and inspiration to life. The restaurant showcases local farms and vendors that Graham strives himself on building relationships with. The menu is centrally focused on elevating the cuisine of the gulf coast and everything it has to offer.

Chef Hugo Ortega, Backstreet Café, Hugo’s and Caracol

Ortega is a four-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the James Beard Foundation Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015); has made three guest chef appearances at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City; and was named “Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year” in 1999 and Chef of the Year in 2012 and 2002 at the Houston Culinary Awards; among other accolades.

Chef Edel Gonçalves, Fielding’s Wood Grill

At age 15, Edel Gonçalves became an apprentice to the chef at Goumard Prunier, a two star Michelin restaurant in Paris. During the next 10 years, he apprenticed in a number of European restaurants, including Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, Ireland; Restaurant L’Etoile d’Or, Le Regence, Le Bourdonnais and Les Antiquaires in Paris. Back in Houston, he obtained a position at Masraff’s as Executive Sous Chef where he rapidly became the Executive Chef. In early 2002 he left Masraff’s to start working on his own restaurant with investors, Rouge, which he opened in 2003.

Chef Mark Holley, Holley’s

His growing experience led to a passionate interest in classic French cooking and skills – a passion that first brought him to Houston 1983. After working as a Saucier at first the Meridian Hotel and then Four Seasons Inn on the Park, one of the most promising doors in his career quest swung open. Offered a position with the renowned Brennan’s of Houston, the young chef began an education in Louisiana and Creole cooking under famed Chef Carl Walker.

Chef Alex Padilla, Ninfa’s

In 2006, Padilla returned home to become Executive Chef at the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. He has applied his fine-dining training and techniques to the restaurant’s classic Tex-Mex menu, introducing new dishes and improving historic recipes with better ingredients. He places a concerted emphasis on sourcing fresh, local products, including Gulf seafood from Louisiana Seafood and Seafood Wholesalers and grass-fed beef from Gourmet Ranch in Houston.

Chef Jose Hernandez, Radio Milano

Since the age of 14, Chef Hernandez has learned from some of the best chefs in the industry including French Master Chef Olivier Lombard, French Master Chef Philippe Schmitt and James Beard Award-winning Chef Fabio Trabocchi. He has worked in high end restaurants in Mexico City, New York City and Houston. He honed his pastry skills to become one of the most sought after pastry chefs in the Houston area. Chef Hernandez’s skills go well beyond the pastry world as he creates complex flavors from simple ingredients to wow guests at every meal. His latest venue, Radio Milano, features a masterpiece menu brimming with fresh ingredients, interesting offerings and, of course, a dessert menu that you can’t pass up.

Chef Richard Kaplan, Weights+Measures

From the moment he started cooking in Houston (as Executive Chef of the instantly popular River Cafe on Montrose), Richard earned a reputation for his signature dishes and culinary creativity. He continued to garner accolades and a loyal following with his Acute Events and Catering and Brown Paper Chocolates. For the past two years, Richard has worked tirelessly to open the ambitious Weights +Measures – restaurant, bakery and bar in Midtown Houston. He serves as Executive Chef of the operation and is part of the ownership group.

Chef Adam Dorris, Pax Americana

Chef Adam Dorris made his mark on the Houston food scene with his acclaimed pop up dinners at GrandPrize Bar, as well as his leadership at Stella Sola and Revival Market. He now brings his unique style anddirection to Pax Americana’s kitchen in the historic Montrose neighborhood of Houston, Texas. PaxAmericana garnered tremendous reviews from it’s inception. Texas Monthly’s #4 Where to eat now2014, #3 Alison Cook’s Top 100 2015, #5 GQ’s Best New Restaurants in America, Houston Press #1 bestnew restaurant of 2014, CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2016 Restaurant Of The Year and Chef Of TheYear. Nominated for The Peoples Choice Best New Chef for Food & Wine Magazine.

Chef Luis Roger, BCN

Roger’s professional career began as a student of Culinary Arts at the esteemed Spanish academy, Escola d’Hostaleria Hofmann. While in school, he interned with two prominent catering companies in Barcelona: Esther Conde and Sibaris Catering. While gaining valuable experience as a student, it was Roger’s post-graduate internship at the famed El Bulli that transformed the way he thought about and approached food.

Chef Ryan Pera, Coltivare

Ryan Pera is known for his thoughtful approach to cooking and his strong dedication to sustainable practices. The chef and co-owner of three celebrated concepts in Houston’s Heights neighborhood—Revival Market, Coltivare and Eight Row Flint—has built businesses allowing him to source products from within, whether it’s vegetables grown in Coltivare’s 3,000-square-foot garden or charcuterie cured in-house at Revival Market.

Gusto Gourmet

Our dream started in Venezuela in 2000, where we opened our first of four stores called, MAZAL GOURMET. They were named to honor our dear mother, Mazal, who taught us her special recipes with the same devotion and love that she learned them from  her family. These recipes passed  from generation to generation.In 2011 we moved to Houston and brought our dream with us. We opened GUSTO GOURMET in 2012, where locals and tourists can enjoy this new fusion of our past and present.

Chef Jean P Gaston, Izakaya

Born in Mexico City of European descent, Jean-Philippe Gaston has been a seeker of different cultures throughout his life. He spent much of his youth living and traveling the world across Europe, Asia and South America, and has been blessed with the experience and understanding of diverse cultures and cuisines – a characteristic that is fully realized on the plate. From Noe to Soma Sushi, to Kata Robata, REEF, Haven and Cove Cold Bar, Gaston has been defining and refining his artistic and global style.

Chef Adison Lee, KUU

Former Nobu London Chef Adison Lee brings his imagination to life with his restaurant KUU in Houston. Chef Adison Lee uses unique flavor combinations to take you on a journey of culinary excellence. Features a seasonal menu and responsibly fished seafood from local fishermen and the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan. KUU is committed to serving small, sharable plates with stimulating flavors and plating. Our devotion to responsibly sourcing our products shows through the ever evolving seasonal menu.

Chef Omar Pereney, Peska Seafood Culture

Pereney’s first taste of the U.S. came in 2010, when he was invited by James Beard Award winning chef, Douglas Rodriguez, to intern at the eponymous De Rodriguez in Miami Beach, Florida.  He returned in 2012 for a pastry internship under the tutelage of Norman Van Aken and Max Santiago at acclaimed Tuyo in downtown Miami.


At age 19, Arnaldo moved to upstate New York, where he worked as the kitchen manager and later as the head cook of a 400-seat restaurant. In 1978, he moved to Houston, Texas, to attend the esteemed Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. While a student, Arnaldo worked as a sous chef at The Houston Club and River Oaks Country Club.

Chef Kevin Naderi, Roost

Roost opened with fanfare, garnering attention from Houston’s fickle foodie flock, to critical acclaim from the Houston Chronicle’s Alison Cook (among many others) and ultimately landed Naderi on the shortlist of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Southwest of 2013. In addition to the Food & Wine nomination, the Persian-American Chef was a finalist in a Season 2 episode of Guy’s Grocery Games, and has received numerous local accolades. Chef Naderi has consulted on the food menus of restaurants like Saint Genevieve in Houston and Jack & Ginger’s in Austin. Locally, among other charitable activities, Naderi is a member of the Recipe for Success Chef Advisory Board — a group of chefs who donate their time to help children learn healthy eating habits.

Chef Carlos Ramos, Latin Bites
Even though he holds a Journalism Bachelors and an Education Masters, his true passion has always been around serving food and drinks. Ramos realized his dream of having a restaurant of his own when he joined Roberto andRita Castre in their first venture: Latin Bites Catering. The small home-based catering company created a big buzz allowing them to soon turn into a brick and mortar restaurant: Latin Bites Café.

Mala Sichuan

Chef Lance Gillum, Uchi
Gillum started on the prep team at Uchi Austin and quickly moved up the ranks to line cook, thenJunior Sous Chef and eventually Sous Chef, working closely under Executive Chef Tyson Cole andDirector of Culinary Operations Kaz Edwards. He is thrilled to lead the kitchen at Uchi Houston, arole he feels he has been building towards for his entire career.