Meet the Chefs

Meet the Attending Chefs

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar

Chef/Owner 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.

Growing up the youngest of 7 children in Amalfi’s Coast largest coastal city, Salerno, Italy, Chef Ferrara often found himself alongside his mother in the kitchen where he absorbed many lessons that can only be taught with time, patience, passion, and love. Giancarlo influenced by his culinary family, finished first in his class at Centro Professionale Alberghiero in Salerno. His appreciation for quality, local, and seasonal food grew as well, following him in each of his culinary ambitions and becoming the cornerstones for his menus.

The inspired menu at Amalfi emphasizes fresh seafood, vivid citrus, and cozy olive oil in addition to fresh pastas, an assortment of meats, family-made cheeses, cleanly crafted cocktails, and an extensive, thoughtful wine list.

Chef Giancarlo Ferrara- Amalfi
Chef Willet Feng- Burger Chan

Burger Chan

Chef Willet Feng was born and raised in Houston, but he also spent a few formative years in Southeast Asia.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rice University and culinary arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu.  Willet worked as a line cook at Uchiko and Oxheart before travelling across the world to become the head chef at The Grumpy Pig in Shanghai.  In 2016, he opened Kuma Burgers—now known as burger-chan—in the Greenway Plaza underground food hub.


From a young boy, Ware knew he wanted to be a chef someday, so after attending Delgado Culinary School in his hometown of New Orleans, Ware went on to work his way up in prestigious restaurants such as Royal Sonesta, Chateau Sonesta, Bacco Bistro and Mr. B’s Bistro. Following Hurricane Katrina, Ware relocated to Houston and went to work with Chris Shepherd, the then chef at Catalan Restaurant, and later served as chef at The Hay Merchant, launching its first menu, as well as The Federal Grill. 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 Antoine Ware
Chef Hugo Ortega- Hugo's

Hugo Ortega was raised in Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico, and learned his love of cooking from his mother and grandmother, a revered mole maker. At age 17, he left Mexico for Houston and began his career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher and busboy at Backstreet Cafe before graduating from culinary school and later becoming its executive chef and owner, along with wife Tracy Vaught. His American Dream continued when they opened Hugo’s in 2002. In 2013 they opened Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen, in Houston’s Galleria area. Hugo has published two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe (2013). He was a five-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious James Beard Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). Hugo is one of Houston’s most acclaimed chefs and believes that a chef is only as good as the last meal he cooked. He remains a fixture in his three restaurant kitchens, is an avid bicyclist, and enjoys spending time at the beach with his family.

Killen’s STQ

Ronnie Killen began cooking at the age of eight, and he’s never looked back. By age 23, he owned his first restaurant, Killen’s Kountry BBQ, and opened Killen’s Sports Café five years later. However, it was while working part-time at the Brownstone, a fine dining establishment in Houston, that the desire to pursue a career in culinary arts emerged. In 1997 Killen enrolled in the renowned Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in London and graduating from the prestigious culinary academy first in his class and with the Honor of Distinction. Since graduating, Killen has added numerous accolades to his resume, working at such fine hotels and resorts as The Omni Mandalay in Irving, Texas; Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri; and The Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, California. In 2003 Killen returned to his roots, accepting the post of executive chef at Brenner’s Steakhouse. During his tenure there, Killen helped the steakhouse achieve the title of “Best Steakhouse” by the Houston Press and Houston Business Journal. Then, in February 2005, Killen received the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to be The White House Executive Chef. He was chosen as a finalist and ultimately was invited to interview for the title of Assistant Executive Chef. He still considers this honor to be one of the highlights of his illustrious culinary career.  Killen’s love of fine dining brought him even closer to home as he opened the acclaimed Killen’s Steakhouse in his hometown of Pearland, Texas in 2006. Since its inception, the restaurant has gained numerous awards and achieved resounding praise.

Ronnie Killen
Teddy Lopez
Chef Wayne- Maba Pan-Asian Diner

Maba Pan-Asian Diner

Wayne Nguyen is the chef and owner of Maba Pan-Asian Diner in Midtown. Wayne was born in Saigon, Vietnam. He came to the United States in 1981 and resided in San Francisco, California. His first exposure to cooking was as a child in his mother’s kitchen. One of his favorite things to do with his mother was going to the Farmers’ Market in front of San Francisco’s City Hall and watching cooking shows by Jacques Pepin, Jeff Smith and Martin Yan on PBS. These chefs along with the American cuisine heavily influenced Wayne; however, his heritage comes out in the food he cooks. Wayne went to school in Texas and graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in Finance. His early career was in financial services. In 2002, he met and married his wife, Tammy and had two children, Julia and Reagan. Wayne launched a new concept restaurant, Maba Pan-Asian Diner, in 2016.  Before Maba had a physical home, Wayne was the featured chef at the International LuckyRice Festival in October in Houston where there were long lines for Maba’s pork won tons drizzled with Vietnamese fish sauce. It did not take long for foodies and critics to discover Maba. By its third month, Maba was written by The Houston Chronicle, CultureMap, Houston Press, My Table and Forbes Travel Guide. Alison Cook, the food critic for The Houston Chronicle, labeled Maba “an oasis of casual chic” and referred it as one of the best restaurants in the city with a three star review.


Texas native, Chef Martin Stayer discovered his passion for cooking at the age of 15, “I was somehow deemed the cook for parties, camping trips, get-togethers, and it always stuck.” He began pursuing his culinary career in 2003 when he moved to Portland to attend the Western Culinary Institute. After graduation Stayer applied to his top 10 favorite restaurants, one called him back and he packed his bags for Chicago to begin honing his craft at Moto.  Following his three year stint at Moto, Stayer began working at L20 where he began working for Chef Laurent Gras, a three Michelin Star chef. He stayed with Chef Gras for a year before pursing his passion for innovate but approachable fare. “At that point I decided I only wanted to work in restaurants I would eat at with friends and family.” It was then that Stayer headed to Chicago’s west side and began working at Lula Café where he began developing relationships with local farmers and learning more about locally sourcing seasonal ingredients and produce.  After a few years at Lula, Stayer left to help his friends open Gilt Bar where he learned more about operations and management and where he ultimately met his wife Sara (a certified sommelier.) In 2010 Stayer began tending bar at Big Star where he learned more about the art of mixology and began working on his concept for Nobie’s. In late 2013, after the birth of his first child, Stayer and his wife decided to move to Houston to be closer to family, just in time for the birth of their second child. In Houston, Stayer first made his mark on the local dining scene interning with Scott Tycer at Aries in Houston in 2004. After he returned to the Bayou City he worked at Coltivare and Revival Market, all while looking for a space to open up his own concept. After a two year search, he found a 1930s era bungalow bordering Montrose and Upper Kirby, perfect for his casually cool, neighborhood concept. Four months later Stayer opened Nobie’s, bringing a fine dining experience to a decidedly more relaxed table.

Chef Martin Stayer
Chef Grant Pinkerton

Pinkerton’s Barbecue

Grant Pinkerton was born and raised in Houston, to a family with small town Texas roots in the Hill Country and Gulf Coast.  From a young age he was fascinated with meat, fire and old Texas traditions. Upon returning to Houston after graduating from The University of Texas , he decided to turn his fascination into a career. What started out as a barbecue pit and a dream has grown into one of the best BBQ restaurants in Texas, earning a spot on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints as well as Pinkerton being included as America’s “Top Up And Coming Pitmasters.


Hugo Ortega was raised in Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico, and learned his love of cooking from his mother and grandmother, a revered mole maker. At age 17, he left Mexico for Houston and began his career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher and busboy at Backstreet Cafe before graduating from culinary school and later becoming its executive chef and owner, along with wife Tracy Vaught. His American Dream continued when they opened Hugo’s in 2002. In 2013 they opened Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen, in Houston’s Galleria area. Hugo has published two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe (2013). He was a five-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious James Beard Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).  Hugo is one of Houston’s most acclaimed chefs and believes that a chef is only as good as the last meal he cooked. He remains a fixture in his three restaurant kitchens, is an avid bicyclist, and enjoys spending time at the beach with his family.

Chef Hugo Ortega- Hugo's

Gusto Gourmet

Yosef and Sandra Sarshalom

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. A fusion of the wonderful Mediterranean cuisine from Mazal’s kitchen along with our Latin-Venezuelan recipes with which we grew up and loved. Our dreams continue to grow and everyday we create new flavors. You are cordially invited to visit our restaurant and enjoy our fresh Latin-Mediterranean fusion. You won’t be disappointed.

Gusto Gourmet
Chef William Wright- Helen Greek Food & Wine

Helen Greek Food & Wine

Executive Chef William Wright, 29, is a rising star in the Houston culinary community and has honed his venerable skills by focusing on diverse dishes from around the globe. Wright most recently has been shaping a new traditional Greek concept, Helen in the Heights, and simultaneously continues his award-winning work at Greek hot spot Helen Greek Food and Wine. He focuses on traditional fare from every region and embraces the concepts of regionality and simplicity whenever he is in the kitchen. Wright was a semifinalist for the 2017 James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year. Wright helped lead his team at Helen Greek Food and Wine in 2016 as semifinalists for the Best New Restaurant category. He honed a majority of his culinary skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in Sicily, where he served under legendary Italian Chef Pino Cuttaia Ristorante at La Madia, and in New York City at Telepan and A Voce. But before the “real work” started, Wright was learning how to cook at ALMA – the world’s leading international educational and training centre for Italian Cuisine in Parma, Italy. The ALMA Method is the most advanced techniques and the wisdom of the traditions, practice and gastronomic culture, the knowledge of raw materials and territories in the world of Italian food and wines. Wright decided to follow his heart and move to Houston where he served as sous chef at Philippe Restaurant and then Table on Post Oak. An anthropology major in college, he’s always been interested “why” things were the way they were, which has proven invaluable as he’s worked with distinctive cuisines from Italian to Asian to Greek. At Helen Greek Food and Wine, his menu features classic regional Greek dishes made with Texas ingredients and gulf seafood. His menu introduces Houstonians to delicious and unique flavors and modern trends in Greek cuisine while retaining the simple, healthy, fresh style at the heart of Greek cooking.


Chef Jean Philippe Gaston, who has worked in the kitchens of some of Houston’s most imaginative and successful restaurants, has traveled much of the world in his young life. But where most people collect knick-knacks and photographs from their travels, the man collects food. Not so much the food itself but the skills and imagination to recreate the foods he encountered and bring them home. It’s a collection Houston can revel in at the tables of Izakaya in Midtown where he is executive chef. Izakaya is actually a stylized izakaya – kind of a Japanese version of a tapas bar and usually identified in Japan by a large paper lantern hanging out front. Originally Kata Robata Chef Horiuchi – better known as Chef Hori – shared the executive chef title at the new spot with Chef Gaston, but Gaston is now at the helm with a hot and cold menu that highlight his international culinary talents. Chef Gaston has been associated with some of the finest, most popular seafood and sushi restaurants in Houston, not to mention stints as some of the most recognized restaurant names in Europe. Before coming to Izakaya, he was piling up the accolades for his cold-kitchen leadership at Cove, a self-contained restaurant inside Chef Randy Evan’s Haven Restaurant. He has staged in 3 Michelin-star restaurants in Paris and also had the opportunity to learn 2000 year-old Aztec recipes from the indigenous people of Oaxaca. He ended up enrolling in the Cordon Bleu program in Austin. Within a short time, he realized culinary school wasn’t going to provide him with as much knowledge as he could provide for himself with his drive to learn so he obtained his Communications degree from UT and continued his love of cooking and learning. With every chance he had to return to Europe, he utilized the opportunity to stage, working at places like Le Crillon, Les Embassadeurs and other great Michelin Star restaurants where the passion for fine dining began. Eventually he obtained a second degree from the University of Houston’s renowned Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. In 2005, he joined renowned Chef Robert Gadsby at Noe in the Omni Hotel and after Gadsby’s departure, Philippe helped lead at Noe until he was recruited by Chef Gadsby to open Soma Sushi. After a year of serving as Gadsby’s right-hand man, Philippe took the helm, becoming the youngest Executive Chef of one of Houston’s most important restaurants, to national acclaim. A year later, Chef Hori had a tasting at Soma and loved it so much, he offered Philippe a job at Kata Robata, as his Chef de Cuisine. Shortly after joining forces, they became nationally recognized and regarded as one of the top Japanese restaurants in America. In 2007, Chef Bryan Caswell asked Philippe to become his Chef de Cuisine at REEF, where he learned the art of southern-style cooking and most importantly, how to utilize local ingredients. After departing REEF, Philippe returned home to Paris where he worked for a bit and then returned to consult for some of the city’s best restaurants before joining forces with the great Randy Evans at Haven. Working at Haven brought Philippe’s mostly seafood training full-circle in terms of product knowledge. Chef Evans has taught Philippe everything about butchering and farming to make his range of cooking one of the most extensive in the city, helping Philippe to win “Up and Coming Chef of the Year” at the 2011 Houston Culinary Awards. The opportunity to oversee the kitchen at Izakaya allows him to put a myriad of his past experiences to the test as well as introduce Houston to an age-old Japanese dining tradition.

Jean-Philippe Gaston
Chef Carlos Ramos- Latin Bites

Latin Bites Contemporary Cuisine

Carlos Ramos began his career in the restaurant industry at an early age when his family opened a “cebicheria” in his hometown of Lima, Peru during the early 90’s. This first-hand experience sparked his interest in what would be a 20-year journey through several restaurants such as “Mariposa” at Neiman Marcus and “Oyamel” by Jose Andres, in which he worked all positions in the front of the house. 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 and Rita 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. Latin Bites has positioned itself as one of the most important Latin American restaurants in the city, as well as recognized among Houston’s Top 100 restaurants, 4 years in a row, by the Houston Chronicle. After 2 years as Latin Bites’ Executive Chef, Ramos was able to combine his 2 passions: teaching and cooking by becoming a culinary arts instructor at newly remodeled Milby High School. Ramos continues his role of owner and F&B Director working closely, with recently appointed executive chef Yamila Castre, on adding new menu items to keep up with the challenging and ever-changing Houston dining scene.

Enrique Bravo

Pollo Bravo

Pollo Bravo is a hybrid Peruvian-Mexican restaurant chain based in Houston TX. This restaurant is a labor of love created by Bravo Family who learned the restaurant business in fast paced New York and New Jersey. The Bravo Family decided to bring their talents to Texas to enjoy the comforts and leisure that Texas is known for, concepts that were not lost when he decided to open the first Pollo Bravo five years ago. When a guest first walks into Pollo Bravo they are greeted and treated with the wonderful hospitality that Latinos and Texas are known for. You are invited in and seated in a warm environment that feels like home. Pollo Bravo is comfortable for what it is not. It is not a snotty, “pinky-out” environment and it is not a kooky, loud, goofy assortment on the walls place either. Aside from the comfortable atmosphere, the best way to describe the food is international comfort food. The signature dish “Pollo a la Brasa” or Peruvian style rotisserie chicken is something that is familiar to most people. Pollo Bravo adds a secret blend of over 25 fresh and natural Peruvian style spices adding a flair that to their chicken which makes it unique on this side of the hemisphere. We take great pride in our ingredients, always selecting the best produce we can find. Pollo Bravo never adds chemical flavoring like MSG. The international comfort food appeal shines in all the side dishes which include South American staples such as fried yucca/ cassava, maduros and tostones which are sweet and savory takes on plantains, and a uniquely Peruvian favorite known as salchipapa, a combination of french fries and sliced frankfurters. When speaking of comfort food, ice cream is king. Pollo Bravo makes an ice cream in house using a Peruvian fruit known as Lucuma. The flavor of Lucuma is unique but reminiscent of a sweet pumpkin.  There are many other dishes that make Pollo Bravo different such as the Peruvian style ceviche. One major difference that is immediately apparent between most home style authentic restaurants and Pollo Bravo is in its presentation. They are well aware that guests will taste with their eyes before a knife and fork touches the dish. Dishes are thoughtfully orchestrated on each plate in way usually found in more upscale environments. The avocado salad and causa rellena are perfect examples. The avocado salad uses contrasting colors of green and red delicate ribbons of dressing, while the causa rellena is served like small french cuisine style tower. Although the environment is relaxed and comfortable the food is serious in presentation and authentic in flavors. Pollo Bravo is expanding and more people are tasting the Bravo difference. We dont compete with anyone but ourselves, striving everyday to offer better food, and better service than we did the day before. Come in and taste our signature rotisserie chicken or our more exotic options for yourself.


Ryan Lachaine is the co-owner and Executive Chef of Riel. Recognized nationally in publications such as Esquire, Food & Wine, Business Insider and Tasting Table, Lachaine’s palette includes the culinary landscape of Texas’ gulf coast, Lachaine’s Ukrainian heritage and his French-Canadian hometown (Manitoba). One of Houston’s most talked about chefs, Ryan received his Culinary Arts degree from The Art Institute of Houston. He worked at trailblazing Texas restaurants such as Gravitas, Stella Sola, Reef and was inducted into Eater’s 2013 class of Young Guns as the Chef de Cuisine at Underbelly. Lachaine staged at some of the country’s top restaurants, including Husk (Charleston, SC), Herbsaint Restaurant (New Orleans, LA), COI (San Francisco, CA) and Animal (Los Angeles, CA). In 2016, Ryan took a year off from the kitchen to plan Riel, continuing his culinary travels through the best restaurants in Canada and the United States. Over the past year, Lachaine focused his vision on what Riel would become; an articulation of his culinary point of view.

Chef Ryan Lachaine- Riel
Chef Brandi- SaltAir

SaltAir Seafood Kitchen

Chef Brandi Key has spent time in both large and small kitchens throughout her career with each one shaping the chef she is today.  In 1999, she began working as a line cook at Pappas Restaurants where, over the next 11 years, she learned the business and systems needed to run multiple restaurants, and worked her way up to R&D Chef.  Post-Pappas Restaurants, Key spent time in San Francisco at Tante Marie Cooking School learning French technique; lived and worked in Napa Valley with Cindy Pawlcyn absorbing the leadership and strength needed to be a chef/owner; and has spent the last 5 years with Clark Cooper Concepts (CCC) in Houston, TX.  She landed her first executive chef position with CCC with the opening of Coppa Ristorante Italiano. Next up was Coppa Osteria, Punk’s Simple Southern Food, SaltAir Seafood Kitchen and, most recently, The Dunlavy, where Key oversaw the construction and development of the kitchens, menus, and teams responsible for each space.  Currently, she is the Culinary Director for the group and oversees all of the kitchens, menus, and staff.

Southern Goods


Lyle is a chef with exceptional vision for the flavors of the dishes he creates with his team.  Formerly sous chef at Houston icon Underbelly, Lyle has honed his craft over the years.  Before opening Southern Goods he traveled to southern states to develop a palette and experiment with new ideas of what it means to cook southern food.  Choosing unique and carefully curated ingredients bring each dish on the menu to life.


J.D. is an experienced chef with the resumé to match.  From well known Houston restaurants like Underbelly and Goro and Gun, J.D. has developed a unique pallet that comes across in the dishes that come out of the kitchen every day.

J.D. is an experienced chef with the resumé to match.  From well known Houston restaurants like Underbelly and Goro and Gun, J.D. has developed a unique pallet that comes across in the dishes that come out of the kitchen every day.

Lyle Bento
JD Woodward

BCN Taste & Tradition

Luis Roger brings two decades of Spanish gastronomy experience to BCN. Growing up around the family kitchen in Barcelona, Roger’s modern Spanish cuisine and style is rooted in those family’s traditions. Roger began his career as a student of Culinary Arts at the esteemed Spanish academy, Escola d’Hostaleria Hofmann. 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. Roger says, “Working under Ferran Adrià changes your life forever. The way he thinks and his ability to bring out the very best in everyone who has the patience and the strength to stay with him. From him I learned the need to preserve the fundamentals of traditional cooking and ingredients as a base for new dishes.” Following his time at El Bulli, Roger was hired to travel the world on a private sailboat, where he combined his style of cooking with the local ingredients he found along the way. In 2000, Roger landed at a modern Spanish restaurant, Fragata, followed by a stint as head chef at Restaurante El Cafè de l’Acadèmia located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter. Roger honed his culinary skills while Head of Pastry at the five-star luxury resort Hotel Ra ,where he completed the final step in formation: desserts!  Prior to coming to Houston, Roger was most recently executive chef at the private resort, Mas Anglada, in the Amporda near the Costa Brava, where he embraced the culinary rich of the area while focusing on the fantastic quality of the regional products from the farm, the sea and the land. While at Mas Anglada, he did double duty as a Professor at the local culinary school, Aula Gastronómica de l’Emporda. In 2013, Roger embarked on a new adventure with partner Ignacio Torras with the opening of BCN where life-long dream was realized for both of bringing the best of the taste and culinary traditions of Spain to Houston.

Luis Roger photo

Habanera and The Guero

Vanessa Lomeli was born and raised in El Paso, Texas with a not-so-silver spoon in her mouth (but rest assured there was a spoon). Vanessa’s Grammy, Dora, got her on the path of cooking and loving food and sauces at a young age. As she grew up learning and getting exposure to true El Paso, New Mexican, and Sonoran style food with her Grammy, she developed a love of New Mexico chiles: green and red, homemade salsas and sauces, enchiladas, and flautas. Vanessa moved to Houston as a young adult and mastered the craft of bartending as she worked her way through the paces toward fine dining. During the same time frame, Vanessa attended Culinary Institute LeNotre and incorporated the techniques she learned into her style.  In 2014, Vanessa met Benjamin Downing and jumped head-first into a family business in Habanera and the gringo, a Mexican restaurant debuting her own cooking style based on her upbringing in El Paso and personal preference of tastes. Despite her limited professional kitchen experience, Vanessa’s lifetime of home cooking and connection to El Paso-style food shine through as she earns her chops in her own professional kitchen, growing her menu as she figures out the tricks of serving her favorite home-cooked foods in a fast-paced, on-demand kitchen. After a name change to Habanera and the guero, a new addition to the family in Lisa Marie Downing (named after her grandmothers, not Presley), and suffering through the first two years of restaurant and first business growing pains and trials, Vanessa now cooks and teaches at the fledgling restaurant, raises Lisa with Benjamin, and slowly tempers the restaurant into her vision, taking pride in making it this far in Houston’s competitive Mexican food scene.

Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar

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.

Edel Gonçalves
Chef John Nguyen- Cajun Kitchen

Cajun Kitchen

John Nguyen began his culinary career in 2013.  Prior to becoming the owner/head cook of Cajun Kitchen and part owner of Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya (Austin), he had a career working in public accounting and the oil & gas industry after graduating from UT Austin. John is also a consulting chef for United Airlines’ multimillion dollar revamp of the airport dining options for the new Terminal C at Bush Intercontinental Airport, and was hired by OTG to develop and consult on the menu for Bam Bam restaurant. John doesn’t have a formal culinary background, but is self taught and has applied his interest and knowledge of Vietnamese and Cajun cuisine to develop the Viet Cajun cuisine at Cajun Kitchen.

Chef Ross Coleman & Chef James Hyywood- Kitchen 713

Kitchen 713

Ross Coleman attended The Art Institute of Houston for Culinary Arts. He began his career at Eatzi’s in Uptown Park in Houston, Texas. Chef Coleman later moved on to Wolfgang Puck in Sugarland, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become Kitchen Manager.  Following his tenure at Wolfgang Puck, Ross worked at Minute Maid Park, where he enjoyed his responsibilities as Restaurant Chef and gained valuable banquet experience. While working at the stadium Ross also worked in the kitchens of Cullens American Grille as well as The Tasting Room under Chefs Paul Lewis and David Coffman. Soon after, Chef Coleman became the Sous Chef for Adam West at the Four Diamond Hotel Zaza. Within a year, he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef and leader of the banquet team. During his time at Hotel Zaza, he had the opportunity to stage at the renowned WD50 in New York, and learned under culinary giant, Chef Wiley Dufresne.  Following that period of his cooking career, he moved to Dallas to reunite with Chef Adam West and pursue an opportunity with Consilient Restaurant Group at The Porch as Executive Sous Chef. After years of cooking, Chef Ross Coleman has decided to branch out on his own and start Kitchen 713 in his hometown of Houston.


Chef James Haywood, with over 15 years of cooking experience, focuses on food with flavors of the South that are globally inspired. Chef James is the owner and chef at his restaurant, Kitchen 713, in Houston, TX, which he started in 2014. At Kitchen 713, chef James focuses on creating delicious meals with a home-cooked feel.Growing up in Houston, chef James Haywood started his culinary excavation at a young age by absorbing indelible moments watching various members of his family cook with great passion and pride. Chef James established his first catering company as a sophomore student and since then has worked at various renowned establishments in Houston including Minute Maid Park, The Breakfast Klub, Abuso Catering Company and now his very own Kitchen 713. Chef James’s favorite quote is “I allow my food to speak for itself”. And it does!

La Table

Alexandre Gaudelet is the Founder and CEO of INVEST HOSPITALITY, a responsible boutique investment firm specializing in the acquisition, development, and growth of hospitality brands and assets. The Company’s guiding principle is to “invest responsibly.” IH has operating platforms in the USA and in Asia as well as a fully integrated private equity practice. IH Asia is a joint venture with the Cachet Hotel Group. Alex has 22 years of hospitality experience, most recently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of BR Guest Hospitality. During his tenure at BR Guest, Alex oversaw the opening and acquisition of 14 properties, increasing revenue by 70%. BR Guest is a multi-concept restaurant company with 28 properties, founded by Steve Hanson and owned by private equity firm Starwood Capital Group.  Prior to joining BR Guest, Alex spent five years at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. As the General Manager of Craftsteak for two years he led the team to a 70% revenue increase and 350% profit increase. During his tenure at MGM, Alex was promoted three times within a two-year period to finally be named Vice President of Food & Beverage for the 6,500-room resort, overseeing more than 50 profit centers from Starbucks franchises to the three Michelin Star Joël Robuchon Restaurant. This division generated $250 million in revenues and employed 3,500 team members. As part of his role, Alex negotiated collective bargaining agreements and managed partnerships including franchise and licensing contracts. Alex was trained in the most celebrated establishments in the world including La Tour d’Argent and Hotel Le Meurice in Paris, Le Gavroche and The Savoy in London, and The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach. Born in Paris, Alexandre attended the Ecole Hôtelière de Paris, Jean Drouant and graduated with a Hospitality Management degree from the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française, Jean Ferrandi. Alex lives in Connecticut with his wife Amanda and two daughters Chloe and Clara.

La Table- Alexandre Gaudelet
Chef Sandra Arredondo-Morningstar


Houston born and raised, Sandra Elizabeth Arredondo began her culinary career in 2014.  Prior to joining the Morningstar team she worked at Sweet and Tout Suite as a server then trainer. Arredondo joined the Morningstar prep team a few weeks after the café opened in May of 2016. She quickly excelled and began taking on more responsibilities. She currently researches and develops a new donut every week, which is featured on Saturdays and Sundays. As a first generation American, Arredondo hopes to carry on her heritage by opening a traditional panaderia.

PAX Americana

Growing up in a household where meals were shared together at the table and the majority of the food was from scratch, Martha De Leon, Executive Chef of Pax Americana, credits the constant communion of cooking and eating together as influencing not only her career choice, but her perception of food altogether. She first began cooking in high school for her family and friends, and her love for being in the kitchen only grew from there. De Leon enrolled in culinary school at The Art Institute of Houston and graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Management. During that time, she interned at Recipe 4 Success, a non-profit organization that educates school children on the importance of gardening, cooking and eating healthy. She also interned at what would become her first kitchen job, RDG Bar + Annie. After her internship ended, De Leon stayed on as a line cook for about a year and a half, working through the majority of the stations. De Leon moved on to work at Revival Market, as she desired to specifically learn more about butchery and curing meat. Though she worked primarily in prep and at the sandwich station, she observed all that she could. During this time, Houston restaurants such as Underbelly, Hay Merchant, Oxheart and Pass & Provisions were in their early stages, and chefs would often visit Revival Market to test recipes, prep for events or buy product. Everything De Leon was able to learn motivated her to join the opening team of The Pass & Provisions where she grew as a chef and began honing her skills. De Leon’s two years at The Pass & Provisions were some of the most challenging but rewarding years in her career. She worked through all of the stations in both concepts, and was promoted to a Junior Sous Chef after one year. After leaving The Pass & Provisions, De Leon was approached by Adam Dorris, executive chef at the time of Pax Americana. She took a sous chef position at Pax, and began to learn a new skill set of not only pickling, preserving and fermenting, but managing staff and developing menu items as well. After a year and a half at Pax, De Leon was promoted to Chef de Cuisine, and continued to oversee the daily and nightly operations of the restaurant. In January 2017, after the departure of Dorris, De Leon assumed the role of Executive Chef after working at Pax Americana for just over two years. Once appointed Executive Chef, De Leon spearheaded a complete menu reboot that implemented her style and creativity at Pax Americana, but still keeps the focus on using the same fresh ingredients the restaurant has always used and rotating menu items seasonally. Recently, De Leon was named “Rising Star Chef of the Year” at the 2017 CultureMap Houston Tastemaker Awards.

Executive Chef Martha De Leon


Graham Hornigold is a pastry chef with over twenty four years of professional experience. A former UK pastry chef of the year, Graham joined Hakkasan Group from London’s Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park to create and lead the global pastry network. Following Hakkasan Group’s rapid expansion, Graham has set up new pastry kitchens all over the globe including the China, Indian, Europe, the U.S. and U.A.E. Graham currently manages a team of more than one hundred chefs across twenty nine restaurants, four of which hold Michelin stars. He has fast built an excellent reputation for himself as Executive Pastry Chef of the group and is responsible for the global pastry production across the group’s restaurants portfolio. He is based in London where he manages a strong team of fifty highly skilled chefs, overseeing all dessert preparation for Sake no Hana, Hakkasan Hanway Place (1*), HakkasanMayfair (1*), HKK (1*), and the famed handcrafted petits gateaux, macarons and chocolates at Yauatcha Soho (1*), Yauatcha city, Yauatcha Patisserie and the exciting brand expansion of Yauatcha restaurants into the U.S (Waikiki, Houston). With his modern yet classical style and enthusiasm for assembling innovative and exciting menus, Graham and his team have won numerous awards and accolades along with making numerous press and television appearances, making Graham one of the leading pastry chefs in the world today.

Executive Pastry Chef Graham
Chef David Guerrero- Andes Cafe

Andes Cafe’

Chef David Guerrero is a native of Quito Ecuador, but has called Houston his home for the past seven years. Well known in the Houston community, Chef David invites you to come and share in the experience of dishes that remind him of home. Buen Provecho!!! Andes Café is a casual dining concept that gathered roots from South American home cooking inspiring tasters with more than a sense of nourishment, but a sense of culture. Andes Café is a small business dedicated to provide exposure to the culinary beauties of South America. The name “Andes Café” is special in that it is named after a natural wonder that unites Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. In this same way, Andes Café hopes to provide the same sense of unity between these distinct cultures and the dynamic culture of Houston.