Previous Chefs

Thank you to the chefs who graciously volunteered their time and participated in Tasting Week in prior years:


Alejandro AbadAlejandro Abad, Bay 223, Redwood City

After more than 17 years of accomplished culinary experience, Chef Alejandro Abad joined the Sofitel Hotel’s Bay 223 restaurant as Executive Chef in 2013. Abad, a Spanish native from Barcelona, began his career in the culinary arts at an early age by preparing meals at home with his father. He fine-tuned his skills by training in molecular cuisine, learned wines and spices and worked in fine dining establishments throughout Europe, including five years in Barcelona, and Michelin-rated Restaurant Christophe and Restaurant Vermeer, in Holland. Read more about Chef Abad.
Top


Charlie AyersCharlie Ayers, Calafia, Palo Alto

Ayers began his professional career in New Jersey working for Hilton Hotels, at their Meadowlands and Parsippany locations in New Jersey. Later he left Hilton to attend culinary school in Providence, RI at Johnson & Wales University. He cooked at several restaurants in the Providence and Boston areas, before moving to California and serving as a chef for the Grateful Dead. View video: Charlie prepares Cubed Salmon and California Figs with Orange Fire Glaze.
Top


David Bastide, Left Bank, San Jose

Chef David Bastide was born and raised in the town of Albi located in the south of France, learning to cook quite literally, at his Grandma’s knee. In 1985 he came to the United States to pursue his passion for the culinary arts. Read more about Chef Bastide.

Top


John Bentley, John Bentley’s, Redwood City

Chef Bentley began his apprenticeship at the Lipizzaner, a tiny French-Viennese restaurant on Union Street, while he was attending California Culinary Academy. According to Bentley, the chef-owner of Lipizzaner, Joseph Roettig, was the “best cook I’ll ever know,” and taught Bentley classical French technique as well as sharing his love for the restaurant business and his devotion to cooking– a devotion that comes from the heart.

Top


Nathan BeriauNathan Beriau, Ritz Carlton, San Francisco

Chef Nathan Beriau is the Executive Chef overseeing all hotel culinary activities at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, the city’s only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond hotel. Beriau, known for his contemporary style and creative use of seasonal ingredients, is influenced by traditional California cuisine. He is strongly committed to working with local farmers and sustainable producers. Read more about Chef Beriau.
Top


Jeremy Bringardner, LYFE Kitchen, Palo Alto

Jeremy Bringardner is the Corporate Executive Chef for LYFE Kitchen, Restaurant. With over 20 years of professional cooking experience, Jeremy earned his cooking chops by working in several of America’s greatest restaurants. He studied under luminary chefs Charlie Trotter, Bill Kim, Jean Joho, George Germon and Johanne Killeen. Additionally, he earned degrees in Culinary Arts and Nutrition at Johnson & Wales University. At LYFE Kitchen, Jeremy puts both his passions for cooking and health to work as he creates innovative recipes that are both intensely flavorful and nutrient dense.

Top


Kelsey CasavanKelsey Casavan, LB Steak, Menlo Park

Chef Kelsey Casavan began her culinary career in the kitchen of the Left Bank in Larkspur in 2011; under the careful guidance of Chef Fabrice Marcon, Chef Joel Guillon. She quickly moved up the ranks of the kitchen and in 2012, she was offered the opportunity to work as a Sous Chef at LB Steak in Menlo Park. After 18 short months, she was promoted to Chef de Cuisine. Read more about Chef Casavan.
Top


Steven Catalano, Left Bank, Menlo Park

Steven Catalano, Chef de Cuisine of Left Bank in Menlo Park, long aspired to a career in the culinary arts. His ambition to work hard, his down-to-earth spirit, and eagerness to learn sent him on an adventurous culinary path. A California native, Catalano spent a number of years playing soccer abroad and working in the snowboarding industry while also regularly cooking for family and friends. A trip to Paris further helped focus his passion for food and his desire to become a professional chef. Read more about Chef Catalano.

Top


Jean-Yves Charon, Galaxy Desserts, Richmond

In France, Jean-Yves worked as a manager for Brioche Doree/Paris Croissant where he opened stores in London, Paris, Canada and New York. Jean-Yves subsequently moved to the U.S. and managed production for Saralan, a cookie manufacturer in South San Francisco. Read more about Chef Charon.

Top


Cynthia FalaticCynthia Falatic, Ritz Carlton, San Francisco

Cynthia went to Le Cordon Bleu in London, doing an externship at the prestigious Claridge’s Hotel. Upon returning to the states, she began her career with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio. She moved to Texas in July of 2007 to open the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dallas and work under Chef Dean Fearing as the Assistant Pastry Chef at Fearing’s Restaurant. It is here that she gained a vast knowledge of how to use the freshest local produce and dairy in creating the finest desserts. Today, Cynthia continues her career with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as the Pastry Chef in San Francisco.

Top


Elianna Friedman UpdatedEliana Friedman, Bay Leaf Kitchen, San Francisco

Elianna Friedman is the Director and Co-Founder of Bay Leaf Kitchen. In addition, she continues her work at the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). Elianna has many roots in the Bay Area food community, including: founder of New Taste Marketplace, student and family culinary educator at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, and senior program coordinator at the San Francisco Food Bank. Read more about Chef Friedman.
Top


Gerald Hirigoyen

Gerald Hirigoyen

Gerald Hirigoyen, Piperade, San Francisco

Living in the Bay Area for more than 30 years, Chef Hirigoyen has a fine appreciation for the California culinary sensibility, incorporating fresh ingredients into simple, scrumptious dishes that echo the local spirit as well as that of his homeland. No truer example exists of Hirigoyen’s ability to integrate the two cuisines than Piperade, the restaurant he opened with his wife Cameron in 2002. The menu at Piperade, which christened Hirigoyen’s “West-Coast Basque Cuisine,” thoroughly reflects his culinary heritage and talent for remaining true to the main components of each dish.

Top


Jenny Huston, Farm to Table Services, Oakland

San Francisco native Chef Jenny Huston has 30 years of wide-ranging experience in the restaurant and food services industry. A formally trained chef and professional cook, Jenny has worked with Patrice Boely, Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Joyce Goldstein, Jeremiah Towers, and Patty Unterman in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. Read more about Chef Huston.
Top


Aaron Johnson, Lake Merced Golf Club, Menlo Park

Chef Johnson is the Executive Chef of the Exclusive Golf Club, Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City. This last year he achieved Chef of the Year for ACF Chapter San Francisco. He has have been a part of the ACF for over 10 years and really enjoy giving back to the community and its partners. He has been in the restaurant business for over 25 years and has loved every day of it.

Top


Laurence Jossel, Nopa, San Francisco

Chef Laurence Jossel’s career in food began 3 decades ago, as a 14 year-old busser at JoJo’s, a down-home diner in Houston, TX. Years later, that early exposure to food brought him to San Francisco as a student at the California Culinary Institute. Read more about Chef Jossel.

Top


Jordan Keao, Google, Mountain View

Chef Keao’s first cooking experience was helping his grandmother bake cookies when he was eight years old; by age 18 he knew he wanted to be a chef. Keao attended culinary school at the Culinary International Art Institute of San Diego; at the same time held a part-time job at Roy’s San Diego Waterfront. After graduating, Keao continued working at Roy’s, but also joined Tower 23 as the morning Sous Chef. Working 15 hours/day for a year, motivated Keao to start his own business as a Private Chef. After a few years, Keao decided to move to San Francisco to develop and open four sushi restaurants. Looking for new experiences, Keao spent two years at La Folie before joining Google.

Top


Dennis Leary, Chef and Restauranteur, San Francisco

Dennis Leary began his professional culinary career at the age of 14 as a dishwasher at The Red Lion Inn in his hometown of Cohasset, Massachusetts. By the time he graduated high school he had already moved on to become a line cook. While attending Wheaton College to study English literature, he worked at both Kimball’s, also in Cohasset, and at the renowned Parker House Hotel in Boston. Read more about Chef Leary.
Top


Mo L'Esperance croppedMo L’Esperance, Costanoa Resort, Pescadero

Chef Mo L’Esperance is the Executive Chef of Cascade Bar and Grill at Costanoa Lodge in Pescadero and her goal is to make the resort’s cuisine more organic, more local and more inventive. As Chef Mo explains, “Costanoa used to be an artichoke farm and I pay homage to that with my house butter which is an artichoke butter and our grilled artichoke appetizer.”
Top


Bernard MoutalBernard Moutal, Jeanne d’Arc, San Francisco

Bernard studied at the Ecole Hoteliere in Paris, France, where he specialized as Chef Saucier. He worked for several restaurants in Paris including the Grand Hotel, Hotel Meurice and the Cabaret La Colombe. He joined the French Marine Corps and then moved to the US in 1966. He started his American career in New York, working as Executive Chef at La Cremaillere. After moving to San Francisco in 1970, he was Executive Chef for a great number of restaurants, such as La Bourgogne, La Mirabelle, Chez Michel, Sonoma Mission, Le Chardonnay, and Chez Louis. For the past few years, he has been Executive Chef at Restaurant Jeanne d’Arc in San Francisco.

Top


Amy Nghe croppedAmy Nghe, Bay Leaf Kitchen, San Francisco

Amy Nghe is the Director of Development and Co-Founder of Bay Leaf Kitchen. She is a culinary instructor who has taught over 500 kids of all ages in public and private schools and at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. Prior to entering food education, Amy spent several years working in international development and traveled to such places as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and Afghanistan. Amy earned her BA in International Relations from Boston University, and her MBA in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Notre Dame. Read more about Chef Nghe.
Top


Bruno PonsotBruno Ponsot, International Culinary Center, Campbell

Born and raised in the eastern French town of Besançon, Bruno entered an apprenticeship to become a chef at the age of sixteen. In France, Bruno worked as a pastry chef at the world renown Paul Bocuse Restaurant in Lyon, did an externship at Gaston Lenôtre Patisserie in Paris, and spent a summer season with Alain Ducasse on the French Riviera. When Bruno moved to the U.S. he settled in Florida and worked as a chef in several acclaimed French restaurants before opening his own bakery & café. After nine years he moved to the Bay Area and is now a culinary instructor at the newly open French Culinary Institute in Campbell. Bruno has won a total of 12 medals in American Culinary Federation sanctioned competitions; 3 gold, 7 silver, and 2 bronze.

Top


Emmanuel RobertEmmanuel Robert, Hotel Sofitel, Redwood City

Executive Chef Emmanuel Robert combines eleven years of Bay area experience with a culinary background from his native France, where he held positions in the 2 Star Michelin rated Le Grand Louvre Restaurant in the Louvre Museum, at 1 Star Michelin rated Le Jardin Restaurant, and at the 1 Star Michelin rated La Maison du Danemark Restaurant, all in Paris. Robert has been with the Sofitel since 1996.

Top


Alicia Petrakis, Astaria, San Mateo

Chef Alicia Petrakis believes that creativity combined with integrity of ingredients and guests who are comforted by Astaria’s friendly approach to service is what it is all about.

Prior to opening Astaria in 2003, Alicia and co-owner Eleni started Astaria Catering in 1995. Astaria began primarily as an offsite caterer until 1999 when they were invited to prepare meals for the 300 member Coyote Point Yacht Club and their guests. The 100 seat dining room of the Yacht Club was Astaria’s first glimmer into the differences that exist between the restaurant and catering businesses. Read more about Chef Petrakis.

Top


Elizabeth Schindler, Google, Mountain View

Elizabeth Schindler is changing hearts and minds about vegan cooking one lunch plate at a time. “There’s a huge misconception about vegan food — that you won’t get full, or that it will taste like cardboard,” says Schindler, a 41-year-old native of Long Island, who is the chef at Slice Café, one of 19 high-end eateries available to the employees who work at Google headquarters in Mountain View. Read more about Chef Schindler.

Top


Art Smith

Art Smith, LYFE Kitchen, Palo Alto

America’s “Family Table” Chef. Art Smith is a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, television personality, philanthropist, two-time James Beard Award winner and the former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey for 10 years. Most recently, he has received significant media attention for his 100-pound weight loss, which he achieved through a balanced diet and exercise. Chef Art founded his non-profit organization, Common Threads, in 2003 to help teach children in low-income areas about proper nutrition and world cultures. Chef Art has appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and other television series. He is the owner of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago – a favorite of President and First Lady Obama – as well as Art and Soul in Washington, D.C.

Top


Jill Soltau, Common Threads, East Palo Alto

Jill Soltau is a personal cook and caterer on the Peninsula. In addition, she is a Chef/Instructor at The Boys & Girls Club Peninsula and Art Smith’s Common Threads Cooking Skills & World Cuisine Program for kids. Jill was the Culinary Lead at Sur La Table’s Culinary School for five years and went on to work as a Recipe Tester in the Sunset Magazine kitchens. Read more about Chef Soltau.
Top


Michel Suas, San Francisco Baking Institue,
South San Francisco

Michel Suas is internationally recognized as an industry expert and thought leader, and is a strong advocate of using education to advance the appreciation and craft of artisan baking. The Bread Bakers’ Guild of America awarded Michel their Golden Baguette in recognition of his enormous contributions to the Guild and the artisan baking industry. The Bread Project named Michel an honorary life member in recognition of his guidance and support. Read more about Chef Suas.

Top


Chef Beverlie Terra CroppedBeverlie Terra, Dolce Hayes Mansion, San Jose

Chef Beverlie Terra is the executive chef overseeing culinary activities at Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose. She is the inspiration behind the luxury hotel’s fine dining experiences, including the Silver Creek Restaurant and the Palm Plaza Lounge. Before joining Dolce Hayes Mansion, Chef Terra led the culinary team at the Chaminade Resort & Spa for more than 20 years. Read more about Chef Terra.

Top


Gnakouri Tohouri, GMATO Foods LLC, Palo Alto

Gnakouri Tohouri is the Founder & CEO of GMATO Foods LLC – a start-up that processes, brands and markets naturally-grown African healthy plant-based food products to resellers in Sub Saharan Africa and the United States. GMATO’s first product, Attiéké d’Or (AT-ee-A-Kay), a cassava derived gluten free delicacy, has won the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Award. Attiéké d’Or will soon be launched in the US market. Read more about Mr. Tohouri.

Top


Craig Von Foerster

Craig Von Foerster, Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

For Executive Chef Craig von Foerster, cooking is a personal philosophy, passion and way of life. Since he began his culinary career the journey has taken him from his Midwestern roots to the California coast and beyond.

Craig believes the difference between good and average food is sometimes a minute detail. He feels the energy and care for really great food must come from within. View the YouTube video of this chef.

Top


Shawn Williams, Feve Artisan Chocolatier, San Francisco

Chef Shawn Williams, originally from New England, move to San Francisco after serving as a private admiral’s chef in the Navy. In San Francisco, Williams studied pastry and went on to work at several top tier restaurants including La Folie and Postrio. His passion for chocolate led him to apprentice under Doug Basegio and then to work for renowned sugar artist and chocolatier Ewald Notter in Orlando, FL. In 2007, Williams moved back to cofound Au Coeur Des Chocolats, which has now become Feve Artisan Chocolatier.

Top


Penni Wisner, Kitchen Coach, San Francisco

Penni Wisner works as a writer and industry consultant. She has authored cookbooks and worked with clients such as Kuhn Rikon, the Swiss manufacturer of premium cookware and kitchen tools; Laura Chenel’s Chevre, the premium goat cheese producer in Sonoma County; and San Francisco’s Center for Culinary Development, and the Sonoma County Wineries Association. Her cookbooks include three for Michael Chiarello: Flavored Oils, 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils; Flavored Vinegars, 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Vinegar; and The Tra Vigne Cookbook, Seasons in the California Wine Country. Read more about Penni Wisner.
Top


Lorraine Lee Witte, Professional Chef, San Francisco

Lorraine Lee Witte – known to San Francisco food enthusiasts as “The Chinese Lady,” began her career as the TV commercial spokeswoman for Chun King Foods. From the beginning, Lorraine knew that if Asian cooking (especially Chinese) was to seriously influence western cuisine and become a national (even international) food addiction, people would have to experience taste sensations far more diverse and delicious than egg rolls, chow mien and crispy noodles.

In the mid-70’s, Lorraine created her own Mandarin and Cantonese recipes, and taught Chinese cooking classes in the Los Angeles area — Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Holmby Hills, and Malibu. Read more about Lorraine Witte.


Olivia Wu, Google, Mountain View

Liv (Olivia) Wu is an executive chef at Google in Mountain View. She is a member of the culinary team that oversees the operations and special programs of 30 onsite cafes and 150 Microkitchens in NorCal. She has spearheaded the small farms partnership for the team, formed a Community Supported Fishery program for company employees, the first in Northern California, initiated and supported company-wide major health and nutrition initiatives, and brought authentic ethnic concepts to corporate dining. Previous to Google, she was an award-winning journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle, and an entrepreneur in several start-up food and communications businesses. She is the author of 2 books, one a cookbook, one not.

Top

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *