As the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival Heineken Light Burger Bash presented by Schweid & Sons hosted by Guy Fieri rapidly approaches, it’s time to meet the rock star chefs who will be facing off to take home The Very Best Burger Award for 2018! Let’s take a look at our contestants and the restaurants that they will be representing during this year’s competition.

Reuben Ruiz, a 31-year-old Miami native, grew up in a traditional Cuban family that owns several successful restaurants. He started working in kitchens when he was just 10 years old. His passion for food guided him through Johnson & Wales University where he graduated and went on to own his own restaurant in the heart of Miami. He struggled with his weight for many years, but lost 100 pounds and has kept it off ever since which is difficult when your family is in the restaurant industry. He specializes in dishes with a touch of Latin influence and a lot of flavor but also has a passion for creating new ideas that are completely out of the box. Reuben participated in Season 10 of Food Network Star and won Fan Favorite. He is honest, outspoken, and full of energy, as well as having a strong work ethic. Reuben is ready to inspire others with his journey and food.

Chef Tom Jackson is a Kansas native, born and raised in Wichita. In 2008 he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon where he attended Oregon Culinary Institute. Tom studied both Culinary Arts as well as Baking and Pastry while working as a cook in a variety of restaurants.

After graduating from Oregon Culinary Institute he began working as a bread baker and pastry chef at the renowned Ken’s Artisan Bakery in northwest Portland. He spent more than four years honing his skills under James Beard Award winning chef and owner Ken Forkish.

In that time he and his wife had their first child, and the draw of home and family grew stronger. Longtime friends of the owners of All Things Barbecue, in Wichita, they returned to Kansas to help All Things Barbecue develop recipes for cooking classes as well as private events.

Tom has developed his talent for low and slow barbecue while cooking alongside world champion pitmasters including Andy Groneman of Smoke on Wheels (Kansas City) and Brian Misko of House of Q (Vancouver, British Columbia, CA).

In September 2015 Tom helped the All Things Barbecue team launch a new weekly cooking series on YouTube that has grown to over 80,000 subscribers. The channel is built around the idea of truly teaching people how to cook fantastic recipes no matter what grill they own. Tom’s ability to fuse his culinary arts background with traditional barbecue techniques and the addition of beautifully crafted visuals led the channel to gain a rabid following.

Some of Zurica’s  accomplishments include…

Five years at the nations number one fresh, home diet delivery service Zone Chefs.

Oversaw the daily operations of the commissary facility which included building renovations for expansion, inventory control, labor costs for over 100 employees in a 24 hour facility, facility maintenance and sanitation.

Quality control over the production and packaging of over 10,000 meals daily.

Owner/operator for the delivery service providing deliveries to over 3000 clients daily, executed by over 30 delivery drivers.

Opening manager for the four restaurants which included staff hiring, training , system and operation development, menu and recipe development for Sushi a GoGo, Jalapeno, Bomboloni and Lansky’s Deli General.
Contractor/designer for popular NYC bakery, Cupcake stop.

Owner designer/contractor of NYCs number one burger truck, Hard Times Sundaes.

Inspired to create an unrivaled “badass” dining experience, patriarch Pawan Mahendro and his sons, Nakul and Arjun, opened Badmaash in Spring of 2013 in Downtown Los Angeles. The modern colorful space soon became a go-to destination with a menu that offers traditional Indian dishes, alongside modern Indian fare. A popular house specialty, their Chicken Tikka Poutine, honors both their Indian and Canadian cultures.

Chef Pawan was born and raised in the holy city of Amritsar, Punjab, India, home of the Golden Temple and a true food city in every sense, and ultimately pursued a path in international culinary cuisine. Upon graduating at the top of his class, Pawan secured a position at the Taj Mahal Intercontinental Hotel, where he honed his skills in Indian, French and Chinese cooking. Seeking to expand his knowledge of the industry, he then moved on to the Hotel Centaur (Mumbai). It wasn’t long before Pawan felt the urge to break free and embark on an independent venture in executive catering and event planning for corporate meetings and functions.

Following a move to Toronto, Pawan familiarized himself with the dining scene by working at West Side Grill, Dunkleman’s Fine Dining and Daily Planet as the Corporate Chef. But his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in once again and inspired him to open Jaipur Grill, an Indian eatery with European finesse, in 2002, with the help of his son Nakul who became the General Manager at the age of 21. It quickly became Toronto’s premier Indian dining destination.
Nakul & Arjun Mahendro grew up in Toronto, Canada. In their formative years, Nakul & Arjun were constantly coached by their father to pour wine ‘label-out’, serve from the left, and flip the perfect omelette. It was only natural that when Nakul turned 14, he took his first job as a bussboy, and a few years later, Arjun followed his older brother into the world of restaurant work.

Nakul received his formal education at the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Ryerson University. In his last year of school, and while working with Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, Nakul was awarded Ontario Hostelry Institutes Top 30 Under 30 in 2010. Arjun attended Wilfred Laurier School of Business as well as George Brown College for Marketing Management.

Together, the 3 Mahendro men hope they can use the success & attention BADMAASH has brought them to change the way people think about Indian food & Indian people in America. They aim to break the negative stereotypes, and be business leaders that the Indian community can be proud of.

Born and raised in Miami Dade County Chef Jorgie Ramos embodies Miami and its food. Taught at home by his Father and Grandmother he was able to grow into one of Miami’s top Chefs with his unique style of blending classic Spanish style with a New Americana/ Rustic flare. In his first years as a Chef he has shown what he is capable of. As the Chef Owner of Barley and of Abí María there is no limit to where this young and home-grown Chef can take his city and his people.



Chef Ben Ford͛s cooking approach is based on the innate understanding of the ingredients in his dishes, which celebrate the cycle of life and freshness of the earth. His culinary pursuits began in 1987 when he left his hometown of Los Angeles to study at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, while simultaneously working under prolific Chef Alice Waters at famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley. There, he learned the ethos of utilizing local, seasonal ingredients and continues to remain an advocate for snout-to-tail and root-to-flower culinary methods. Afterward, Ford returned to Los Angeles to join renowned Chef Eberhard Mueller͛s Opus as sous chef, where he honed his skills in traditional French-cooking techniques. Following tenures at two seminal Los Angeles restaurants, Campanile and Eclipse, Ford created the concept for The Farm of Beverly Hills. There, he perfected his flavorful, earthy cuisine and learned and sharpened his skills in operating a restaurant while serving as executive chef. In 1999, Ford realized it was time to have a project to call his own, so he opened the restaurant, Chadwick. The local and seasonal high-end California-Mediterranean menu earned him rave reviews and national acclaim, including a coveted 3 ½ stars from former Restaurant Critic Irene Virbila of the Los Angeles Times and named one of the ͞Top 100 Restaurants in the World͟ by Condé Nast Traveler. Following 9/11, Ford desired to make his food style more accessible to the everyday consumer and launched one of the country͛s first ͚gastropubs͛, Ford͛s Filling Station in Culver City in 2004. Recognizing a lack of quality food in airports, a second location was born at the LAX Delta Terminal in 2013. The original Ford͛s Filling Station then moved to a new location at L.A. Live in Downtown Los Angeles during the summer of 2014. That same year, Ford authored his first cookbook titled, ͞Taming the Feast: Ben Ford͛s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking,͟ a guide to cooking with fire, including grilling, smoking and roasting outdoors, and feeding crowds. Ford is proud to be a Culinary Ambassador for the American Chef Corps, a program of the U.S. Department of State, where he received the honor of cooking for President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the leaders of the ten countries that make up the ASEAN alliance in 2016.Today, Ford is partnering with The Branstetter Group, a flourishing hospitality management, to launch a chef-driven, fast-casual chicken concept. This modern day ͞roadside͟ chicken concept is inspired by those old-school all-American chicken shacks with outposts along the highway that have garnered a legion of loyal fans on his culinary adventure.

Chef Angie Mar has spent most of her life around the world of food. A native of Seattle, Washington, she comes from a family of food lovers and restaurateurs. Her aunt was the infamous Ruby Chow who pioneered Chinese cuisine in Seattle and these deep rooted ties have given Angie an innate love for bringing people together around a dining table.

Angie had the privilege of getting her training in some of New York City’s renowned kitchens, including honing her skills at whole animal butchery and open fire techniques at Andrew Tarlow’s lauded Brooklyn restaurants Reynard, Diner, and Marlow & Sons. She went on to work for April Bloomfield at The Spotted Pig, where she learned an unparalleled dedication to perfection and a love of simplicity.

In October 2013, Angie took the helm of storied West Village restaurant, The Beatrice Inn. Best known for her love of working with whole animals, live fire and dry aging techniques, she revamped the menu and began to create her signature style.

Under Angie’s guidance and vision, The Beatrice has become one of the most coveted reservations in the city, known for its meat forward menu and show-stopping presentations. She is now the owner and executive chef at The Beatrice Inn, re-opening the doors in September 2016 with a fresh perspective and a celebrated new menu. Her signature 45-day dry aged burger is widely regarded as one of the best in the city, her Duck Flambe is an international hit and her Butcher’s Blocks are a meat lovers dream.
The Beatrice Inn and Angie Mar continue to gain momentum and praise in the food community. Pete Wells awarded the restaurant an impressive 2-star review for the New York Times, calling it “One of the most celebratory restaurants in the city” and “a place to go when you want to celebrate your life as an animal.” Angie was named “Chef of the Year 2016” by Thrillist and most recently, she was chosen as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2017; the only chef from New York selected to receive this honor.

Franck Steigerwald is the Executive Chef of The St. Regis Bal Harbour, a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star resort. Chef Steigerwald oversees all culinary operations of this luxurious resort, including it’s newest Mediterranean & Seafood restaurant Atlantikós, along with BH Burger Bar, The St. Regis Bar & Sushi Lounge, La Gourmandise, in-room dining, and all other food & beverage banquet events. The French chef brings more than 12 years of industry experience and has served as executive chef at various high-profile properties including The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, The St. Regis New York, Taj Hotels in Boston and The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Prior to that, he was the executive sous chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Tyson’s Corner. A France native, Chef Steigerwald’s culinary skills were honed in the kitchens of several Michelin-star restaurants in South of France including Hotel Chateau Grand Barrail, Hotel Les Pyrennées and Le Chapon Fin.

A graduate of the Simon Brandy Culinary School in Bordeaux, France, fluent in French and English, Steigerwald’s international experience contributes a unique and refreshing perspective to The St. Regis Bal Harbour culinary team.

“I am very much looking forward to sharing my passion for cooking with The St. Regis Bal Harbour guests,” says Chef Steigerwald. “It’s my goal to provide a culinary experience from first sip to last bite that leaves our guests with cherished memories.”

Mark Andrew Gravel is the founder of Burger Supreme and author of Kill the Recipe: A Cookbook and Visual Guidebook on the Basics of Radical Beanmaking and Plant-based Eating.






The son of a chef in South Florida and raised inside kitchens as a child. Inspired at a very young age, and right out of high school and into the kitchen! After finishing school, Michael began working with Legal Seafoods, working from the bottom all the way up to sous chef. After a few years building skills in corporate kitchens, it was time for a change. Michael found his niche in fine dining. 11 Maple Street served as the inspiration for developing his own style of French-Asian fusion cooking.

After a few years Later, Michael became executive chef of “On the Edge”, a seafood-based restaurant in Fort Pierce, Florida. Michael got the chance to do a lot of creating his own dishes, team building, and work with some of the most freshest local seafood.

After three productive years, Michael moved on to work at local eatery “Almond” in Bridgehampton, NY. Michael found himself in a different world of cooking, beyond inspired by the growers and products available to him. Michael was asked to became the Chef de cuisine and made new friends with local farmers and fisherman. The sustainability and the locality opened his mind to new ideas of cooking. 3 plus years at Almond with Chef Jason Weiner was an amazing experience.

After Almond, Michael moved to NYC and worked for Joey Campanaro and Michael Price at “Market Table” for a few months and also appeared on Food Network’s show “Chopped.” He is currently working as a private chef and developing his own catering company. He is happy to be working and living near his brother, Thomas, who works at “Lincoln Restaurant” as a sous chef. Together, the brothers will get a chance to collaborate, as they did when they were young pizza cooks in Florida, on a unique burger that is an expression of their Spanish-Italian heritage and their commitment to local ingredients.

From the land of sweeping plains, Cameron raised in Melbourne started his cooking career at the age of 14 when he was offered a full time internship at a local restaurant. He went on to apprentice at the Box Hill Institute of Culinary Arts in Melbourne. This was the kick off to a great career. Nowadays, Australian expat living in Toronto he is the executive chef for the Spanish restaurant Patria, Byblos Miami, Byblos Toronto, Storys Catering and Mira Restaurant. Cameron’s ability to execute multiple genres of global cuisine is evident in the success of his restaurants, which constantly receive top accolades by Canadian food media. Demonstrating his innate understanding of the potential for international cuisine, Cameron was pivotal in starting the ‘Middleterranean’ cuisine movement in Toronto.

With continual commitment to quality and authenticity he has fueled the success of his empire of restaurants. Pushing the envelope whenever he can. Cameron’s dynamic personality and culinary brilliance has made his restaurants a magnet for local food connoisseurs and celebrities alike.

Michael Saperstein Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Chef Michael Saperstein unknowingly began his culinary career working summer cooking jobs as a teenager. Chef Michael graduated Magna Cum Laude from Johnson & Wales University in North Miami in 1999 with a degree in culinary arts. Since then he’s worked at some of the Great Restaurants in New York City and South Florida. Chef Michael has been awarded numerous 4 star reviews for his cuisine, been featured on Food Network, and The Cooking Channel. He describes his food as “Seasonal Fare” prepared with a modern French twist, focusing on exceptional ingredients, big flavors, with a fun/ playful twist. In 2006 Chef Saperstein partnered up with successful Entrepreneur Evan S David, to form E&M Innovative Foods. E&M was created to provide out of the box expert consulting for the food industry. From 2007­2015 Evan & Mike consulted, and ran a extremely successful outside sales force for K&G Brothers Wholesale meats(2007­2012); then Halpern’s Steak & Seafood (2012­2015). In the Summer of 2015 Saperstein and David went on there own, and started Sunshine Provisions a Specialty Food Company and Boutique Protein Processor. Sunshine Provisions was developed to connect the artisan food producers to south Florida’s finest food service establishments, with an “Old School” hands on approach to service and processing. In 2008 Evan & Mike created E&M Munchies Holding Corp. The purpose of E&M Munchies is to take their skills to the street to create the much needed “Slow Food, Fast” concept. E&M created their first QSR “Quick Service Restaurant” concept Charm City Burger. Charm City Burger, a smashing success was the catalyst for creating El Jefe Luchador “Hardcore Mexican Street Food”. Utilizing the valuable lessons from Charm City Burger, E&M created El Jefe to be their prototype for an aggressive QSR chain model. El Jefe Luchador saw great growth over the first few years in business, earning amazing reviews and accolades. The Second El Jefe Luchador opened in May of 2014 in the Boca Raton Town Center Mall, to great success. In 2011 E&M created The Rebel House, a renegade restaurant concept to become the forerunner in the gourmet casual segment. Rebel House has been garnishing rave reviews since opening and has become one of the top culinary destinations in South Florida. Evan & Mike are always looking to expand the group, next up for Munchies is a Boutique Food Market & Deli in Deerfield Beach. In 2011 Chef Saperstein was given the honor of being named top 10 chefs in South Florida for his visionary thinking. He currently overseas culinary operations for E&M Munchies, E& M Innovative Foods, and Product Development and Procurement for Sunshine Provisions.

If you are looking for a delicious burger in the Magic City, it isn’t too hard to find. But if you’re looking for the original, look no further than Cheeseburger Baby.

Known to many locals as “CBB,” delivery driver turned owner, Stephanie Vitori, purchased the store back in 2004. With a lot of blood, sweat and love for all things meat, she transformed it from a South Beach dive to a must for celebrities and tourists alike. After completely revamping the original location, getting a food truck on the road and opening a second location in Little River all in the last few years, Steph’s Cheeseburger Baby has become a South Florida staple.

With the simple business model, “Keepin’ it classic,” Cheeseburger Baby only serves the freshest beef, bread, toppings, condiments, and customer service found in the Magic City. From morning to almost sunrise, their doors are kept open to simply keep their customers happy. And well fed, of course.

Chef Jodrick I. Ujaque, arrived to the Miami culinary scene in 2006, born in October 30th in Mayagüez Puerto Rico, he was born into a family very familiar with food. Their family business, “Carniceria Ujaque,” is a butcher shop located in “La Plaza del Mercado” in their hometown was established in 1946. He held his first job in the service industry as a dish washer/prep cook at the age of 15 for local Chinese restaurant, after high school he then later moved to Orlando Florida to seek an opportunity.

Chef Jodrick joined Cafe Tu Tu Tango in 2001 and that inspired him to pursuit a career in culinary arts. This was a place with art, food, and creativity, where individuality was embraced. With his degree in hand he returned to the same place that started his original passion for food.

This venture brought him to Miami FL, where Chef Jodrick worked as a Sous Chef for Cafe Tu Tu Tangos in Coconut Grove where he had full access to the creative development necessary for a very diverse Miami crowd. Stepping out of his comfort zone, he worked for Dolores but you can call me Lolita as a food consultant and as the Executive Chef for their original menu. After Dolores he decided to go back to his roots as a “hardcore cook” and he began working for a well-recognized restaurant in Coral Gables, Ortanique at the Mile (Chef Cindy Hutson), and the River Oyster Bar (Chef David Baraka) in Brickell.
Recognizing that there was a need for a change in the local culinary landscape,Chef Jodrick and his family took a chance on September 2011 and opened Chefs on the Run Assorted Cuisine in Homestead, FL where their restaurant offers the unique style of Caribbean-Americana Gastro Pub. Chefs on the Run was named “The Best Burger in Town” at the Burger Brawl on Krome Avenue in November 2013-2015. They held an astonishing 4.5 years as the top rated by Trip Advisor, top rated place to eat in Homestead by The Travel Channel making the restaurant a destination.

On January 24, 2013 Chef Jodrick was featured on a local news network on the segment “Bites with Belkys” where he presented the Kan Kan Pork Chop from Chefs on the Run, the only restaurant in the US to offer this Puerto Rican rarity. Chef Jodrick was featured on the Spanish show “Delicioso” with Ingrid Hoffman. He was the first local chef to be invited to cook at Paradise Farm’s “Dinner in Paradise” in its 30-year history.

Chef Jodrick’s Chefs on the Run Assorted Cuisine was voted as the “Best Bites at the Beach” winner at the Food Network & Cooking Channel, SoBe WFF both in 2014 and 2015. On May 2017 Chefs on the Run Assorted Cuisine won the People’s choices award at Burger Beast’s Hamburger House Party were crowed as the Best Burger in South Florida, this victory earned them a spot for SoBe WFF 2018 Heineken Burger Bash.

An accounting guy that late in life decided he wanted to be more expressive through food. Realizing the true power of food to put a stamp on our soul, with the ability to transport you to another time, place, person, through taste, smell and presentation. A power only equaled by music.





Chef Matt Hyland and Emily Hyland are the duo behind Brooklyn neighborhood restaurants EMILY and EMMY SQUARED, and the newly opened West Village location of EMILY. Chef Hyland was born in Brooklyn, where he adopted a lifestyle of eating pizza and dumplings that continues to this day. After college in Rhode Island, Matt moved back to New York armed with a computer science degree, a pizza-loving girl and a love for food. He enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education and has been cooking ever since. At EMILY Clinton Hill, chef Hyland offers wood fired pizzas with inventive toppings and the famous Emmy Burger, while EMMY SQUARED serves New York City’s first and only Detroit-style square pizzas. At EMILY in the West Village, Chef Matt features signature topping combos and a riff on the Emmy Burger, while making his foray into Detroit-Style Grandma pies.

Guy Fieri, chef, restaurateur, New York Times Best-Selling author and Emmy Award-winning host began his love affair with food at the age of ten, selling soft pretzels from a three-wheeled bicycle cart he built with his father called “The Awesome Pretzel.” By selling pretzels and washing dishes, Guy earned enough money in six years to study abroad as an exchange student in Chantilly, France. There he gained a profound appreciation for international cuisine and the lifestyle associated with it. In 1996, Guy launched his culinary career with the opening of Johnny Garlics, his first restaurant based in his hometown of Santa Rosa, CA with business partner Steve Gruber. Since the opening of the first Johnny Garlics, Guy has gone on to create a culinary empire as a popular TV host, chef of seven acclaimed restaurants and New York Times Best-Selling cookbook author. In 2006, Guy Fieri premiered his first show, Guy’s Big Bite on Food Network. Today, this “Culinary Rock Star” also hosts top-rated shows including Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Guy’s Grocery Games and guest judges on Next Food Network Star. Guy also collaborates with Rachael Ray in the star studded competition series, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-off and Rachael vs. Guy: Kids. Guy attended University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. Fieri, most recently, was awarded an honorary doctorate from UNLV for his public service and commitment to the university.

All 30 seats at Jr.’s Gourmet Burgers are full when three more guests arrive for dinner to find a handwritten sign on the door. “If you experience delay, blame Rachael Ray. #SoBeWFF,” it reads.

It’s been like this, nonstop, since the burger he created for the Feb. 24 South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash, hosted by television chef Rachael Ray, won the coveted People’s Choice award. It beat out entries from dozens of nationally recognized chefs, such as Iron Chef Morimoto, Marc Forgione and Michael Mina. The next morning, he was back at this 1,400-square-foot galley of a restaurant when a friend brought him the boxing robe, a nod to the new heavyweight champ. De la Torre hasn’t stopped wearing it.

His catalog of gourmet third-pound burgers has quietly been building a fan base since he opened in 2010, with toppings like shiitake, porcini and oyster mushrooms to his Cuban B burger with sweet ham, mustard and pickles. De la Torre’s flavors won the annual competition by local burger blogger Sef Gonzalez (Burger Beast) two years in a row, earning him a spot into this year’s South Beach food festival.

When he was 18, he moved with his mother and stepfather across the country to Miami Springs, where he still had trouble staying out of trouble. He enrolled at Johnson & Wales University’s culinary program in North Miami. Just having that on his résumé helped him land a job at South Beach’s Tantra and later at Norman Van Aken’s spot in Coral Gables shortly after Norman’s was nominated among the James Beard Foundation’s best new restaurants in the country (and after Van Aken was named Best Chef in 1997).

By the time he opened Jr.’s Gourmet Burgers in October of 2010 with $5,000 (“I borrowed money from everybody,” de la Torre said), he had built a steady and loyal following. Friends told friends, who drove from as far as Kendall and Weston to try de la Torre’s gourmet burgers. De la Torre became a face around town people looked forward to seeing.

“Miami Springs made me who I am,” he said. “It’s the people of Miami Springs who came together to support the restaurant. … The people kept coming back for the food.”

Jr.’s Gourmet was doing twice the business this week after his win at Burger Bash, the restaurant full from lunch until the dinner rush, a line of people out the door. Everyone was eager to try his winning creation, That Guy’s Burger: an angus patty with cream cheese and guava ketchup on Texas toast, covered in a basket weave of bacon that is then cooked on the griddle.

Matt Kuscher’s (better known as Kush) childhood dream has always been to develop restaurant concepts. He grew up spending every summer in his grandfathers breakfast spot, The Plantation Nook. It’s why he worked every position at his father’s Washington D.C. cafeterias from age 7 on up and after that attended Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality, graduating in 2000. That landed him in Miami where he’d fulfill his destiny as a third generation restaurateur. He currently has 4 restaurants: The Spillover, Kush, LoKal & Vicky’s House and has with hopes to open many more concepts in the 305.

Chef Justin Devillier is the Chef/Owner of La Petite Grocery and Balise in New Orleans, and the 2016 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: South.
Devillier was raised in Dana Point, California, a small beach town in South Orange County. He spent summers fishing for Yellowtail and Albacore tuna, and in the fall and winter he would dive for lobsters just steps from his front door. This bounty of local seafood inspired him to enter the culinary industry, and after working in local restaurants right out of high school he decided to focus all of his time on becoming a chef. In 2003, Devillier moved to New Orleans in search of a vibrant restaurant community. He cooked in the kitchens of Bacco, Stella and Peristyle, where he learned the intricacies of French cuisine from his mentor, Chef Anne Kearny-Sands.

In 2004, Devillier joined the team at La Petite Grocery as a line cook and was promoted to sous chef after one year. Following Hurricane Katrina, he helped re-build the restaurant’s infrastructure, and in 2007 was promoted to executive chef. A short three years later, Devillier and his wife Mia took over ownership of the restaurant, housed in a century-old building with a storied history. At La Petite Grocery, Devillier puts his creative spin on traditional New Orleans cuisine with dishes like Turtle Bolognese, Panéed Rabbit, and Blue Crab Beignets. In 2014, he was awarded “Chef of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine.

In early 2015 the Devilliers opened their second restaurant, Balise, named after the first French settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Set in a 19th century Creole townhouse in the Central Business District, Balise is a modern New Orleans tavern that celebrates the port city’s unique access to a wide variety of ingredients.

In his free time, Devillier is an avid fisherman and hunter, and loves spending time at the beach with his wife and three young daughters.

Chef Tim Love is known as much for his vibrant personality as he is for his signature urban western cuisine, creating inspired and innovative dishes that have earned critical and popular acclaim. With restaurants spanning the nation from Seattle to Knoxville, Love’s roots remain in Texas, where he is chef and owner of beloved Texas restaurants Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse, Queenie’s Steakhouse, and Love Shack, as well as the storied White Elephant Saloon.

Love opened his flagship restaurant, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, in Fort Worth’s historic Stockyards district in 2000, quickly earning him a reputation for his fresh preparations of both familiar and exotic meats. Two years later, Love purchased the legendary White Elephant Saloon and then in 2007 debuted his classic burger joint, Love Shack. His culinary empire expanded in 2012 with the opening of the Woodshed Smokehouse, specializing in smoked meats and vegetables, that was named one of Bon Appétit’s “50 Best New Restaurants” in 2012. In 2013, Love returned to his hometown of Denton, Texas, to open Queenie’s Steakhouse, a contemporary take on the classic American steakhouse named after his mother. He opened a second location of his flagship restaurant Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas, in Summer 2015, and most recently expanded the concept beyond the Lone Star State to his alma mater city of Knoxville, TN, in June 2016. Earlier this year, Love also debuted Back Dough, a late-night pop-up serving sweet and savory doughnuts out of his restaurants’ back kitchen doors on the weekends. The concept launched at Queenie’s and can now be found at Lonesome Dove Knoxville, with plans for a stand-alone location in Fort Worth slated for Spring 2017. In addition, Love will be setting up shop in Houston next year with three concepts in the works to open at Levy Park, including a second location of his acclaimed Woodshed Smokehouse.

Widely known as a de facto ambassador for Texas, Love is a national spokesperson for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Thomas’ English Muffins & Bagels. His keen business acumen landed him a role as host of CNBC’s newest show Restaurant Startup, where he and co-host Joe Bastianich vie against each other to invest their own money in restaurant concepts they believe will make them millions. Love’s investment in Seattle’s Kraken Congee led to the first restaurant being opened as a result of the show. After appearing on the show in 2014, Kraken Congee opened in April 2015 to immediate popular and critical praise. A committed philanthropist, Love is devoted to several charities including Burgers 4 Babies, which he founded in 2010 benefitting the NICU Helping Hands organization.

Love’s crowd-pleasing joviality is frequently seen in his numerous public appearances, including the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Music City Food & Wine, Austin Food & Wine – the festival he co-founded in 2012 – and Austin City Limits music festival, where he holds the title of Official Chef. Love has appeared on countless national television shows, including NBC’s TODAY Show, Good Morning America, and has recently been appointed as the Official Food and Wine Contributor for CNBC. An avid hunter and dedicated sports fan, Love can often be found tailgating in his custom-built Toyota Tundra with his beloved Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, or Tennessee Volunteers.

Love resides in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife Emilie and their three children.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto has created a bridge between the culinary traditions of his native Japan and the American palate, bringing intense excitement, exquisite technique, and perfectly balanced flavors to thousands of diners throughout the world. He has garnered critical and popular acclaim for his seamless integration of Western and Japanese ingredients and has effectively created a signature style that positions him as one of the today’s foremost chefs.

After a shoulder injury ended a promising career as a baseball catcher in Japan, Morimoto began studying sushi in his hometown of Hiroshima. He quickly grasped the technique of this exacting food art, and at age 24, opened his first restaurant. Five years later, he moved to America to expand his culinary repertoire and explore the opportunities and possibilities he saw for a cuisine that would combine the best of both cultures.

In 1994, Morimoto was recruited to join the original Nobu restaurant and soon promoted to Executive Chef. From there, he opened his first eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia in 2001. Next was the debut of Wasabi by Morimoto at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai in 2004, followed by a second Wasabi at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi in 2008. The much-anticipated flagship restaurant, Morimoto New York, opened in 2006. Morimoto has received numerous accolades for his cuisine and aesthetic, including several appearances on San Pellegrino’s “Top 100 Restaurants in the World” list, a James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Restaurant Design” for Morimoto New York, and in 2010, Morimoto Napa was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best U.S. Restaurant Openings.” Today, there are additional Morimoto restaurants in, Mexico City, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Maui, Morimoto Sushi Bar in Boca Raton, Morimoto XEX in Tokyo, and Morimoto Asia in Orlando. In 2016 Chef Morimoto opened his first ramen restaurant in New York City, Momosan Ramen & Sake, which showcases his personal, modern take on traditional Japanese ramen. Other exciting openings in 2017 include Morimoto Doha, Dubai, with second outposts of his new Morimoto Asia and Momosan restaurant concepts in Honolulu.

Chef Morimoto first competed on Japanese television show Iron Chef in 1998 and then became one of the stars of Food Network’s Iron Chef America in 1999. As Iron Chef, Morimoto was able to showcase his flawless technique and creativity with unique ingredients in front of millions of Americans. Chef Morimoto returns to the Iron Chef challenge in the spring of 2017 with “Iron Chef Gauntlet.”

His first cookbook, Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking, won two International Association of Culinary Professionals awards, including the Julia Child Award for Best First Book. His second cookbook, Mastering The Art of Japanese Home Cooking, was released in November 2016.

Beyond his culinary genius and the exquisite design of both his food and restaurants, Chef Morimoto’s business acumen has helped him succeed in other related industries. Morimoto Signature Series of beer was launched in 2003 in partnership with Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon. Chef Morimoto also has a line of premium sakes produced in collaboration with the Fukumitsuya Brewery, a prominent sake brewery in Kanazawa, Japan that was founded in 1625. In 2016, Chef added Morimoto grape-seed oil, and Morimoto wine produced in collaboration with Michael Mondavi.

His legendary knife skills led him to create a series of knives crafted by Zwilling J.A. Henckels, merging authentic Japanese blade styles with western inspired ergonomics and materials.

Chef Sam Mason is the ice cream chef behind the authentic, quirky ice cream creations at New York City’s beloved scoop shop, OddFellows Ice Cream Co. A James Beard Award nominee, Mason trained at Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI before completing a stage at Ladurée in Paris. He then moved to New York City to work alongside famed chefs such Alain Ducasse, Paul Leibrandt, and Wylie Dufresne, with whom he held the position of pastry chef at Dufresne’s acclaimed wd-50. In June 2013, Mason partnered with husband and wife team Mohan and Holiday Kumar, who shared the same passion for quality scoops, to open the flagship location of OddFellows in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. With the mission of concocting the highest quality ice cream both in texture and flavor, Mason integrates science into his craft to produce truly original, handmade ice cream. All of the ice cream is pasteurized on site in the Williamsburg kitchen using locally-sourced, additive-free dairy as well as fresh, seasonal produce sourced locally. Since opening the flagship location and a second shop in the East Village, Mason has created an abundance of both “oddball” flavors like Chorizo Caramel Swirl and Miso Cherryas well as upgraded twists on classics like Iced Milk & Cookies and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel. He also created the crowd-pleasing Cotton Candy Cone and Foie Gras Drumstick and collection of sundaes and ice cream sandwiches. Mason is the recipient of Star Chef’s “NY Rising Star” award, was nominated for a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef,” and his work has been praised by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Vogue, New York Magazine, and Zagat, among others.

Matt was raised in the small upstate New York town of New Hartford in an extremely tight-knit Italian-American-Lebanese family where he began his culinary training at a very young age by rolling meatballs and house made pasta with his nona. Matt graduated CIA Valedictorian and has worked as head chef at Marc Orfaly’s Italian Restaurant Marco before he accepted a position at Del Posto. During Matthew’s tenure at Del Posto, the restaurant has received a coveted four-star review from the New York Times, and the Relais & Chateaux distinction. Matt has also cooked in Italy at Il Ricchi in Tuscany and Il Rossilino in Pienza to further his knowledge of the “simple but true” philosophy of regional Italian cooking. In May 2015, Mattwith his partners opened Pig Beach, the outdoor barbecue restaurant, where he is able to combine his two loves, BBQ and Italian that can be seen is such dishes like house-made yankee red hots with cherry peppers and chunks of provolone. The restaurant returned in Summer 2016 again as a pop-up, with renovations taking place now to convert Pig Beach into a fully operating indoor-outdoor restaurant. In January 2017, Matt and his partners opened Pig Bleecker, a smoke-centric comfort restaurant in the heart of Greenwich Village. The food follows in the ethos of Pig Beach, with a blend of Italian and BBQ traditions to create food close to Matt’s heart.

As a young man John was constantly inspired by his grandmother’s passion for cooking. While in her kitchen, John discovered his interest in the culinary art. He began as an observer and quickly took charge during holiday meals. Following his passion, he graduated from Johnson and Wales University in Miami. He started his culinary career ten years ago at the exclusive restaurant Casa Tua in Miami Beach. Beginning as a stagier and worked his way through the kitchen ranks to achieve the title Chef de Partie, all the while learning from Executive Chef Sergio Sigala.

“I could not have asked for a better kitchen to start in than Chef Sergio’s, he gave me an amazing opportunity to learn and grow there, with the all-star team within his ranks.”

After a couple of years, John moved over to downtown Miami to be part of the opening team for db Bistro Moderne that opened within the JW Marriott Marquis. The time spent at db Bistro Moderne for John was “intense and extraordinary” working under Chef Jarrod Verbiak, hailing from the Michelin starred restaurant Daniel, and Chef Conor Hanlon, formerly of The Dutch. John then joined the Pubbelly Group, having a previous relationship with Founding Partner and Managing Director Andreas Schreiner; John landed a spot on the opening culinary team under Chef Jose Mendin, for Pubbelly Sushi. From there he was part of the opening team for the Spanish tapas concept of the group Barceloneta under Chef Juliana Gonzalez. Here John started as Chef de Partie and was then promoted to Sous Chef. When opening the new Barceloneta in South Miami, the owners approached John to run the kitchen and was given the opportunity to become Chef de Cuisine. After just one year, John opened another concept for the group L’echon Brasserie, under Chef Jose Mendin, inside the Hilton Cabana as the Executive Sous Chef of the hotel restaurant. John is Co-Owner and Partner of Miami’s Pinch Kitchen.

Having spent his childhood in the kitchen with the women in his family, Nedal Ahmad grew up with not only a passion to cook, but also to create. Chicago-born and Hialeah-raised, Ahmad worked in the restaurant business most of his young adult life and honed his talents for cooking from a very young age.

At a family barbecue in 2010, while making his family-famous burgers and taking turns with his cousin Otto Othman – who was grilling up some of his mother’s equally-famous meat and vegetable skewers, the duo cooked up more than just delicious food. Looking to make changes in their careers, Ahmad and Othman decided that these simple elements – burgers and kebabs – would make the perfect springboard for a successful fast casual chain. The dream was hatched: to open their own restaurant, serving delicious burgers and skewers of undeniable quality, made with the freshest ingredients.

With $6.27 left in his bank account and his friends and family by his side, Ahmad’s journey led to what is now one of South Florida’s most homegrown fast casual success stories. On the heels of its win of the 2015 Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival Amstel Light People’s Choice Award, Pincho Factory is rapidly expanding its South Florida presence.

Michael Mina’s story is one of two decades of influence, passion and achievement. With the October 2010 opening of MICHAEL MINA, his eponymous signature restaurant in San Francisco, Michael is at the helm at the same location (formerly AQUA) and city where he first established his culinary reputation 20 years ago.

With accolades including James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage” inductee in 2013, Bon Appétit Chef of the Year 2005, San Francisco Magazine Chef of the Year 2005, as well as the International Food and Beverage Forum’s Restaurateur of the Year 2005, Michael continues to dazzle the culinary world with bold dining concepts that have contributed to San Francisco’s reputation as a world-class epicurean destination and made him an integral part of the dining scene across the country and now internationally with our location in Dubai.

Michael’s culinary and business vision led to the founding of Mina Group, with partner Andre Agassi in 2002. Always in the mindset of creating the next culinary dream, Michael has most recently teamed up with Ayesha Curry for the highly anticipated International Smoke. Under the auspices of Mina Group, he has opened over 30 operations including MICHAEL MINA, CLOCK BAR, RN74, BOURBON STEAK, ARCADIA, STRIPSTEAK, WIT & WISDOM, PUB 1842, THE HANDLE BAR, PABU, THE RAMEN BAR, BOURBON PUB, LOCALE MARKET, PIZZA BURGER, BARDOT BRASSERIE, FIREBIRD, THE MINA TEST KITCHEN, THE STREET: A MICHAEL MINA SOCIAL HOUSE, MARGEAUX BRASSERIE, AND PETIT MARGEAUX.

Chef David Lee has partnered with CHG to launch PLANTA. Aside from his Executive Chef role at PLANTA, Chef Lee is a successful sole proprietor of the Toronto restaurant, Nota Bene. Chef Lee is a brilliant Culinarian and is delighted to be overseeing Toronto’s premier plant-based dining restaurant and it’s expansion into the US.

While attending the French culinary institute, I was working at DBGB for Daniel Boulud. After moving back to Miami, I began working at Bourbon Steak for Michael Mina and Gabriel Fenton. After becoming Executive Spud Chef, I then decided to open Proof in 2014.




Chef Antonio Mora came to Quality Meats after working behind the stoves of Daniel, Frankie’s Spuntino and Prime Meats. His earthy, rustic take on dining has influenced the contemporary versions of steakhouse classics at Quality Meats. With influences that range from traditional French chefs to some of New York City’s brightest up-and-comers, Mora bases his cuisine largely in French technique with the simple, straightforward style of a country inn to create accessible dishes that could be shared over a family table.

Born and raised in Connecticut, Shake Shack Culinary Director, Mark Rosati, grew up enjoying many of the state’s legendary roadside seafood and burger “shacks.” From an early age, he had a strong interest in food and a yearning to create.

In 1995, it was Mark’s creative mindset and restless spirit that drove him to New York City to pursue a Film and Television degree from New York University. Life in the big city was an eye-opener. Instead of hitting the local bars each night, Mark would explore different neighborhoods and sample their varying cuisines. It was during one of these delectable missions that he met Chef Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern—a fortuitous meeting that truly set his culinary career in motion.

Mark swapped the production studio for the kitchen when in 2003 he accepted an entry level position at Gramercy Tavern. During his tenure, he worked his way through every station in the kitchen, climbing the ranks and honing his culinary chops along the way.

In 2007, Mark’s desire to gain front-­‐of-­‐house experience led him to Shake Shack. He joined the original Madison Square Park location as a Manager, and quickly found that Shake Shack’s fine dining heritage and casual atmosphere were the perfect mix for his background and personality. He helped open the Upper West Side Shack in the fall of 2008 as a Manager—but he was always tinkering in the kitchen with new recipes, many of which became menu items and specials over the years. By the summer of 2010, it was clear that Mark’s true calling was menu development, and he was named Shake Shack’s Culinary Development Manager. Mark’s simple yet sophisticated approach to making refined, delicious comfort food has had a tremendous impact on Shake Shack’s menu in both the United States and abroad.

In 2013, Mark was promoted to his current position of Culinary Director, where he continues to push the envelope and redefine what’s possible for a fine casual restaurant by creating award-­‐winning dishes. Most recently, Mark is co-author of the cookbook, Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories, along with Shake Shack CEO, Randy Garutti.

50 Eggs Inc. Executive Chef Cristian Cuevas has infused his extensive culinary background into every restaurant in the multi-concept brand. Joining the company as a line cook at Yardbird Southern Table and Bar South Beach in 2012, Chef Cristian transitioned to Chef de Cuisine at James Beard-nominated Khong River House. He then moved to 50 Egg’s Swine Southern Table & Bar, later joining BTW to become an integral force in the South Beach restaurant’s opening. Most recently, Chef Cristian has moved to become the 50 Eggs Inc. Executive Chef for all full service brands including Miami and Las Vegas’ much-loved Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. Pushing the company forward creatively developing new menu items and conceptualizing menus for new brands alongside JK. Since then, Chef Cristian conceptualized and developed the menu for Spring Chicken, a fast casual spin off from Yardbird. Delivering comforting Southern Cuisine and damn good fried chicken to the masses.

Chef Cristian has recently worked very closely with celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia in creating and developing the menu for the new 50 Eggs Inc concept called CHICA. Located in The Venetian restaurant row, Las Vegas, CHICA has become one of the most celebrated restaurant since the opening in May, along with Yardbird Southern Table & Bar.

Chef Cristian has a prestigious pedigree with a BA in Hotel and Restaurant Management for the University of Puerto Rico. He then pursued a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Chef Cristian has brought exceptional experience to the 50 Eggs team including time in the kitchens of some of the culinary world’s biggest stars. In addition to a recent stage in Jose Andres’ minibar, Chef Cristian has learned at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill, Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, and George Mendes’ Aldea. Chef Cristian continues to be a student of the industry, always up to date in current trends and innovating creatively for 50 Eggs. A native of Buffalo, NY, raised in Puerto Rico, Cuevas currently resides in Miami Beach with his wife Miraya and their dogs Kimchee and Pepper.

TAP 42, ANDREW BALICK Growing up in South Florida, Chef Balick attended the University of Florida, before deciding to pursue his culinary career at Johnson & Wales University. His love for the industry developed through a part-time job at a neighborhood restaurant, but his skills were refined through on the job training with notable local chefs. As Clay Conley’s Sous Chef and later Chef de Cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale and South Beach properties, Balick refined his style for fine-dining and technical culinary acumen.

In April 2013, Balick joined TapCo to design the menu for their original location of Tap 42 in downtown Fort Lauderdale. His inspiration is quite simple, “We want to produce food that people crave. It’s all about consistency and quality. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel or win awards. We simply want to put out the most consistent, delicious food all day, every day.”

As TapCo expands to Palm Beach and their highly anticipated Coral Gables location at 301 Giralda Avenue, Balick’s focus is clear: “My plans are to help our culinary program improve each day, and hopefully create lasting and meaningful experiences for our guests and staff alike. I look forward to the future, but most importantly, I’m focused on today.”

With more than 30 years of experience in fine dining Italian restaurants, James Martin brings a unique perspective to the operation of the growing East Coast burger chain, Tasty Burger. A native son of Rhode Island’s strong Portuguese community, James grew up in a family that treasured the tradition of home cooking with quality ingredients that evoke a sense of time and place. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design’s culinary program, James set off for Boston and the Back Bay Restaurant Group, where he would spend the next 20 years of his career. Beginning as an executive chef at Papa Razzi in Chestnut Hill, James rose through the ranks of the respected group very quickly, from an executive trainer tasked with overseeing new restaurant openings, such as the iconic steakhouse Abe & Louie’s on Boylston Street, to a regional director, to regional chef, and finally, concept chef.

Florida native, Chef Brian Cartenuto is the owner and creator of Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox in Deerfield Beach & Boca Raton, FL; Tucker Duke’s Street Food Division, Chef Brian splits his time on two coast as he is also the Executive Chef & Owner Queen City Grill & Cantinetta (Wallingford & Bellevue, WA) & Bar Cantinetta (Madison Valley, WA). His philosophy on food is one of refined simplicity. Use local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients as often as possible to create unexpected twists on comfort foods. Chef Brian believes that food has the power to create and invoke memories and that is precisely what he has set out to do.

Along with the arsenal of successful restaurants Chef Brian currently operates, he also has a rather impressive culinary resume ranging from his schooling at Johnson & Wales University to a number of top tier Executive Chef Positions at restaurants such as Anthony Bourdain’s Brasserie Les Halles, NYC & Miami, FL and Dean & Deluca in Washington D.C.

Chef Brian is a Florida favorite, winning a number of awards across the state for his craft burgers at Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox. He has also appeared on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen not once, but twice. He was a season 1 winner and was invited back to participate in another battle of wits in March 2014 with other previous winners, where he again prevailed. Most recently he appear on Beat Bobby Flay, Season 5, Stars & Stripes.

With Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox locations a food truck thriving, on the east coast, and Queen City Grill & Cantinetta on the west coast, with his sites set on opening more locations along both coasts –it appears the culinary possibilities are endless for Chef Brian Cartenuto.

There’s very little in life that bacon can’t make better. At least that’s what Chef Richard Plasencia, known as “The Ravenous Chef,” believes. And who can’t get on board with that way of thinking? Plasencia isn’t afraid to experiment in the kitchen and make a single ingredient go far.

As a former member of the United States Navy on a submarine special ops platform, Plasencia was part of a rotating team whose creative menu planning fed 155 men, four meals a day with a 3 months’ supply of food – all while 800 feet underwater.

Plasencia’s resume is as mouthwatering as his dishes. His impressive list of kitchen and culinary experience includes positions at some of Miami’s hottest restaurants such as Town Kitchen & Bar, Jake’s Gastropub and Por Fin Restaurant. In addition, he has served up culinary creations at some of Miami’s most sought out hotels including The Conrad, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, The Shore Club, The Biltmore Hotel and the Hyatt Regency.

His skills in the kitchen have been widely recognized earning AAA’s 5 Diamond Award and six 4 Diamond Awards for his culinary expertise. In 2005, he was recognized by Esquire Magazine who ranked the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne’s Cioppino Restaurant as one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the country. Plasencia also snagged a spot on Racked Magazine’s “Hottest Local Chefs at the 2015 Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival,” in addition to being named E!’s “#ManCrushMonday: 12 Talented Latino Chefs You Should Be Following on Instagram” in March of 2016.

His signature dishes include New Orleans-style Shrimp and Grits made with beer, tomatoes, shrimp stock, Andouille, chorizo, gator sausage, aged cheddar and butter; Apricot and Smoked Plum Braised Pork Belly – a perfect combination of cold-smoked plums, braised belly, apricots, sake, mirin, soy and sweet chili; and Duck Confit – a melodious mixture of thyme, rosemary, garlic, duck fat roasted overnight and served with fingerling potatoes.
By volunteering with organizations such as Common Threads and Florida International University’s community outreach program, Plasencia has helped inner city and low-income families improve their basic cooking skills and healthy eating habits by creating nourishing menus using WIC (food stamp) ingredients. He has hosted numerous cooking demonstrations geared towards teaching children healthy eating habits at the famed Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s annual family event, Jungle Island’s Fun & Fit. As a father of four, he has perfected the art of pleasing a variety of palates of all ages.

Today, Plasencia is the Chef and Owner of Twisted Fork Kitchen; a gastropub and tapas concept inspired by locally brewed beer and fresh, innovative ingredients. Plasencia’s menu offers American progressive cuisine that builds off classic foundations of cooking while pushing taste buds passed their comfort zone.

Twisted Fork Kitchen is located inside The TANK Brewing Co. at 5100 N.W. 72nd Avenue, Bay A-1 in Miami.

Chef Justin Smillie was born in Upland, California, but raised in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Both areas in which he lived were rural, and Smillie found himself inspired by the rustic elements of the outdoors, including regular camping trips, foraging for wild ingredients, and fly-fishing. He began his career at the age of 17 at Bernards Inn under Chef Edward Stone, where he had his first taste of the kitchen life, and he was hooked. Two years on the line was all it took; Smillie enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, where he fine-tuned his fine-dining techniques, while rounding out his culinary education.

After attending the CIA, Smillie secured a position at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen, followed by posts at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern and Jonathan Waxman’s Washington Park. Smillie next earned a chef position at Waxman’s Barbuto, and in the six years he spent under Waxman’s attentive eye, Smillie fell in love with the bold flavors and rustic techniques showcased in the restaurant, and this philosophy would stick with him.

In 2010, Chef Daniel Silverman invited Smillie to help open Andre Balaz’s The Standard in New York, where he would work winters, followed by two summers as executive chef of Balaz’s Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. Smillie was introduced to Il Buco owner Donna Lennard, who tapped Smillie as executive chef of Italian trattoria Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, where he earned three stars from The New York Times.

In 2014, Smillie was introduced to Stephen Starr, and the two decided to collaborate on a new restaurant – Upland. At Upland, Smillie pays tribute to his culinary mentors and inspirations by offering dishes that showcase his California roots and seasonal, rustic culinary sensibilities. Since opening Upland, Justin has received critical and popular acclaim from outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, GQ, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and more.

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