Join Our Mailing List
Don’t miss out on the wonderful ways you can get involved in helping our area children. Plus, all the latest details about our signature Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest!
Chef Sean Deckter
Chef Sean Deckter
Chef Sean Deckter has been in the restaurant industry since the young age of 15. Born and raised in Fort Myers, he has grown to love cooking! With no formal culinary training, Sean worked his way up at a few local restaurants and spent the last 14 years at Cibo in Fort Myers. In 2016, Sean was named head chef. Sean says what he appreciates the most is the tight knit bond of working together as a team and he loves going to work! He also enjoys getting to know his customers by name. Visit Chef Sean at Cibo in Fort Myers.
Learn more at: http://www.cibo.com/
Chef Allen Fisher
Allen Fisher is the food and beverage director and executive chef at Shangri-La Springs, a historic hotel and event venue with organic garden and spa.
Fisher leads the culinary team for the property’s onsite restaurant, Harvest & Wisdom at Shangri-La Springs, an organic eatery offering delectable farm-to-table meals, featuring fresh ingredients from the property’s on-site no-till garden.
Fisher brings more than 18 years of professional cooking and kitchen management experience and an extensive background of developing new concepts using local and organic products to his role as executive chef and food and beverage director.
Prior to joining Shangri-La Springs, Fisher garnered culinary management experience at casual and fine dining restaurants across the country, including locally-owned Bistro 41 in Fort Myers; Red Strip Restaurants in Los Angeles, California; Silvia Restaurant in Woodstock, New York; and Chef Daniel Boulud and The Dinex Group, in New York City. He earned two Michelin Stars while working with Chef Gavin Kaysen at Daniel NYC. He obtained his culinary degree from Schoolcraft College in Michigan, and a master’s degree in business from Western Carolina University in North Carolina.
Chef “Billy V” got his first taste of the country club lifestyle at the tender age of eight. Retrieving golf balls at a private golf course on the outskirts of Worcester County, Massachusetts where his father served as Treasurer of the board. A steady fixture in the club’s kitchen he eventually began peeling potatoes for the executive chef who would later become his mentor. Vasseur majored in Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management at Penn State University and later specialized his culinary talent at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Billy has over 25 years of cooking experience in some of Massachusetts’ and Florida’s top restaurants, hotels and country clubs among which was the Boston Newton Marriot where he honed his ice carving skills. Chef Billy left the Boston area in 1992 to serve as Head Chef of the opening culinary team at Quail West until the year 2000. He returned in 2008 as the Executive Chef of Quail West … an accomplishment of endless pride and hard work!
Learn more at: http://www.quailwest.com/.
A Minnesota native, David Nelson comes to Timeless – An MHK Eatery with more than 20 years of progressive culinary experience in world-class hotels and upscale restaurants. His introduction to the food industry was as a dishwasher in a cafe when he was 16 years old. However, in one short month, he was cooking! Natural talent met passion for food. Chef David loved the pace and pressure of the kitchen and, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the United States Army as a cook and served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. After fulfilling his contract, Chef David attended the Art Institute of Seattle and attained an Associates of Applied Sciences Culinary Arts. He then returned to his hometown of Minneapolis and began working as the Executive Sous Chef at Mission America Kitchen and Bar. In 2006, Chef David decided he “had enough of the frigid cold Minnesota winters,” and moved to Naples as the Developmental Chef for Trulucks Seafood, Steak & Crab. After nine years and earning his chops at Truluck’s, he oversaw the kitchen at Avenue 5 and The Inn On Fifth for one season, before obtaining his current, and dream, position – Executive Chef at Timeless – An MHK Eatery. With the open kitchen layout, Chef David is excited to have the opportunity to interact directly with his customers on a daily basis. He draws his inspiration from watching the reaction of guests enjoying his cuisine. Chef David finds the progressive and inventive nature of cooking to be exhilarating, and always enjoys learning new techniques. For Chef David, “every dish should be an experience not just food on a plate.” In addition to his passion for cooking, Chef David is a golf enthusiast, as well as huge fan of all Minnesota sports teams.
Learn more at: http://www.TimelessEatery.com/.
Osmany Acosta, best known as “Chef Ozzy” is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He graduated Dean’s List from Johnson & Wales University in 2008 earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. Osmany has worked for prestigious operations including Marriot Corporation, Joy Wallace Catering, Seminole Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos and also owns and operates his own catering company. He has been on the Seminole Hotel and Casino culinary team since May of 2004 where he took part in the grand opening of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, FL. He joined the Seminole Casino Immokalee in February of 2009 as the opening Chef of the 1st Street Deli and is currently the Banquet Production Chef at the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee.
Chef Ozzy is a “March of dimes baby”. He was born with Spina Bifida in late 1983. His mother reached out to this great organization whom gladly helped support them through there trials and tribulations during this tough time. They are forever grateful to March of dimes.
Learn more at: https://www.seminoleimmokaleecasino.com.
John Sexton is a skilled, inventive chef with more than thirty years of extensive experience in the culinary field and hospitality industry. With an innate talent and passion for creativity in the kitchen, his expertise lies in creating eclectic dishes highlighting local and seasonal ingredients.
Chef Sexton was raised within a family of culinary professionals and developed a passion for food at a young age. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and managed his own catering company, Sexton Caterers LLC in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1993 – 1997. Upon relocating to Florida in 1997, Chef Sexton has held various chef positions at notable properties including Boca Raton Resort & Club, Naples Grande Beach Resort, The Registry Resort & Club, PGA National Resort & Spa, and Reunion Resort and Club. Most recently, he served as Executive Chef for South Florida’s legendary Mediterranean-style property, Turnberry Isle Miami, where he oversaw the resort and club’s culinary operations, achieving annual food and beverage sales exceeding $28 million.
At BALEEN Restaurant, LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort’s signature restaurant and bar, Chef Sexton practices a cooking style that features a coastal twist on traditional favorites —highlighting local Floridian ingredients with strong influences from Latin America and the Caribbean. His signature dishes include Pork Tenderloin (guava barbeque glaze, okra sweet potato succotash, and crispy potato hay), Miso Glazed Florida Snapper (fire-roasted head on prawn, Szechuan XO sauce, Okinawa sweet potato, coconut kaffir lime, and crispy shallots), Butter Poached Lobster Risotto (Maine lobster, mushrooms, braised fennel, and shaved truffles).
Learn more at LaPlayaResort.com.
Chef Andy Hunter has had the good fortune to be sustainably raised in the South by Yankee parents, and both regional sensibilities show up in his food. After completing the culinary apprenticeship program at Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee he spent time in New Orleans, where he worked for James Beard Award winning chef, Anne Kearney, before stints in Chicago, and a few return trips to Nashville. He took over as Chef of The Bayhouse and the Clawbar at Tierney’s Tavern in 2010 where he teamed up with owner Peter Tierney, and has been cooking his style of Southern food and serving up gracious hospitality there ever since.
As the chef of two restaurants, a husband, and father of four Chef Hunter is well rested and often thirsty. He grew up down the street from Johnny Cash’s house, before it was burned down by one of the Bee Gees, cooked dinner for Andy Griffith, and once made a cheese plate for Neil Diamond who moved to Nashville shortly after. He was in a restaurant where Aaron Neville consumed 3 dozen oysters in about 3 minutes, and has eaten at more than a couple Michelin starred restaurants, and walked past several others. He is a member of The Southern Foodways Alliance, Chaine De Rotisseurs, cooked at the James Beard house in 2013, and auditioned (unsuccessfully) for Top Chef twice.
Learn more at www.bayhousenaples.com
Chef Phillips switched gears from chef to front of house in the mid-1990s when he immigrated to the U.S. Being born in Cleveland in the late 1960s, this was an easy transition. Well-known on the high streets of the U.K., he had already worked as an area manager for a contracting catering company, the BBC Television Center in London and heading up new food concepts that eventually were to go public. He knew he was a good chef, but logistics, and front of house operations was a world that would draw him temporarily from the culinary world.
While working as the food and beverage director at the Naples Philharmonic, Chef Phillips decided that it was time to do something entrepreneurial, and purchased Cinderella Service in 2007. Sticking to the same principles of great food and superior service, while offering value at any price range, has been the mainstay of the business.
Learn more at CaterMastersInc.com.
Chef Johnson is involved with numerous local charities in Lee and Collier counties, including Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, which is in the top five food and wine fundraisers in the nation. He founded “The Celebrity Chef’s Dinner” charity at Rumrunners, which is in its 11th year, raising over a million dollars for the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida/Barbara’s Friends. Among his many accolades: he has been in numerous newspaper articles, local magazines and local television; led VIP dinners in Sonoma, California for Maurison Winery; and has had the privilege of working with many celebrity chefs.
Learn more at RumrunnersRestaurant.com.
Chef and restaurant owner Gloria Cabral-Jordan gained an appreciation and talent for cooking working alongside her mother in the kitchen. Born in Havana Cuba, Gloria traveled from Scandinavia to Europe to gain her culinary training. In 2005, Gloria and her husband/business partner Brian Jordan purchased La Trattoria Café Napoli where she has transformed Spanish and Italian cuisine with her personal touch. Best known as “Gloria’s,” La Trattoria Café Napoli offers an intimate setting where you can expect the highest quality food and service at affordable prices in an attractive yet casual setting.
Being a chef has been an amazing experience for Gloria! She came to this land full of opportunities, and was lucky to find love, a nest for her cooking, and many great friends and loyal customers with whom she can share her flair for flavors and fun!
In early 2015, the Jordan’s opened Mermaid Garden Café at the Atrium on College Parkway in Fort Myers. Featuring farm-fresh ingredients, the Jordan’s have created a breakfast and lunch destination in a unique, tea-party setting that attracts everyone from business professionals to seniors to young ladies and gentlemen. The farm-to-table menu features locally grown produce, sustainably raised meats and seasonal specials, and dishes are prepared with flavorful sauces and seasonings that are reflective of Gloria’s culinary talents.
Gloria has earned glowing accolades from Southwest Florida’s top food and dining editors, and is honored to be selected as a locals’ favorite!
Learn more at LaTrattoriaCafeNapoli.com.
Hailing from Scottsdale, Arizona, Erickson’s passion for the culinary arts developed as a young child while cooking with his mother in their home kitchen. His fascination with the senses that are utilized in the preparation of each meal led Erickson to pursue a career in culinary arts. In 1998, Erickson enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Upon his graduation in 2001, Erickson moved to Dallas, Texas, as the newly appointed Executive Chef of Hector’s on Henderson. With Erickson at the helm, the Southern-living inspired restaurant was named “Best New Restaurant 2004” by Dallas Morning News and “Top Ten Best New Restaurants of 2004” by Texas Monthly magazine. In 2006, he was offered the position of Executive Chef consultant for Tryst, an American bar and grill. He worked at Tryst for a year before opening his own catering company in 2007. During his time in Texas, he received many accolades, which included recognition from the Dallas Observer as the “Best Chef Under 30” and a “Number One Young Gun Chef” endorsement by D Magazine.
In the spring of 2010, Erickson settled in Miami as opening Executive Sous Chef at Zuma’s first US outpost. In November of 2010, he partnered with Haven Hospitality Concepts to develop Haven Kitchen + Lounge in South Beach. Using his passion for locally inspired and fresh dishes, he created a global small plates menu that featured fresh salads, sliders, skewers, sushi rolls and liquid nitrogen ice creams.
At Haven, Erickson acquired the recognition of notable foodies including Food Network celebrity chefs Ingrid Hoffmann, Ted Allen, Carla Hall, Amanda Freitag and Bobby Flay. Erickson received three out of four stars by The Miami Herald’s Victoria Pesce Elliott and was dubbed a “bright young chef” by Lee Klein of the Miami New Times. In 2012, Haven won the number one spot on Miami New Time’s “Top 5 Gastropubs” list and was included as Restaurant Management’s “20 Hottest New Restaurants.” Together, with Erickson’s culinary expertise and progressive insight, Haven became one of the most evolutionary venues in Miami.
In mid 2013, chef Todd opened Huahua’s Taqueria, a fast casual concept quickly embraced by tourists and locals alike. Huahua’s has been featured on the Cooking Channel series “Taco Trip” with Chef Aaron Sanchez as well as making several appearances on national “Best Of” lists including, Gayot, Zagat, Miami New Times, Miami Herald and Food Network Magazine.
Todd’s most recent ventures include GLAM (Green Living Animals Matter) in the Shops of Midtown Miami. Partnering with long-time vegan and animal advocate, Janette Miller, Erickson has designed a chic, organic, plant-based menu with appeal in and out of vegan circles. Chef Todd is also set to open Society Fort Myers this fall. Society is a large-scale modern American steakhouse with focus on re-imagined gulf coast favorites as well as his flair for global cuisine.
Todd’s time is currently split between Society in Fort Myers, GLAM in Midtown Miami and Huahua’s Taqueria in Miami Beach. He currently resides in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
Learn more at SocietyFortMyers.com.
CONNECT / FOLLOW CHEF TODD:
Chef Roland, born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He is a Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC) through the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs. He has had the opportunity to work for several well-known French chefs, cook for recognized celebrities and work as executive chef in top kitchens locally, including Chops City Grill and Cru Lush Wines and Pure Food.
Chef Roland considers himself an artist whose medium is food. More than a former executive chef at one of Naples most prestigious restaurants, he is a self-made man with innovative businesses of his own.
Learn more at CraveCulinaire.com.
Chef Harold Balink was raised in the restaurant business, and has been fortunate to travel and be exposed to great cuisine and wine throughout his entire life. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Chef Balink holds a degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, a bachelor’s degree in hotel restaurant management from Boston University as well as his Advanced Level Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. In addition to his educational accomplishments, Chef Balink has also completed apprenticeships at Le Cirque in New York, The Flagstaff House in Colorado and The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
One of the most well-known and desired chefs in Southwest Florida, Chef Balink decided it was time for a change, downsizing to a smaller operation. He recently launched his own establishment, Harold’s, a small upscale restaurant serving creative American cuisine, built in alignment with the farm-to-table movement. This endeavor followed a long career in the restaurant and hospitality business, where Chef Balink has acquired more than 20 years in the industry. Over the years, he has worked at South Seas Plantation, The Magnolia House, The Ocean Reef Club, Harold’s on Bay, H2 and Cru. According to Chef Balink, his life is similar to that of a professional athlete’s without the paycheck – having fun every day.
Learn more at HaroldsCuisine.com.
As the son of Norman Love, Ryan was raised learning the craft of pastry-making from his father, and soon became involved at Norman Love Confections as a chocolatier, producing confections and novelty products. A graduate of Fort Myers High School, Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in restaurant management from the University of Central Florida before choosing to further his education at the French Pastry School in Chicago. Ryan worked his way through pastry school as a pastry cook for The Peninsula in Chicago.
After completing the program at French Pastry School, Ryan returned to Norman Love Confections as a pastry cook, where he now is responsible for producing assorted European cakes and individual pastries each day. Ryan’s other responsibilities include training programs for new staff members, and is involved in all stages of the creation of new items, from development to retail.
Dedicated to supporting Southwest Florida nonprofit organizations, Ryan serves as a board member for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lee County, and helped spearhead their signature event, the Chef’s Cooking for Kids Gala. Ryan has also supported dozens of charities through special chef appearances, cooking events and tasting parties.
Outside the Norman Love Confections salon, Ryan enjoys watching hockey, and is a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also enjoys martial arts.
Learn more at NormanLoveConfections.com
Chef Norman Love
Since founding Norman Love Confections, Norman has received tremendous national and international recognition. One of the top European daily newspapers, as well as National Geographic magazine, have ranked Norman Love Confections among the top 10 chocolate shops in the world and Dessert Professional Magazine has honored Norman Love as a the first inductee into the Chocolatier Hall of Fame. A highly respected consumer rating publication recognized the company 12 times, including 6 times as the best ultra-premium chocolates in the nation. Norman and his chocolates have been featured by USA Today, The Today Show, Robb Report, InStyle, Martha Stewart Living, Forbes and O, The Oprah Magazine. Norman Love Confections was also named among the top 10 Best Chocolate Shops in the World in 2015 and 2016.
He owns and operates four chocolate salons in Southwest Florida, including his newest location right nearby on McGregor Boulevard, as well as Artisan Gelato by Norman Love, located next to his main Salon and production facility off of Daniels Parkway, just east of 75. Norman Love has also grown a vibrant e-commerce business, and products created right here in Southwest Florida are shipped to chocolate lovers around the country.
Norman Love and his wife Mary started their company right here in Fort Myers 15 years ago. He has an inspiring story of creating a business from scratch, and growing it into a globally recognized brand. Rooted in the community where they’ve raised their business and family, Norman and Mary Love support more than 250 charities locally.
Learn more at NormanLoveConfections.com
Born and raised in Waimea, Hawaii, Chef David Robbins grew up working on his family’s flower and lei business on their all natural produce farm. There he developed a strong passion for local ecology and a deep understanding of where food comes from which eventually led to him joining the culinary world as a chef.
Robbins moved to Florida as a teenager, and went on to pursue his degree at Florida Coast University in Cultural Ecology. He then began to hone his skills in the kitchen with The Bonita Bay Group and Fiddlesticks Country Club before taking on a leadership role at the Naples Grand Resort – Waldorf Astoria Collection in 2006. As sous chef at the AAA Four Diamond Resort, Robbins came into his stride as a chef while working in a world-class level environment serving a high volume of guests on a daily basis with top quality and consistency.
Next, Robbins sent 7 years at Fiddler’s Creek Club and Spa, Naples, FL where he eventually took over the helm as executive chef.
While continuing to push himself professionally, in 2015 Chef Robbins accepted a position at The W Hotel & Residences, South Beach and The Dutch Miami – the AAA Four Diamond resort is home to the South Florida outpost of acclaimed Chef Andrew Carmellini’s NYC modern American restaurant. Robbins, brought with him over 15 years of professional experience in culinary arts and dining room services to the team. While at The W he collaborated with Executive Chef de Cuisine Adonay Tafur in managing all resort food and beverage operations including banquet functions, in-room dining and overall food and beverage operations for the resort’s venues: WET Deck, Beach Cabanas & Food Truck, Living Room, The Wall, The Grove, and The Dutch Miami.
Chef Robbins returned to Naples at the end beginning of 2016 to pursue new opportunities and to have more time with his sons Micah & Aiden – and wife Arianna. Since, he has privately consulted on a range of projects including working with private Country Clubs /Yacht Clubs & multiple restaurant openings.
Robbins is honored being part of the tight knit culinary community of Southwest Florida and being closer again to friends, family, and beautiful Naples beach sunsets. He tells us that “Naples is such a warm, friendly, and hospitable community. A part of Miami will now always be with me, but I’m glad to be back, I’m excited to play a role in the growing Naples food scene. SWFL is ripe with potential. It’s awesome, humbling, and inspiring to be part the new fabric of the area’s culinary culture.”
Learn more at www.SocietyFortMyers.com.
After several months under the direction of Chef Heath, it was time for Danny to move onto a bigger challenge with Ray’s Killer Creek in Alpharetta taking on the Sous Chef position and later becoming the Executive Chef. During his tenure, Danny has appeared in several trade publications and enjoyed being a guest chef at many of the Atlanta’s celebrity charity events.
After almost ten years with Killer Creek, Danny moved on to the Capital Grille in Charlotte where he took them from the middle of the pack to number one in Darden’s Diamond Club, their internal ranking system.
Chef Danny and his wife Kimberly recently moved to the Fort Myers area to be closer to family.
Chef Andreas Singer
Chef Andreas Singer started his culinary career as an apprentice back in Austria, training in Classical Cuisine. Upon continuing his education he worked in several different resorts and positions in Austria, Switzerland, and Long Island, New York.
Currently, Chef Singer is the Executive Chef at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point located in beautiful Bonita Springs, FL. The luxurious Resort and Spa has become a very well known destination for local guests and guests from abroad. The Resort offers award winning restaurants Tarpon Bay, Tanglewood and 72,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor function space.
Now in his 23rd year with Hyatt Hotels Chef Singer started at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Islands. He held various positions in his four years at this Island resort and joined the Hyatt Regency Dearborn on 1998 as Executive Sous Chef. In 2000, Chef Singer was promoted to Executive Chef at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque. He was then promoted to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in 2004,in Arlington, Virginia. In 2007 Chef Singer was promoted to his current position at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, overlooking the culinary operation of Hyatt’s jewel on the Gulf Coast.
Learn more at www.hyatt.com
Danzi emerged into the culinary world by impressing a chef with a sweet-and-sour rabbit dish he had learned to make from his father, who was his inspiration. Danzi’s passion, creativity and skills have led him all over the world. Being classically trained in Italy, France, England, Oman, Bahrain and Barbados gave him the opportunity to delight sultans and presidents with his dishes.
His love for the kitchen and infusing cultures can be tasted through Cristof’s signature dishes. Danzi’s favorite is the pan-seared fresh scallops, blackened and served with Key Lime risotto, it’s a mouthwatering fusion of French, Italian and Cajun influences.
Danzi’s dream vacation is to sail around the world and says that in SWFL to enjoy a glass of good wine, good food and great company is “La Dolce Vita” all the way.
Next Chef Duque headed to the Sheraton Dallas, serving as the executive sous chef. After successfully leading the culinary team in Dallas for one year, Chef Duque returned home to Florida, choosing South Seas Island Resort and serving as executive sous chef. In his time at South Seas, Chef Duque redesigned the banquet and restaurant menus – infusing his love of South Florida, Caribbean infused dishes – and delighting brides, meeting planners and guests.
Learn more at www.marker92.com.
Jason Mallon brings 15 years of restaurant industry experience to the role of Executive Chef for Ocean Prime Naples. Having worked his way up the ranks in restaurant kitchens, Mallon has come to appreciate the Ocean Prime culture that focuses on putting associates first, and empowering them with the tools and training to grow and succeed.
Mallon grew up in St. Augustine, and spent the past 10 years in Tampa before moving to Naples. He joined Ocean Prime Tampa in January 2009 after hearing the personal story of renowned restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, owner of Ocean Prime and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. Mallon was inspired by Mitchell’s story of overcoming adversity to achieve success, and he quickly came to appreciate the founder’s “people first” philosophy.
At Ocean Prime Tampa, Mallon started as a broil cook, was quickly promoted to kitchen supervisor, then to the role of sous chef. Having experienced the benefits of internal job growth, Mallon soon found himself engaging in employee development, training new chefs and associates in the kitchen, before stepping into the executive chef position at Ocean Prime Naples where he oversees kitchen operations, food preparation and quality. His goal? To provide the best guest experience in terms of food and service, bringing that “wow” factor to their Ocean Prime visit.
Outside the kitchen? You might find Mallon golfing, playing music or enjoying a movie with his wife.
Learn more at www.ocean-prime.com
Chef Michael Mueller has worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years. He began working in the front of the house as a teenager and after just a few years he transferred into the kitchen with guidance and inspiration from his parents, both avid cooks. While completing his business degree at the University of Minnesota – Duluth, he continued to cook at restaurants in Duluth and Minneapolis. Upon graduation, he moved to New York to attend the Culinary Institute of America. While in school, he took the train into New York City to stage at Jean-Georges, which helped to secure his internship there. After graduating, he continued to work for Jean-Georges and with Andrew Carmellini to help open his restaurant A Voce, and he staged at Nobu and Geophry Zakarian’s Country.
After four years of rigorous training in New York, including many 100+ hour work weeks, Chef Mike moved to Naples to work for D’Amico & Partners as a Sous Chef at Café & Bar Lurcat, then he was transferred to Campiello. In 2013 he was promoted to opening Chef at Masa and then he moved to his current role as Executive Chef at Café & Bar Lurcat. In 2016 he was promoted to “Executive Chef of American Restaurants” for D’Amico and Partners.
Chef Mike lives in Naples with his wife, Sara, his young sons Maverick and Kyen, and two Golden Retrievers Cuda and Maya.
Learn more at www.cafelurcat.com.
Chef Greg began his culinary journey in small boutique French restaurants in 1996. Learning the finer points of Grand Cuisine, he was afforded the opportunity to work with many inspiring European chefs, finding a passion for the artisanal craft of the culinary arts.
After several years of learning what he could from various chefs, he was blessed with the opportunity to work under a Certified Master Chef at a private country club for the better part of five years. This gave him a base of knowledge, with which to branch out and develop his own style of cooking. During his time as a Sous Chef at the country club, he worked through the ACF apprenticeship, receiving his degree in Culinary arts.
After a short stint as the Chef de Cuisine of Baleen at the La Playa resort, he helmed the kitchen of Angelina’s Ristorante for 3 years, only then to follow his own dream of opening a venue of cuisine that focused on global ingredients and techniques, rather than those confined to certain ethnic or regional parameters. Fuse Global Cuisine was born from a vision and need to create.
Learn more at www.fuseglobalcuisine.com.
Dustin Valette began his culinary career at 13 washing dishes at Catelli’s in his home town of Geyserville, California. Two years later he took an apprenticeship at Chateau Souverain, a Francis Ford Coppola Estate where he worked under Executive Chef Martin Courtman. Now, more than 20 years later, Valette finds himself back in Northern California’s wine country continuing the dream that started some 22 years ago.
Valette honed his craft in some of the most celebrated restaurants on the West Coast, including the Michelin-starred Aqua in San Francisco, and Napa Valley’s Bouchon. Additional credits include Hokus at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Honolulu, a five-star, five-diamond property; the exclusive North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, California; and VOX Restaurant & Wine Lounge in Henderson, Nevada. For the past 6 years he was the Executive Chef of Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant in downtown Healdsburg. Dustin gathered great acclaim for his strong relationships he cultivated with local farmers and purveyors in order to provide the restaurant with the area’s freshest and most unique ingredients. Dustin was known at Dry Creek Kitchen for his exceptional ability to pair some of the country’s best wines with his intense flavorful and dynamic cuisine.
The idea of Valette Restaurant started some 15 years ago amongst two brothers, Aaron & Dustin. They were sitting at their father’s house overlooking the Alexander Valley, Aaron by this time was establishing himself at John Ash in Santa Rosa as a dynamic server and sommelier; Dustin was in New York learning the Culinary Craft that would he his life long passion. Over a glass wine the two dreamt of opening a restaurant that showcased all Sonoma County has to offer. It would serve honest food, have amazing service and house a collection of boutique-small production wines. Now, with over 47 years combined experience Valette opens for the public to come and share the passion and dedication of the two brothers.
Learn more at www.valettehealdsburg.com.
Tanglewood – Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa
Eugene Lyall was born and raised in Harrisburg, PA. There he started working in restaurants throughout high school. After graduating high school, he pursed his career in culinary, attending The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA. Attending culinary school was a great opportunity for him as Philadelphia is a very diverse place when it comes to culinary arts. Upon graduation, Eugene had an opportunity through his schooling to travel to France and experience the cuisine and culture that it had to offer.
After graduation, Eugene continued his career working in Philadelphia at a French Bistro, an authentic Irish restaurant and a tapas style wine bar. In 2008, Eugene had chosen to move to Southwest Florida where he gained country club experience and was working for a catering company. During this time he even had the opportunity to work at large a large festival, in Ohio.
In 2012, Eugene began working at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point. While working at the 4 star resort he gained great knowledge in high volume and production. In 2013, Eugene was promoted to culinary supervisor, before being promoted to his current position, of Sous Chef.
Eugene has had great experiences working for Hyatt Regency Coconut Point and looks forward to continuing his career with the company.
Learn more at http://www.coconutpoint.hyatt.com
Meghan Madden, Division Director of Food Innovation at Community Cooperative, started working in restaurants while she was in college. She quickly developed a passion for the restaurant industry, the cuisine, and spirits. She studied culinary arts at the Art Institute in Manhattan and completed an internship at Aquavit. After excelling behind the scenes in the kitchen, she moved to the front of the house and managed several live music venues, including Sounds of Brazil, and the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.
After years of harsh New York winters, Meghan was ready for a break and moved to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands to work for Duffy’s Love Shack. Under her management the rapidly growing business won multiple industry awards, and eventually opened additional locations in Ocean City, Maryland, and Cruz Bay, St. John. What she thought would be a brief break from the city turned into five years of booming business, openings, travel, and of course, boating.
In 2005, Meghan moved back to Fort Myers to be closer to family. She worked as the General Manager for Dwyers Pub in Fort Myers, and the Grillroom in Estero. In 2010, Meghan joined Community Cooperative to help contribute to their innovative initiatives to serve the freshest food possible to their clients, all while combating hunger and homelessness in Lee County.
Learn more at www.communitycooperative.com.
In 1999-2002 Brent attended Culinary School at Colorado Mountain College in Vail, Colorado. In addition, he completed a 6000 hour (3 year) American Culinary Federation sponsored apprenticeship at the Lodge at Vail. Brent has worked and trained in many different restaurant and hotel markets including: Santa Barbara, CA; Vail, CO; Crested Butte, CO; New York City, NY; Rumson, NJ; Naples, FL; Menerbes, France and Atlanta, GA. He has also worked with some of the top chefs in the country including Thomas Salamunovich, Julian Serrano, David Burke and Paul Ferzacca.
Brent incorporates local, seasonal and sustainable products into his “New American” creations. His outlook on food is simple, use the best ingredients possible while allowing their natural flavors to shine.
Learn more at www.tiburongcnaples.com.
Executive Chef Ignacio “Iggy” Ortiz was born and raised in Naples, Florida. He is no stranger to the Roy’s “Ohana”, having previously worked in Bonita and Naples. Iggy’s passion for cooking began at home; cooking weird and crazy meals for his family. In addition to the techniques learned from Roy’s Chef’s, he received his Business Management degree from the University of South Florida. Iggy always knew his path would someday bring him back to Roy’s Bonita Springs. Outside of work, he enjoys watching his two sons play football, cheering on the Dallas Cowboys, and working on his Mustangs.
Learn more at www.roysrestaurant.com
Gaston J. Sanchez
Tarpon Bay – Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa
Born and raised in Miami to Cuban parents, Chef Gastón J. Sánchez was always intrigued by the culinary arts. Following his grandmothers around the kitchen and learning their recipes as they created their traditional Cuban dishes was what led Gaston to follow his dream of becoming a chef.
Though his formal training was at Johnson & Wales, Gastón has always found ways to create his own style through experimenting with his favorite dishes. Fusing the Cuban cuisine, he learned about as a child and blending it with flavors from around the world is what has led to his successful culinary creations. Gastón has been a chef for over 12 years and has created award-winning menus at some of the most recognized restaurants in Miami, Madrid, New York and Puerto Rico. He has also had the honor of working for several celebrities as a personal chef. In his stent as Chef, he has also traveled extensively acquiring apprenticeships with top Cevicheros in Lima Peru, the best Guachos in Bariloche, Argentina, acquiring experience and knowledge of butchery and grilling techniques and finally with Ferran Adria in Catalonia, Spain Experimenting with Molecular Gastronomy. Although Gaston’s experience is mainly in the kitchen, he has simultaneously nurtured his passion for food and the eating experience with a good balance in front of the house as a Sommelier, general manager and director of food and beverage for the National Hotel and The Deauville Beach Resort in setting the highest of standards in service for his guests.
Along the way his philosophy and style has become extremely conscious of good health and in most cases, has adopted the idea of “Paleo eating” Basically using ingredients and techniques used by Cavemen.
Learn more at www.coconutpoint.hyatt.com
While gaining invaluable insight into the culinary world, Jason studied at Delgado Community College. His culinary apprenticeship program took three years in order to complete, and six thousand staggering hours of on-the-job training.
In 2006, Jason was offered a Sous Chef position at Roy’s. This is where Jason truly flourished, he was promoted to Executive Chef Partner and in 2010 he was offered the opportunity to take the helm at Roy’s Bonita Springs, one of Roy’s oldest and most established mainland restaurants. Not being able to resist the thought of living by the sea and further expanding his adventures through cooking, Chef Grasty jumped at the opportunity to call Florida his new home. He currently oversees 10 Roy’s Restaurants throughout Florida, Texas, Illinois, and Maryland.
Chef Grasty is grateful that his journey has taken him through career-enriching experiences at different restaurants, which have led him to Roy Yamaguchi’s collection of amazing restaurants. His immediate hopes are to continuously evolve in the kitchen by creating excellent dishes.
Learn more at www.roysrestaurant.com.
Chef Andy developed his distinctive palate through a multicultural upbringing. Born in Accra, Ghana, he spent his early years in Chicago and thereafter studied at The Culinary Academy in Hannover, Germany where he learned from some of the best Chef’s in Europe. Because of this diversity, his cuisine combines elements from his African, American, and European background which enables him to craft unique signature flavors.
After cooking at several restaurants in Europe, Chef Hyde returned to the United States in 2006, where he was instrumental in the opening of Gordon Ramsey’s London Hotel in Los Angeles in 2008. He expanded his knowledge of American cuisine through cooking in fine dining establishments across the United States, including Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant in Beverly Hills. He also worked in 3 star Michelin rated Alinea restaurant in Chicago, and recently was the Executive Assistant Chef at the Relais and Chateau, The Wauwinet Hotel in Nantucket.
Learn more at www.ChefHydeCatering.com
In 1992, Chef Billy Mak moved to Fort Myers from his hometown of Hong Kong, China. Chef Mak’s first experience in the restaurant business was working for his uncle at the age of 15. By working his way up the ranks, Chef Mak developed a passion for creating not only great food but a memorable experience for guests.
Throughout Chef Mak’s career, he has been lucky to work with his brother, Kevin Mak, for over 15 years, by learning from him and being joint partners of several Asian and sushi restaurant ventures in Fort Myers. Currently, Chef Mak is a partner and Executive Chef of Brahma Express at Florida Gulf Coast University, as well as, Senior Chef at Brahma, which will be launching soon at Gulf Coast Town Center.
Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his daughter and close friends and is very thankful to be a part of the 2017 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest.
Chef Keith Nickerson was named executive sous chef for the Williamsburg Lodge in 2013. He was responsible for managing kitchen operations for the Lodge and Woodlands conference centers as well as supporting Huzzah! BBQ Grille and Traditions restaurants, developing new menus, cost estimating and staff scheduling.
He earned an associate degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from Johnson & Wales University in Norfolk, Va., graduating summa cum laude. During school, he worked in the kitchens of some of the area’s most renowned restaurants, including Todd Jurich’s Bistro, the Swan Terrace at the Founders Inn and One Fish, Two Fish. Upon completion of an externship at the Founders Inn, he became lead line cook and was soon promoted to chef de cuisine of the Swan Terrace, opening a newly remodeled contemporary open kitchen concept at the restaurant.
Upon leaving Outback, Thomas devoted his energies and time to studies at Edison College, earning an Associate Degree in Business Management. With his newly acquired business skills, Thomas once again entered into the food and beverage arena, however this time he delved deeper into his appreciation of Italian cuisine. Thomas honed his skills by working in several local Italian trattorias and pizzerias, continuously developing his recipes for specialty dishes, artisan breads and pizza doughs
In October 2014, Thomas joined the culinary team at South Seas Island Resort as Chef d’ Cuisine of Scoops and Slices, to help develop the food menu that would showcase his passion for world class breads and pizzas. At South Seas he enjoys creating an impressive array of original pizza varieties, exceeding the palate of the most discriminating diner.
Square Cafe in New York City. Working under James Beard recognized Executive Chef Michael Romano, Melissa was introduced to the “buy local” movement, pioneered by Union Square Cafe owner Danny Meyer and begun a career long passion for matching local grown product with fine dining.
In 2001, Melissa continued her career in New Orleans joining the staff of Commanders Palace, led by Executive Chef Tory McPhail. While at Commanders Palace, nationally know for its Cajun Creole cuisine, Melissa developed a deeper appreciation for Gulf Coast cuisine and how well it can be incorporated into a wide range of cuisines and culinary traditions.
In 2004, following Hurricane Katrina, Melissa moved to Washington DC where she worked in the kitchen of Washington DC’s 2003 Best New Restaurant of the Year, Black Salt. Black Salt’s well regarded fish market gave Melissa the opportunity to continue to focus on seafood and innovative pairings. Black Salt’s reputation in contemporary dining also allowed her to work with Asian and European influences.
Melissa was finally recruited away from Washington DC to become the Executive Chef of Red Fish Blue Fish giving her control over the restaurants direction, while continuing to reflect then owner Gaye Levine’s vision and culinary style. Today under its current name Sweet Melissa Cafe, Melissa has continued to focus on complex flavors and well thought out food while dedicating herself to incorporating Southwest Florida’s expansive local produce and seafood offerings into her menu. Her culinary versatility has allowed Melissa to bring her expertise and focus on contemporary fine dining to Sanibel’s restaurant community with a menu that changes regularly to take advantage of the areas seasonal fish and produce.
Melissa lives in Sanibel with her husband John and two children Olivia and Benjamin.
Learn more at www.miromarlakes.com.
While vacationing in Southwest Florida in 2011, Keith decided to make a permanent move to the Sunshine State. He began his culinary career in Florida as a consultant, but Keith quickly realized he missed being in the kitchen.
In late 2011, he accepted a position as Executive Chef/General Manager at Trabue in Punta Gorda. Chef Keith utilizes French techniques while keeping the menu fresh, varied, and approachable.
Chef Anna Toole is a Plant-based and Paleo Concierge Chef, who creates unique meals for her library of private clients, and teaches cooking classes on how to improve your health through nutritious & clean eating. She recently teamed with a well recognized Holistic health, fitness, Yoga teacher & SUP master to bring all offerings to the SWFL community.
Chef has trained under Über Maser Chef Daniel Boulud and Chef Patrice Böely at the Hotel Westbury-Polo Club in New York City, and Plaza Atheénée. She has lived and worked various culinary positions from Personal Chef to Restaurant Consultant in France, North Carolina, SWFL, Hawaii, and the Dominican Republic. Previously she owned a Choclatier in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, a Restaurant & Catering Company in Maui, HI serving Fortune 500 clients. Currently, aside from her masterful, artistic meals, Chef Anna has a boutique, gourmet line of wine and bourbon desserts, either European sweet or Plant-based.
This year, she plans on making a few waves and will be bringing savory & sweet creations to the Grand Tasting & Live Auction!
Learn more at www.twistedvinebistro.com.
He enriched his professional experience by working at Saud Beach Resort in the Philippines, the Fort Belvoir Officers Club in Mount Vernon, VA and serving as a training and development specialist in the United States Army. He is a member of the American Culinary Federation.
He is well-known locally for sourcing high-quality, locally grown food and working closely with vendors that only have the utmost respect for farm to table production.
Learn more at www.summerlinjakes.com.