2020 Participating Chefs
Director of Culinary Operations – Home Team BBQ | Gourmet & Grapes Culinary Chair
As a young kid, Jonathan Banta got his first real experience cooking at a culinary arts summer camp in his hometown Pittsgrove, New Jersey. After earning a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University, Jonathan began to build his culinary and management experience at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Running Deer Golf Club in his home state of New Jersey. He moved to Philadelphia in 2001, where he worked with famed chef Jose Garces at Alma de Cuba. In 1998, he brought his talents to Charleston, taking a restaurant consulting position, and then working at 82 Queen and Rue de Jean.
Most recently, Chef Banta served as Chef de Cuisine and General Manager at The Atlantic Room and Ryder Cup Bar in The Ocean Course Clubhouse. As Director of Culinary Operations for Home Team BBQ, he oversees special and charity related events, handling purchasing, streamlining culinary operations, and assisting with menu development.
Executive Chef – The Fearrington House Restaurant
Colin Bedford is the executive chef of The Fearrington House Restaurant, one of the most venerable farm-to-fork restaurants in the South, where his cuisine interplays the legendary culinary traditions of the American South, local ingredients, and his own English roots.
Anyone who has chatted with 34-year-old Bedford might quickly guess he grew up in England. Bedford’s culinary interests started at an early age, he says, enamored by his mother’s home baking and helping his father water the vegetable garden. After graduating from Yeovil College in Somerset with a Diploma in Hospitality, he took on his first full-time job in 1996.
He became an apprentice at The Castle Hotel, a Norman fortress built in the 12th century, where he worked under esteemed British chef Phil Vickery. The Castle, like Fearrington, is a family-run property, known for fostering up-and-coming chefs.
Bedford joined The Fearrington House in 2005 and was promoted to Executive Chef in 2008. Since then, his exceptional menus have won critical acclaim. The Fearrington House earned a national ranking as one of the top hotel food destinations in the world (Condé Nast Traveler). It is also one of only two inn and restaurant combinations in the U.S. to have the Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond award for both, totaling 10 stars and 10 diamonds. In 2012, Bedford was named a Grand Chef by Relais & Châteaux, the international culinary world’s highest honor. Bedford has since cooked at the Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef dinner in London in 2013 and at Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest in Caramel by the Sea in 2015.
Fearrington House is the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the country to be Green Certified by the not-for-profit Green Restaurant Association.
Executive Chef/Owner – The Pampered Palate
Chef Merrit Brady is the executive chef and owner of The Pampered Palate Personal Chef Service. The Pampered Palate specializes in creating a unique culinary experience for residents and visitors of Kiawah Island and the Charleston South Carolina area.
Chef Merrit began his culinary career in Highlands North Carolina in 1995 and quickly realized his passion for the craft. This passion brought him to the prestigious Johnson and Wales Culinary University in 2001 where he earned his degree in the culinary arts and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2003. Chef Merrit held the position of executive sous chef at 82 Queen Restaurant, a landmark for Charleston’s “lowcountry cuisine.” Chef Merrit then accepted a position at award winning McCrady’s Restaurant where he held almost every position in the kitchen and eventually became the executive sous chef. While at McCrady’s, the restaurant held the distinguished AAA Four Diamond Award, the DiRoNA Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator’s “Best of,” and Charleston Post & Courier’s “Restaurant of the Year.” Other accomplishments and experience include a six-month internship at the Biltmore Estates in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as being a graduate of the Culinary Business Academy and member of the United States Personal Chef Association.
Chef de Cuisine – Parcel 32
Chef de Cuisine John Coleman joined the Parcel 32 team in 2019 after building his extensive resume throughout the Holy City. Coleman moved to Charleston in 2007 to attend The Art Institute of Charleston following a year at Clemson University. It was in Charleston that he worked his way up in the kitchen from a line cook to his current Chef de Cuisine role.
Coleman had a unique path to pursuing his culinary career, originally studying graphic communication and receiving a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Upon graduating, he wore many hats, including graphic designer and part-time stage hand, before realizing he wanted to fully immerse himself in the culinary world. He’s notably worked as a sous chef at Chubby Fish, 492 King, Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House, Legends, and handled the rotating stations at Edmund’s Oast.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Coleman enjoys traveling, sampling the amazing food Charleston has to offer, hiking, playing with his dog, and watching Clemson football. He looks forward to further developing the relationships Parcel 32 has built with local food purveyors and continuing to make sustainability a focus on the restaurant’s cuisine.
Executive Chef – Circa 1886
Originally from Erie, PA, Chef Marc Collins came to the culinary world by an untraditional path. His original love was in aviation, but less than perfect vision meant his goal of becoming a jet pilot in the Air Force was not in the cards. He turned to food at age 16 after working as a chef apprentice on the Paradise II, a private yacht with a presidential history. That led to a culinary degree from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh and a string of cooking jobs, including working at the Erie Country Club, where he served under Executive Chef David Spadafore, a Gold Medal Winner in the Culinary Olympics held in Frankfurt Germany.
In 1991, Chef Collins moved to San Antonio, where he worked at La Mansion Del Rio under French Chef Guy Collinet and later at La Louisiane, a restaurant specializing in fine French cuisine and Cajun Creole cooking. At 23, he took his first chef position at the Fairmount Hotel, an AAA Four Diamond hotel restaurant.
In 2001, Chef Collins was recruited to come to Charleston and take the helm at Circa 1886, where he has remained since, putting his signature stamp on Lowcountry cooking.
In 2005, Marc had a budding idea for a food and wine festival to be hosted in Charleston, spotlighting the amazing array of talent and ingredients we have here. Thanks to his dedication and countless hours of preliminary planning meetings, that vision became reality in 2006, when the 1st annual BB&T Charleston Wine & Food Festival launched. Today, the Festival is a prominent weekend that features over 160 chef and authors from Charleston and across the country, and over 50 food and wine themed events. For his critical work in founding the Festival, Chef Collins is the namesake and first recipient of the 2010 Charleston Wine & Food Festival Marc Collins Chef Award.
Executive Chef – Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina
Heyward Davis is the executive chef of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, Charleston’s premier location for waterfront dining and entertainment. Through his seasonally-driven cuisine, Davis strives to source his ingredients locally and responsibly, taking advantage of the bounty of ingredients grown here in the Lowcountry.
Davis is passionate about combining his lifelong passion for culinary arts and horticulture through his work with the South Carolina Aquarium Good Catch Program which promotes local and sustainable seafood purchasing and limited consumption of single use disposables and plastics. His belief in community reinvestment also extends to his involvement in a culinary arts training and internship program with One80 Place, a non-profit organization whose mission focuses on the prevention of homelessness. Davis spearheaded a partnership between the Charleston Harbor Fish House and One80 Place and will launch an internship program in the near future that will allow outstanding culinary training participants the opportunity to work under Davis here at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
Davis holds a 2008 degree from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Program and was named 2015 Leader of the Year for the Kessler Collection Hotels. His resume boasts a variety of culinary positions, from his work in Major League Baseball stadiums to management and executive chef positions at the Omni Grove Park Inn, The Sanctuary at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort and the Grand Bohemian Hotels in Charleston and Savannah.
Pitmaster/Owner – Swig & Swine
Born and raised in Mantua, New Jersey, Anthony DiBernardo has always had a passion for cooking. He entered the culinary world when he was 14 as a banquet cook.
Later, the US Navy brought Anthony to the Lowcountry, where he has lived for nearly 25 years. After serving as a cook on the USS Batfish submarine for four years, Anthony began working in the kitchen at Blossom Cafe. His resume includes roles as the Executive Chef at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Corporate Executive Chef at Mustard Seed, and Operating Partner and Head Chef at Rita’s.
After incorporating barbecue menu items as frequently as possible during each culinary venture, Anthony started his own barbecue catering business, where his passion started to set fire. He opened Swig & Swine BBQ in collaboration with Queen Street Hospitality Group in 2013.
Patty Floersheimer + Trudi Wagner
Owners – goat.sheep.cow.
Eight years ago, best friends Trudi Wagner and Patty Floersheimer opened goat.sheep.cow., a tiny shop on Church Street just South of Broad in Charleston’s, historic downtown district. The small fromagerie and wine shop supplies its faithful local clientele with European-inspired delicacies. After years of requests by these customers for dine-in and by-the-glass service, the two dreamed up their second venture. In November of 2016 they opened the doors to goat.sheep.cow.,north in the up-and-coming “Upper Peninsula” neighborhood. In addition to a retail area four times the size of their original store, the new location boasts a beautiful café and wine bar which recently received “Best New Restaurant Design” from the readers of Eater Charleston.
The two women found themselves in the cheese business via very different paths: Trudi from a successful career on Wall Street at the NYSE and Patty from a lifetime of custom clothing design and manufacturing. As is true of many great friendships, this one was forged in the kitchen, planning and executing wine-centered dinners. Both will tell you that from the time they met in 2007, they’ve never tired of each others’ company.
Jonathan + Justin Fox
Owners – Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
Growing up in Texas, twin brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox were inspired by Texas heat and southern spice. After moving from Fort Worth to Atlanta, Justin and Jonathan were homesick for Texas-style barbecue and after being unable to find the flavors they grew up with, the twin brothers decided to take matters into their own hands. With no professional training, Jonathan and Justin began throwing backyard gatherings for friends and family to test out their barbecue skills. Small gatherings grew into cooking for over 250 people, a barbecue catering operation was born. After a pop-up stint at Smith’s Olde Bar in 2005 where Fox Brothers was named “Runner-up Best Barbecue in Atlanta”, the brothers decided to open their own restaurant. In 2007, The Brothers along with partner Beau Nolen, opened the Candler Park location on Dekalb Avenue and began welcoming guests with their signature style of smoked brisket, pulled pork, wings, and a mix of original side dishes seven days a week.
“We welcome our guests into our home, to serve them the best barbecue we can offer” says Jonathan Fox. Today, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q has become not only an Atlanta staple but a southeastern staple, with rave reviews from top publications including Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Travel + Leisure, USA Today, and Sports Illustrated in addition to being featured on national television programs including The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: Southern Barbecue Trail”, The Today Show, and Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is the Official BBQ of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United and they serve up their famous fare to hungry fans inside the brand-new Mercedes Benz Stadium. They are also a featured vendor at the new home of the Atlanta Braves, SunTrust Park. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is now available at the Terrapin Taproom at the Battery Atlanta and at Fox Bros. Que-Osk.
Executive Chef/Partner – Prohibition
Born in Beacon, NY, Chef Greg Garrison was raised in the Hudson Valley and attended Suffolk University in Boston before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
After graduating, Greg spent time in some of the country’s most celebrated restaurants, working with Chefs Wylie Dufresne, Grant Achatz and Ken Oringer. In 2013 he became the sous chef at Boston’s acclaimed French fine dining restaurant, L’Espalier.
Trading in big city life for the coastal vibes of Charleston, SC, Greg traveled south to join the team at Prohibition Charleston in 2015. Since his arrival, he’s completely revamped the restaurant’s culinary program, incorporating his technical plating and playful flavors into the a la carte menu and his newly launched “casual tasting menu.” In 2016, Greg was recognized for his work by Zagat, who named him one of their “30 Under 30”.
In the fall of 2017, Greg and the Prohibition Charleston team opened a second Prohibition in historic downtown Savannah, Georgia. During November of 2019, Greg was selected to showcase his talents along with fellow Southern chefs to cook for the James Beard Foundation in Savannah.
Executive Chef/Culinary Director – The Umstead Hotel and Spa
Steven Devereaux Greene is executive chef of The Umstead Hotel and Spa, a Cary, North Carolina hotel lauded for its progressive American regional cuisine. He is responsible for all food and beverage operations, including Herons restaurant, The Bar & Lounge and catering. Greene’s passion for using ingredients and products from the rich Piedmont region to drive beautifully refined culinary experiences is evident daily in The Umstead’s award-winning dining program.
One of the country’s youngest executive chefs to helm the kitchen of a Forbes Five Star or AAA Five Diamond establishment, Greene’s tenure with The Umstead began in 2009. During his post as chef de cuisine, Greene guided Herons to its first Forbes Five Star Rating. In 2012 Greene departed to hone his skills as executive chef of Cary’s AN New World Cuisine (an), a restaurant that shares ownership with The Umstead. Under Greene’s direction an received Five Stars from The News & Observer and was named among “the Triangle’s creme de la Creme.” Greene returned to manage The Umstead’s culinary operations in 2014, and continues to provide creative leadership to an as its culinary director.
His background includes work in some of the country’s most celebrated kitchens. After serving as chef de cuisine at the handsomely awarded Dining Room at Woodlands Resort and Inn, in Summerville, S.C., Greene was inspired to open his namesake restaurant, Devereaux’s which quickly became a mainstay in Greenville, S.C. Devereaux’s would ultimately join the prestigious ranks of the Table 301 Restaurant Group to make way for Greene’s first post with The Umstead. Named a “Rising Star” by Restaurant Hospitality in 2008, Greene has twice cooked at the prestigious James Beard House in New York, representing Herons in 2011 and Devereaux’s in 2007.
Greene is the consummate southern gentleman and hails from Ninety Six, S.C. He lives in Morrisville, N.C. with his wife, and beyond family and food, his next great passion is guitar, which he has played for over 25 years.
Executive Chef – Mills House Wyndham Grand
Mills House Wyndham Grand Executive Chef/Food and Beverage Director Justin Hunt brings a wealth of culinary successes to the Mills House.
Justin has come full circle in his outstanding career, growing up on Long Island, then attending College of Charleston and The Art Institute of Charleston, and now landing him at the Mills House. His journey has included successes in Manhattan as Chef de Cuisine for Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay’s Bar American and working in Northern California at Thomas Keller’s, The French Laundry.
Justin blends his Southern culinary beginnings with unique and high-end experiences from coast to coast.
Owner – Holy City Hogs
Holy City Hogs is a family run operation and we have your family in mind when we raise our pigs, it’s real food without additives and chemicals. It’s what we feed our family. ALL our pigs live their entire lives outside. We don’t use farrowing barns or crates. We believe that happy pigs taste better! We try and offer our pigs the most natural environment possible so pigs can be pigs. Large paddocks comprised of woods and open fields allow our herds to truly graze and forage from the terroir in which they live. The flavors of the Earth, roots, grasses, seasonal forage and acorn mast give our pork products an undeniable advantage in taste and quality you won’t experience from a hog raised on concrete indoors.
Whole hog bbq and fine swine sales have catapulted Holy City Hogs to the forefront of pig conversations in the culinary world. Raising and cooking our own lard hogs offers a true farm to table experience like no other. From New York to New Orleans Tank travels the country delivering Holy City Hogs whether he’s cooking them himself or working with a James Beard winner or Michelin starred chef. Tank lives on Wadmalaw Island with his lovely wife Christian and their two children.
Executive Chef and Owner – The Grocery
Chef Kevin Johnson realized his long-time dream when he opened Charleston, South Carolina’s The Grocery with his wife Susan in December 2011. Evoking memories of the small-town grocery, the restaurant offers a menu based on local ingredients sourced from the purveyors that Johnson has worked with for many years, and the kitchen is stocked with house-made charcuterie as well as an in-house canning program.
A Johnson & Wales University graduate, Johnson cooked under such renowned chefs as Patrick O’Connell at The Inn at Little Washington and Frank Lee at Slightly North of Broad (SNOB).
Johnson was a semifinalist in the 2014 James Beard Award: Best Chef, Southeast category. Active in many events outside the restaurant, he was the headlining chef at Outstanding in the Field’s 2013 dinner in South Carolina as well as the 2014 Lowcountry Field Feast benefiting Lowcountry Local First, a favorite local charity. He is a member of the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival Board of Directors and he sits on the Atlanta Wine & Food Festival Advisory Council. Johnson has been an Adjunct Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston since Fall 2010 and he is also on the Advisory Board at the Institute. Most recently, Johnson was awarded the Marc Collins Chef Award at the 2015 BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival for his support of and contributions to the event.
When not in the kitchen at The Grocery, Johnson enjoys championing local causes and spending time with his wife and their three young sons, whose initials inspired The Grocery.
Owner – Sam Jones BBQ
Sam Jones is the third generation of pitmasters at the Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC. Sam’s granddaddy, Pete Jones built the restaurant on the old family farm property to carry on a long tradition of Jones Family BBQ dating back to 1830. They cook over real wood charcoal and when smoked to their perfecting standards, carefully chop the meat and the crispy skin together giving their bbq a unique texture and also optimum taste.
Sam started working in the family business at the age of 9 and outside of 5 years, has been there his whole life. They cook the pork the exact same way as his granddaddy Pete cooked it and declares, “if it’s not cooked with wood, it’s not bbq.”
Executive Chef – Wild Olive and The Obstinate Daughter
Jacques Larson began his professional training at the University of Iowa’s Stateroom, at the age of twenty-one. In 1996, Jacques Larson moved to the Lowcountry from Iowa City. The Iowa grad has cooked his way through college and had the good fortune to help open Peninsula Grill in 1997. After a brief stint in North Carolina, Jacques returned to Charleston to open Union Hall, Cintra and Mercato restaurants. In 2009, Jacques united with Doug Godley and the Team at Wild Olive. Years of dedication and persistence seemed to come together for the chef on Johns Island. Located in the heart of Charleston’s farming community, Wild Olive enjoys the rich bounty of local products from its committed local producers. This is done in the Italian tradition that puts the focus on simplicity, quality and seasonal ingredients. Working with Jason Parrish to create one of Charleston’s favorite restaurants has given Jacques a true sense of accomplishment. It also sparked the two to help conceptualize Wild Olive’s sister restaurant with Doug Godley. Bringing together some of Jacques’ favorite cooking styles and influences, the food of The Obstinate Daughter is an accumulation of 20+ years of working in the hospitality industry.
Chef/Owner – FIG & The Ordinary
Mike Lata is Chef/Partner of FIG Restaurant in Charleston, SC, which he opened in 2003 with Partner Adam Nemirow. In 2009, Mike took home the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast. In 2015, his protégé Chef Jason Stanhope garnered the same award – a rare achievement for one restaurant to earn this prestigious prize twice. Additionally, FIG has been nominated in 2014, 2015 and 2016 for Outstanding Wine Program by the James Beard Foundation. Now a local institution, FIG is consistently voted by locals as the “Best Restaurant in Charleston” in Charleston City Paper.
In December 2012, Lata and Nemirow opened The Ordinary, a classic oyster bar and seafood hall in Charleston’s Upper King district, to much local and national acclaim. The James Beard Foundation nominated The Ordinary as Best New Restaurant in 2013, and GQ, Esquire and Bon Appétit named it in the top 20 best restaurants of the year.
A native New Englander, Mike started his culinary career at an early age, working in kitchens in Boston, New Orleans, Atlanta and France before landing in Charleston in 1998. He is a hands-on, self-taught chef who is relentless in his pursuit of the freshest products, which constantly inspire and define his work. Mike’s mission is to create bright, satisfying food that is both uncomplicated and elegant, all the while paying respect to the efforts and traditions of his family of purveyors. His longstanding and outspoken commitment to support these local farmers and fishermen has cemented his position as a notable champion for Charleston’s flourishing culinary renaissance.
Mike’s food, philosophy, and contributions to the Charleston community have earned him recognition on national platform, including coverage in The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Esquire, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Travel + Leisure, USA Today, The New York Times and many more. He has been featured in several television appearances, including Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” Bravo’s Top Chef, PBS’s Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking, and ABC’s “Nightline Platelist,” which described his food as “so good it will buckle your knees.”
When he’s not in the kitchen, Mike can be found hitting the links, riding his prized Ducati motorcycles, or enjoying life with his son, Henry.
Executive Chef – A16 San Francisco
Nicolette Manescalchi was raised baking with her mother and cooking traditional Sicilian food with her father and moved to San Francisco almost 10 years ago from working at Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 Restaurant in Minnesota to work at A16.
Not only does she have an English degree from the University of Minnesota, but she also has her culinary degree from the Art Institutes International Minnesota and her sommelier certificate from the International Sommelier Guild. She was so dedicated to learning about Southern Italian food that she even spent her honeymoon in Southern Italy to immerse herself more deeply in the cuisine. She was executive sous chef at A16 Rockridge and helped open it, and one year later took the executive chef position at Le Marais Bakery and opened Le Marais Bistro. She returned to A16 San Francisco as chef de cuisine and became executive chef of both A16 Restaurants in April 2017 along with running their catering department.
Nicolette lives in the Outer Richmond in San Francisco with her husband, Nick and 3-year-old son, Llewyn.
With over twenty years of experience, Executive Chef Matthew Niessner directs the culinary operations at Halls Chophouse. Before he served as Executive Chef at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, Matthew spent time with some of the country’s greatest chefs in some of the country’s finest restaurants.
His credits include The Brass Elephant in Baltimore, Tapas Pepin and the Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Dining Room at Osprey Point at Kiawah Resort and his own Blend in downtown Charleston. Chef Niessner was a 1987 graduate at the prestigious Baltimore International Culinary College in Maryland. His diverse repertoire of international and classical American culinary talents presents guests at Halls Chophouse with the finest dining experience in a warm and beautiful atmosphere.
Executive Chef – Adda Indian Canteen and Rahi
Chef Chintan Pandya is Executive Chef of New York City restaurants Adda Indian Canteen, Rahi, and soon to open Dhamaka, all owned by restaurateur Roni Mazumdar. Born in Mumbai in Chintan incorporates the traditions of regional Indian cuisine into his food, opening the eyes of New Yorkers as to what authentic Indian food truly is. His menus consist of Indian dishes that are served in restaurants and homes across the Indian subcontinent, along with nostalgic recipes of dishes that Chef Chintan and owner Mazumdar came to love while growing up.
Born in Mumbai in 1980, Chintan embraced his interest for the culinary world at a young age, and enrolled in one of the most prestigious culinary schools in India, the Oberoi Centre of Learning & Development where he trained under the finest chefs from Oberoi Hotels. He got his professional start at a hotel restaurant in Mumbai, spending eight years in the kitchen learning traditional Indian cuisine and techniques. From there, he moved to Singapore, accepting a position of executive chef at Yantra from 2009 to 2013. Chef Pandya then traveled to the United States for consulting opportunities in Cleveland and Atlanta, before landing in Manhattan in 2016, where he joined the team at Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Junoon as executive chef. That is until meeting restaurateur Roni Mazumdar, who was seeking a chef for his soon to open restaurant Rahi, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. In 2017, the artisanal Indian restaurant opened with Chef Pandya at the helm. Rahi received a glowing notice from The New York Times restaurant reviewer Pete Wells, and captured the minds and tastebuds of many other food luminaries. Writing about how Indian restaurants are playing to a modern audience, Wells stated, “The most exciting food in this group, I think, goes to Rahi.” In September 2018, Adda Indian Canteen opened to rave reviews including one by Wells in The New York Times. The renowned critic lauded Chintan’s cuisine as “a lusty, full-throated defense of traditional cooking”, and gave it a radiant two-star review.
In 2019, Chef Chintan was presented with the StarChefs New York Rising Star Chef award. Also in 2019, Adda was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for “Best New Restaurant,” Food & Wine Magazine’s Ten Best New Restaurants, Eater’s National Best New Restaurants” and Bon Appetit Top 50 Best New Restaurants of 2019. His fourth restaurant, Dhamaka, is soon to open in early 2020. And with artist Mattia Casalenga is a partner in Aerobanquets RMX, a virtual reality experience combining food and fantasy, which is currently running at the James Beard House until end of January 2020.
Owner-French Master Chef, NICO Oysters + Seafood
Born in Lyon, France, Chef Nico Romo is the youngest-ever US member of The French Culinary Academy (l’Académie Culinaire de France) and Master Chefs of France (Maîtres Cuisiniers de France), one of just 66 French Master Chefs in the country, and the only recipient in South Carolina. Both elite organizations represent and comprise the most highly skilled chefs in the techniques and traditions of the French culinary art. Chef Romo graduated from the Helene Boucher Culinary Art School in Vénissieux at age 19 and perfected his skill under French Master Chef Patrick Henriroux at the dual-Michelin Starred restaurant La Pyramide in Vienne, France. Chef Romo spent a decade directing Patrick Properties Hospitality Group’s culinary programs and helmed the kitchen at Fish Restaurant. During that time, he was named a Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Ambassador and member of the Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force recognizing his commitment to ocean-friendly seafood and Lowcountry fishermen. Chef Romo now brings his European training and appreciation for locally sourced ingredients to his own concept, NICO.
Owner-Pitmaster, Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
Owner/Executive Chef Aaron Siegel’s years of knowledge and experience began with a degree from the University of Georgia and was seasoned by a culinary degree from The Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Aaron completed an internship in Atlanta at Nava under acclaimed Chef Kevin Rathbun. Then, he moved to Aspen, CO to work as a Sous Chef by Pinion’s and Cache Cache. During his time at these high-end restaurants, Aaron became more intrigued with the idea of combining traditional processes and techniques of classical cuisine with the simplicity of comfort food, BBQ, and Southern fare. Returning to the South, he became the Executive Chef at Blossom Cafe in downtown Charleston for several years before taking his vast experience and creativity and opened Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ.
Executive Chef – Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
After spending some time at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Taylor Garrigan changed courses and attended and graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a hotel and restaurant management degree. Taylor at The Beach Club at Kiawah Island and Magnolias before moving on to FIG to work under renowned chef, Mike Lata, in downtown Charleston. Today, at Home Team BBQ as executive chef, Taylor combines traditional processes and techniques of classical cuisine with the simplicity of comfort food, BBQ, and Southern fare.
Andy Ticer & Michael Hudman
Executive Chefs/Owners – Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen + Hog & Hominy
Born and bred Memphians, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman opened Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in 2008 to feature innovative Italian cooking rooted in Southern tradition. The Chefs trained at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina and the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Italy. Their second restaurant, Hog & Hominy, is a wood burning, neighborhood eatery and was named one of the top new restaurants by GQ Magazine, Southern Living, and Bon Appetit as well as a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation, which also named the chefs semi-finalists for the Best Chef: Southeast award for three consecutive years during 2012-2014, and a finalist for the award in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2013, they were awarded Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs Award and named in Starchefs.com’s 2014 Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Chefs. In early 2015, The chefs opened Josephine Estelle in the Ace Hotel New Orleans in March 2016. The restaurant made Bon Appettit’s top 50 Best New Restaurants and Southern Living’s Best New Restaurants in the South. Catherine & Mary’s, opened in September of 2016 in Downtown Memphis, brought together their blend of grandmother cooking, Italian philosophy of dining, and southern ingredients to the heart of the city. In January of 2018, the chefs opened their second downtown restaurant, The Gray Canary, located in the Old Dominick Distillery. This restaurant embraces a new and exciting restaurant concept, featuring an open kitchen, wood fire cooking and a raw bar, all overlooking the Mississippi River in the South Main Arts District of Downtown Memphis .Never chefs to settle, Ticer and Hudman will open their fifth Memphis restaurant late 2019. Bishop is a French inspired brasserie, taking its cue from traditional techniques, seasonality, and southern ingredients.
Executive Chef/Owner – Le Farfalle
Michael Toscano is Chef/Owner of Le Farfalle in Charleston, SC, the modern, Italian osteria he opened with his wife, Caitlin, in 2016.
A native of Houston, TX, Michael had goals of playing college golf until a stint working at a local golf course in high school turned him on to cooking instead. He received a scholarship to an American Culinary Federation Apprenticeship at North Carolina’s Pinehurst Resort. After moving to New York City, Michael began working under Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery. By the age of 21, he was working as a sous chef for Mario Batali’s celebrated Babbo. After four years with B&B Hospitality, Toscano was tapped to open the Italian food mecca Eataly as the Executive chef of the fine dining restaurant, Manzo.
Michael ventured out on his own in 2012 to open Perla – a modern Italian restaurant located in Greenwich Village – which received many notable accolades, including Esquire‘s Best New Restaurants in America; New York Times Two Stars; and Time Out New York Best Italian Restaurant.
Through his career Toscano has garnered many accomplishments, such as “New York Rising Star” by StarChefs.com; Zagat 30 under 30; James Beard “Rising Star Chef” semifinalist; selected to be part of the Williams Sonoma Chefs’ Collective; and Charleston Regional Business Journal Forty under 40.
Seeking a slower pace of life and chasing their dreams of opening a restaurant together, Michael and Caitlin moved with their two children (Julian and Marley) to Charleston in 2015 to open Le Farfalle.
Embracing traditions inspired by both his Texan childhood food memories, Mexican heritage and classical Italian training, Michael utilizes the best Lowcountry ingredients from celebrated producers and applies them using time-tested techniques.
His food is both comforting and familiar, while pushing the boundaries of what’s expected.
Division Executive Chef – US Foods, Ft. Mill, SC
Executive Chef Denny Trantham was raised in Haywood County, North Carolina. His Southern Appalachian upbringing exposed him, at an early age, to many of the rich southern culinary traditions found throughout his culinary passion today. As a champion of the slow food movement, Trantham works closely with local farmers to secure the freshest ingredients possible and support the local economy.
Chef Trantham attended Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC, where he earned his Associate Degree in Occupational Science of Culinary Arts along with completing his apprenticeship at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. He subsequently continued his education at Montreat College, where he graduated Cum Laude with a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Trantham’s work history includes earlier chef positions to include Executive Sous Chef at The Grove Park Inn, as well as Executive Chef assignments with both Marriott Sodexo at Western Carolina University and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel. After returning to The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in 2007 as Blue Ridge Chef de Cuisine, he was promoted to Executive Chef in October of 2009. Chef Trantham coordinated & planned the meals for President Barack Obama during his stay along with having the distinct honor of feeding Mitt Romney, Bill & Hilary Clinton, Dan Quayle along with other members of Congress.
Chef Trantham currently holds the position of Division Executive Chef & Culinary Consultant for US Foods Corporation in Ft. Mill, SC. Chef Trantham has earned the Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Administrator designations from the American Culinary Federation (ACF) along with his nomination for the 2012 Chef Professionalism Award for the Southeast Region from the ACF. He was awarded North Carolina ACF ‘Chef of the Year” for 2013. He also serves on the board of directors for the North Carolina ACF chapter representing the western region.
Executive Chef – Charleston Grill
“Creating food that celebrates Southern roots and global palates”
As the Executive Chef of Charleston Grill since 2009, Michelle Weaver has been helping to redefine Southern cuisine. Born and raised in Decatur, Alabama, she learned the ABCs of Southern cooking from her mother, who taught her you can cook anything in a well-seasoned, cast iron skillet, to never throw away bacon grease, and that vegetables always taste better from your own garden.
She went on to receive her formal training from the New England Culinary Institute, then honed in on her French cooking techniques while working under Chef Daniel Bonnot in New Orleans and later as executive sous chef to Chef Bob Waggoner at the Wild Boar Restaurant in Nashville. In 1997, her and Waggoner brought their culinary talents to the Charleston Grill, and when he left to pursue other opportunities in 2009, she assumed the position of executive chef.
When asked about her cooking philosophy Chef Weaver says it is simple, “Use what is in season. Make sure it’s fresh. Don’t over complicate it. Sprinkle it with love and call everyone to the table.”
Weaver’s food, like her personality, is warm and inviting (her staff even call her “Mama”). Yet every dish exudes sophistication and style. This Southern girl’s refined and well-traveled palate has translated into a light and accessible menu, which has been lauded by guests and food critics alike.
Her menu, which is coursed into four categories “Shared”, “Roots & Stems”, “Waves & Marsh”, and “Field & Pasture,” beckons diners to stick with a single direction or meander from one taste experience to the other – either way, you’re in for an elegant, unforgettable dining adventure. Either way, each dish brings together the best of the Lowcountry’s bounty and blends it with inspiration from around the world- including Asia, India, Italy, Spain, and France. On any given night, diners are treated to dishes that celebrate Charleston’s rich history as an international port city.
When not in the kitchen, Michelle is a Southern girl at heart — you can find her getting her hands dirty gardening, out boating with friends, or giving back to the community through organizations like Feed the Need, No Kid Hungry, or Louie’s Kids.
Chef de Cuisine – Charleston Grill
Born and raised in upstate Newport, Rhode Island, Zentner’s earliest memory is visiting his grandmother in Philadelphia, PA for the summer. She would go on to teach him everything she knew about cooking – that a little butter never hurt anyone and the best food is the food you share with the ones you love.
While growing up, his love of food was a pillar of his youth. After learning to wash dishes and working at a restaurant in his small hometown at the age of 13, he watched, listened and gained knowledge from the culinary team. After graduating high school, culinary school was the perfect next step to learn more.
While attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Zentner trained with chefs Brian and Shanna O’Hea and was offered the sous chef position upon graduation at Brian and Shanna’s new hotel property, the Kennebunk Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. It was there that he began to manage and train a team, and assisted Brian in his menu development and execution.
Over the next five years, he would go on to train with chefs from Georgia to Delaware, working in kitchens and developing menus and cultivating relationships with local purveyors. In 2007, Zentner was offered the position of Executive Chef at the Knob Hill Inn in Sun Valley, Idaho and became the youngest chef to run a Relais et Chateaux property. Due to seasonality and the itch to start working in a city closer to his roots, he left to start his career in Boston.
In Boston, Zentner began overseeing Gaslight Brasserie du Coin as Executive Chef, and his passion for mentoring and training came alive. With a large team, classic French techniques and a 185-seat restaurant, he excelled, and Gaslight went on to come one of the busiest brasseries in the city. In 2015, he opened restaurants Alta Strada and Conoshi for James Beard Award winner Michael Schlowin Washington, DC, receiving numerous accolades including a 3-star review from the Washington Post. Later, he moved on and spent time back in Boston as the acting Culinary Director of the Aquitaine Group, overseeing all seven Boston-based properties, inclusive of Gaslight Brasserie du Coin.
In 2018, Zentner made the move to Charleston where he served as the Executive Chef at Butcher & Bee, and assumed the role of culinary director overseeing Butcher & Bee, The Daily, The Daily at The Gibbes, and Workshop.
Now joining the award-winning team at Charleston Grill, Zentner has assumed the role of chef de cuisine working alongside Executive Chef Michelle Weaver. His passion for mentoring young chefs, and creativity in the kitchen mirror the standards already set at The Grill.