John Besh is a chef and native son dedicated to the culinary riches of Southern Louisiana. At each of his nine acclaimed restaurants (August, Besh Steak, Lüke, Lüke San Antonio, La Provence, American Sector, Soda Shop, Domenica & Borgne) as well as in his entrepreneurial pursuits, his first cookbook, My New Orleans (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2009,) the follow-up cookbook, My Family Table (Andrews McMeel Publishing, November 2011) and his public activities, he celebrates the bounty and traditions of the region. A former U.S.
From the Big Easy…
Tariq Hanna grew up in Nigeria near the national cocoa processing plant. Upon graduating from high school at 15 in England, Tariq moved to Detroit to become an architect. Surprisingly, Tariq found himself in culinary school at Oakland Community College. While focusing on savory cuisine, Tariq dabbled in pastry arts, soon discovering his passion. Upon graduation, Tariq opened his family-owned pastry and catering shop. It was at the Northville Gourmet that Tariq began receiving the first of many local and national awards.
Brian Landry, a New Orleans native, is a passionate chef, supporter of regional foodways, and dedicated conservationist of Gulf seafood. As the executive chef at Borgne, Landry pays homage to Louisiana’s coastal, indigenous cuisine while using the freshest local ingredients.
Originally from New Orleans, Rhonda Ruckman began her culinary career at a small tearoom attached to an antique shop in Baton Rouge. She got her first taste of cooking professionally while assisting in the production of scones and tarts. Finding that she enjoyed cooking in a professional setting, Rhonda chose to pursue a career in pastry.
Susan Spicer began her cooking career in New Orleans as an apprentice to Chef Daniel Bonnot at the Louis XVI Restaurant in 1979. After a 4-month “stage” with Chef Roland Durand (Meilleur Oeuvrier de France) at the Hotel Sofitel in Paris in 1982, she returned to New Orleans to open the 60-seat bistro “Savoir Faire” in the St. Charles Hotel as Chef de Cuisine. In 1985, she traveled extensively in California and Europe for 6 months, returning to work in the kitchen at the New Orleans Meridien Hotel’s “Henri” (consultant chef, Marc Haeberlin of l’Auberge de I’ill).
Classically trained and with more than four years of experience at The Grill Room, Pastry Chef Shun Li helms the sweeter side of the kitchen at Windsor Court Hotel.
Li elevates the idea of the “sweet tooth” by complimenting his desserts with seasonal fruit. According to Li, sweetening desserts by adding sugar is the easy way to satisfy sweet cravings. He challenges himself by using sweetness to accent all other ingredients and, as a result of his diligence, can be found spending days to prepare and perfect an intricate dessert
Master Sommelier Craig Collins has been passionately exploring his love for wine since the day he turned 21 and began working at a local winery. His advancement continued after graduating from Texas A&M University and working for Glazers Fine Wine Division. It was through this appointment that Craig was introduced to the Court of Master Sommeliers and refined the professional skills and industry knowledge that would shape his career.
Chef Johnny Iuzzini, award winning pastry chef, hails from the Catskills region in upstate New York. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with over twenty years of kitchen experience, Chef Iuzzini honed his craft at highly lauded dining locations such as The River Café in Brooklyn, NY along with, Daniel, Payard, Café Boulud and Jean Georges in New York City. In 1998 he traveled around the world and studied pastry at some of the finest patisseries in France including LaDuree under Pierre Hermès.
Laura Williamson began her formidable career in the service industry at the young age of 18. She grew up in a dry county in Arkansas (her parents still reside there!) and began to discover the virtues of wine after moving to Paris, France at 19 for college.
Megan Murphy is a food writer, blogger, and host based in New York City. After starting in publishing at People magazine and Condé Nast, she decided to turn her passion for food into a career. She currently writes for Cooking Light, is a published restaurant reviewer, and celebrates her zest for food and life on her website, ThisGirlCanEat.com. She also contributes to various food and beverage websites, participates in culinary events around the country, and is thrilled to head down to The Big Easy to judge the Seafood Competition and attend her third NOWFE!
Amanda Rockman grew up in Katy, Texas, where her mother prepared lavish meals from seasonal and local ingredients; therefore influencing her daughter to follow a career in the culinary field. She attended The Culinary Institute of America, where she received her A.O.S. in Baking and Pastry Arts and completed her internship under Emily Luchetti at Farallon, San Francisco. Upon graduation, Rockman moved to Chicago to work at Tru under Gale Gand. Rockman decided to return to Austin, Texas working as the Executive Pastry Chef of Fino and Asti Trattoria.
Keegan Gerhard is the Chef and Owner of D Bar Desserts in Denver, CO. and D Bar Restaurant in Hillcrest San Diego. Known for both his innovative desserts and savory classics, Gerhard has made a name for himself through his wealth of experience and abundant competitive energy in his position as Chef and Owner at D Bar. Gerhard, named one of the nation’s top 10 pastry chefs of 2002 and 2004 by both Chocolatier and Pastry Arts & Design magazines, brings an enthusiastic yet controlled approach to pastries. Gerhard is perhaps best known for numerous TV appearances.
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