2017 AUTHENTIC MEXICO GALA CHEFS
RICK LOPEZ - LA CONDESA - AUSTIN TX
A native Texan, Rick began his culinary journey in Maine where he accepted a seasonal internship at Oakland House Inn in the heart of the Blue Hill Peninsula. He soon found his way back home in San Antonio working for Chef Scott Cohen in La Mansion’s fine dining restaurant Las Canarias. He concurrently attended ACF accredited Austin Community College and received his Associate's of Applied Sciences in Culinary Arts. After a strong desire to return back to the east coast and fulfill a dream of working in New York City, Rick began a stage at Café Boulud, which led to a full-time position, working directly under future James Beard ‘Rising Star Chef’ Gavin Kaysen. It was here that he learned how to become a disciplined cook and began the process of becoming a chef and a mentor to other young cooks. After Café Boulud, Rick went on to work under Terrance Brennan at Picholine and Ed Brown at 81 on the Upper West Side. Returning to Texas in 2009, Rick accepted the position of sous chef with fellow Café Boulud alum Shawn Cirkiel. Shortly after, Rick was given the opportunity to become Sous Chef alongside Executive Chef Rene Ortiz at James Beard Foundation Award-nominated La Condesa. After his first year, he was promoted to Chef de Cuisine and in August of 2013 named Executive Chef at La Condesa.
ROBERT ESPINOSA - TACODELI - AUSTIN TX
As the Chef Founder at Tacodeli, Roberto Espinosa learned proper taco eating etiquette in his early years growing up in Mexico City. His exposure to interior Mexico City street tacos, time working as an apprentice chef in the Yucatan, and travel in central Mexico and many of Mexico's coastal regions have all had a profound influence on his approach to food. The menu at Tacodeli has been crafted around this appreciation, and Roberto’s desire to share this passion has only grown since opening the first Tacodeli in Austin, Texas in 1999.
RYAN SHIELDS - BULLFIGHT - AUSTIN TX
Bullfight Executive Chef Ryan Shields brings a humble yet ambitious culinary perspective to Austin. Throughout his career, Chef Shields has gained a wealth of experience and culinary knowledge working along the Eastern Seaboard, from Massachusetts to Florida. In 2012, Chef Shields came to Austin and joined the Parkside Projects family. He has collaborated with Chef Shawn Cirkiel through his time at Parkside, the backspace, and Olive & June. Now as the Executive Chef of Bullfight, Chef Shields offers Austin diners dishes prepared with finesse and attention to detail while paying respect to Spanish cuisine.
KRISTINE KITTRELL - WEATHER UP - AUSTIN TX
Kristine Kittrell was a traveler before she was a cook. Originally from Canada, she migrated to the Caribbean after college and discovered ceviche, jerk pork, and fried plantains (among other un-Canadian cuisines). After two years, she left to visit parts of the Mediterranean, Mexico, and South Asia, digesting the culinary culture at every stop.
When she landed in Austin in 1997, Kristine began working at Jeffrey’s Restaurant. Kristine left Jeffrey’s in 2003 to found El Chile Café y Cantina. Two years later, she helped open that restaurant’s “little brother,” El Chilito. After 5 years with El Chile, Kristine left to further her culinary studies. She staged in Barcelona, working at Michellin starred Comerc 24 and Cinc Sentits, and spent a summer studying pastry in Vancouver B.C. After a year as the Executive Chef at Mulberry, a downtown wine bar, where she still consults, she moved to WeatherUp where she is the Executive Chef of an amazing little kitchen under the stairs.
JEFF MARTINEZ - ALCOMAR - AUSTIN TX
Chef Jeff Martinez’s culinary journey began at the young age of nine after writing a recipe for the ultimate hot dog. Years later after moving out of his parent’s house and looking for a way to pay his rent, Martinez became a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Quickly moving onto prep work and sauté stations, Martinez took a short kitchen break, and headed west to Alaska to work in a salmon fishing lodge. Later, hired as a personal chef in Maine his culinary passion was reignited and brought him back to San Antonio where he worked at Biga, (now Biga on the Banks) with Bruce Auden and ultimately realized that he had found his calling.Martinez headed to Austin, in hopes of landing a job at Jeffery’s, one of Austin's legendary restaurants. It was at Jeffrey's that Martinez met Carlos Rivero, the manager of Jeffery’s who would become his good friend and later business partner. As the duo began discussing ideas for a new restaurant, the concept for the beloved El Chile was born..Martinez was the genius behind El Chile’s most prized dish, Pescado Entortillado, a tortilla encrusted fish. After five years at El Chile, Martinez left to work alongside Diana Kennedy at Fonda San Miguel, soaking in her techniques and teachings. Summers were spent at culinary courses in the Yucatan and Peru. Today, Martinez can be found at Alcomar – A Latin Coastal Kitchen – alongside co-executive Chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas. There, the duo executes a constantly evolving menu featuring dishes, ingredients and flavors from Latin America's coastlines.
DANIEL BROOKS - LICHA'S CANTINA - AUSTIN TX
Longtime industry veteran Daniel Brooks cut his teeth with his own restaurant in San Antonio, beginning a long and successful career in the restaurant business. In the those early days, he says, "I did everything you shouldn't do. I consider the money I invested as the equivalent to my college education." He eventually made his way to Austin, where he was the GM of South Congress's Vespaio (www.austinvespaio.com). From there, he helped open Bridget Dunlap's Mettle
ROBERTO SANTIBAÑEZ - FONDA - NEW YORK CITY, NY
Roberto Santibañez Is the chef/owner of Fonda restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY. As a native of Mexico City and a graduate with honors from Paris’s top culinary institutions, award-winning Chef Roberto Santibañez’s culinary resume includes stints as restaurateur, culinary consultant, author, and teacher in Mexico, Europe and the United States. He is the author of Rosa’s New Mexican Table, nominated for an IACP and a James Beard Awards.
His second book Truly Mexican was one of the most Notable Cookbooks of 2011 by The New York Times, Epicurious, and Food & Wine. His third cookbook Tortas, Tacos and Tamales is considered one of the best cookbooks of 2012 by Food & Wine magazine. Roberto is a culinary consultant for Amtrak, and a member of The Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Cuisines Advisory Council.
JULIANN STODDART - PARKSIDE PROJECTS - AUSTIN TX
As the executive pastry chef for all Parkside Projects restaurants, Juliann “Jules” Stoddart is responsible for overseeing pastry production and creation of the dessert menus at The Backspace, Parkside, Bullfight and Olive & June. She consistently creates new confections with a focus on quality ingredients and has a passion for actualizing her own vision in an evolving world of pastry. Stoddart brings over four years of experience in the pastry industry to the Parkside Projects team. Prior to her time at Parkside Projects, she worked under James Beard Award Semifinalist Amanda Rockman as pastry sous chef at South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas, where she produced and executed a number of desserts and pastries for the hotel’s restaurants and special events. Before moving to Austin in 2015, Stoddart began her career on the opening team at Nico Osteria under Rockman’s lead. Stoddart’s well-rounded professional experience has helped to fuel her admiration of the culinary world and passion for pastry, which began at a young age. In addition to earning a diploma in baking and pastries from the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, Stoddart is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a degree in marketing. She is experienced in event coordination, hotel administration, and entertainment production.
SHARON WATKINS - CHEZ ZEE AMERICAN BISTRO - AUSTIN TX
Sharon Watkins received her college training in theater arts and soon after was invited to establish and direct the Creative Theatre Unlimited at Princeton University. Upon returning to Texas, she designed and ran programs for the Texas Commission on the Arts. After a subsequent career in advertising, Watkins decided to buy the bankrupt Chez Fred restaurant and transform it into her next stage — a “third act.” Austin’s response has been nothing short of a standing ovation. “We set the stage so our customers can play out the stories and celebrations of their lives,” says Sharon. From inside to out, Chez Zee is warm and welcoming with an original vibe that reflects both its art-loving owner and the creative city in which it exists. Upon arrival, an arched walkway of lights leading to the restaurant’s patio invites patrons to sit and play board games such as Connect Four. Chez Zee serves a wide range of American fare with southern regional influences and plenty of locally sourced ingredients. The bistro is also highly acclaimed for its sumptuous weekend brunch and desserts and stellar wines. Over 25 sumptuous dessert specialties such as Lemon Rosemary Cake and Crème Brulee French Toast draw people in from all over the region. Running a busy restaurant for 28 years and counting has not slowed Sharon down. Besides her busy ‘job’ at Chez Zee, she actively supports several arts and nonprofits in Austin in a leadership capacity. She was the founding president of the Austin Public Library Foundation. She was in the Leadership Austin class of 1993. She serves on the board of The Long Center and Austin Area Research Association. She was on the Austin Arts Commission from 1999 to 2001 and served on the Seton Cove KLRU Boards among several others. She is a lifetime member of the Fine Arts Council at UT.
TITA JOLLIFFE - ART IN THE FOOD - AUSTIN TX
Tita is a private chef, born in the island of Cozumel, Mexico. She studied gastronomy, history and art in Yucatan, Mexico City, Barranquilla, Colombia, Seville and Madrid. She also received various diploma courses in Morocco, France and Belgium.
She takes advantage of her knowledge of history, art and various cultures with her recipes which makes each dish unique.
KARLA MONDRAGON - PRIVATE CHEF - AUSTIN TX
Karla Mondragon was born and raised in Mexico City. Her mother’s amazing cooking was her inspiration to pursue a gastronomy career. She started her journey in 1992 when she attended CESSA’s Hotel Management program in Mexico City. She continued her studies at Hotel-School Sta. Brigida at Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain where she graduated in 1995. Her Chef instructors ranged from Joan Mari Arzak, Karlos Arguiñano, Chef Volker and the former Spanish Royal House’s chef. Her experience led her to collaborate in the planning and service for the Spanish Royal House, for the King Juan Carlos I’s Anniversary in the Nautical Club in Canary Islands, Spain. She worked for the Mexican Tourism Board for Spain and Portugal and was recognized by the Ministry for her participation in FITUR. She moved to Canada where she was a trainee in Hotel Chateau Lacombe, Crown Plaza. Edmonton. When she got back to Mexico, she attended courses of Gastronomy in Anahuac University and worked for Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel. Karla is currently a Chef for private events. She is married and lives in Austin with her husband and their 2 boys, Eli and Gaston.