2018 AUTHENTIC MEXICO GALA CHEFS

 
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ZARELA MARTINEZ - ¡Zarela! La Cocina Veracruzana

Mexican chef Zarela Martinez is one of America’s top culinary professionals and a 2013 inductee into the James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. Her achievements as a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, food television host, and product developer and merchandiser place her as a pioneering woman in the world of the multi-platform food personality. In today’s celebrity saturated culinary world, it’s not uncommon to find the roles of chef, cookbook author, television host, product line developer, and brand representative combined in one food personality. But Martinez wove these fields into a single career when it was uncommon in the profession, and a truly remarkable feat for a Hispanic woman.

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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.

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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.

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KEVIN TAYLOR -ATX COCINA - AUSTIN TX

Experimenting in the kitchen comes naturally to Taylor, whose parents owned a Mexican restaurant for more than three decades. After attending the Culinary Institute of America, he worked with some of the industry’s finest chefs, including Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, and Dean Fearing of the Mansion on Turtle Creek. He eventually landed a job with the Starr Restaurant Group as executive chef of El Vez, testing techniques and flavors at the Modern Mexican restaurant. He brings that same modern approach to ATX Cocina, using tortillas and maize products made in-house from organic, non-GMO, and heirloom corns and supporting local farmers’ markets, sustainable fishing practices, and purveyors of humanely raised meats. “Everybody wants a cleaner way of eating—not so many processed foods or additives,” Taylor said. “We are going to be as clean and natural as possible. That’s the way we like to eat.”

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SIMON MADERA-TACOFLATS - AUSTIN TX

Simon Madera moved from Mexico to South Texas as a kid, then moved to Austin at 18 for school. After working in the corporate world for a few years, he went back to get his MBA from St. Edward’s University. He soon landed in the liquor business; Simon purchased a small liquor store in central Austin which sparked his interest in food and beverage. His mother was a chef and restaurant owner, so he knew the bar and restaurant business would be a natural fit. In 2012, the idea of resurrecting Taco Flats began, and a neighborhood taco joint was born in 2014. Taco Flats is located in the heart of the trendy Burnet Road, an area where a lot of popular restaurants are located or moving to. Taco Flats is proud to say they do not own freezers or microwaves, make all tortillas by hand and source only the freshest ingredients. Late last year, Simon bought a small piece of property in east Austin and started planning his newest cantina concept, “La Holly,” an agave based cocktail bar that houses his 1967 Taco Flats airstream. Simon is excited to bring  even more authentic and local flavor to East Austin.

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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. From there, he helped open Bridget Dunlap's Mettle on the East side. The Mexico City native then struck out on his own with Licha's Cantina, a casual restaurant inspired by the cantinas of his hometown.

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. 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. Before moving to Austin in 2015, Stoddart began her career on the opening team at Nico Osteria under Rockman’s lead. 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.

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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. Besides her busy ‘job’ at Chez Zee, she actively supports several arts and non-profits 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.

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TITA JOLLIFFE - ART IN THE FOOD - AUSTIN TX

Tita a graduate of our first OLEH program in the Fall of 2016. She is a private chef, born on 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.

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ROSA LOZA- CANON AND BELLE - AUSTIN TX 

Rosa graduated from Escoffier school of culinary arts after completing two years in a culinary program at Travis High School. She comes from a small town in rural Mexico-(Tejupilco Estado de Mexico) and moved to Texas at age four. Her early inspiration came from her mother, a hard working woman who after working two jobs would come home to cook for her family of 10 and still have a smile on her face. Rosa’s inspiration is Mexico’s natural flavors which are full of taste, vibrancy and life. She learned many things from her high school chef instructor which pushed her to follow her dreams to become a pastry chef. She learned fine techniques from her supervisors who took a chance on her and let her fly high and get her foot in the door at the Hilton. Rosa believes in perfection and pushing the boundaries to find synergy between sweet and savory a la Veracruz style.