Chefs & Restaurants

The Chefs for the 2013 Taste of Derby

Top Chef

Tiffani FaisonChef Tiffani Faison


Smoked Maple Leaf Farms Duck with BBQ Hoisin sauce, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno, sesame crepe


Sweet Cheeks QChef Tiffani Faison has been surrounded by diverse cultures and exceptional cuisine since childhood. Born in Northern Germany, she travelled the globe and was exposed to a wide range of foods. Tiffani began as a line cook for celebrity Chef and Restaurateur Todd English. Tiffani went on to work for Daniel Boulud.  In 2006 Tiffani was cast on the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and placed as the runner-up. After the frenzy of “Top Chef”, Tiffani went to work for Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon in Nantucket and was then tapped by her former mentor Todd English to become the Executive Chef of a 400-room boutique hotel and restaurant in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2010 Tiffani became Executive Chef at Rocca Kitchen & Bar, earning a glowing three-star review from The Boston Globe just several months after revamping its menu. In fall 2011, she opened the much-anticipated Sweet Cheeks, a Southern-Style Barbecue restaurant in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, which received a “three-star” review from The Boston Globe.  The restaurant is the first restaurant that Tiffani has had full creative vision for and draws inspiration from her love of barbecue and extensive travels in the South.  

Tiffani has been featured in SELF, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine and Food & Wine. She was one of eighteen chefs invited to compete in Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars in 2010 where she established herself as a new fan favorite. She has been a guest on the TODAY SHOW, SIMPLY MING and several other national and local shows and has been a contributing chef to numerous cookbooks.  This is Tiffani's second year representing Top Chef at Taste of Derby.

Mike IsabellaChef Mike Isabella


Liquid Pepperoni Arancini made with Mike's famous pepperoni sauce


GraffiatoMike Isabella is a Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, owner of Italian-inspired small plates restaurant, Graffiato, and partner of Bandolero, a modern Mexican concept in the heart of Georgetown. Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian is his first cookbook.

Chef Isabella was named FOOD & WINE magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic for 2012.  Outside the kitchen, Chef Isabella appeared on Season Six of Top Chef and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars.

Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya where he generated accolades and national attention for Washington, D.C.’s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant. Chef Isabella’s formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York.  After honing his skills in the Big Apple, he moved to Philadelphia, first as a sous chef for James Beard award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba, then a host of other Stephen Starr restaurants. At El Vez, Chef Isabella learned the true craft of Latin cuisine under the direction of Jose Garces, and as Executive Sous Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square, Chef Isabella educated himself on the art of opening a fine dining establishment.

In late spring, Chef Isabella plans to open Greek concept, Kapnos, and Italian sandwich shop, G. These will be his third and fourth restaurants in Washington, D.C. 

Churchill Downs
Chef Jo JoExecutive Chef, Joseph “Jo-Jo” Doyle, Jr.


Churchill Downs Signature Derby Bourbon Crunch and Pink Silk Ice Creams


Levy Restaurants "A duck pâté so good it'll make your tongue slap your brains out," exudes Jo-Jo Doyle in May 2006 article of "Fast Company" magazine.  His passion and creativity are served up with enthusiasm and he’s never afraid to make a statement with a menu.  From his gourmet restaurant background to developing menus for some of sports most prestigious events, his pursuit is delighting each guest with perfected traditional dishes balanced with innovative twists.

Before joining Levy Restaurants, Jo-Jo worked with Devlin Roussel and Patricia Wilson, two well respected ‘James Beard Award’ winning chefs.  He was the Executive Chef at Backstreet and H20, as well as Chef de Cuisine at Hi-life Café where he received numerous awards and accolades.  He relentlessly pushes to make the food as clean and unrestricted as possible with good strong flavors that compliment each other.

Ready for his next challenge, Jo-Jo brought his passion for exceptional food to Levy Restaurants as the chef of the Flagship Restaurant at American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL. Taking command over the Flagship menu, he revamped the a la carte menu and created the ‘small plates’ concept with huge success.  He has lead the creative development of menus for many impressive events such as, MTV Video Music Awards 2005 & 2006, NBA Playoffs 2005, NBA Finals 2006, U2 and Paul McCartney concerts, and The U.S. Tennis Open.

Jo-Jo then moved with Levy to Louisville, Kentucky where he is currently our Executive Chef at the legendary Churchill Downs.  During his tenure at Churchill Downs he has played a key role in the setup and execution of some of the biggest events in Churchill’s history, The Rolling Stones and The Police concerts, The 2006 Breeders’ Cup; and the 133rd, 134th, 135th, 136th, 137th,and  138th  Kentucky Derby's. 

Chef Anthony LamasChef Anthony Lamas


Tuna Old Fashioned Seviche


SevicheAnthony Lamas’ roots in the Latin culinary tradition run deep, as he found his passion for food while working in his family’s Spanish restaurant as a child. Likewise, his mother’s heirloom recipes sparked his interest in the cuisine of his Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage. By helping to prepare meals on the family farm and participating in Future Farmers of America, Lamas was practicing the “farm to table” philosophy before it was a national movement. 

Anthony  is a three-time James Beard semifinalist who is renowned for his unique modern Latin cuisine. As the Chef and owner of Seviche, a Latin Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky he has earned praise from critics that include Esquire food correspondent John Mariani, who said, “If you have time for one meal in Louisville, make it Seviche.” Chef Lamas applies the bold flavor and spice of his heritage to seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers to create a new perspective on Southern cuisine. USA Today has highlighted Seviche as one of “ten great places for Latin flavor and flair,” and named Lamas a “leader of the Latin food revolution.” A Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Ambassador honoree, Lamas supports awareness of eco-friendly fishing practices and proudly serves only sustainable seafood. This is Anthony's fourth year representing Louisville at the Taste of Derby.  

Fair Grounds Race Course
Chef Justin DevillierChef Justin Devillier


Louisiana Crawfish with Pickled Beets, Horseradish and Creme Fraiche


La Petite GroceryJustin Devillier was raised in a small beach town in Orange County, California. Growing up, Justin enjoyed the beach lifestyle. Summers were spent fishing, and in the fall and winter he would free-dive for Lobsters. This bounty of local seafood inspired Justin’s will to cook professionally.

He moved to New Orleans and worked in the kitchens of Bacco, Stella!, and Peristyle. While working at Peristyle, Justin worked with James Beard Award winner Chef Anne Kearny-Sands where he learned the ins and outs of French cuisine.

In June 2004, Devillier joined the kitchen staff at La Petite Grocery. After Hurricane Katrina, Justin was promoted to Sous Chef and, as the city was struggling to recover, helped re-establish La Petite Grocery. In February 2007, he became the Executive Chef. In 2008, Justin was named a Chef to Watch by both Louisiana Cookin’ magazine and The Times-Picayune. In 2009, he was named one of New Orleans CityBusiness’ Culinary Connoisseurs for Best Executive Chef and Best Neighborhood Restaurant. Devillier “cooks in a manner so appropriate to New Orleans spirit: French bistro with a Southern twist."  In 2010, Chef Devillier and his wife, General Manager, Mia Freiberger-Devillier took over majority ownership of La Petite Grocery. The restaurant has earned a coveted spot on The Times-Picayune’s “New Orleans’ Top 10 Restaurants” list for 2011 and 2012. Justin was a 2012 finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South award and is a finalist for the same honor this year.   Justin credits his hard working staff for any accolades the restaurant receives. This is Justin’s first year representing New Orleans and Fair Grounds Race Course at Taste of Derby. 

Chef Dale TaldeExecutive Chef/Partner Dale Talde


Spicy Beef Crispy Moo Shu


Restaurants: TALDE; Pork Slope, and Thistle Hill Tavern

TaldeAt only 33, Dale Talde,  has taken the NYC dining scene by storm with the opening of his popular Asian-American restaurant, TALDE, and the roadhouse-style bar, Pork Slope, both located in the Park Slope, neighborhood of Brooklyn. Dale’s known for his unpretentious, creative and delectable fare, along with his fun, easygoing sense of humor. After graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, he began his career in his native Chicago working alongside such famed chefs as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Shawn McClain and Carrie Nahabedian. He moved to NYC in 2005 to further his career and landed at Morimoto. He then worked at Buddakan, where his was Chef de Cuisine, and just prior to launching TALDE he was Director of Asian Concepts for STARR Restaurants, owners of Morimoto, Buddakan and many other restaurants in NYC, Philadelphia and Miami. In fall of 2012, Dale also became chef/partner in the restaurant, Thistle Hill Tavern, a project his partners John Bush and David Massoni launched in 2010. Many people will remember Dale as a two-time cast member of the hit Bravo TV show, “Top Chef.”  This is Dale's first time representing New York and Aqueduct at Taste of Derby.

 John Bush, Beverage Director/Partner

Restaurants: TALDE; Pork Slope, and Thistle Hill Tavern


John started working as a bar-back at the early age of 18 in his hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif. He moved up and around and his extensive bartending journey had John mixing and serving drinks all over the world, from San Francisco to New York City, from England to Japan and Southeast Asia. John landed in San Francisco and bartended at Mad Dog in the Fog and Club Deluxe. In 1995 John was asked to come to NYC to tend bar at the seminal East Village bar, 2A. John has tended bar and consulted on cocktail lists all over NYC. From the trendy Vig Bar in Nolita, to Niagra, to Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Otto Pizzeria e Enoteca in Greenwich Village, to the popular East Village bar and lounge Black & White. John opened Thistle Hill Tavern with his close friend, David Massoni. On the heels of the success of Thistle Hill Tavern, David and John partnered up with Chef Dale Talde to open the incredibly popular Asian-American restaurant and bar, TALDE and the roadhouse-style bar, Pork Slope. John has also had the great fortune of touring the country and world with the likes of NOFX, Green Day, The Offspring, Rancid, The Foo Fighters and the Vans Warped Tour. John was voted best bartender 2011 for NYC.   John lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife Angelica and is a diehard Yankees fan.  

Belmont Park
Chef Steven AmadorChef Steven Amador


Mocha Pudding with Mint Marshmallows-Milk Chocolate Crumb


Alison EighteenSteven Amador has always loved the adrenaline of the restaurant business and knew from an early age that the kitchen is where he wanted to be. While working as a bar-back and later bartender in his hometown of Weehawken, New Jersey he enrolled in the New York Restaurant School in 1999.  Upon completion of their Pastry Arts Program he obtained an externship at the esteemed Chanterelle restaurant in New York City. 

Having shown the discipline and drive to work at a four star restaurant he was soon after offered a position at Park Avenue Cafe working for Executive Pastry Chef Richard Leach, where he further honed his skills in the art of pastry, quickly rising to the position of Pastry Sous Chef. 

Steven then ventured to Northern California in 2003 where he worked a year-long pastry stage at the famed Chez Panisse.  Steven returned to New York and continued his pastry training at the Four Seasons. 

These experiences ultimately led to an Executive Pastry Chef position at the Stony Hill Inn in Northern New Jersey and subsequently at the farm-to-table Ninety Acres where for both restaurants he created and executed a pastry program that focused on seasonality and the use of local produce.  

Steven has since returned to New York City where as Executive Pastry Chef of Alison Eighteen he takes full advantage of the nearby Union Square Greenmarket and continues to create dishes that focus on freshness and evoke a style of elegant simplicity. 

This is Steven’s first year representing New York at Taste of Derby.

Golden Gate Fields
Chef Paul ArenstamChef Paul Arenstam


Maple Leaf Farms Duck Confit and French Lentil Salad with Candied Pepitas


Summer KitchenMassachusetts native, Paul Arenstam began his culinary career over 25 years ago with a journey to experience the California Dream. After working on Martha's Vineyard and training in New York, Chef Paul worked at amazing California restaurants such as Fennel, Patina, Pinot and Rubicon.  Arenstam ventured out and opened Belon, one of the first high end restaurants in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.  Paul moved on to work with the JDV Hospitality Group at Hotel Vital and opened Americano Restaurant.  In 2009 Paul and his wife, Charlene Reis opened Summer Kitchen + Bakeshop in the heart of Berkeley.  Charlene also has a fantastic culinary background, working alongside Alice Waters first as pastry chef at Chez Panisse and then helping develop many school programs.  They live in Piedmont, CA with their two boys Theo and Riley.

Summer Kitchen is a modern interpretation of the classic idea of the old outbuilding kitchens behind farmhouses that were the center of communal cooking, canning, baking and preserving took place, usually with a gathering of locals.  Paul and Charlene strive to be their community's summer kitchen-a place filled with ingredients from local farms, delicious meals cooked fresh daily, and hand crafted foods provided by artisans they admire.

As chefs, owners, and parents they have a strong commitment to creating an environmentally responsible business. They source the best ingredients and have created their menu with a dedication to sustainability.  Paul and Charlene cook what's in season and have developed relationships with local growers and producers.  This is Paul and Charlene's first time representing California at Taste of Derby.  

Chef MarkChef Mark


Braised Ozark Pork Belly with Spicy Muscadine Glaze and Carmelized Onion Compote served over Stone Ground War Eagle Cheese Grits


Loca LunaChef Mark has over 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry as chef, owner, manager, consultant and developer. Mark developed leadership skills starting at an early age and earned his Eagle Scout award on his way up.  Like many chefs, Mark has a bevy of creative talent and in addition to cooking, he's an accomplished musician and songwriter.  But, he is best known as Arkansas' premiere chef and restaurateur.    In addition to being active throughout the state in teaching, demonstrations and fundraising; Mark also owns two of Little Rock’s most popular restaurants…the multiple award winning Loca Luna and Red Door. He has owned and/or developed multiple restaurants and earned hundreds of local and national awards and accolades.

Mark is a founders council member of Food & Wine Magazines' Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and is active in St. Jude's "Farm to Table" series. In 2012 he received the American Culinary Federation Formica and Ben E. Keith Community Service Award.  Abernathy founded the Arkansas chapter of Share Our Strength, which hosts the annual "Taste of the Nation" fundraiser for hunger relief. 

Chef Abernathy has appeared in over 400 television segments and is the creator and former host of the ABC syndicated cooking show, Today's Cuisine.  Abernathy is a regular guest chef on Little Rock's ABC affiliate KATV and has been featured in numerous publications including Food Networks' Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels, The New York Times, Cook's Illustrated, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Southern Living, Food Arts, Delta's SKY Magazine and more. Mark has cooked for, and hosted, numerous dinners for former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.  This is Mark's first year representing Arkansas and  Oaklawn at Taste of Derby.

Sunland Park

Chef Kent RathbunChef Kent Rathbun


Pimenton crusted Creekstone Farms Strip Steak with Creamy Piquillo-Roasted Carnival Cauliflower


AbacusChef Kent Rathbun’s roots are firmly set in food. At the age of nine, he discovered his passion for culinary creativity and began learning the skills and techniques needed to become the renowned and impressive chef that he is today.  In 1997, Rathbun decided to follow his dream and establish his own world-class restaurant.  Within months, Abacus began to be recognized as a pinnacle of fine dining and has received numerous accolades, including Mobil Four-Stars; AAA Four Diamonds; Bon Appetit's Best of the Year 2001, "Best Chef" by D Magazine; and "One of the Top Meals Around the World" by USA Today.    Abacus is a distinguished inductee in the NRN Fine Dining Hall of Fame.

Keeping with Abacus’ level of ingredients and design, Rathbun wanted to add a touch of “home cooking” flair featuring a “modern outdoors” theme.  Jasper’s “Gourmet Backyard Cuisine” quickly became a location with distinction.  With the opening of its first location in Plano, Jasper’s recognition helped kick-start the expansion to The Woodlands and Austin.  Jasper’s has been named one of Esquire Magazine’s Top 20 Best New Restaurants in America.  The successes of Abacus and Jasper’s have foreshadowed the imminent legacy Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen has created in the Dallas area. Drawing influences from family recipes while focusing on the “roots” of cooking, Chef Rathbun uses the freshest ingredients from local/regional purveyors to create an eclectic yet comforting menu of home-cooked favorites with a touch of elegance.

Rathbun has thrived on the national scene.  He has cooked on numerous occasions at the James Beard House and was nominated as the Foundation’s Best Chef: Southwest in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004. He has appeared on the Food Network’s "Chef du Jour", "Cooking Live with Sara Moulton", "Ready Set Cook", the CBS Early Show, and NBC’s Today Show.  In 2008, Rathbun defeated friend and grill master Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”. Passionate about charitable organizations, Rathbun is actively involved in the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Zoo to Do, the North Texas Food Bank and the American Heart Association.  This is Kent's fourth year representing Texas at the Taste of Derby.  

Tampa Bay Downs
Chef Greg BakerChef Greg Baker


Manchester Farm Quail stuffed with alligator & pork pate, served with fennel, sorrel & sour orange


The RefineryClearwater, FL raised Greg Baker set his sights on Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR directly out of high school. He chose to leave the sunshine and white sandy beaches (and a fully paid college tuition) for diverse farmland, abundant adventurous eaters and an awesome punk rock scene. It would be in Portland where he would find his love and cement his respect for the elegance of Poor Man Food. Forging partnerships with local farmers for nearly a decade, Greg took these lessons back home to Tampa Bay where he would change the culinary scene by putting faces to farmers and daringly utilize all aspects of proteins. He now boasts thousands of food fans that travel from all over to enjoy his creations. But Baker remains very humbled by his success often being quoted “I’m just a dumb kid who cooks.”

Baker opened The Refinery with his wife; Michelle, in 2010 in the historic neighborhood of Seminole Heights, Tampa. His menus incorporate the flavors of the vast countrysides from across the globe, mixed with classical French technique all the while keeping in mind Florida’s rich cultural history. He is known for resurrecting nearly lost Florida ingredients and cooking techniques.

The Refinery has been named in Bon Appetit , Southern Living, Conde Nast Traveler,, and Esquire Magazine, as well as countless local and national online and weekly publications. Zagat rated The Refinery ‘Best Restaurant’ 2012. The James Beard Foundation named The Refinery as a semi-finalist Best New Restaurant in 2010 and named Baker a semi-finalist for Best Chef South in 2011 and 2012. This is Greg's first year representing Tampa at the Taste of Derby.  

Chef Patrick McMurrayChef Patrick McMurray


Rappahanock River Oysters with Bourbon scented Lobster Butter


StarfishToronto born and bred, the son of two teachers, and antique dealers, Patrick McMurray was brought up around food, travel, and a strong work ethic. His mum’s cooking wasn’t the greatest (her words, although he loved it!) so the family tried new and wonderful places, and learned food from other cultures. Patrick got into the restaurant trade by the age of 16, and hasn’t looked back.  Chef McMurray worked his way through college and made the rounds at Binn's Butcher Shop, Beaujolais, Le Bistingo and Rodney's Oyster House, all learning new skills to prepare him for owning his own restaurant, learning back and front of the house top to bottom.  Along the way, he's developed a number of tools and gadgets and has a successful company in Shucker Paddy's Oyster Gear. 

After shucking, and honing his skills for a number of years in Toronto, Patrick won the World Championships of Oyster Opening - Galway, Ireland 2002, and The Guinness Book of World

Records soon after - 33 oysters in one minute, and lately, 38 in one minute. Patrick wrote “Consider the Oyster - A shucker’s field guide” and owns two successful restaurants in Toronto, Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill and the Ceili Cottage. Starfish specializes in seafood served in a casual setting - fresh fish, and of course, oysters, with a great steak or two thrown into the mix. The Ceili Cottage is Patrick’s Irish “Local”, a good bar with great food, and music.

Paddy is currently working on a TV series in Canada and we're glad to have him for his first year representing Toronto at Taste of Derby.