Victor Scargle was on his way to an economics degree when he shifted gears and took on an American Culinary Federation apprenticeship with the esteemed Red Lion Hotels culinary program. There he found a mentor who encouraged him to work with chefs in Miami and New York. After numerous learning experiences in both, Scargle returned home to the Bay Area to work for Michael Mina at Aqua, and other Mina Restaurant Group projects, where he was honored as one of San Francisco Chronicle’s “Rising Star Chefs”.
Scargle moved along to work with celebrated Chef Traci Des Jardins then found a great opportunity with The Patina Group as executive chef of Julia’s Kitchen at COPIA: The American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts. Victor worked with the garden curators to form a seamless alliance between garden and kitchens. His talents led to three and a half stars from the San Francisco Chronicle. The closing of The Center led Scargle to the luxurious Bardessono Hotel & Spa to guide the evolution of LUCY restaurant to showcase the bounty of fresh produce sourced from the property’s gardens, local farmers, fishmongers, foragers and artisan Napa Valley purveyors. When Bardessono was sold, The Culinary Institute of America tapped Scargle to lead the re-opening team at Copia under their ownership. After establishing a strong kitchen team, Scargle had an opportunity to join legendary winemaker and visionary Jean Charles Boisset and the Boisset Collection of wine, food and lifestyle as culinary director of the food division. Scargle is currently developing Atelier Fine Foods and Catering and the Yountville Brewery for the Boisset Collection.
Serving: Hudson Valley Foie Gras Brat, Neige Torchon with Violet Mustard & Relish
Named this year’s Top Chef
(Season 14) and the youngest female chef to cook at the James Beard House,
Brooke Williamson is also certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. She has
been called a chef mastermind by the Los
Angeles Times and Forbes Magazine and
was recognized by StarChefs.com as a Rising Star Chef in 2010. After working
with some of the country's top chefs, Brooke and chef-husband Nick Roberts
dreams came true when they opened their own restaurant. Now, their culinary endeavors include Hudson
House in Redondo Beach, The Tripel and Da Kikoko in Playa Vista, Playa
Provisions, in Playa Del Rey and their newest addition, a culinary focused
retail store Tripli-Kit also in Playa Del Rey.
Brooke’s Top Chef legacy started on Season 10 in Seattle where she was runner up. Brooke also starred as a host and mentor on MTV’s first foodie series House of Food, won her battle on the popular Esquire series Knife Fight and has competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Duels. Brooke has also appeared as a guest on Watch What Happens Live, Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family, and international talk show Arise 360.
Serving: Anson Mills Farro and Compressed Melon Salad
Born and raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Mexico City, Chef Katsuji is the owner and chef of Mexikosher, the first kosher, Mexican restaurant in both NYC and Los Angeles. The son of a Japanese father and a Mexican mother, Katsuji isn't even Jewish. Chef Katsuji simply found that kosher food was his calling.
When Katsuji was 18, he moved to Los Angeles with his mother, and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu. Chef Katsuji took on assorted kitchen jobs and by the age of 24, he appeared on PBS’s Cooking Under Fire. Chef Katsuji opened Mexikosher, where his food is a reflection of himself; flavorful, fun and full of passion and personality! Chef Katsuji has become renowned on television for both his charm and cooking skills. From The Travel Channel’s Chow Masters and Food Network’s Chopped, which he won, to becoming a runner-up on Bravo TV’s Top Chef, a contender on NBC’s Food Fighters, a judge on Master Chef Mexico, a contestant on Top Chef Mexico and Top Chef, Charleston, Katsuji is becoming a household name far beyond the kosher world.
Chef Katsuji is a proud personal mentor and celebrity representative for Jewish Big Brothers & Big Sisters and the American Diabetes Association, where he happily offers his time and expertise for fundraisers. He also works alongside the children teaching healthy eating and cooking. The pot is stirring with a lot of new and exciting projects on the horizon for Chef Katsuji, including a new restaurant in Los Angeles, Baranda, named after his two beautiful children.
Serving: Chilled Calabaza en Tacha Soup with Pepitas Salsa Macha, Cotija Cheese & Cotton Candy
Sam Mason is the chef/owner of both EMPIRE mayonnaise a luxury, exotically-flavored mayonnaise company, and OddFellows ice cream co., both based in Brooklyn, NY. After studying at Johnson & Wales University, he honed his craft and built his reputation, working for Jean Louis Palladin, Paul Liebrandt, and Wylie Dufresne. Formerly the chef at TAILOR restaurant in SoHo, and the pastry chef at WD~50, Mason is considered to be one of the most creative chefs in America.His aesthetic culinary vision uses inventive ingredients to produce sweet as well as savory dishes that continually surprise the palate.
Serving: Cornbread Ice Cream with Blueberry Compote topped with Nueske's Bacon Whipped Cream
Chef Johnny Iuzzini is an award winning pastry chef. Hailing from the Catskills region in upstate New York, he is 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, Daniel, Payard, Café Boulud and Jean Georges in New York City and in France at LaDuree under Pierre Hermès.
In 2006, the James Beard Foundation awarded Chef Iuzzini "Pastry Chef of the Year." In addition he has been recognized as one of the "10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America" by Forbes, "Best New Pastry Chef" by New York Magazine, and one of the “Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America” two years in a row by Pastry Arts and Design. While Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Jean Georges, the restaurant received four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars, and was considered one of the world’s fifty greatest restaurants. Chef Iuzzini has a successful pastry and culinary arts consulting company, aptly named Sugar Fueled, Inc.
He is the author of DESSERT FOURPLAY: Sweet Quartets From A Four-Star Pastry Chef and SUGAR RUSH: Master tips, techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking. Johnny was the head judge of Bravo’s culinary competition series “Top Chef: Just Desserts”, co-judge with Mary Berry on "The Great Holiday Baking Show", and this year reprised his role as co-host and judge on ABC's "The Great American Baking Show". Chef Iuzzini travels around the globe researching new trends and techniques in the industry and devoting time to his other passion, motorcycle racing. Johnny is currently chasing his dream of building a Bean to Bar Chocolate factory and Coffee Roastery under one roof in the Catskill Region of New York State.
Serving: Chocolate-Praline Crepes with Ricotta, Citrus & Brown Butter
Dave is the "head jockey" in the kitchens at Churchill Downs where he oversees thousands of events. Derby week, his team will cook for over 300,000 people, governing everything from the infield hotdog stands to The lavish spread in The Mansion and Millionaires Row. This is Dave's third year representing Churchill Downs at Taste of Derby.
Serving: Crispy Pork Belly with Corn Milk, Mushrooms & Persimmon Agrodolce
After training at the International Culinary Center in NYC, Annie cooked alongside renowned chefs in NYC, Asheville, and San Francisco before moving to Louisville to open Decca in 2012.
At Decca, Pettry applies classic French technique to Southern and Midwestern ingredients, with an emphasis on wood-fired cooking.
Pettry was named Restaurant Hospitality’s 15 To Watch in 2015, a 2015 Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef nominee, and a 2014 Star-Chefs Rising Star. In 2016, Annie was crowned winner of the Waffle House Smackdown at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival. Most recently, Annie was a cheftestant on Top Chef Season 14, Charleston.
Serving: Coffee Cured Jurgielewicz Farms Duck Breast, Rhubarb, and Foie Gras
Chef Virginia Willis’ Southern roots run from Louisiana to Georgia and her three years in Southern France refined her culinary technique. She is the author of the 2016 James Beard Foundation Award winning Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, as well as Okra: A Savor the South Cookbook and Grits by Short Stack Editions. She is currently in development with WGBH for a series called Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South to air nationally on public television stations.
She is an Editor-at-Large for Southern Living and author of the popular monthly column “Cooking with Virginia.” The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans love her knack for giving classic French cooking a down-home feel and reimagining Southern recipes en Français. Virginia is an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, serves on the Advisory Board for Atlanta’s Table at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Task Force and is an ambassador for No Kid Hungry. Learn more about Virginia and follow her traveling exploits at www.virginiawillis.com.
Serving: Manchester Farms Quail Country Captain over Anson Mills Grits
By virtue of his steadfast approach to contemporary southern cuisine, deeply rooted in his Louisiana upbringing and influenced by his travels around the globe, Chef English has earned his position as one of the most recognized culinary names in the South. Kelly is eager to share his passion for culinary craft, unique cocktails and college football with each and every guest he meets. No stranger to hard work. English studied pre-law at the University of Mississippi, paying his way through college as a cook in local kitchens. The experience inspired him to shift tracks entirely and pursue his passion at the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated at the top of his class.
With culinary degree in hand, Chef English returned to New Orleans to cook under the auspice of Chef John Besh where he helped open restaurants around the South for the Besh group before English decided to call Memphis home and bought Restaurant Iris. English was soon named Memphis’ “Restaurateur of the Year”, honored as a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef; SouthEast and crowned “Prince of Porc” by Cochon555, which landed him a seat at the Aspen Food & Wine Festival.
English has been featured in Food & Wine magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray, Bon Appétit and Garden & Gun. He believes deeply in the power of community and is an avid supporter of the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. English serves on the Founder’s Council for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, was named a “Young Memphian” by the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce and “Top 40 Under 40” by the Memphis Business Journal.
Serving: Gulf Shrimp Crudo with Salsa Verde & Smoked Tomato
Born and raised in New Orleans, Michael Gulotta began cooking in local restaurants at a young age. After graduating from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, he joined the newly opened Restaurant August under Chef John Besh. Gulotta then took leave to train in the Italian Riviera and Germany’s Black Forest.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, Michael returned home to help rebuild and assist with August’s re-opening. He was named Chef de Cuisine in 2007 and led the award-winning kitchen for 6 years, while establishing relationships with local farmers and purveyors.He opened his first restaurant, MOPHO, in January of 2014 with his brother, Jeffrey Gulotta, and high-school friend, Jeffrey Bybee. Located in New Orleans’ Mid City, MOPHO strives to be a true neighborhood restaurant and a destination for Southeast Asian inspired cuisine utilizing the Louisiana pantry. In its first year MOPHO was nominated for America’s Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit Magazine and named Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine.
Michael was just recently named one of Top 30 Chefs to Watch in the nation by Plate Magazine, A New Orleans Rising Star by Starchefs, and a 2016 Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine
His team recently opened its second full service restaurant, Maypop, in the Central Business District of New Orleans.
Serving: Ginger Crushed Sweet Peas with Mint, Labneh & Crisp Roti
While some young boys dream of becoming astronauts or baseball players, Josh Thomsen’s 6th grade yearbook listed “Chef” as his career of choice. Thomsen went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and hone his skills with some of the most prominent chefs in the country; including those at the Hotel Bel-Air and Patina in Southern California, and Aspen, Colorado’s The Little Nell. After Aspen, he moved to Napa Valley to work at the French Laundry under Thomas Keller, whom he credits as a major influence on his career. Thomsen was then drawn to Las Vegas and opened Tao at the Venetian Resort, during his tenure it became the highest grossing restaurant in the country. An opportunity at The Lodge at Pebble Beach lured him back to California and on to the historic Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley where he was awarded Rising Star Chef Josh has been a Featured chef three times at the prestigious James Beard House in New York.
Thomsen changed coasts and opened Agricola in Princeton, New Jersey where he offered a menu inspired by the best ingredients from small farmers, ranchers, fishermen and their own Great Road Farm. It was named one of the top restaurants in New Jersey and one of the top ten best new restaurants in the US, 2014 by Gayot. Thomsen is the author of the Agricola Cookbook, published May 2015. Josh moved to South Florida and for the last two years lead the culinary team of the Forbes rated 5 star 5 diamond Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa and at press time, has just left EPB for a yet to be named new position.
Serving: 14 Hands Merlot braised Short Ribs, Spring Pesto, Shishito Peppers & Sweet Tomoatoes
Chef Jeremy Ford began his culinary career at 16 as Garde Manger at Matthews, a four-diamond Mediterranean style restaurant in San Marco, a suburb of Jacksonville, Florida. A year later, he packed up and moved to Los Angeles to work for Chef Christophe' Emeron at the world-renowned restaurant L'Orangerie. Not speaking a word of French in an all-French kitchen proved an asset as he absorbed skills by watching how the culinary team handled fine ingredients. He later moved on to work with Master Chef Joachim Splichal at Patina in Los Angeles.
Jeremy beat out 30 other chefs in a two-day cooking marathon and interview process to get his most recent Executive Chef position at The Matador Room by Jean-Georges at the Edition Hotel in Miami Beach. Last year, Jeremy beat out 16 talented chefs when he was named TOP CHEF of Season 13.
Since Jeremy has been back home, he has been a Featured Chef at the James Beard House, represented The Matador at the Round Tables International Culinary Festival in Tel Aviv, and become the Miami Brand Ambassador for the Naked Juice #DrinkGoodDoGood campaign.
Jeremy has set his sights on venturing out on his own in 2017.
Serving: Jurgielewicz Fams Duck with Garbanzo & Cracklin' Skin
Whitney Otawka grew up in the high desert of Southern California and studied anthropology at UC, Berkeley. By the age of 19, Whitney steered her sights towards the culinary world and began working at a French creperie in Oakland, California. She quickly discovered her innate discipline and rigor for cooking – a passion that allowed her to thrive in the demanding environment of a restaurant kitchen. In 2005, Whitney moved to Athens, Georgia, walked into Hugh Acheson’s acclaimed 5&10 and asked to be a prep cook. Impressed with her tenacity, Whitney got the job and worked her way up to Sous Chef. During her stint at 5&10, Whitney also staged in some of New York’s finest restaurants including Per Se, Le Bernardin, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. She attended Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta and worked at Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene, then moved on the prestigious Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island. After two years, she moved back to Athens to become executive chef at Farm 255,where she was awarded a Rising Star Chef award, and Cinco y Diez. She appeared on Top Chef Season 9 in Texas and, in 2015, returned to Greyfield Inn as Culinary Director.
On Cumberland Island, Whitney oversees the inn’s food and beverage program, kitchen operations, and works closely with the inn’s farmers and fishermen. Whitney loves bringing rustic-style, traditional Southern dishes to the modern table. Whitney’s recipes have been published in The New York Times, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and The Local Palate. She recently had the privilege of cooking for famed chef Jacques Pepin and was thrilled when he returned for a second visit to her beloved Cumberland Island and Greyfield Inn. You can follow her adventures and at www.whitneyotawka.com.
Serving: Buttered Wild Georgia Shrimp with Cast Iron charred Sweet Corn
Chad Johnson grew up in Paducah, Kentucky so he is no stranger to the KentuckyDerby. He attended the French Culinary Institute and worked in New York at Layla and the classic, Montrachet. He moved on to The Savoy, under Chef Peter Hoffman where he was exposed to premium products in their natural state. Using the freshest, premium ingredients and preparing them using modern cooking techniques that highlight the ingredient’s inherent flavors, Chef Chad Johnson’s culinary passions are translated into Haven’s modern New American cuisine.
At his second restaurant, Élevage, at the Epicurean Hotel, Johnson recaptures the feeling of your old favorites, while dining in a chic atmosphere. Johnson was named a semi-finalist in 2012 and 2014 for "Best Chef: South" by the James Beard Foundation. Best Chefs of America also named him a 2014 Top 25 Best Chefs in the American South. He has represented Visit Florida twice as a guest chef for Emeril Lagasse's Boudin, Beer, and Bourbon. He has also been featured in numerous National and Regional publications and television including CNN, USA Today, Southern Living, The Washington Post, The Daily Meal, Travel and Leisure, Emeril’s Florida and The Wine Spectator. This is Chad's second appearance representing Tampa Bay Downs at the Taste of the Derby.
Serving: Manchester Farms Quail Pierogi with Caramelized Cabbage
Kevin Johnson, executive chef and owner at Charleston, South Carolina’s The Grocery, was born in Fort Campbell, Kentucky while his father was stationed there in the US Army. He grew up a Kentucky sports fan and has always loved watching the Derby even as he moved around with his family.
Kevin realized his long-time dream when he opened The Grocery with his wife Susan in December 2011. Evoking memories of a small-town grocery, the restaurant offers a menu based on local ingredients and the kitchen is stocked with house-made charcuterie and 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 2014, 2016 and 2017 semifinalist for the James Beard Award: Best Chef, Southeast. Active in many events outside the restaurant, he was the headlining chef at Outstanding in the Field’s 2013 South Carolina dinner as well as the 2014 Lowcountry Field Feast benefitting Lowcountry Local First. 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 where he also sits on the Advisory Board. 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.
Serving: Border Springs Farm Lamb Hamb with Carrot, Yogurt & Chickpeas