Chefs

Hour d' ouevres

Daniel Brooks - Licha’s Cantina

Austin, TX

Longtime industry veteran Daniel Brooks cut his teeth with his own restaurant in San Antonio at the age of 25, beginning a long and successful career in the restaurant business. In 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 for 8 years. 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 located in the heart of east 6th street focusing on Mexico City soul food and agave distilled spirits. His past 22 years of creating atmosphere, menus and systems to train staff in offering an exceptional dining experience has made him a seasoned, profitable restaurant operator.

 

Shawn Cirkiel - Parkside, The Backspace, Olive & June, Bullfight

Austin, TX

Restauranteur and Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s creativity and innovation in the kitchen have made him one of Austin’s most coveted chefs and restaurateurs. After opening Parkside—the city’s first gastro pub—seven years ago the accolades continue on for this sophisticated spot as they do for Cirkiel’s subsequent ventures: The Backspace, a widely popular Neapolitan-style pizzeria, and Olive & June, an updated version of family-style Southern Italian dining. Cirkiel’s newest venture, Bullfight, which made its debut in August of 2015 is influenced by his love for Spain and offers an authentic Spanish menu featuring a variety of small, sharable plates.

Chef Cirkiel’s passion for local and seasonal food extends beyond the scope of his restaurants and has become a driving force behind his notable community engagement and involvement in many projects, including an initiative at Austin’s Highland Park Elementary where he has helped develop healthy-eating, exercise, and gardening programs. Cirkiel is also a founding chef of the Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers Market in downtown and is a board member and secretary for the Sixth Street Austin Association.

 

Roberto 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.

 

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.


Appetizers

David Garrido - dine at the Radisson

Austin, TX

The son of a Mexican diplomat, David Garrido was born in Canada but grew up in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and was schooled in Switzerland. David became Jeffrey’s executive chef in 1991, receiving renewed raves for the restaurant and raising its already elevated position on the culinary scene. In 1998, he teamed with longtime restaurateur Ron Weiss, of Jeffrey’s and Shoreline Grill, to develop and launch The Josephine House next door to Jeffrey’s. Additionally, in 1999 he was involved in opening O’s Campus Café on The University of Texas at Austin campus. In June 2009, Garrido’s Restaurant was founded with a focus on serving healthy and modern Mexican cooking with Spanish influences.

David is the author of the wildly successful Nuevo Tex-Mex Cookbook and has received numerous awards including Community Minded Chef Award presented by the Junior League of Austin, Who’s Who in Wine and Food in Texas and was voted Most Outstanding Restaurateur by the Texas Restaurant Association.


Entree

Marta Zepeda - Tierra y Cielo

Chiapas, Mexico

One of Mexico’s most prominent culinary promoters, especially in her native state of Chiapas, Ms. Zepeda attended the Centro de Estudios Superiores de San Ángel (CESSA) in Mexico where she focused on Chiapas’ regional cuisine. In 2007, she made her thesis research a reality by opening Tierra y Cielo which further explores her passion for the state’s culinary tradition.

Ms. Zepeda sets herself apart through her continuous training and dedication to excellence; it is through this attention to service and sustainable trade that she launched Tierra y Cielo and consequently, Chiapanecan cuisine, to the forefront of a national culinary attention. Tierra y Cielo has received the Club de Calidad Tesoros de México certification; the distinctive “Chiapas México Original” as a marker for Chiapanecan product; bringing environmental awareness with CAMBIO; and in addition, holds the Distintivos H, Moderniza y Punto Limpio certification.

In 2014, Ms. Zepeda received the National Entrepreneurial Award (Premio Nacional del Emprendedor 2014) from President Enrique Peña Nieto and in 2008 was granted the Premio Nacional de Cocina Regional on CANIRAC’s (Chamber of Restaurant Industry and Seasoned Food) 50th anniversary, awarded by Former President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. In addition, she was recognized for her dedication to sustainable practices in November of 2012.


Desserts

Taylor Hall - Apis

Spicewood, Texas

A native Texan, Chef Taylor Hall found his love of cooking as a young man in his family's North Texas kitchen. From his first job at New Orleans's time-honored Brennan's in 2000, Taylor knew that his place was in the professional kitchen and the world of gourmet cuisine. He graduated with a B.A. from The University of the South in Sewanee in 2001, and completed the culinary arts program at California Culinary Academy of San Francisco in 2005 while working at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio. Afterwards he went on to join the Rosenthal Brothers at Town Hall and Salt House, and completed his time in San Francisco at Nancy Oakes's and Pam Mazzola's James Beard Award-winning Boulevard.

In 2007, Taylor and his wife, Casie, returned to Texas, to start a family and strike out on their own in a boutique catering business, affording them the opportunity to learn the culinary inclinations of Central Texans. In 2009 he became the head chef for Supper Underground and also began the process of planning, designing, and building what would become Apis Restaurant and Apiary. When not at Apis, Taylor spends time at home with his family or running the trails at Pace Bend Park. He can also occasionally be spotted at Poodies Roadhouse sipping a Shiner Bock.

 

Tracey Heffernan - The August Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

Austin, TX

Chef Tracey is an Executive Pastry Chef and Chef Instructor at The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. You could say she was born to be a chef. Her family has been in the restaurant industry for over 50 years and most of her favorite childhood memories were spent creating and exploring in the kitchen with her great-grandmother.

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas at Austin, Chef Tracey decided to follow her passion for baking and attend culinary school. One of the first graduating students from the Culinary Academy of Austin, she earned her Pastry Arts Diploma in 1999. During the past 16 years, Chef Tracey has had the opportunity to teach, develop menus, and design products for many high-volume establishments including Central Market, Fonda San Miguel, Whole Foods, The Marriot Hotel, and First Lady Laura Bush.

A former owner and operator of her own wedding cake business, many of her cake designs were featured in various national and local publications.

 

Rebecca Rather - Author of “The Pastry Queen”

Fredericksburg, Texas

A native Texan, Rebecca Rather makes the most of her Lone Star State’s traditions. Her success and pastries became known with the publication of three acclaimed cookbooks "The Pastry Queen," "The Pastry Queen Christmas," "Pastry Queen Parties."

Rebecca is preparing to open her farmhouse restaurant in the Hill Country's burgeoning wine area east of Fredericksburg.

 

Erica Waksmunski - Parkside, Olive & June and The Backspace

Austin, TX

Erica Waksmunski is nothing if not ambitious and versatile. Her time spent creating cooking both savory and sweet dishes in kitchens ranging from those in Michelin-star restaurants and nationally renowned eateries, to her own humble yet wildly popular food trailer has helped her develop into a distinguished chef whose following is only continuing to grow.

Waksmunski is originally from the food mecca of New Orleans, and grew up near Virginia Beach. Her early penchant and talent for baking and cooking led Waksmunski to jobs in the restaurant industry at a young age, and later to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in North Carolina. Waksmunski has worked at a variety of Michelin-rated restaurants in California, including Chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Ubuntu in Napa, Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, Plumed Horse and Chez TJ, where her abilities earned her the position of pastry chef.     

Chef Waksmunski has been featured in a variety of regional and national publications, including Zagat, Eater (after launching her Red Star Southern food trailer in Austin), Texas Monthly and The Scene Magazine. Additionally, she was nominated for Best New Pastry Chef in Food & Wine Magazine and for Best Pastry Chef by CultureMap Austin. As the pastry director for Parkside Projects, Waksmunski oversees all the dessert programs and menus at Parkside, Olive & June and The Backspace.