RAMIRO JIMENEZ,

Biography

Chef Ramiro Jimenez began his culinary journey early in life. When he came to the United States, he joined Positano on Park Avenue as a pastry cook, and after it reopened in 1994 as Patria, Ramiro worked his way up to become its Sous Chef. When owner Douglas Rodriquez left Patria to open Chicama in January 2000, he gave Ramiro his first opportunity to run a kitchen as the Head Chef.

In 2002 Chef Jimenez opened Noche as Executive Chef, the largest Latin American Restaurant in New York City, creating the most exciting spectrum of Latin and Caribbean dishes ever seen on one menu. The palette included new Latin interpretations, as well as his favorite traditional recipes. In 2006 Ramiro joined La Puerta Azul in Dutchess County as its Executive Chef. La Puerta Azul was named the best Latino Restaurant in 2008 and 2010. Chef Jimenez is the author of Daily Feast Cookbook which was published in 2008.

Ramiro’s 954 Latin Bistro in Mahopac, New York is Ramiro’s new adventure in creating a Nuevo Latino restaurant, where he showcases his passion for Latin America and Spain, with his philosophy of taking classic cuisine and adding his own contemporary approach and creativity. Ramiro believes that you have to love what you do in life. “I don’t feel as if I’m working when I’m in the kitchen”, says Chef Jimenez. “That and dedication is the key to success, and I would like to inspire others to find their true passion and journey in life as well”.

Alex Berlingeri

Alex has more than 25 years of leadership and operational management experience working for some of the most interesting and diverse Hospitality and Restaurant companies in the United States. He is intimately familiar with the East and West Coast Markets as well as the recently expanding Mid-West. An innovator and “out of the box” thinker, his vision and expertise in marketing and in-house development have achieved noticeable results in all sectors of his field.

His teaching and training seminars have become his signature and his educational manuals and materials emulated within the industry. Alex’s belief in people and his personal investment in their successes have made him a popular point person for advice and help long after his professional collaboration with them has ended. He is often requested to lend his talents and passion to charitable organizations and events which he does generously for Am Far, Naples Food and Wine Even, Bocca Resort Food and Wine Weekend, as well Gourmet Magazine, Cucina Italiana, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and the Bacchus Society to name a few.

Offering a rare blend of operational and back of the house expertise coupled with his passion for wine, food and service, Alex offers vision as well a collaborative spirit and practical skill-set that can quickly and effectively identify goals and development strategies. This effective approach is reflected in his work as Director of Operations of Sushi Samba and Tao N.Y. both multi million dollar companies where his interpersonal and operational know how delivered impressive results.

His turnaround capabilities were highlighted with his modern reinvention of an antiquated brand. As G.M. of Alfredo’s of Rome, Rockefeller Ctr. He supervised the building and was a creative force in the reemerging of a brand that evoked the glamour and appeal of old Hollywood and the fifties but had no place in the current landscape. This reinvention required major shifts in strategy, operations, design, marketing and packaging and merchandising. Alex had a significant impact on growth, branding and Human Resources philosophy.

He also had a similar effect on a more current brand, Sushi Samba. The extremely profitable and exciting concept popular with celebrities and the urban powerful, Alex was originally brought in to run the NYC stores. His role was quickly expanded to include the chic South Beach location as well as the burgeoning Chicago market and he quickly brought all locations to a peak period of internal stability and profitability that they sustained throughout his tenure.

Alex’s executive tenure in some of the most venerated and well known institutions such as Tavern on the Green, Princess Cruise Lines, Paramount Pictures and B.R. Guest couples with his personal drive, linguistic talents and seasoned travel has exposed him to the most accomplished people in his field. He is known as a seasoned veteran a dynamic collaborator and a creative thinker who brings his passion to every project he is a part of. His latest endeavors bring him to the exciting g Atlantic City market and next to Princeton, New Jersey.

Alex received his B.A. in Business from Bryant College in Rhode Island and has contributed to Wine Enthusiast, Cucina Italiana Magazine, Italian Cooking and Living, Gourmet Magazines premiere events and various charity and community organizations. He lives in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey with his loving wife and three beautiful children.

MARK FARRO

Biography

Chef Mark Farro, a lifelong resident of Warren, leads the kitchen of the acclaimed Uproot Restaurant, in his home town. This is the position he has been groomed for all his life. While his formal education didn’t start till later in life, Mark’s contribution to Sunday dinner and the families wine production sparked his passion for the culinary arts! Now leading one of NJ’s most well reviewed restaurants, Chef Farro, is proud to craft an experience like no other in Central NJ!

Upon graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Mark began his internship at the Short Hills Hilton. A student of the art of cooking, Mark, was quickly promoted to the Dining Room, which was the only five-diamond restaurant in New Jersey, at the time.

Stage Left, a contemporary 4 star restaurant, was Mark’s next stop. Working hand in hand with Chef Anthony Bucco, he was able to refine his technique and gain an understanding of the small family farm and the importance of sourcing responsibly! In addition to his responsibilities at Stage Left, Mark was instrumental in opening the company’s second restaurant Catherine Lombardi.

Mark’s, career path next led him to the Pluckemin Inn where he worked under Chef David Felton. He was able to expand his culinary horizons and began to experiment with ingredients and express creativity. Mark has also staged in some of the best kitchens in the New York Metro area, including the recently 4 star reviewed Eleven Madison Park!

LAURA MANIEC

Laura Maniec is one of only 18 women Master Sommeliers in the world to have achieved the highest accreditation given to wine professionals. Wine and Spirits Magazine named her “Best New Sommelier” the first year they started the award. Laura earned her Master Sommelier designation in 2009, after nearly eight years of intensive study.

In 2001, Laura found her true passion for wine in New York City through an 18-week sommelier certification class held at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center. Inspired, motivated and excited by what she learned, Laura opted to pursue a career in wine.

At 21, just as she became legally allowed to drink, she became a sommelier at Blue Fin, a 400-seat restaurant in New York City. Under the guidance of Master Sommelier Greg Harrington, Laura’s knowledge and experience blossomed. Later, as part of the wine team at B.R. Guest Restaurant Group, Laura was sent across the country to open new hotels.

At just 25, she was made a partner as well as Wine and Spirits Director for the entire restaurant group, in charge of 20 restaurants. Aside from overseeing purchasing and creating the wine lists, Laura was responsible for educating the entire front-of-the-house team on wine. Laura resigned from B.R. Guest to develop her wine bar and pursue teaching about wine.

Today, Laura is on the Board of Directors for the Guild of Sommeliers, an organization dedicated to educating and rewarding those in the beverage service industry, and she regularly sits on the New York Times tasting panel. She also contributes to industry publications, including Food & Wine and Sommelier Journal, and she consults for various beverage programs as well as teaches and lectures on wine for students and audiences around the world.

This spring, Laura is opening Corkbuzz Wine Studio, an innovative wine restaurant that will serve as a “home base” in New York City for all things wine. Teaching is Laura’s favorite part of her career. She loves to educate, inspire and share her passion with anyone who wants to learn about wine. Her approach is empowering, and her style is welcoming. She says, “Everyone can learn about wine, even if you don’t want to geek out. My only goal is that if you take a class with me, you’ll have fun, and by the end you’ll at least know what you like.”

Laura is a mentor to many sommeliers and feels that she will really be successful when one of her students becomes a fellow Master Sommelier.

CHRISTOPHER ALBRECHT

Biography

Christopher Albrecht was born and raised in Central New Jersey. Growing up he spent most of his time either down the shore on Long Beach Island, playing baseball or immersed in the theater at Plays in the Park. It was the theater that instilled in him the appreciation and electricity for the nightly rise of the curtain. If he wasn’t at the theater he could be found on the baseball diamond all over New Jersey and eventually at the University of Southern California, where three years of varsity baseball would teach him the dedication and sacrifice needed for success.

But it was his time on Long Beach Island that would lead him to his first cooking job at the Gourmet Mooring in Beach Haven, a busy seasonal Seafood and Steakhouse. Here Chris got his first taste of kitchen management eventually working his way thru the entire kitchen.

Since then he has worked with some of the worlds most renown chefs. After college Albrecht returned to New Jersey to work with chef Richard Baulis at the acclaimed Mulberry Street Restaurant in South Brunswick, a position that came about after working with the same owner and managing the kitchen at Cranberry Station Restaurant. Simultaneously Albrecht worked at the Princeton Hyatt, before being inspired to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York, graduating in October of 1996.

Albrecht then went to Manhattan to work at Danny Meyer’s world renown and Zagat rated, Gramercy Tavern. There he worked closely with “Top Chef”, and James Beard award winner Tom Colicchio for 3 years becoming the Saucier. He then studied the next 3 years with James Beard award winning pastry chef Claudia Fleming, working his way to Assistant Pastry Chef. As Claudia’s right hand, Albrecht worked directly with her to publish The Final Course, while traveling extensively to promote Gramercy Tavern, Danny, Tom and Claudia.

Chris then went on the participate as a Sous Chef in the opening of Colicchio’s innovative Craft Restaurant in New York City before assuming the role of Executive Chef at Craftsteak Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino for 4 years, ultimately overseeing the entire Craft operation there including the Wichcraft Sandwich concept. Under his guidance Craftsteak in Las Vegas was named the Best New Restaurant, Best Steakhouse, and Best American Restaurant by Las Vegas Life magazine. It was also named Best Overall by the New York Times and Best Steakhouse in North America by Travel and Leisure magazine. Following his time in Las Vegas Chef Albrecht returned to New York City to open the eagerly awaited Craftsteak New York.

Albrecht has worked in charity and industry events such as the Masters of Food and Wine, Taste of the Nation, Bon Appetit Focus, and frequent dinners at the James Beard House. He has cooked with a veritable who’s who of America’s culinary celebrities such as Thomas Keller, Jean-Louis Paladin, Jacques Pepin, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton, and countless others.

He has often been invited to lead cooking seminars, participate in panel discussions and give live demonstrations, besides appearing on numerous radio, and television segments as well as trade magazines.

His culinary style focuses on high quality seasonal ingredients from small Family owned and operated Farms and Ranches, delivered at the peak of their flavor, and then to combine those ingredients with the attention to details, integrity and technique he has learned over the past twenty years.

Chef Albrecht now seeks to bring more attention aimed at the farm to table connection and to make consumers aware of “Who is your Farmer”. Albrecht also oversees the two acre farm that produces most of the produce used at Eno Terra, soil fertility, seed selection and crop diversity are at the forefront of Canal Farm. Both are part of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group of Carlo and Raoul Momo.

MIA VAN DE WATER

Biography

Mia Van de Water first fell in love with wine over a bottle of Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Turkheim in 2006. Her passion for learning more led her to Union Square Hospitality Group, where she worked for Union Square Café for nearly four years as a server, then left to open the company’s newest restaurant, North End Grill, as a server and sommelier.

Mia is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, was a Regional Finalist for the Court’s TOP SOMM competition in 2013, and hopes to sit for the Advanced Exam in April of 2014.

Great loves include German Riesling, Farmer Fizz, obscure Italian varieties, and 1996 Ponsot Clos de la Roche. Mia is currently the Wine Director at North End Grill; the list has been honored with Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence each year since opening.

PAOLO VIEIRA

Biography

Owner of Paolo’s Kitchen in New Providence, NJ, Chef Paolo Vieira believes in using the freshest ingredients to prepare his rustic Italian cuisine. For most of his life, Chef Paolo has shared his passion for food with his family and friends. His father, and namesake, was born in Italy and owned restaurants and bakeries. Vieira, spending every summer on the farms of Brazil, was always around premium live-stock and helped in the fields to bring the freshest ingredients to the table…the onset of his rustic culinary roots.

From an early age, Vieira learned how to navigate his way through the business and cater to the needs of particular clients. “Always use the best possible ingredients and allow the natural flavors do the work,” his father often said. For Chef Paolo, there is no other option…that was his upbringing and he rewards himself with rustic home cooking every day.

For over twenty years, Chef Paolo has worked with many talented chefs and earned the respect of his colleagues. He opened his first restaurant at the age of 23, his second at the age of 27, and was the chef for several restaurants in Essex County. He continues to work alongside restaurateur Gerry Cerrigone of Montclair’s Salute and Fin Restaurants.

Although Paolo’s Kitchen specializes in tailored catering for any size event, Chef Paolo is equally proud to participate in many local farmers markets in New Jersey. Purchasing fresh produce from local vendors satisfies the mindset of using the highest quality ingredients. His line of fully prepared “meals on the go” has been highly successful and well received… by even the most savvy clients. “The eggplant rollantini is my signature item; all individually hand rolled and delicate”, says Vieira.

Chef Paolo prepares all items by hand; including fresh mozzarella, ravioli, manicotti, fresh pasta, sauces, dressings, biscotti, and desserts. His skills encompass baking, butchery, restaurant consulting for food/menu/kitchen design and staff training.

NEIL RODRIGUEZ

Biography

Neil Rodriguez is a veteran of more than 25 years in the wine business. It all started with a bottle of 1976 Chateau Latour, Neil says. I was captivated by just how much better that wine was than what I normally drank and wanted to learn more, so I took a part-time job at my local wine shop and never looked back. He has worked in all aspects of the industry at the producer, distribution, marketing, and retail levels. Neil has traveled extensively throughout the worlds major wine producing regions, always seeking to enhance his knowledge and to search out the best wines available in terms of quality and value.

Neil is also an authority on whiskey and beer, his other passions, and frequently lectures on the appreciation of the worlds classic wines, spirits, and beers. He is also a prolific writer and has numerous articles to his credit.

Neil sees his role as our General Manager and Buyer as an opportunity to communicate his passion and knowledge to our customers. My greatest satisfaction in this business comes from introducing consumers to new and interesting wines they might not be familiar with, says Neil. For a customer to thank me for recommending a wine they liked is a tremendously rewarding experience to me, and something I hope to continue to do for a long time.

RICHARD SANDOVAL

Biography

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Richard Sandoval grew up surrounded by Mexican culture and food. His father, a successful restaurateur, instilled in him a passion for the cuisine of his heritage and the art of hospitality. From the age of 12, Richard worked in his father’s highly regarded restaurants Madeiras and Villa Fiore restaurants, confirming his desire to be a chef.

After living in California where Sandoval learned to appreciate the ingredients indigenous to the area, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. Upon graduation, Sandoval returned to his father’s kitchens, immersing himself in the cuisine of his homeland where he was ultimately awarded the National Toque d’Oro, Chef of the Year.

The energy and challenge of New York City beckoned and Richard Sandoval made a splash – not with Mexican cuisine – but with a modern French menu at the successful Savann, followed by Savann Est. While Sandoval gained attention at each of these restaurants his passion for the foods of his native Mexico took hold and in 1997 he opened Maya to widespread acclaim. It was Maya that enabled Sandoval to introduce New Yorkers to the exciting, bold and flavorful foods that have become known as Modern Mexican, and it is Chef Sandoval who has redefined Mexican cuisine. Richard Sandoval and the restaurant soon became local culinary celebrities earning a rave 2-Star review from The New York Times. Maya, San Francisco soon followed and earned 3-stars from the ever-discerning San Francisco Chronicle.

In 2001, Richard Sandoval headed west to bring his inventive style of gourmet Mexican cooking to an initially skeptical Denver, Colorado audience. Tamayo, with its casual take on refined Mexican cuisine, captured the hearts (and stomachs) of food- and fun-loving Denver and Richard Sandoval became a household name. The recently launched Zengo (February 2004), which received a glowing 3 ˝ -star review in The Denver Post, is poised to do the same with innovative Latin-Asian cuisine.

Back in New York, Sandoval partnered with famed opera star Placido Domingo to bring Modern Mexican seafood to midtown with Pampano. This beautiful restaurant specializing in the coastal cuisines of Mexico received a brilliant 2-star review from The New York Times and was voted one of “The Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine. That same year Sandoval was named one of the “Best Chefs of 2003” in New York Magazine, further solidifying his reputation as the Modern Mexican chef in America.

2004 has been a banner year for Richard Sandoval and his Modern Mexican group. Isla Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, a brilliant collaboration with internationally renowned hospitality designer, Jeffrey Beers, brought the flavors and spirit of Mexico to Treasure Island (TI) in Las Vegas. In 2005, Sandoval has brought Zengo to Washington, DC and launch into the international arena when he opens Hip Kitchen in Hippodromo Boutique Hotel, in Mexico City; and Maya in Dubai.

Richard Sandoval has been a pioneer bringing refined Mexican food to this country. By redefining this historic cuisine he has become a leader in the upscale Latin culinary movement. He is a revolutionary in his own culinary way, cooking with such innovation and refinement that Modern Mexican Cuisine is now recognized as one of the great culinary experiences, sentiments once reserved for French, Italian or Japanese food.

CHRISTINE M. OKEZIE

Biography

Christine M. Okezie is a Natural Foods Chef and Certified Holistic Health Coach and a loving mother of two. She founded her company, Your Delicious Balance to fulfill her desire to support busy women heal themselves through real food and positive lifestyle choices. Christine is equally passionate about whole foods cooking and the pleasures of eating.

She is a graduate of NYC’s Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, the leader in health supportive cuisine. Christine received her nutrition training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school at the forefront of the health and wellness movement. She is a board certified member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

In her practice, Christine leads workshops on nutrition, wellness and healthy cooking. She counsels women and their families about food, health and nourishment. You can find Christine throughout northern Bergen County giving lively and inspiring culinary demos at Bloomingdales, Chef Central and Le Gourmet Factory where she will show you reclaiming you health can be fun, easy and above all delicious. Christine was recently featured as one of the Top Green Housewives in Bergen Health & Life Magazine for her work. Her health and wellness articles are regularly featured in Natural Awakenings, Elevated Existence and Inner Realm Magazines.

WADE BURCH, South West NY

Biography

Wade Burch might, at first blush, cut the figure of a grizzled veteran New Yorker, but he’s a true Texan through and through. He did grow up in Texas City, Texas after all. Located right on the edge of the Gulf Coast, Texas City is known for a beautiful stretch of 2-lane blacktop fondly referred to as “the Dike” that extends 7 miles into the heart of The Gulf of Mexico. This unique proximity to the ocean afforded Wade access to all the fresh seafood he could catch and carry home on his bike, where his family, full of generations of “amazing cooks,” prepared it, planting the early seeds for his culinary career. That being said, no self-respecting Texan would lead a beef-less existence and Wade, who wryly dubs himself a “redneck”, is certainly no exception. Growing up in the carnivorous Texas culture he became enamored with the deep, smoky flavors that only barbeque can fully capture. In fact, he spent his childhood summers visiting family on a dairy farm outside of Fort Worth, Texas where he milked cows, hauled hay, and learned an appreciation for the vivid flavor of fresh, high quality ingredients.

Although he originally dreamed of becoming a Veterinarian, he realized that “if I wanted to keep eating well, I better find a way to make some money.” Half a dozen years in Veterinarian school certainly weren’t going to pay the dinner bills, so when he saw a “NOW HIRING” sign in the window of a new restaurant in town he decided to give it a go and was hired on the spot as a fry cook. Within weeks he was promoted to crew chief. “I remember the first paycheck after my promotion, it was double, and I got to be in charge,” he fondly recalls as if it were just yesterday. “I was hooked.” Since then, Wade’s career has taken him on a roller-coaster of a ride throughout the U.S. (“the left coast, the right coast, and the Gulf Coast,” he chuckles). His stops include the prestigious Plaza Hotel, a stint under the renowned Larry Forgione (aka “The Godfather of American Cuisine”), The Pan Pacific Hotel in San Francisco, and The Club Corporation of America where he worked his culinary magic at numerous Country Clubs and companies throughout the state of Texas, including Ross Perot’s EDS, a state of the art compound in Plano. He also cooked for the Brennan Family at their Houston outpost in the early 80’s while Emeril Lagasse headed their operation as corporate chef. While there he fortuitously met Rex Hale and Kevin Rathbun, who later brought him aboard Stephan Pyles’ Baby Routh in Dallas.

Wade’s cooking has continued to grow and evolve throughout his career, as he’s never been satisfied with the status quo. In 1993, he was awarded a scholarship to the School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards, headed by the innovative Madeleine Kamman. At the time, he was the only chef from Texas to have ever been selected to attend. Kamman pushed his cuisine to another level, as Wade gushes, “she changed my approach to ingredients and each dish I prepare.” A few years later he enrolled in the Windows on the World Wine School, taught by Kevin Zraly, where once again new gastronomic doors were blown off the hinges, and wine soon became a consuming passion for him. He is now an avid collector with an increasingly crowded cellar in the basement of his New Jersey home, where he and his wife reside with their three beautiful daughters Hailey, Brie, and Addison. Wade has also been featured on the prominent Food Network Show, “Chopped.”

As Executive Chef of SOUTHWEST NY Wade returned to his roots, drawing inspiration from childhood memories of Texas barbeque and freshly caught fish. He manages to seamlessly blend the clean taste of fresh fish, unctuous flavors of barbeque, and the spicy allure of Southwestern spices to create a menu that appeals to any palate. He is also the Executive Chef of Merchants Riverhouse, the newly opened Merchants Market and the soon to be opened Neely’s Pig Parlor.