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Meet the Chefs: 2015 Emerging Chefs Challenge 

Gambit's Emerging Chefs Challenge 2015

Meet the 2015 Emerging Chefs Challenge Finalists
Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sara Toth

Chef Sara Toth
Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse

Chef Sara Toth’s love of food spans from sweet to savory as does her expertise. Towards the completion of her LSU career, she chose to follow her passion and took a line cook position at Palace Café in January of 2006. Palace Café was in the process of reopening after Hurricane Katrina and the menu was being developed to include new dishes in addition to the signature dishes that defined the restaurant. She was tasked with creating the Ciabatta bread used in the Oyster Loaf (which remains a fixture on their menu). This was the gateway for her pastry passion. From Palace Café she went to Bourbon House as the pastry chef, and was later promoted to Sous Chef.

In addition to gracing the pages of local publications for her culinary talents, Chef Sara recently won Gold at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience’s Grand Tasting for her "Chocolate Crunch Cake." Her expertise on both sides of the kitchen as well as her strong management and mentor skills earned her the position in August of 2014 as Chef de Cuisine at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. 

Ryan Hughes

Chef Ryan Hughes

Starting as an apprentice at the famous La Maisonette in Cincinnati Ohio, Chef Hughes learned Classical French techniques and discipline from the then longest running Mobile Five Star restaurant in the U.S.

When Hughes came to New Orleans 14 years ago, he landed at Brennan’s, where he learned Creole ways from chefs that had come up through the ranks for decades. Hughes continued his education in Southern cooking under Chef Susan Spicer’s Bayona and opening Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico. From there as Executive Chef at Johnny V’s and Café Degas it earned him critical accolades from Times-Picayune restaurant critic Brett Anderson. Along with his weekly involvement as the “Culinary Consultant” on NPR radio show "Louisiana Eats! w/ Poppy Tooker," furthers Chef Hughes’ explorations into the culinary recesses of the South. Purloo is Chef Ryan's first restaurant he has owned and operated.

Dayne Womax

Chef Dayne Womax

Brown Butter

Dayne Womax co-founded the Salty Swine Supper Club, which then blossomed into an opportunity to take over the food and beverage department at Timberlane Country Club.  Dayne has run the kitchen’s at Sun Ray Grill, Martin’s Wine Cellar, The Salty Swine Supper Club and Restaurant, Vega Tapas Cafe, and now, co-owner and chef of Brown Butter Southern Kitchen and Bar.

Brown Butter is the city's destination for Contemporary Southern American cuisine. Dayne hopes to challenge diners' palates with new and exciting flavors while anchoring the ingredients in the comforting and familiar. Brown Butter serves lunch, fine dinner, Sunday brunch, business and special events or just a beer and small plates.

Jason Goodenough

Chef Jason Goodenough

Carrollton Market

Jason started cooking while he was an undergrad at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. After graduating with a degree in economics, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.  He spent the next seven years in Philadelphia, PA where he worked for some of the best restaurants in the city such as Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, which is a 5-Diamond property.  He also worked twice for Georges Perrier, who is the only chef to ever have trained two different winners of Top Chef -- Kevin Sbraga and Nicholas Elmi. Finally, he spent nearly a year working for Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, which gave Chef Jason a good background in Asian cuisine.

He spent his first year in New Orleans as a sous chef at Nola Restaurant, then the subsequent year and a half as a private chef. After that, he decided to open Carrollton Market.  The restaurant has consistently received exceptional reviews since opening. He calls the food at Carrollton Market "Modern Southern", but it is really a mash-up of Jason's various experiences.

Daniel Causgrove

Chef Daniel Causgrove
The Grill Room at Windsor Court

Daniel Causgrove is the Chef de Cuisine at The Grill Room at Windsor Court. He spent time honing his skills in French cuisine and fine dining in New York City restaurants, such as Le Cirque and Café des Artistes. Moving to New Orleans in 2007, Chef Causgrove worked locally at Cochon and as sous chef at La Petite Grocery, where during his tenure, the restaurant was awarded four beans and named a top ten restaurant in New Orleans by the Times-Picayune.  In September 2012, he became executive chef of Dijon and was named a 2013 "Chef to Watch" by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine.

In October 2013, The Grill Room at Windsor Court appointed Causgrove as Chef de Cuisine. As one of New Orleans’ premier dining venues, The Grill Room is one of the only restaurants in the city to hold both Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond dining awards. Chef Causgrove brings to The Grill Room his extensive knowledge of fine dining and French, Louisiana and Southern cuisines.

Martha Wiggins

Chef Martha Wiggins

As executive chef, Martha Wiggins brings a passion for the culinary craft to the kitchen at Sylvain. Growing up in Washington, D.C., Wiggins started in the food and beverage industry at a deli called Pumpernickels when she was only 15 years old, a position that inspired her career. At age 20, she moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts and attended a culinary arts program while getting her start as a line cook in a several fine dining establishments, roles that advanced her culinary experience and knowledge.

In 2010, Wiggins relocated to New Orleans and joined the opening staff of Sylvain as the sous chef to executive chef Alex Harrell. Under Harrell’s tutelage, Wiggins developed her creative skills in the kitchen. In October 2014, Wiggins assumed the position of executive chef at Sylvain, where she continues the restaurant’s reputation for thoughtful, contemporary American gastro pub fare.

William Salisbury

Chef William Salisbury
Rah/BAH (pop-up kitchen)

Will Salisbury moved to New Orleans after cooking on the Islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard on the south coast of Massachusetts.  As a result, there is a New England and Portuguese influence in what he cooks, as well as influences from his Italian family heritage growing up on Long Island, NY.

Will Salisbury has lived in New Orleans for two years and was previously one of the opening pizza cooks for Pizza Domenica and head chef of Wood Pizza. Will is currently resurrecting his seafood and raw bar pop up kitchen, Rah/BAH

Brad Andries

Chef Brad Andries

Brad Andries has been working for Sac-a-lait since November 2014. He graduated from the Art Institute of Houston in 2006. Upon graduating he moved to Italy in 2007 where he was the Sous Chef at Da Mimmo. He completely immersed himself in the Italian culture and cuisine. He moved back to the US in 2009 and took a position as Executive Chef at Stroube's Steak House in Baton Rouge. In 2014 he moved to Maine, and became the Executive Chef at the Hilton Hotel. Chef Cody and Sam traveled to Maine to meet with Brad and offer him the position here in New Orleans at Sac-a-Lait.

Brad combines the Louisiana cuisine he grew up on with the finesse and beauty of Italian dishes he honed in Italy. His skill with seafood and fish stands out as well, and it pulls from the experience he had in Maine.

Nathaniel Kruse

Chef Nathaniel Kruse

Nathaniel Kruse is from Columbia, Missouri. He went to undergrad at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and then culinary school in Scottsdale, Arizona. He moved to New Orleans in August of 2009.

He has worked at Commander's Palace, Ralph's on the Park, ONE Restaurant, Emeril's, Gautreau's and now the recently opened Kin. Nate's culinary style incorporates his experiences growing up in the rural Midwest, going to culinary school in the Southwest, and working right next to the best chefs in New Orleans.

Chris Shortall

Chef Chris Shortall
Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29

Chris Shortall moved to New Orleans in June of 2008 from Dallas and began his local career with an internship at Restaurant August (the final requirement for his bachelor degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of North Texas). He continued working under Chef John Besh until an opportunity arose at a new restaurant called Coquette.  After two years of helping the restaurant evolve into the New Orleans institution it is today, he met Twelve Mile Limit’s Cole Newton and made the move from fine dining to neighborhood comfort food. 

Shortall’s BBQ quickly garnered great reviews and generated a loyal customer base, but three years and an offer from Jeff Berry and Annene Kaye later, Chris decided to join the opening team of Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, where he could blend his knowledge of New Orleans/Southern cuisine and Pan-Asian flavors. 

Nick Vella

Chef Nick Vella

Chef Nick Vella graduated from the Louisiana Culinary Institute in January 2011. As a first generation Maltese-American, he experienced variety of culinary traditions early on spending summers with his grandparents in Malta. He worked under James Beard Chefs Allison Vines Rushing & Slade Rushing at MiLA for 3 years. As a part of the opening team for Noodle and Pie he worked under Eman Loubier and Brian Armour. In July of 2014, Cibugnù sent him to train at Nico Osteria in Chicago; which was nominated for James Beard Best New Restaurant under Chefs Paul Kahan.&  Erring Wu-Bower.

Chef Vella has been with Cibugnu for the past year with a menu of locally sourced ingedients, that change seasonally. A 'from sctatch kitchen', he handmakes fresh pasta, refreshing gelatos, and hand butchers his meats to cook in the wood fire oven. There is a focus on simplicity allowing the quality of ingredients to speak for themselves. Classic Italian traditions are honored with a family style dining experience right in the heart of the CBD.

Rita Bernhardt

Chef Rita Bernhardt

Rita graduated from culinary school in Portland, OR in 2010.  She moved to New Orleans four years ago on a whim and completely fell in love. She began working at Domenica and credits the team there with teaching her most of what she knows about the basics of being a line cook and cooking in New Orleans. Eventually, Rita left Domenica to have a wonderful stint at Bacchanal then continued to Restaurant August. 

After August, Rita and her partner, William Barial, opened the PDR pop-up. They change the menu once a month and sell the individual seats online. Friends, family and complete strangers come to their house with a bottle of wine and eat a five-course tasting menu. They have started a stand at the St. Roch Market and continue to do the supper club dinners. The market location's menu also changes often and is a creative outlet for Rita and William to do more casual fare.


Honorary Featured Chef
Houcine Harrabi

Chef Houcine Harrabi
Food for Friends/Crescent Care

Chef Houcine Harrabi will provide additional tastings during the evening. He is the chef for Food for Friends, a nutritional program of NO/AIDS Task Force, now a division of CrescentCare. Food for Friends provides nutritious, home-delivered meals to men, women and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Last year more than 39,000 meals were delivered to clients who cannot prepare meals for themselves. The program also delivered 185,000 pounds of bagged groceries to clients who may not otherwise be able to afford food and personal items.

Catering orders support CrescentCare's ongoing efforts to meet the many nutritional demands of those living with HIV/AIDS.

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