Palm Desert Food&Wine™ 2017

2017 Personalities

Celebrated national food experts, chefs, local culinary rock stars, legendary winemakers and brewmasters, authors, sommeliers, mixologists and other truly amazing talents come together for the seventh annual Palm Desert Food & Wine™ — March 24-26, 2017.

Gail SimmonsGail Simmons

Food Expert, Food & Wine's Special Projects Director, and judge on BRAVO's Top Chef

Gail Simmons is a trained culinary expert, author, and dynamic television personality. Since the show's inception in 2006, Gail has lent her extensive expertise as a permanent judge on BRAVO's Emmy-winning series "Top Chef." She was head critic on "Top Chef Masters," host of "Top Chef: Just Desserts," and co-host of FYI's 2014 show "The Feed."

After graduating from what is now the Institute of Culinary Education, she worked in the kitchens of legendary restaurants Le Cirque 2000 and Vong, was the assistant to Vogue's esteemed food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, and served as the special events manager for Chef Daniel Boulud's restaurant empire.

Gail joined Food & Wine in 2004, where she directs special projects, working closely with the country's top culinary talent and acting as liaison between the marketing and editorial teams on events and chef-related initiatives. During her tenure, she has been responsible for overseeing the annual Classic in Aspen, America's premier culinary event. Her first book, a memoir titled Talking With My Mouth Full, was published by Hyperion in February 2012, and her first cookbook is set to be published in late 2017.

Most recently, Gail and her business partner Samantha Hanks, founded Bumble Pie Productions, an original content company dedicated to discovering and promoting new female voices in the food and lifestyle space. Their first series, "Star Plates" — a collaboration with Drew Barrymore's Flower Films and Authentic Entertainment — will air on the Food Network September 27, 2016 at 11:00 p.m. ET.

Chef Marco AguilarMarco Aguilar

Chef de Cuisine, Adobe Grill, La Quinta Resort & Club

Chef Marco Aguilar was born and raised in Mexico City. Instilled with a love for cooking at an early age by his grandparents, Aguilar set off to attend culinary school at the age of fifteen and quickly followed his passion to the United States for further education and training. Aguilar’s culinary journey has included positions in the kitchens of world renowned hotel brands, including Hyatt hotels in Albuquerque, NM, and Four Seasons hotels in Santa Fe, NM, New York City, NY and Vail, CO.

Brent Ridge & Josh Kilmer-PurcellBrent Ridge & Josh Kilmer-Purcell
"The Founders of Beekman 1802"

Television reality show personalities, authors, and creators of lifestyle product brands.

When Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge bought the Beekman Farm in upstate New York in 2008, they didn't just start a farm, they started a movement. A mere five years later they already have a hit TV show, bestselling books, product lines in leading retailers, a massive social following, and a James Beard nominated lifestyle website. They've been featured in most major media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, Vanity Fair, The Martha Stewart Show, Rolling Stone, Dr. Oz, Vogue, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, O Magazine, and more.

Known best as "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" from their hit television reality show, the duo has put their stylish stamp on seasonal living. Their farm and surrounding community serves as the inspiration for their lifestyle brand, "Beekman 1802." The brand's signature beauty, home food products can be found on the shelves of Henri Bendel, Anthropologie, Williams- Sonoma and other national retail partners. The Beekman 1802 cookbook was launched on QVC to record sales, and the memoir of their farm life, The Bucolic Plague, was a national best seller. The 2011 launch of their Beek-man 1802 Blaak Cheese resulted in a wait-list of over 7500 people.

Chef Zack BruellZack Bruell

Chef/Restaurateur, Parallax, Table 45, L'albatros, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, Dynomite

More than 30 years ago, Cleveland Magazine credited chef and restaurateur Zack Bruell with introducing the area to an emerging west-coast trend of bistro dining and fusion cuisine. Bruell brought the concept from his work with famed chef Michael McCarty of the landmark eatery, Michael's Santa Monica — a restaurant recognized for influencing dining attitudes throughout North America with its California nouvelle cuisine. Bruell imported the new style to Cleveland, where he opened Z Contemporary Cuisine in Shaker Heights in the early 1980s. Although he eventually sold Z, Bruell's fans did not forget him. He got back into the game in 2004 with the opening of Parallax in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. In only eight years, Bruell opened four more fine dining restaurants: Table 45 at the InterContinental Cleveland, L'Albatros, Chinato and Cowell & Hubbard. In 2013, Bruell also opened DYNOMITE — his first fast casual concept.

Today, Bruell is the only restaurateur in Cleveland to have ten successful establishments within the city limits, plus a restaurant-style catering and events company, Zack Bruell Events. In addition, Bruell recently created and debuted a full line of gourmet coffees, Zack's Brews, as well as Zack Bruell Olive Oil, 100% Extra Virgin, and Zack Bruell Balsamic Vinegars and signature sauces. All Zack Bruell products are sold at Heinen's and Fishers Foods stores in Northeast Ohio.

Chef Andrew CopleyAndrew Copley

Executive Chef/Owner, Copley's on Palm Canyon

Andrew Copley has 20 years of culinary experience in five star establishments. He received his culinary degree from the Westminster Culinary College in London. He honed his culinary skills and obtained valuable operational experience while working at the esteemed Savoy and Park Lane Hotels in London. Chef Andrew's culinary skills in fine dining were a valuable asset as chef in the formal dining room on the luxurious ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2).

In 1994, Copley was recruited to the Grand Hyatt on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. With Chef Andrew on board, the hotel received the Petrees Award for No. 1 restaurant in the State, an award they would win for three consecutive years.

Andrew moved to Hawaii in 1997, where he joined The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. World-renown chef Jean-Pierre Dubray would later invite Copley to the prestigious Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. In 1998, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco was awarded No. 1 hotel in the city and No. 4 in the U.S.

Copley's innovative style in creative contemporary American cuisine was just what was needed to take on the responsibility in 1999 as the executive chef at the Lodge at Koele, on the island of Lanai, Hawaii. Copley quickly received awards for the No. 1 restaurant in Hawaii for three consecutive years and No. 3 resort restaurant in the world.

Copley relocated to the Coachella Valley in December 2003 to open his own restaurant with his wife and business manager, Juliana Manion-Copley and restaurant manager, Greg Butterfield. After several months of searching, they found the perfect Palm Springs location, in a rustic-chic cottage, once the home of Cary Grant. Set inside a torch-lined garden, Copley's on Palm Canyon is a lively restaurant yet with a casually romantic atmosphere and décor. According to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Copley's On Palm Canyon is the hottest restaurant in town.

Chef Drew DavisDrew Davis

Executive Chef and Owner, Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine

Origin of Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine

Catalan is a Mediterranean themed restaurant with an emphasis on Italian and Spanish cuisine. Launched in 2012 by father and son duo Mark and Drew Davis. Catalan sources its products exclusively from local and sustainable sources whenever possible with the goal of providing its clientele with a farm to table dining experience.

About Chef Drew Davis

Born in Los Angeles, Drew knew at a young age that he had a true passion for food. During his teenage years, Drew works at numerous food establishments that become the foundation of his true life's calling. Filled with high expectations for the future, Drew recognizes the need to refine his craft.

After a position in the catering department at Dean & Deluca in Kansas City, Drew moves on to New World Bistro, awarded Kansas City's Best New Restaurant of 1999. Not satisfied with his early achievements, Drew works tirelessly on learning every possible aspect of the restaurant business attending the Culinary Institute of America, resulting in prominent job opportunities in Florida and the Mid-West.

When the prospect arose to be part of James Beard award winning chefs, Michael Smith and Debbie Gold's Kansas City venture, 40 Sardines, Drew takes his good fortune and helps launch in 2001 to instant success.

Expanding his culinary knowledge and curriculum, Drew moves to Miami in 2002 to train under Top Chef and James Beard award winners, Jonathan Eisman of Pacific Time and Chef Mark Militello of Mark South Beach. Savoring every opportunity, Drew also apprentice at Nobu at the Shore Club, Florida.

Over the course of 9 years, Drew works his way up to become the Executive Sous-Chef at the prominent East Hampton, New York powerhouse Nick and Toni's restaurant for Celebrity Chef & friend Joseph Realmuto. While in the Hamptons he annually participates in the Great Chef's Dinner, a Foundation for Jeff's Kitchen working alongside Jonathan Waxman, Eric Ripert and Alfred Portale. While in California Drew works as a private Chef for several prominent celebrities in the entertainment industry. Finally settling in the beautiful Coachella Valley with the opening of "Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine" in Rancho Mirage.

Chef Leonel De LeonLeonel De Leon

Chef de Cuisine, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Leonel is a native of Southern California, raised in Los Angeles. Leo developed his passion for the culinary arts at a young age. Leo started working in the kitchen while he attended high school. After graduating from high school he attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. While attending school he also worked as a fine dining cook at Beechwood Restaurant in Venice, CA. Leo then entered the hotel industry by working for such hotels as Hilton, Omni, Four Seasons, and various  Marriott Hotels in Southern California. Currently, he is the Sous Chef at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa.

Chef Tony FranceTony France

Sous Chef, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Tony fell in love with food and cooking at a very young age. He loved being in the kitchen with his Dad trying new ingredients and sampling dishes. When he was about 6 years old, he had a remarkable and memorable experience at The Ritz Carlton Pasadena where he and his family enjoyed an incredible holiday dinner. At that moment he knew he wanted to be a chef.

In 2010, after a year at Azusa Pacific University, Tony decided to follow his true passion and proceeded to attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California. While attending school he was recommended by the Dean of Students to work for the Executive Chef at the Hollywood Magic Castle. He graduated first in his class with honors in 2011.

Continuously striving to learn and grow, Tony began working for Hyatt Regency in Santa Clarita as well as staging for the Hyatt Andaz West Hollywood. However, his main goal was to work for The Ritz Carlton. In 2012, Tony joined The Ritz Carlton and dedicated the next 5 years to learning, growing, and refining not only his cooking but his leadership skills as well. Tony was blessed to be surrounded with an eclectic group of international chefs who really helped guide and grow him as a chef and culinary leader. He quickly rose through the ranks becoming the Jr. Sous Chef of Banquets for the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey. Focusing on Regional California Cuisine with a Mexican flare, Tony now joins Rockwood Grill as their Restaurant Sous Chef.

Chef Gale GandGale Gand

Spritz Burger Restaurant & Tru (Chicago, IL), and James Beard Award-winning Pastry Chef

Chef Gale Gand is a nationally acclaimed pastry chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, television personality, teacher, entrepreneur, and mother. Chef Gand has been recognized as Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year by The James Beard Foundation and by Bon Appetite magazine, as well as receiving a Beard award for best service for Tru, and has been inducted into the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame.

For 8 years, Gale hosted the Food Network series Sweet Dreams, the first nationally televised all-dessert show anywhere. Gale has made appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, Oprah, The Dr. Oz Show, Baking With Julia (Child), Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show and The Today Show. She competed on Iron Chef America and has been featured as a celebrity judge on Food Network Challenge, Last Cake Standing, Top Chef and Top Chef Just Desserts.

Gale is the founding pastry chef and partner of the beloved Chicago restaurant Tru, opened with long-time culinary partner Chef Rick Tramonto and restaurateur Rich Melman in 1999. Tru quickly became a sensation among Chicago's fine dining community and has earned ecstatic praise from reviewers, receiving accolades from the James Beard Foundation; the Michelin, Mobil and AAA guides; Relais Gourmand; Wine Spectator magazine; and was named Chicago's Best Restaurant by Chicago Magazine. Prior to opening Tru, Gand and Tramonto earned increasing acclaim at their Chicago area restaurants Trio and Brasserie T, and at Stapleford Park, an historic country house hotel near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, England, where in 1991 Tramonto and Gand became the first American chefs to earn a Michelin Red M.

Gale is a prolific cookbook author with eight titles to her credit, including her most recent "Gale Gand's Lunch!," released in April 2014. Earlier titles (written with Rick Tramonto) include: American Brasserie (1997); Butter Sugar Flour Eggs (1999); and Tru: A Cookbook from the Legendary Chicago Restaurant (2004). On her own Gand authored Just a Bite (2001); Short and Sweet (2004); Chocolate and Vanilla (2006) and Gale Gand's Brunch (2009), in it's fifth printing.

Gale also produces her own artisan root beer, "Gale's Root Beer," which is available nationally. And each year in the spring months, Gale and her son Gio supply local restaurants with wild ramps foraged from wooded areas near their suburban Chicago home.

Gale was the Chef in Residence in 2011 and 2012 at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest, Illinois, a beautifully preserved and restored early 20th century "gentleman's farm" that is now home to an organic community garden, an ecological learning center, and a meeting space for community activities and private events. Gale hosts a series of events and cooking classes in the Elawa farm kitchen.

In addition, Chef Gand frequently teaches cooking classes at such places as Eataly Chicago, Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, King Arthur Flour in Vermont and Zingerman's in Michigan, to name a few. Gale has 2 classes on available, one on Meringues which won an IACP award in 2016, and one on Custards. She also does public speaking, cooking demonstrations and book signings. Gale also appears frequently at national and international Food and Wine festivals such as The Epcot Food and Wine festival at Disney World, The Aspen Food and Wine Classic, The World Gourmet Festival in Bangkok, The San Diego Food and Wine Festival, Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival, etc. In the summer of 2013 Gale was the guest chef for 2 weeks on A-Rosa's Rhone River Cruise through the south of France. This summer she will sail to Tahiti to take a group to a vanilla plantation. She also does Food Innovation with The Hyde Park Group in Chicago for large and small food companies.

In the summer of 2008, two of Gale's desserts were featured at the USA House at the Beijing Olympics. In 2011 Chef Gand was chosen by Mayor Daley to create the desserts for Chicago's  welcome dinner for China's President Hu in 2011. Gale participates in many national and local charities. In 2010 and 2011, she was a mentor in First Lady Michelle Obama's Chefs Move to Schools initiative, which helps fight childhood obesity through nutritional education.

Gale holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in silver and gold smithing, and attended culinary school at La Varenne in Paris. She resides in Riverwoods, Illinois with her husband, Jimmy Seidita, son Gio (19), twin daughters Ella and Ruby (11).

Chef Joane Garcia-ColsonJoane Garcia-Colson

Executive Chef/Owner, Dish Creative Cuisine, Palm Springs

Joane Garcia-Colson – is a recovering lawyer turned chef who left the practice of law to pursue her true passion - cooking. After graduating with both honors and distinction from the Arizona Culinary Institute, Joane threw caution to the wind and established dish Creative Cuisine in 2012. dish, originally located in Cathedral City, moved to the Uptown Design District of Palm Springs in early January 2015. Joane and her team are dedicated to excellence and strive to provide their guests with a creative, unique and delicious dining experience.

Chef Herve GlinHerve Glin

Executive Chef, Mister Parker’s, Parker Palm Springs

Things for which Brittany, France, is famous: cider and artisanal beers; certain pastries, including sweet crepes and salty galettes; Herve Glin.

Many global fans of fine food are familiar with the first two Breton culinary calling cards, but residents of the Coachella Valley are among the privileged to know the third. Glin, executive chef of the Parker Palm Springs, is a native of Brittany, and as a youth trained there as a baker. But he wanted to explore the wider world of food, so he apprenticed as a cook in Paris before sailing across the pond to make his home in Montreal and work for the Four Seasons and Hilton hotel chains. As he perfected his culinary and English skills, he migrated west, to Texas and California.

By 2007, Glin was executive chef of the prestigious Cork Tree restaurant in Palm Desert, and in 2013, joined the Parker with that title and the responsibility of overseeing not only the tony inn’s two restaurants, but pretty much any comestible a guest is likely to swallow. It’s a large assignment, and Glin is a deft portfolio manager at a place known for pushing the culinary envelope.

But unlike a lot of chefs whose view beyond the kitchen is limited, Glin is a man of and for the world. He’s co-founder of the Pendleton Foundation, which offers financial assistance to Coachella Valley families confronting cancer diagnoses. Glin created a Chef’s Auction event to raise funds for treatment people struggle to afford.

He’s one person who understands how to feed souls as well as stomachs.

Chef Melissa KingMelissa King

Bravo’s Top Chef Finalist, chef ambassador for Whole Foods Market

Chef Melissa King is one of the most exciting young talents in America’s culinary scene. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America, King trained under several Michelin-star and James Beard-recognized restaurants including Luce (Dominique Crenn), Delfina (Craig Stoll), Campton Place, and the former Ritz Carlton Dining Room (Ron Siegel). She earned national recognition as a finalist on the Bravo hit TV series Top Chef.

King’s hyper-local cooking style combines the Bay Area’s best ingredients with classic French techniques and delicate Asian flavors. In 2015, King founded Co+Lab, an experimental pop-up dinner series in which she collaborates with local chefs and food artisans. She is a supporter of women empowerment, environmental sustainability, and is an active chef ambassador for Whole Foods Market, global pioneers of the organic food movement. She was selected as Celebrity Grand Marshal representing the LGBTQ community for San Francisco Pride 2016. She is the executive guest chef of Elle Café Aoyama, a fine dining restaurant in the heart of the fashion district of Tokyo, in collaboration with Elle Magazine (Japan) that opened in November 2016. She actively participates in food & music festivals such as Outsidelands, Bottle Rock, and Napa Valley Film Festival. Thrillist recognized Chef King as one of the best female chefs in San Francisco.

"When I'm not in the kitchen, you'll find me at a concert, exploring the outdoors, or in the yoga studio. Life is an adventure! It's easy to be extreme, but balance is what I strive for in life and in my cooking." - Melissa King

Chef Bruno LopezBruno Lopez

Executive Chef, The Ritz-Carlton (Rancho Mirage, CA)

By the age of 14, Bruno Lopez knew he wanted to be a chef. He would stand side-by-side with his mother in their Parisian kitchen preparing (watercress soup, roast and apple tarts for his father and brother and sisters. Unlike most French chefs who follow their father's footsteps into the kitchen, Lopez was the first in his family to make the culinary field his future.

After graduating from high school, Lopez trained at the Ferrandi School in Paris and apprenticed at L'Espadon, a Michelin one-star restaurant at Hotel Ritz in Paris. Honing his culinary skills in France in such places as Versailles for 3 years and South America during his Military Time, he decided to take his talent to San Francisco where he joined the Le Meridien Hotel as Chef de Cuisine at Pierre Restaurant. Following his tenure at Le Meridien, Lopez joined The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco as Executive Sous Chef. He remained with Ritz-Carlton for 10 years as executive chef in Marina del Rey, Dubai, and Half Moon Bay. Prior to joining the Bel-Air, Lopez's culinary experience included positions as the Executive Chef at Raffles L'Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Regent Beverly Wilshire.

Lopez joined Executive Chef Dodd as Chef de Cuisine in The Restaurant at the Bel-Air in February 2005. Together they focus on showcasing the unique culinary offerings of California, including fresh seasonal vegetables, meats and cheeses, which are signature ingredients at The Restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air.

In 2004, Lopez was recognized by the French government as Officier de L'Ordre Du Mérite Agricole.

Lopez is a member of Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, Club Culinaire of Los Angeles, Les Toques Blanches International, the James Beard Foundation, L'Academie Culinaire de France since 2005 and the Prestigious Association des Maitres Cuisiniers de France ( French Master Chef) since 2008, with only 350 members worldwide.

Chef Tory McPhailTory McPhail

Executive Chef, Commander's Palace, New Orleans

Tory McPhail has followed a path forged from hard work to arrive at the historic Commander's Palace restaurant's storied chef legacy, which has cultivated the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and Jamie Shannon.

McPhail hails from Ferndale, WA, a small town near the Canadian border, where he learned to appreciate local goods and the comfortable gathering place of his parents' kitchen. Corn planted in the spring would become dinner in the summer; fish caught in the afternoon from his family's stocked pond would make it to the plate by dusk. "I knew food didn't just come from the grocery store and magically appear there," he says. "Being able to watch it all grow gave me a passion for natural foods."

After high school, McPhail attended Seattle Community College and received an ACF-accredited degree in culinary science. Compelled by New Orlean's history, soul, and Mardi Gras celebrations won him over, he moved upon graduation and at just 19, he was hired by Commander's Palace Executive Chef Jamie Shannon. He worked diligently through all 12 stations of the kitchen, honing his craft and making a positive impression on his boss.

In search of "as much experience as possible, as quickly as possible," McPhail later completed a series of stints at several culinary hot spots, including the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, FL; the Michelin-starred L'Escargot in London and its sister restaurant, the Michelin two- star Picasso Room; and the Caribbean/Creole-intensive Mongoose Restaurant in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In spring of 2000, McPhail returned to the Commander's family as executive sous chef at Commander's Palace Las Vegas. Though he loved his job there, New Orleans and Chef Shannon beckoned, and he returned to the Big Easy where the Brennan family named him executive chef of the original Commander's Palace in January 2002.

Today, McPhail continues his dedication to creating and sustaining strong relationships with local purveyors, as well as executing exciting dishes in the Commander's kitchen. "I'm always thinking very forward when it comes to Creole food," he says. A passionate and resolute chef who pursues culinary perfection, McPhail delights in exploring a variety of flavors in his seasonal menus — embracing Creole traditions while updating classic dishes with fresh, local ingredients. His Creole Seared Gulf Fish, for example, showcases farm-fresh produce like Spring Mushrooms, Corn, Fingerling Potatoes and seared Speckled Trout.

McPhail's masterful work has not only kept Commander's Palace at the top of critics' lists, but has also led him to numerous TV appearances, including Bravo's Top Chef, on which he was a guest judge along-side Commander's Co-Proprietor Ti Adelaide Martin; NBC's Today; CBS's Early Show; Paula's Party with Paula Dean; After Hours With Daniel Boulud; and numerous Food Network programs, including Sara's Secrets, My Country, My Kitchen, Into the Fire, and Bobby Flay's Food Nation. Tory also co-hosted Off the Menu, which aired on Turner South Network for six years.

A James Beard Rising Star Chef and Best Chef South winner, McPhail was also named one of the best chefs in the country by in 2013, as one of Saveur magazine's inaugural "Tastemaker Chefs" in 2012; awarded the winner of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in 2009; co-authored Commander's Wild Side with Martin, a collection of recipes taken from the legendary restaurant's kitchen; has served on the Nutrition Advisory Board for Cooking Light magazine; and has been a spokesperson for Wild American Shrimp and for McCormick's Old Bay seasoning. .

Chef Mike MilliganMike Milligan

Executive Chef, Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, (Rancho Mirage, CA)

Some people choose a career in the hospitality industry because they want to see the world. Mike Milligan's career began with Hyatt Hotels, which sent him to places as far-flung as Maui, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Miami, the Colorado Rockies, and Indian Wells.

But we can't say how much time he spent plying the waves in Hawaii or snowboarding down slopes in the Sierra because, as a chef, Milligan's work was performed, his worldview was forged, from the inside of a kitchen. Today, as the longtime Executive Chef at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, his culinary sights have been focused on the six diverse dining options within his Rancho Mirage purview: The Steakhouse, Waters Café, Grand Palms Buffet, Poker Deli, Java Caliente, and the poolside Wetbar.

He first donned an apron as a teenager, spending summers at his native Jersey shore, before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. "I … started dishwashing in restaurants early," he says, "where I quickly developed my love for food, hard work, and the science and lore of the kitchen."

All good cooks know that science more than kismet is what makes kitchen magic, but Milligan also credits his travels for refining his culinary sensibility. They enabled him to "develop a strong understanding of multiunit culinary operations involving large, on- and off-property catering departments, three-meal restaurants, and high-end dining."

Here's a guy who can whip up a pineapple lemon drop martini for happy hour, then happily surprise 500 hungry conventioneers otherwise resigned to another bland rubber chicken dinner.

They say travel is broadening. For Mike Milligan, no matter where you go, the best souvenirs are what you bring back to serve on the plate.

Chef Christopher S. MitchumChristopher S. Mitchum

Executive Chef, Lantana restaurant at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa

As a child in the show-me state of Missouri, Chris Mitchum's young palate savored the unmistakable flavors of fresh produce harvested from his grandfather's farm. Memories of handpicked raspberries, tomatoes and corn fueled a culinary passion that led him to Hyde Park's Culinary Institute of America.

After graduation, Chef Mitchum left his imprint over a career with Hyatt hotels and resorts from the urban chic cuisine of Cambridge to Monterey's coastal California classics and across the Pacific to the windswept native flavors of Maui. Across the country and in his travels around the world, Mitchum's creative spins on home-style as well as exotic cuisines left patrons and guests with the gift all travelers treasure from that special dining experience – unforgettable memories of flavors and ingredients combined with a sense of place.

Today, as Executive Chef at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, Chef Mitchum indulges spa guests in savory healthful fare while elevating the dining adventures of the resort's private villa VIPs and restaurant patrons with an ever-changing assemblage of gourmet feasts.

His best menu planning comes while he's paddling out to catch the next big wave, skiing one of his favorite chutes, backcountry camping, fly fishing or mountain biking imagining the next perfect dish to share.

Chef Stuart O’KeeffeStuart O'Keeffe

Celebrity chef, television personality and author

Handsome Irish import Stuart O'Keeffe is a celebrity chef, television personality, and author. After receiving his degree in culinary arts from the Dublin Institute of Technology, Chef Stuart trained in Bordeaux and the Napa Valley before moving to Los Angeles where he works with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Chef Stuart recently starred in the NBC primetime series Food Fighters, in addition to featured roles on Food Network's Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, OWN's Home Made Simple, and the AOL series Kitchen Daily 101.

In March 2016 Chef Stuart's debut cookbook, The Quick Six Fix, was released to rave reviews and record setting pre-sales. The book topped Amazon's celebrity cookbooks bestseller list for several consecutive weeks, even before it's official release, as well as the top 15 best selling cookbooks for the year.

With a philosophy of cooking "hearty but healthy," Chef Stuart's status in the cooking world continues to rise and with over 74k followers on social media, so does his star power. Chef Stuart has been recognized internationally since the 2011 debut of his own cooking show, Stuart's Kitchen, and as a weekly food contributor for Dublin's Evening Herald newspaper. Chef Stuart has an iPad and iPhone app of Stuart's Kitchen, and is one of the first celebrity chef contributors to Apple's recent iPadApp of the Week, Appetites. He was the North American chef for Tupperware brands, and is currently a global spokesman for Asiana Airlines "Fly with Color" campaign.

Stuart lives in Los Angeles with his two Westies, Jack and Bo.

Chef Engin OnuralEngin Onural

Executive Sushi Chef/Owner, The Venue Sushi & Sake Lounge (Palm Desert CA)

At the end of 2015, Best Chefs in America tabbed Engin Onural as its newest "best chef." It might well have named him "smartest cookie" as well.

Before Onural enrolled in the Sushi Chef Institute in L.A., he had earned a bachelor's degree in business information management from Bilkent University in Turkey. It was a plan forged before he left elementary school, when he determined to be a chef and a restaurateur. Today, he owns The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge in Palm Desert.

Onural has come a long way from Buffalo, New York, where he was born, and Anakara, Turkey, where he was raised. Although he comes from a creative family, this apple couldn't have fallen much farther from the tree — his engineer father helped develop 3-D TV, his engineer mother makes jewelry and fine art, while the son creates sushi rolls that could have come from the mind of a Disney imagineer.

The menu at The Venue, Onural says on his website, "is my art. Each plate is a painting, but I use fish instead of paint."

Chef Aarti SequeiraAarti Sequeira

Host of Food Network's Aarti Party, Season 6 winner of 2010 Food Network Star

Aarti Sequeira's appetite began in the womb, and shows no sign of abating! The host of Food Network's Aarti Party, Sequeira competed on and won Season 6 of Food Network Star in 2010 with her trademark food signature: American favorites with an Indian soul. Her show grew out of the popular blog and YouTube cooking-variety show, Aarti Paarti, a joint venture with her husband, actor-writer Brendan McNamara, that started in their tiny Los Angeles home kitchen. Food Network then became her broadcast home. On FN & Cooking Channel, she has hosted Taste in Translation, Hidden Eats, co-hosted Drop 5 Lbs and an episode of Guy's Big Bite and made numerous talking-head appearances on Best Thing I Ever Ate, Best Thing I Ever Made and Unique Eats. She also competed on – and WON - Chopped All-Stars. Most recently, she appeared as judge on a multitude of episodes of Guy's Grocery Games, and competed (TUNE IN!) on Cutthroat Kitchen All-Stars. Off-network, she has been a colorful, memorable guest on Dr. Oz on ABC, The Talk on CBS and The Nate Berkus Show on NBC.

Born in India, brought up in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE) and educated in a British school, Sequeira grew up against a varied tapestry of food cultures, from the homemade pastas of her Italian best friend, to the spit-roasted shawarmas her family would enjoy every Friday. It was during the first Gulf War that Sequeira decided to pursue a career in journalism, eventually earning her bachelors degree at Northwestern's prestigious Medill School of Journalism. She went on to work for CNN straight out of school, covering everything from economic reports to the plight of firefighters after 9/11. She also produced Sand and Sorrow, the HBO documentary about the genocide in Darfur, narrated by George Clooney and directed by Peabody Award-winner, Paul Freedman. But she began to feel like something was still missing; her husband gave her a gift certificate to a local cooking program, and it was there that her passion for cooking sparked into a great roaring fire. After working in the kitchen at Chef Suzanne Goin's Lucques (Top 3 Restaurant in LA – LA Weekly AND LA Times), she took to blogging about the food she was creating in her own kitchen, which led to the YouTube show, which led to Food Network, which led to the publishing of her very first cookbook, Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul by Grand Central in 2014. The writing of that book coincided with her first successful pregnancy. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her daughter, Eliyah, who promises to have an equally large appetite.

Chef Casey ThompsonCasey Thompson

Celebrity Chef and Culinary Personality

Chef Casey Thompson, a native Texan, spearheads a number of culinary endeavors: three-time Bravo Top Chef competitor, culinary consultant for California wineries, international wine ambassador, food-centric world traveler, and, of course, chef, for upcoming concepts in the Southwest and on the West Coast. Her culinary personality fosters the union of Southern cuisine and hospitality with market-fresh ingredients sourced humanly from local farmers. In support of ethical animal treatment, Thompson places priority on sourcing sustainably raised and butchered meat and seafood. “I believe in big, bold, adventurous flavors rather than subtle or nuanced tones,” she says. “I want people to have fun while they’re eating,” says Thompson.

Born and raised in Texas, Thompson’s lifelong affinity for food sparked at a young age in her family’s kitchen, where she experimented with different recipes alongside her grandmothers, learning and creating within their distinct Southern and French culinary perspectives. Mansion on Turtle Creek, a Dallas mainstay then led by renowned chef Dean Fearing, provided Thompson’s foray into the industry as a prep cook, and saw her excel through the ranks for four years to earn the sous chef position. She then signed on as executive chef for Shinsei, a Pan-Asian restaurant in Dallas from Dean Fearing’s wife, Lynae, and veteran restaurateur Tracy Rathbun.

In 2007, Bravo network approached Thompson to appear on Top Chef season three, which she finished as runner-up and fan favorite. She came back to the hit show for its eighth season, Top Chef: All-Stars, and graces the show again for season 14, filmed in Charleston, SC. “Before Top Chef, I never thought of myself as competitive,” she explains. “It revealed my capabilities, taught me how to handle pressure and work with others, and introduced a flood of new inspirations.”

With her first experience on Top Chef complete, Thompson moved to Northern California in 2008, consulting with numerous wineries to pair their varietals with locally sourced dishes, and jetting off to places like Australia and Thailand to garner insight and inspiration from disparate cultures and cuisines.

She went on to launch Brownstone restaurant in Ft. Worth, TX in 2010, become the U.S. Ambassador for Moët-Hennessy’s Terrazas de los Andes Argentinian wine, and partner in San Francisco’s Aveline restaurant in 2014, while consulting for other culinary concepts in the Bay Area and beyond. The chef now joins San Diego’s The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe as executive chef, presenting a contemporary locavore menu with Texan influences, and extends her culinary expertise to Santa Fe, NM at the upcoming boutique El Rey Inn.

With culinary projects sprinkled across the country, Thompson roots herself in California’s Napa Valley, where her husband, Michael DeSantis, operates Harumph Wines. The couple resides with their 90-pound Labradoodle, Sam, and enjoys the outdoors and travelling abroad.

Chef Daniel VillanuevaDaniel Villanueva

Executive Chef/Owner Balisage Bistro

Everything's bigger in Texas, but San Antonio native Daniel Villanueva found the allure of Southern California irresistible when it came to establishing a career in the culinary arts. The owner and executive chef of Balisage Bistro in Palm Springs credits his Texas grandmother for inspiring his interest in cooking ("I was the only grandchild she allowed in her kitchen" he claims), and a military brat background for introducing him to the variety of European cuisines that influence his cooking today.

After more than 20 years catering in Hollywood for the film industry, Villanueva came to the desert to establish the bistro, where the Mediterranean flavors and convivial atmosphere animate a menu Villanueva describes simply: "I only service what I eat … fresh ingredients, fresh-baked breads, and fresh pastries."

An engaging character who loves to write about what he eats, Villanueva's blog covers topics ranging from why he makes his own ketchup to how he pairs wine with certain dishes to ruminations on what he finds at local farmers markets.

Clearly, Villanueva has fun with food, and the people who understand how a well-crafted meal comes together. But, really, all you need to know about Daniel Villanueva, lies within the definition of "balisage:" it's a military term denoting the use of dim land lights to enable vehicles traveling at high speeds to navigate in blackout conditions.

It's a fitting metaphor for the adventures in dining Villanueva loves to take, and to share.

Chef Brooke WilliamsonBrooke Williamson

Co-Chef/Co-Owner, Tripel, The Hudson House, Playa Provisions, Da Kikokiko

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Brooke Williamson has carved out an impressive résumé full of leading roles and professional achievement, such as being the youngest female chef to ever cook at the James Beard House. Although officially beginning her career at the young age of 17, Williamson always wanted to be a chef for as long as she can remember. “I love creating things that make people happy, and I’ve found that food genuinely does that,” she explains.

Williamson began her culinary career as a teacher’s assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, followed by securing her first kitchen position as a pastry assistant at Fenix at the Argyle Hotel, under the tutelage of Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank. Her undeniable star quality and concentrated creative energy brought her to Chef Michael McCarty’s nationally acclaimed restaurant Michael’s of Santa Monica, where she worked her way up from line cook to being their youngest sous chef. Desiring to travel and experience other restaurants, Williamson later staged at the renowned Daniel restaurant by Chef and Owner Daniel Boulud in New York City. Two years later, Williamson was appointed her first executive chef position at the notable Los Angeles restaurant Boxer. Following that, she opened the Brentwood eatery Zax as Executive Chef, where she began to develop her signature California-inspired cuisine — infused with local ingredients, global flavors, and centered around the idea that simplicity goes a long way. While at Zax, she also met her husband and business partner Nick Roberts.

The two opened their first independent venture together a couple years later, Amuse Café in Venice, followed by Beechwood restaurant soon after, earning them the title of “Rising Star Chefs” from StarChefs in 2004. Although both are now closed, in 2009, the wife and husband team opened Hudson House, an elevated gastropub in Redondo Beach, followed by The Tripel in 2011, a modern American and craft beer dining destination in the neighboring beachfront community of Playa del Rey. During that time, Williamson became certified by The Court of Master Sommeliers, given her strong interest in wine that first sparked in the early 2000s after traveling extensively through France and Spain. In 2014, the culinary couple debuted a unique four-in-one-concept, Playa Provisions, featuring a grab-and-go marketplace, King Beach; an artisanal ice cream shop, Small Batch; a seafood dining spot, Dockside; and an intimate whiskey bar, Grain. Williamson was a runner-up on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle, which catapulted her career and led to her participating in other national shows like Bravo’s Top Chef Duels, Esquire network’s Knife Fight (where she took home the win), and starring as the host and mentor on MTV’s House of Food. In June 2015, Williamson and Roberts opened Tripli-Kit, a culinary-focused retail store, selling unique kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, and other cooking essentials. In October 2016, the duo debuted their fifth venture in Playa Vista, a fast casual, Hawaiian concept called Da Kikokiko, celebrating Hawaii’s popular street foods, including: poké, shave ice, and musubi. During her day-to-day operations, she works alongside Roberts creating new menus, running the front and back of the house, and managing their multiple concepts.

When she finds time outside of her many ventures, Williamson stays active by running, bike riding, and playing chase with her 8-year-old son, Hudson.

Chef Zac YoungZac Young

Finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts, Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America in 2015, and Pastry Director of Craveable Hospitality Group

Dessert Professional, Chef Zac Young is known for his playful takes on American desserts including the all-in-one Thanksgiving dessert sensation, The PieCaken.

After graduating with honors from the Baking and Pastry Arts program at the Institute of Culinary Education, he went straight to the top, working under Sebastian Rouxel and Richard Capizzi at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery. In 2006, his talents were recognized by Alexandra Guarnaschelli and he spent four years working as Pastry Chef at her downtown New York hot-spot, Butter Restaurant. Always hungry for more, Zac then trained in France under renowned Chefs Philipe Givre at Valrhona and Philipe Park at Chocolate Michel Cluizel.

After he returned to New York, Zac started a Donut Revolution with his dessert program at Flex Mussels Restaurants, also operating two pop-up donut stores in Grand Central Station. During that time he was included on the New York Times list of the Best Donuts in New York City, compelling the paper's restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, to write, "how lucky of us to find room for dessert."

In 2012, Zac joined the David Burke Group, now known as Craveable Hospitality Group: a nationwide restaurant group specializing in food and beverage management, licensing, and consulting. As Pastry Director, he oversees the dessert creations of the company's proprietary restaurants and bars including David Burke Prime, David Burke fabrick, David Burke at Bloomingdales, David Burke Kitchen-Soho, Aspen Kitchen, JIMMY, and Spyglass Rooftop Bar. Several new full-service concepts are currently in the works. He also develops new concepts for licensing and consulting partnerships with Legends Hospitality (Angry Taco, Bacon Bar, Handwich Shop, Caputo Pizzeria, Fat Belly Clam Shack) and Silver Spot Cinemas (Trilogy Restaurants)

Zac is best known for his Final Four finish on the inaugural season of Bravo's Top Chef: Just Desserts, and his signature wit and pastry wisdom showcased on The Cooking Channel's long running show, Unique Sweets. He frequently appears on Food Network as a judge on shows such as Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Worst Cooks in America, King of Cones, and Worst Bakers in America.

Zac has had the privilege to cook at The James Beard House in New York City, and twice at their Hamptons event, Chefs and Champagne. He was honored when Food & Wine magazine selected him to sail the high seas as one of Holland America Cruise Line's "Chef On Board"

When Zac grows up, he wants to be a competitive Dim Sum Eater.

Stay tuned as we announce more of our 2017 Personality line-up. Check back for more information or sign up for "News Updates" and we will let you know the latest news.