I developed a love for the culinary arts at a very young age. Born and raised in Houston, Texas I spent the majority of my free time cooking and baking with my grandparents. In the fourth grade when I created my first restaurant called Taste of the World under my school’s bleachers it was clear my destiny and passion was in the culinary arts. After attending the Art Institute of Houston I joined the team at Brennan’s of Houston, working under Chef Chris Shepherd (a Food & Wine Best New Chef and James Beard Award winner). Beginning as a garde manger cook I worked my way through the ranks to become the restaurant’s youngest female Sous Chef, at the age of 22. During those four years at Brennan’s I was exposed to the utmost of southern hospitality, as well as a well-rounded menu of Texas Creole, featuring locally driven foods, game meats and freshly farmed produce.
In September 2005, I moved to Chicago to join the award-winning culinary team at Spiaggia, Chicago’s only four-star Italian restaurant helmed by James Beard Award winner, Chef Tony Mantuano. I only had a little experience with Italian cuisine when I started on the line but immediately gained great interest in Italian food, culture, and products. After a lot of work and determination, I was promoted to purchasing Sous Chef in February 2007 under Chef Missy Robbins (a Food & Wine Best New Chef.) In this position, I learned how to source and respectfully treat ingredients,and fine-tuned my creative side. My drive, determination and vast knowledge of Italian food and culture led to my promotion to Executive Chef in January 2010.
Broadening a love of all things Italian, I began travelling to Italy at least once a year to work with and visit some of the country’s best Chefs and food producers. I was lucky enough to cook in some of the most heralded Italian kitchens, including the three-Michelin-starred restaurants in Cannetto Sul’Oligo. I also became an expert on aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar) production, attending the annual grape harvest with Andrea Bezzecchi at his Acetaia San Giacomo. During one of my trips In June 2012, I worked with a nomadic beekeeper, Andrea Paternoster of Mieli Thun, in the Dolomite Mountains and through the Venetian Canal. Together we moved a colony of bees to Venice to make first ever-purple artichoke flower honey.
I competed to the finals of Bravo’s Season 9 “Top Chef: Texas,” where I was named the runner-up. Another great honor for me was being invited to be the first guest Chef of The Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 2013 Kentucky Derby, creating a hands on experience and custom menus for the private club. I’ve battled against Bobby Flay in the pilot for “Beat Bobby Flay” on the Food Network and my chicken parmesan reigned supreme.
As of recently, I’ve been preparing for the most exciting adventure to date. Together with my friend and peer, Meg Sahs (Terzo Piano, Spiaggia) we are embarking on our first solo restaurant project in my favorite American city, Chicago.