Guest Chef Biographies

Guest Chef Biographies

Below you will find a short biography of the guest chefs that are taking a principle role in our 2014 culinary events. Should you have further questions or would like to contact the chefs, directly, send us a note to allenallen@aol.com.

Click here for more information and a schedule of the culinary events for 2014 at Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio.

Shola Olunloyo

Shola Olunloyo is a classically trained, passionate and resourceful chef and a distinguished member of the Philadelphia restaurant community. Born in England and raised in both Europe and West Africa, Shola’s encyclopedic knowledge of gastronomy is of global proportions. Before settling permanently in Philadelphia, Olunloyo embarked on a self-designed apprenticeship that spanned four continents, including employment in Italy, France and Southeast Asia. In addition to his experience gained from working in several of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants, he is currently a consulting chef who develops food science programs for academic institutions.

His website is viewable at www.studiokitchen.com

Monica Glass

Growing up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Monica Glass was always happiest in the kitchen by her mother and father’s side. Her passion for cooking carried on through college, earning Monica the nickname “Chef Moni” among her Penn State classmates. Monica’s early gastronomic interest paved the way for a bright future behind the scenes at some of the nation’s premier restaurants.

Upon graduating from Pennsylvania State University, Monica moved to New York City to embark on a career in public relations. But after a brief stint in the corporate world, she realized she felt more at home in front of an oven than behind a desk. Monica set out to improve her culinary skills with an apprenticeship under Deborah Racicot, executive pastry chef at New York City’s Gotham Bar and Grill. After seven months of moonlighting as an extern, Monica enthusiastically joined the team at Gotham Bar and Grill full time.

Her aspirations to constantly learn from the best led Monica to Le Bernardin where she continued to develop and refine her skills under Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis. Monica spent a year perfecting her classical techniques at Le Bernardin before transitioning into a new role as pastry chef at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge by Eric Ripert at The Ritz Carlton Philadelphia.

At 10 Arts, Monica turned out creative yet approachable takes on traditional pastry dishes alongside Executive Chef Eric Ripert. Her playful creations ranged from homemade ice creams like her Tastykake flavor atop the restaurant’s chocolate peanut confections, to light-as-air warm beignets.

Eager to take on a new challenge, both professionally and personally, Monica opted for another change of pace in the fall of 2012, moving to Boston to take on the role of Pastry Chef at Boston’s Clio Restaurant. Known for their use of unconventional ingredients, tools and instruments, Monica was keen to grow her knowledge of the pastry arts at Clio and explore collaborative efforts with Executive Chef Ken Oringer, as well as the innovative bar staff. At Clio, Monica creates desserts that tell a story and serve as a seamless finish to sentences started by Clio’s savory meals.

A testament to her ongoing pursuit of culinary challenges, Monica translates her own battle with a gluten allergy into a broad menu of gluten-free morsels to cater to others with celiac disease, matched by equally indulgent assortment of wheat-inclusive sweets.

Nicole Petrongolo

Though she was raised in New Jersey, Nicole Petrongolo attributes her love of food to her family’s Italian heritage. Her professional career began in earnest when she attended The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia in 2004 and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Culinary Arts in 2007.

During her tenure at school Nicole worked at a country club, as well as in the catering division of renowned artisanal shop Dibruno Bros. Eager to explore more avenues in the culinary world, she began working at her first restaurant, 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge by Eric Ripert, in 2008. Here, under the tutelage of Chef Jennifer Carroll, is where she really honed her skills in the kitchen. After two years at 10 Arts, her determination and passion to continue learning as much as possible led her to be part of the opening staff at JG Domestic. Her next move was to Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel, where she learned even more about modern cooking techniques and flavor profiles.

Still curious to learn more and further refine her cooking, she landed an esteemed cook position at Eleven Madison Park in New York City. Nicole spent the last year immersed in fine cooking, eating and realizing just how much an incredible restaurant could profoundly impact a person’s world. Recently, Chef Justin Bogle, formerly of Gilt in NYC, announced that he would open a restaurant in Philadelphia. After a life changing meal at Gilt under Bogle’s direction, Nicole knew she had to learn from him. She is currently working for him at his new restaurant, Avance, in Philadelphia. The name of his restaurant pretty much sums up Nicole’s philosophy and passion: pushing forward and always evolving.

Patrick Feury

Patrick Feury, executive chef of Nectar Restaurant in Berwyn, PA, presides over a kitchen that produces some of the most intriguing Asian-fusion cuisine in the country. The restaurant is dynamic and beautifully designed by world-renown designer David Rockwell. Patrick’s cuisine is served in a setting that seamlessly melds the East and West.

Even though Patrick had always been interested in food and cooking, he decided to go not to culinary school but to study art at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. His interest in art led him into the studio of acclaimed designer Milton Glaser, who gave him some life-changing advice — to follow his passion for cooking. In the process, he worked for some of the world’s top culinary talent in some of the most acclaimed restaurants on the planet and become a world-class chef in his own right while imparting his artistic vision and design to every dish he creates.

From Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria and Christer’s in New York City to Les Olivades and Gertrude’s in Paris, Patrick evolved into an ingredient-driven chef with an eye for the art of the plate and a talent for curing, smoking, and working with game. He is skilled at crafting his own sausage, cheese, and bread. One of his many artistic talents is ice sculpting. In exchange for producing ice sculptures for Daniel Boulud’s first cookbook he earned the chance to work under the culinary icon in Le Cirque kitchen. As an intern in Paris, Patrick accompanied chef Flora Mikula on shopping expeditions in the market at Rugis. And when Susanna Foo decided to launch a branch of her eponymous restaurant in the new Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, Patrick was retained to lead the culinary team that won Suilan rave reviews.

All of the experience Patrick collected on his journey has fused together to make Patrick a culinary star. His talent has won him kudos from food critics and acclaim among Nectar diners. He is always looking for ways to integrate his artistic talents, his love of food and his commitment to the earth.

Bill Covaleski

Having met his future business partner on a school bus in 1973 as fifth graders, Bill Covaleski joined forces with boyhood friend Ron Barchet to create Victory Brewing Company, a company that serves its local market with a 300 seat restaurant and and a marketplace spanning 34 states and 4 countries with its highly awarded craft beer. Located in an abandoned baking facility, Victory Brewing Company has become the social center of a previously depressed community, now employing 245 citizens.

Following a career path from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, Bill originally worked as an art director before securing a brewing apprenticeship under German trained Dutch brewmaster, Theo deGroen in 1990. In 1993 Bill earned a degree from the Doemens Institute of Munich Germany, having completed their International Course in Brewing Studies. Bill and Ron then leveraged their European brewing training in securing an SBA loan for startup capital in 1995 and opened the doors of Victory Brewing Company in February of 1996.

As co-Founder and co-Brewmaster at Victory, Bill has tasted the success of critical acclaim as Victory beers have won medals at both the Great American Festival and honors at the Great British Beer Festival. Melding European brewing traditions with American creativity, Bill & Ron have crafted successes like their Prima Pils, which has twice been chosen by the New York Times culinary staff as the “world’s best pilsner.”

Continually striving for excellence within his enterprise and his industries, Bill is also a community contributor, currently serving as President of the Brewers Of Pennsylvania trade association and as Vice President of the Brandywine Chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. Bill also maintains a board position with the Downingtown Main Street Association, a community revitalization initiative founded by Downingtown residential and corporate citizens.

Chip Roman

Chef Roman is one of Philadelphia’s most exciting and talented young chefs. He is the proprietor of Charles Roman Catering, which he began running out of his home in 2004. As his catering business grew, Chef Roman seized the opportunity to open Blackfish in 2006 in downtown Conshohocken, earning a coveted “Three Bells: Excellent” review from The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as a mention in reviewer Craig LaBan’s recent opus on the state of Philadelphia dining as among the city’s five best New American BYOBs. Named on a whim as Chef Roman was reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to his children, the restaurant has earned tremendous critical acclaim, including being named “Best Restaurant” in Philadelphia magazine’s 2011 “50 Best Restaurants” issue. The restaurant serves seafood-centric progressive American cuisine with French influences, and is a showcase for Chef Roman’s inventive, modern interpretations of classic fare.

His second restaurant, Mica, offers a daily changing a la carte menu, exquisite tasting menus, creative cocktails and a thoughtfully crafted wine list. The restaurant opened in March 2011 to immediate critical acclaim,including Chef Roman’s second “Three Bells: Excellent” review from LaBan, in which he gushed that Mica, “could potentially become one of the region’s best [meals]…This was some of the most polished cooking I’ve eaten all year, with satisfying compositions that were clever, intricate, and modern without being overwrought.” Most recently, Mica was named by GQ magazine in their March issue as one of the “10 Best New Restaurants 2012.” The restaurant is located on the cobblestoned, tree-lined main street of Chestnut Hill and is housed in a quaint townhouse. The interior’s intimate atmosphere with sage-colored walls, reclaimed walnut floors and table tops, large fireplace and marble bar top, make guests feel as though they are dining in a friend’s home.

For Chef Roman’s third restaurant, he partnered with Chef Jason Cichonski to open Ela. The restaurant is the showcase for 27-year-old Chef Cichonski, who LaBan has called “one of our most exciting young chefs,” where he combines an approachable menu of innovative dishes with an extensive wine and craft beer program and inspired cocktail list in a rustic-modern setting. Ela is a serious yet comfortable restaurant with a menu that changes frequently throughout the year, to reflect the latest offerings. LaBan wrote that “few kitchens in town can match Ela’s food value-wise for pure excitement…from the first course to the last, the chef at Ela is hottest where it matters most,” in his glowing “Three Bells: Excellent” review.

Chef Roman and his wife Amanda reside just outside of Philadelphia in Conshohocken with their four children.

Jeremy Nolen

Stoical and straightforward, Jeremy Nolen does not mince words, especially on the subject of his beloved German cuisine. Jeremy’s deep-seeded interest in German food stems from his family. Father Ron Nolen, trained in classical French and European techniques, was an acclaimed chef in the Reading, Allentown/Bethlehem area in Pennsylvania. Chef Ron imparted his love of artisan charcuterie, ethnic cuisines, and hand crafted foods to his son at a young age. Family trips to Europe enhanced Jeremy’s palette and wanderlust. The Nolen’s went beyond the typical American tourist family to discover cuisine by seeking out off-the-beaten-path ethnic neighborhoods and their butcher and specialty shops with meats salted, smoked, and cured in traditional ways. Visiting spread out family year after year, Jeremy grew up eating in local bistros and restaurants throughout the United States and eventually Europe, including German, France, England, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands and identifying those experiences as the fabric of his cooking passion.

Steve Wildy

After spending his early childhood in Northern Ireland, Steve Wildy began his career in the restaurant industry at 15 years old in Pittsburgh, as a dishwasher for a friend’s restaurant. He immediately fell for the hustle and bustle of the culinary world and, after relocating to Philadelphia in the late 90s to enroll in Drexel University’s International Studies program, he continued to work through the field as a busser, food runner, server, and captain. An internship with the European Parliament in Brussels introduced him to a fantastic food scene, the world’s best beer, and to the early notion that a career in food and beverage might be better suited to him than a career as a politician. Upon graduating, he delved deeper into Philadelphia’s restaurant scene as customer service manager for local restaurant purveyor Julius Silvert, developing the specialty foods division and procuring a love for fine cheese along the way. A chance to work for one of his favorite accounts and the opportunity to study under Jeff Benjamin and Marc Vetri led to his acceptance of the general manager position at Vetri in 2006. A burgeoning love for all things beverage-related earned him his most recent title: Beverage Director for The Vetri Family. Steve currently oversees the beverage lists for all of Marc, Jeff, and Jeff Michaud’s projects.

Michael Solomonov

A 2011 James Beard Award winner for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic,” Chef Michael Solomonov is the executive chef at Zahav (237 St. James Place, 215-625-8800), Philadelphia’s renowned modern Israeli restaurant. Known for his extraordinary skill at transforming simple foods into artful culinary masterpieces, he is widely regarded as one of the city’s top young chefs and entrepreneurs. In addition to his duties at Zahav, of which is he co-owner, Chef Solomonov is a partner in Percy Street Barbecue (900 South Street, 215-625-8510), a Southern inspired barbecue restaurant and bar on South Street that has quickly become known as the best place in Philadelphia for smoked meats, and Federal Donuts (two locations: 1219 South 2nd Street and 1632 Sansom Street) a mostly take-out, donuts-and-fried-chicken shop serving exceptional coffee, cake donuts and fried chicken.

In 2012, Food & Wine magazine named Chef Solomonov among the country’s top “Empire Builders,” admiring his devotion “to reinventing overlooked cuisines.” Chef Solomonov was also the subject of a New York Times feature in 2011 that explored the genesis and continued success of Zahav, which praised his “simple food with layers of flavor.” That same year, Zahav was elevated to a coveted “Four Bells: Superior” rating from the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of only four restaurants citywide to attain that elite status. Both Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure named Zahav among the top restaurants in the nation in their May 2009 issues, and Esquire named Zahav among their “Best New Restaurants, 2008.” Zahav has also been featured in Bon Appetit, which selected the restaurant as one of their “Hot 10 Summer Blockbusters.” Philadelphia magazine named Zahav “Best New Restaurant, 2008” in their annual “Best of Philly” issue

Before opening Zahav, which means “gold” in Hebrew, in 2008, Chef Solomonov was the executive chef at West Philadelphia’s Marigold Kitchen, which he and restaurateur Steven Cook co-owned until 2009. There, he was named “Rising Star Chef, 2007” by Restaurant Hospitality magazine, as well as “Best Chef, 2006” by Philadelphia magazine. Prior to joining Cook at Marigold Kitchen, Chef Solomonov worked under such top chefs as Marc Vetri at Vetri and Terence Feury at Striped Bass. He is a graduate of the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, FL. Born in Israel, he grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and now calls Philadelphia home. He frequently travels back to Israel, including an epic 2008 trip with the entire opening team from Zahav to introduce them to the cuisine they would be preparing and serving.

For more information about Chef Michael Solomonov or any of the restaurants that he co-owns with Steven Cook, please visit www.cooknsolo.com and follow them on Twitter (@cooknsolo).

 

Short biography of the chef who participated in 2013

Joshua Lawler

At just 33 years old, Chef Joshua Lawler is one of the nation’s brightest rising star chefs. A standard-bearer in the contemporary farm-to-table movement, Chef Lawler’s ground-breaking food and devotion to old-school culinary techniques have rewritten what it means to the a farm-oriented chef in Philadelphia in 2013.

Since opening in spring 2011, his intimate, 30-seat The Farm & Fisherman has taken its rightful place as one of the most highly praised restaurants in the city, recently named among the top five in the city by Philadelphia magazine in their annual “50 Best Restaurants” issue. The magazine also honored The Farm and Fisherman with their “Best Farm-to-Table” designation in 2012’s annual “Best of Philly” issue, writing: “Plenty of chefs do head-to-tail, root-to-leaf cooking. But none do it quite like Josh and Colleen Lawler…from the beef hearts to the beet steaks, this fresh and inventive BYOB is the real deal.” Travel & Leisure magazine expressed similar sentiments about the duo in their November 2012 issue: “The pair’s devotion to modern American farm fare shows up in dishes like the witty ‘bloody beet steak,’ a slab of roasted beet seared like meat and served with pan drippings and a slick of tangy house-made yogurt to pierce the richness.”

Before opening The Farm & Fisherman, Chef Lawler spent five years as chef de cuisine at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where he played an instrumental role in the restaurant’s success and in defining the modern farm-to-table movement. Prior to his extraordinary work at Blue Hill, Chef Lawler served as opening chef de cuisine at Bill Telepan’s eponymous Manhattan restaurant, Telepan and worked under Laurent Tourondel at BLT Steak. A graduate of Drexel University, Chef Lawler has also worked in some of Philadelphia’s most prestigious kitchens, including The Fountain at The Four Seasons, Striped Bass and Buddakan. Originally from Conshohocken, PA, he and his wife, Colleen, currently reside in Cherry Hill, NJ with their twin sons, Oliver and Cole.

Chip Roman

Chef Roman is one of Philadelphia’s most exciting and talented young chefs. He is the proprietor of Charles Roman Catering, which he began running out of his home in 2004. As his catering business grew, Chef Roman seized the opportunity to open Blackfish in 2006 in downtown Conshohocken, earning a coveted “Three Bells: Excellent” review from The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as a mention in reviewer Craig LaBan’s recent opus on the state of Philadelphia dining as among the city’s five best New American BYOBs. Named on a whim as Chef Roman was reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to his children, the restaurant has earned tremendous critical acclaim, including being named “Best Restaurant” in Philadelphia magazine’s 2011 “50 Best Restaurants” issue. The restaurant serves seafood-centric progressive American cuisine with French influences, and is a showcase for Chef Roman’s inventive, modern interpretations of classic fare.

His second restaurant, Mica, offers a daily changing a la carte menu, exquisite tasting menus, creative cocktails and a thoughtfully crafted wine list. The restaurant opened in March 2011 to immediate critical acclaim,including Chef Roman’s second “Three Bells: Excellent” review from LaBan, in which he gushed that Mica, “could potentially become one of the region’s best [meals]…This was some of the most polished cooking I’ve eaten all year, with satisfying compositions that were clever, intricate, and modern without being overwrought.” Most recently, Mica was named by GQ magazine in their March issue as one of the “10 Best New Restaurants 2012.” The restaurant is located on the cobblestoned, tree-lined main street of Chestnut Hill and is housed in a quaint townhouse. The interior’s intimate atmosphere with sage-colored walls, reclaimed walnut floors and table tops, large fireplace and marble bar top, make guests feel as though they are dining in a friend’s home.

For Chef Roman’s third restaurant, he partnered with Chef Jason Cichonski to open Ela. The restaurant is the showcase for 27-year-old Chef Cichonski, who LaBan has called “one of our most exciting young chefs,” where he combines an approachable menu of innovative dishes with an extensive wine and craft beer program and inspired cocktail list in a rustic-modern setting. Ela is a serious yet comfortable restaurant with a menu that changes frequently throughout the year, to reflect the latest offerings. LaBan wrote that “few kitchens in town can match Ela’s food value-wise for pure excitement…from the first course to the last, the chef at Ela is hottest where it matters most,” in his glowing “Three Bells: Excellent” review.

Chef Roman and his wife Amanda reside just outside of Philadelphia in Conshohocken with their four children.

Jason Cichonski

Chef Jason Cichonski is one of Philadelphia’s brightest rising star chefs. His artful American restaurant, Ela (627 South 3rd Street, 267-687-8512) is located in Queen Village. Ela’s menu changes frequently throughout the year, to reflect the season’s finest ingredients and Chef Cichonski’s creative, boundary-pushing presentations. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan wrote in his glowing “Three Bells: Excellent” review that “few kitchens in town can match Ela’s food value-wise for pure excitement…from the first course to the last, the chef at Ela is hottest where it matters most,” while Philadelphia Magazine’s Trey Popp called the restaurant “deliciously off-the-wall…completely worth it…a transporting peek inside this rising young chef’s head.”

One of the city’s acclaimed chefs and co-owner of Ela, Chip Roman, first partnered with Chef Cichonski to open Chip’s Chestnut Hill restaurant Mica, another of the best-reviewed restaurants in the region. Prior to joining Chef Roman at Mica, Jason Cichonski served as executive chef of Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel when he was just 24 years old. Lacroix was one of the city’s only “Four Bells: Superior” fine dining restaurants at the time. Jason’s cooking quickly impressed Chef Roman – and countless others. Before his success at Lacroix, Chef Cichonski worked in other highly praised kitchens, including the Pluckemin Inn, a fine dining Italian restaurant in Bedminster, NJ and Moonlight, a progressive American restaurant in New Hope, PA.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County, Chef Cichonski is a graduate of University City’s The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.

Today, he resides in Philadelphia & can nearly always be found in the kitchen at Ela.

Jennifer Carroll

Chef Jennifer Carroll was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. She spent a few years training under multiple chefs in Philadelphia then made the move out west. After spending time in San Francisco as the sous chef at Café Kati and Julia, her aspiration to work in one of the best and most disciplined kitchens in the world led her to work at the prestigious 3 Michelin starred Le Bernardin. After four years, Chef Eric Ripert hand-selected Jennifer to lead his kitchen at his new restaurant 10 Arts, bringing her back to her roots in Philadelphia.

Chef Carroll went on to appear on two seasons of Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning television show Top Chef season 6 Las Vegas and All-Stars where she garnered nationwide fame and captured hearts of the fans. She most recently starred on Life After Top Chef.

Jennifer contributes her time and talents to many charitable causes such as Dock-to-Dish, Slow Food USA, Women Against Abuse, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative and serves as the Chef Chair for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Jennifer’s restaurant, Concrete Blonde, is currently under works.

Steven Howells

Steven Howells is currently the Chef de Cuisine at Blackfish restaurant in Conshohocken.

From a young age, Steve had known that he liked working with his hands. The idea of sitting behind a desk all day was not one that appealed to him. He began working in restaurants as a dishwasher at the age of 16. From then on, Steve progressed through the kitchen, working many stations. This led to his attending The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, a well respected culinary school for kitchen professionals in the Philadelphia area.

Upon graduation, Steve began working at the Adams Mark Hotel, under the tutelage of Chef Vince Alberici. From there, he worked for Chef Jim Coleman at the Blue Bell Country Club in the Philadelphia suburbs. Steve then accepted a position as Sous Chef at The Blue Horse in Blue Bell, PA. There, he met his future wife and joined her in moving to San Francisco. While in San Francisco, Steve worked under Chefs Quinn and Karen Hatfield at Cortez. Steve returned to Philadelphia for a short time, where he worked for Guillermo Pernot at Pasion. He kept up correspondence with the Hatfields and followed them to Los Angeles, when they asked him to be their Sous Chef. The restaurant, Hatfields, earned critical acclaim in the bustling Los Angeles food scene, as well as a Michelin Star. After a year and a half, Steve felt the East Coast calling. He returned to Philadelphia and worked at James on 8th. He then accepted a position with Chip Roman at Blackfish, where he quickly became the Chef de Cuisine.

Steve lives in Philadelphia, with his wife and son.

Iris Kampbell

Tennessee native Iris Kampbell first fell in love with mixology while creating cocktails at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, Ga. She found a passion for working with the seasonal and local ingredients Chef Michael Tuohy was incorporating into his dishes. In 2010, she took her skills and made the leap from humidity and southern hospitality to the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia, Pa. Since her arrival she created drinks at White Dog Cafe, and recently moved to work as a manager for Chef Chip Roman(Blackfish,Mica). Kampbell is already inspired by Roman, and hopes to hone her skills with new and innovative culinary techniques that can be incorporated in her delectable cocktails. Her love of fine spirits does not lessen her love for craft beer and wine. Kampbell’s drinks are skillfully crafted and appeal to the pallet of the most advanced or least experienced taster. She is currently working towards the advanced certificate of The Wine and Spirits Education Trust(WSET).