Hometown: Decatur, Ill.
Education/Culinary Training: I started cooking for my family at the age of 9. In my teens I worked at fine dining restaurants and country clubs and did an internship at The Four Seasons in West Palm Beach, Fla. At age 19, I entered the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Evanston, Ill., from which I received my degree in 1999.
Foodservice Experience: Executive Chef at Heritage Prairie Farm in Elburn, Ill.; Executive Chef at Niche, an award-winning fine dining restaurant in Geneva, Ill.; Executive Chef at 302 West in Geneva; Chef Instructor in the California Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program in San Francisco.
Favorite Bakery Product: Bistro Collection™ Salted Caramel Brownie with Pretzel Crust (SKU 08963).
Favorite Meat Product: Hillshire Farm® Diced Chorizo Sausage, Fully Cooked (SKU 05739).
Menu Development Philosophy: Focus on great ingredients and choose simple preparations and garnishes to let the featured ingredients tell their stories and shine through.
Favorite Menu Trend: Latin cuisines. I taught a class on Foods of the Americas, an anthropological study of Latin cuisines, at Le Cordon Bleu and really fell in love with the culture and its cuisine. We’re just discovering the incredible diversity and rich heritage of Latin cuisines here and I expect we’ll see much stronger influences from Central and South America on U.S. menus over the next few years.
Career Highlights: Being invited while at Niche to cook at the James Beard House in New York; being the youngest-ever instructor in the Le Cordon Bleu program; earning 3.5 stars out of 4 from Chicago Tribune Restaurant Critic Phil Vettel; having the opportunity to work with and meet many of the world’s greatest chefs throughout my career; now, at Sara Lee, having the chance to impact foods and flavors enjoyed by people all across the country and in many different styles of foodservice operations.