Tag: Chef

Driskill hotel chef returns after stroke to light Christmas tree – News – Austin American-Statesman

For the first time in more than eight months, Nelson Toala returned to the Driskill Hotel the place he has worked as a chef for more than a decade.

Except in lieu of his chef’s uniform, Toala, 65, wore jeans, a long sleeve gray shirt, a hat and was accompanied by his wife Maria and a designated cane. The couple were honored guests Monday, as they helped continue the tradition of lighting the hotel’s Christmas tree.

The Toala family is part of the Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of families each year through local nonprofit agencies. The Toala family was nominated by Meals on Wheels Central Texas.

Since 2015, the Driskill has welcomed Season For Caring families to be part of this tradition, which also includes dinner and a one-night stay, typically in the Cattle Baron suite. The Driskill also has hosted the Cookies for Caring event each year, which raises money for Season for Caring.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the hotel’s annual traditions look a little different this year. The virtual tree lighting event, which normally floods the downstairs lobby with people, is virtual, and guests and supporters will only be able to tune in online.

Cookies for Caring, which sells tins of cookies prepared by local bakeries, restaurants and hotel restaurants, will continue this year, but instead of having an event to pick up cookies, the cookies will be prepackaged in tins.

This year cookies from the Driskill, Hyatt Regency Austin, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and Miravel Austin will fill the tins. Tins are available at driskillhotel.com for $50 and can be picked up in the hotel lobby 4-6 p.m. Dec. 17-19.

Since 2015 that event has raised $40,000 for Season for Caring.

To keep the spirit of the tree lighting tradition alive, a small group of hotel staff, Meals on Wheels staff and fellow employees joined the celebration when Toala would flip the switch.

Monday’s tree lighting was prerecorded and streamed on the Driskill’s Facebook page at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Toala has been absent from his chef job since March.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, he was temporarily furloughed from his job, but before he could return to the kitchen he had a stroke leaving him with partial paralysis on his right side, making it difficult to walk on his own, shower or cook.

He is the primary caregiver for Maria, and now his two granddaughters Alexssandra, 10, and Isabela, 8, who live with them.

For months, Nelson Toala has been struggling to be able to provide for his family, but with the help of local organizations, like Meals on Wheels, and the love of the staff at the Driskill, they have been able to get by, Toala says.

Since May, Meals on Wheels has been able to provide the family with meals each week and also connected them with resources that have helped with mortgage and utility assistance, and other needs.

While Toala said he was humbled by the help he has received

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This TikTok chef cooks food using hotel appliances

During the pandemic, many people have wondered whether it is safe to visit a hotel. Is one kind of hotel safer than another? Does the hotel’s ventilation system matter? Has someone been cooking eggs in the coffee maker?

Okay, that last question is a new one — and you can thank TikTok creator Jago Randles, 23, for giving travelers the unique anxiety.

Randles’s TikTok cooking videos from his two-week quarantine stay at the Gec Granville Suites Hotel in Vancouver have gone viral thanks to their unsettling use of hotel room appliances. In what appears to be a typical budget hotel room (there’s a laminate desktop; the phone looks like your standard Teledex), Randles cooks fresh, elaborate meals with the clothes iron and a Hamilton Beach Aroma coffee maker. He has made bacon cheeseburgers, a toasted Nutella and banana sandwich, and kebab wraps with hummus, among other specialties.

A chef from Cornwall, England, Randles said he brought a massive bag of cooking gear with him as he came to Canada to cook at a mountain resort in Whistler, British Columbia. More than 62,000 people follow Randles’s account, @jagoscrandles, with the tagline “Isolation Kitchen,” watching his videos with bewilderment as he scrambles, sizzles and steams his way through a quarantine without a kitchen. Now out of quarantine, Randles said, no one from the hotel ever made a complaint about his culinary artistry.

Some viewers are justifiably horrified by Randles’s work, particularly those who claim to work in hospitality. “If only people knew the stuff some people do with irons in hotels,” a commenter wrote on Randles’s taco post. “I work in a hotel and I don’t recommend you do this.” But many are impressed, leaving comments of praise and envy.

We ranked five of his most outrageous hotel room meals, from least to most grotesquely impressive.

5. Crème brûlée with caramelized strawberries

Randles’s favorite pieces of hotel room equipment are the coffee maker and the steam iron. Both come into play as he creates the beloved French dessert creme brulee.

Using a teeny whisk, he whips up yolk sugar and cream in a disposable plastic container, then cooks it in the top of the coffee maker. Randles lets the crème chill in the mini-fridge while he caramelizes some strawberries in the coffee maker carafe atop the hot iron. To finish the dish, he whips out a tiny torch to brûlée the top of the dish, then garnishes it with strawberries and chocolate.

While cooking anything on a hotel iron or inside the coffee maker base is a hotel guest sin, at least this dish probably made the room smell sweet.

4. French toast with caramelized bananas

Crustless French toast? Too easy. Randles goes a step further with the brunch treat by garnishing it with a banana caramelized on the

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Chef Claudette Zepeda finds her next chapter: opening signature restaurant at new Encinitas hotel

A little over a year after renowned local chef Claudette Zepeda shuttered her dream restaurant El Jardin at Liberty Station, she has unveiled plans for her next culinary venture in Encinitas.

Zepeda has been appointed the executive chef at Alila Marea Beach Resort, a bluff-top, oceanfront hotel opening early next year at 2100 N. Coast Highway 101. The new boutique hotel is part of Hyatt’s Alila luxury chain of 17 hotels in Asia, Africa and the U.S. Alila means “surprise” in Sanskrit.

An artist's rendering of VAGA restaurant in Encinitas

An artist’s rendering of VAGA restaurant at the Alila Marea Beach Resort, which will open in Encinitas in early 2021.

(Courtesy photo)

The new resort will have 130 guest rooms and suites, 28,500 square feet of meeting space and two restaurants that will bear Zepeda’s distinctive stamp: The Pocket, a poolside bar and lounge, and VAGA, a global cuisine restaurant that Zepeda calls her “love letter” to the melting pot of international cuisines shew grew up on in San Diego.

Zepeda, 36, will oversee all culinary operations at those two restaurants, as well as the resort’s room service operation and the catering operation for banquets, meetings and special events. It’s the greatest career responsibility the Imperial Beach native has ever had, but she said she’s ready for the challenge after a year of personal growth.

The Chula Vista resident is best known for the authentic Mexican cuisine she cooked on Bravo’s “Top Chef” season 15 and on “Top Chef Mexico,” as well at El Jardin and the shuttered Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy.

She honed her cooking skills in her teens cooking in her aunt’s restaurant in Guadalajara, and after one year of culinary school in San Diego, she was mentored by well-known chefs Denise Roa and Gavin Kaysen.

El Jardin, she said, was meant to be “the legacy I was going to leave for my kids.” But owner Johan Engman pulled the plug on the high-end concept one year after its July 2018 debut, due to poor sales.

An artist's rendering of the Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas

An artist’s rendering of the Alila Marea Beach Resort, which will open in Encinitas in early 2021.

(Courtesy photo)

After she left El Jardin — which Engman then revamped into a more casual Mexican cantina concept — Zepeda said she took a healing trip to the coast of Oaxaca, where she grieved the closure and then decided to “take my life back.”

During her time at El Jardin, Zepeda collected many honors, including being named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: West in 2019, a spot on Esquire’s 2018 Best New Restaurants list, a rave review in The New York Times and 2018 Chef of the Year honors from The San Diego Union-Tribune.

After the restaurant closed, endorsement and public appearance offers that she had been too busy to accept before suddenly became a way for her to expand her horizons.

“It was a year of learning opportunities and for growth. I always came from a place of ‘yes’ in my life, so

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New Southlake hotel names opening chef at marquee restaurant

Delta Hotels by Marriott Dallas Southlake has announced Enam Chowdhury as its opening chef.

Chowdhury will serve as executive chef and director of food and beverage for Sky Creek Kitchen + Bar, the restaurant hotel, which is scheduled to open in late November.

Chef Dean Fearing collaborated with Chowdhury on the development and design of the restaurant, according to a release from the hotel.

“I’m honored to take the helm and look forward to leading my team to provide a distinguished food and beverage experience,” Chowdhury said. “Sky Creek Kitchen + Bar will be an extension of guests’ own dining tables, offering a hospitable environment to enjoy the thoughtfully designed and executed flavors. It is my goal to have every guest thinking about their next reservation as soon as the meal is complete.”

The hotel is scheduled to open in mid-November in Southlake.

Chowdhury’s background includes 30 years of experience working in upscale hotels and restaurants in Great Britain, Thailand, South Africa, Italy and the United States. He honed his skills under Fearing for 15 years at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, before moving to Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and then The Joule. He was executive chef at other restaurants in Texas including The Chophouse on Bankhead in Mount Vernon and Los Pinos Ranch Winery in Pittsburg.

Sky Creek Kitchen + Bar will feature “elevated modern Texas cuisine, bold Southwestern flavors and a commitment to locally sourced ingredients,” according to the release, with a menu that will include locally hunted game and special cuts of beef, not to mention a riff on Fearing’s iconic tortilla soup.

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Chef Alon Shaya to open new restaurant in New Orleans’ Four Seasons hotel | Where NOLA Eats

The Four Seasons hotel now taking shape in the World Trade Center is transforming one of the most recognizable buildings on the New Orleans skyline. When it opens next year, it will have a new restaurant from a chef New Orleans already knows well.

Alon Shaya, chef of the Uptown restaurant Saba, and his wife and business partner Emily Shaya are developing the new restaurant, now slated to open in early 2021.

It will be an upscale, modern New Orleans restaurant, Alon Shaya said. Although its name has yet to be announced, the chef said the vision behind it is clear.

“This will be my expression of what I love about Louisiana cuisine, my love letter to it in a way,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been studying and writing the opening menu for this restaurant for the last 18 years of living here.”


People look at construction at the Four Seasons located at the foot of Canal Street as the former World Trade Center is transformed into a luxury hotel topped by condominiums in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

The hotel, officially the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences New Orleans, will mark a new chapter for the landmark World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street. Long in disrepair, the property’s redevelopment as a luxury hotel and condominium project has been touted as a boon for reviving this part of downtown and the riverfront.

While hotels and restaurants alike are mired in hard times as the pandemic continues, Shaya said he was looking hopefully toward the future with this new project.

“By next year, when people begin traveling again, I see so many coming to visit here again and making up for lost time,” he said.

The Shayas have partnered with the Four Seasons through their company Pomegranate Hospitality, which runs their local modern Israeli restaurant Saba as well as another in Denver called Safta.


Emily Shaya is director of new projects for Pomegranate Hospitality. At its first restaurant, Saba, portraits of chef Alon Shaya’s grandfather are on display by the front door. The word saba is Hebrew for grandfather.

Pomegranate Hospitality will handle food and beverage across the Four Seasons’ lobby, with a bar in addition to the restaurant.

The restaurant will be on the hotel’s ground level adjoining the lobby. Shaya said it will showcase a diversity of classic and more contemporary influences running through Louisiana cuisine, with elements ranging from Cajun to Vietnamese.

“It will be a grand dining experience,” Shaya said. “Part of what I love so much about my experiences here have been eating at restaurants like Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s, Brennan’s, Brigtsen’s, K-Paul’s, Emeril’s. All those helped shape my view of what grand dining can be. I love the allure of it, the history of it. I’m excited to be part of something like that.”

Before the pandemic, visitors flocked to Willie Mae’s Scotch House to try its

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