Guest Chefs

{ Meet a few of the talented Mid-Atlantic regional chefs who will be cooking and presenting the winning tomato-inspired dishes at The Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival }

{ RJ Cooper, Rogue 24 }

As a teen growing up in suburban Detroit, RJ Cooper dreamed of the day that he would become a professional chef. Cooking side-by-side his mother and grandmother, Cooper did everything in his power to fulfill this early dream.
Cooper attended The Culinary School at Kendall College in Illinois, working under the guidance of chefs including Jean Joho, Tony Mantuano and Jean Banchet. After graduating, Cooper moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he spent time honing his craft working in several esteemed kitchens. Cooper worked with chefs such as Daniel Schaffhauser at The Ritz Carlton Atlanta, Guenter Seeger at The Ritz Carlton, Buckhead and Gilbert LeCoze at Brasserie LeCoze. Cooper then moved on to work with Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin, the Michelin 3-Star award-winning restaurant in New York City. For the next three-½ years, Cooper fine-tuned his traditional French technique under Ripert’s leadership.
In the late 1990’s, Cooper moved to Washington D.C., building his local resume in such kitchens as New Heights and Toka Café. In 2004, Cooper joined Vidalia as chef de cuisine. Chef/owner Jeffrey Buben mentored Cooper, teaching him the fundamentals of leading a successful kitchen.

Washingtonians and national critics alike instantly recognized Cooper’s talent. With Cooper at the helm of the kitchen, Vidalia received accolades including a three-star rating by Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post, inclusion amongst the top 10 restaurants in Washingtonian magazine’s 100 Very Best Restaurant issue and the 2006 Rising Star Chef by starchefs.com. Additionally, in 2007 Cooper won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.
After serving at the downtown destination for six successful years, Cooper left Vidalia in 2010 to move forward in the development of several Washington, DC-based independent projects.

{Xavier DeShayes, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center }
Executive Chef Xavier DeShayes, a native of Beziers, France, was born into the restaurant business. He received formal culinary training in Catering Services and Advanced Restaurant Operation for Hotel Management from Lycee Hotelier Jeanne D’Arc in Aulnoye Aymarie, France.

Xavier has been cooking up magic in the U.S. and Canada since 1989, delighting patrons of Soho Restaurant in Santa Barbara, San Ysidro Ranch’s Stonehouse Restaurant, the Four Seasons and Citrus in Los Angeles, before moving to the East. At the Four Seasons in Toronto, he became the restaurant chef at the award-winning restaurant, Truffles. During Xavier’s tenure at Truffles, the restaurant captivated critics, making it the only restaurant in Canada to receive the coveted AAA/CAA five-diamond designation. For this achievement he received accolades in Bon Appétit, Gourmet and Esquire magazines.

Xavier left the Four Seasons to open Senses in Georgetown, which became an overnight sensation. In January 2000, Gourmet called it the best new restaurant. In August of 2000, Xavier became the executive chef at the famous Capitol Hill restaurant La Colline, which was named one of the 10 best restaurants in the capital.

{Brendan Dorr, B&O American Brasserie}

Brendan Dorr is the Head Bartender and Mixologist at the B&O American Brasserie, a downtown Baltimore dining spot recently named the “Best New Restaurant” by Baltimore Magazine, and known for delivering nouveau American cuisine with the soul of a traditional brasserie and cutting edge cocktails.

When creating new cocktails, his focus is to utilize fresh ingredients, making no ingredient taboo to use in a cocktail. Brendan was previously with Ixia Restaurant for 7 years, prior to graduating from Peabody Conservatory with a degree in Vocal Performance. His cocktail menus have been honored as the “Best of Baltimore” by The City Paper of Baltimore, as well as “Best Upscale Bar” multiple years. He has been featured in Market Watch Magazine, Baltimore Magazine, Style Magazine, Maryland Beverage Guide, The Washington Post & The Baltimore Sun. I

In 2007 / 2008 Mr. Dorr completed the first step of his sommelier degree. In September of 2008 Brendan won the Baltimore / DC regional Finals of the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup and travelled to Queenstown, New Zealand where he competed in the Finals of the Cocktail World Cup with 45 other bartenders from around the world. During that contest he was named “People’s Choice Bartender of the Year.” Mr. Dorr is also an honorary member of the US Bartenders Guild. He has been featured on Baltimore Magazine’s video website preparing one of his signature cocktails. In April of 2009 Brendan travelled to Vail, Colorado to be part of the Grand Marnier Cocktail Summit and was a judge for the local Roedowner Cup Cocktail Contest. Brendan is honored to be part of Baltimore’s new Monaco Hotel and the B&O American Brasserie, and promises to keep creating adventurous seasonal cocktails.

{ Jerry Edwards, Chef’s Expressions }

Jerry Edwards CPCE is owner and Corporate Chef of Chef’s Expressions Catering and Consulting, Wine Express and “Elements by Chef’s Expressions”, an event design firm.

He is a Past National President of “The National Association of Catering Executives” having served an unprecedented 3 terms. In 2007, Jerry was inducted into the NACE Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon only 6 other people in NACE’s 50 year history.

Besides having built one of the most successful Catering companies in his region, Jerry has traveled the world, speaking, training and assisting Caterers, Chefs and Event Planners to animate their clients’ culinary experience.

As past Food editor for Catersource Magazine he wrote over 30 columns entitled “From The Chef” for each issue. He was recognized by “Special Events Magazine” as a top 20 industry leader to watch; by “Catering Magazine” as Wedding Caterer of the Year 2000; by “The Academy of Tourism and Travel” as Caterer of the Year 2000 and nominated as Industry Leader of the Year 2004. He was the first Catering member of the Year for NACE in 1992 and 1993. In 2004, he won the Nation’s Capitol “Iron Chef” competition and also won the Baltimore NACE Iron Chef competition. He has won over 30 industry competitions including three ACF Gold Medals and the prestigious “Best Chef” for the Meals on Wheels Culinary Extravaganza.

His recipes and accomplishments have been seen in the following National Magazines: Food Arts, Special Events, Catering Magazine, Catersource, Culinary Trends, Restaurants and Institutions, Restaurant Hospitality and Chef.

Jerry is active in many charities for children’s issues, social causes and adult diseases including serving as the current spokesperson for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland. He also sits on the board of The American Institute of Wine and Food; The Academy of Tourism; Travel and Hospitality and The NACE Advisory Council. Additionally, Jerry is an active member of many industry associations including Chaine de Rotiseurs, ISES, NACE, AIWF, ICA, National Restaurant Association, Baltimore Development Corporation, Downtown Partnership, Greater Baltimore Committee and BACVA. He recently completed a 1 year stint as host of “Talk Cuisine”, a radio program focused on the pleasures of entertaining and cooking.

Since his career in catering consulting and administration has taken off he finds peace and solitude in his custom-built Tuscan style kitchen where he creates wine dinners for family and friends. Jerry is currently working on two books, one for the industry, “We Have Been in Your Kitchen and We Can Help – a kitchen management guide” and for the wine and food enthusiast, “Seasons of the Grape” a book on seasonal cooking and wine pairing in wine growing regions from all over the globe.

{ Beej Flamholz, Beej Flamholz LLC }

Chef Beej Flamholz is the passionate and determined Executive Chef of Beej Flamholz LLC, a personal chef catering company operating in the Baltimore/Washington region.

In addition to working in numerous restaurants in the metro area, he has attended Advanced Classes at the Culinary Institute of America and the Viking Culinary School in Cancun, Mexico, as well as a recent stint at the AAA 5-Diamond restaurant Fantino at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cancun, Mexico.

He won the All-Star Chef cook-off during the 2007 Food and Wine Celebration at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. His customized catering and food creativity have been experienced at numerous events throughout the region from intimate multi-course dinner parties and wine pairings to cocktail parties and large, upscale weddings.

A degree in theatre from The George Washington University and advanced courses from the Culinary Institute of American have led to Beej’s success as clients return event after event for his food, presentation, intense passion and engaging personality.

{ Todd Gray, Equinox }

Already a star chef when he opened Equinox, Todd Gray is a top culinary talent in the nation’s capital and an avid promoter of local, seasonal mid-Atlantic foods. Known for breathing new life into historical recipes, Gray developed Equinox’s distinct cuisine, enhancing Virginia-Piedmont ingredients and recipes with his classical training. His refined taste, stellar reputation and high standards landed him the culinary director position at Salamander Hospitality where he is overseeing development and implementation of an elegant menu of provincial Virginia specialty dishes for the 340-acre Salamander Resort & Spa, slated to open in Middleburg, Virginia in 2010.

Gray has earned many awards for his artistry and inspired menu combinations, including the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s (RAMW) 2008 award for Best Fine Dining; five nominations for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic award and eight nominations for RAMW’s Chef of the Year. Other honors include top ratings in the ZAGAT Guide Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence six years in a row and numerous Awards of Excellence from the Distinguished Restaurants of North America.

Gray’s strong background in classical French and Italian techniques and proclivity for invention have also made him a popular teacher. Over the years, he has conducted cooking classes for youngsters and their families, including his recent initiative with the Murch school, as a leading advocate of Michelle Obama’s ‘Chefs Move to Schools’ program. Gray was hand-selected by Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass to address a meeting of chefs from across the nation at The White House regarding his success with this program and the future of our children’s diet through education about food, health and nutrition.. Gray has become a magnet and mentor to apprentices climbing the culinary ladder as well. Today, some of his former students are among top area chefs. Gray is also a leader and champion in support of humanely raised and slaughtered animals and works with local farmers to develop food of all varieties from custom-grown beef to fresh, organic produce.

Raised in Virginia, Gray studied at the University of Richmond, and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America. Upon graduation, he worked with a number of fine dining restaurants where he honed his craft, philosophy and technique the nation’s top chefs.

{ Matt Hess, The Wine Kitchen }

The Executive Chef at the Wine Kitchen, Matt Hess grew up in Northern Vermont where he began cooking at the age of 15. For three years Matt worked under Patrick Granigien, a classic French Chef where he honed his cooking techniques and realized his passion for fresh food. After cooking in Burlington Matt took a position in Colorado and became the Sous Chef for the Keystone Ranch restaurant under Jason Kassib. After nearly four years with the Keystone Ranch, Matt made the move back to the East Coast and joined the wine kitchen as Sous Chef. Six months into Matt’s career with the Wine Kitchen he was promoted to Executive Chef.

Matt’s interest and love for cooking has always centered around buying ingredients from local farms and for keeping his menus fresh and new. Leesburg was a natural place for Matt to continue his career as Mother Nature’s local flavors prevail in his every dish.

{ Kaz Okochi, KAZ Sushi Bistro and Masa 14 }

Born and raised in Nagoya, Japan, Kaz Okochi traveled to the United States in the late 1970s to study fine arts in Oklahoma. After graduation in 1982, Okochi returned to Japan to attend the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, one of Japan’s premier culinary schools. At Tsuji he became interested in French cuisine and also explored such fields as Chinese cooking, pastry, ice carving, and traditional Japanese fare. It was his dream to return to the United States and develop his own style of Japanese cuisine.

Kaz Okochi completed his formal training in sushi and torafugu (blowfish) preparation and then in 1988, he relocated to Washington, D.C. to work at Washington’s first sushi bar, Sushi-Ko. As Executive Chef, Kaz was involved in both food preparation and other aspects of restaurant management. He was one of the first Japanese chefs in America to develop modern menu items from old, time-honored Japanese recipes, and he was the first to introduce premium Japanese sakes to the nation’s capital in 1992.

In 1999, Chef Okochi opened KAZ Sushi Bistro in downtown Washington, D.C. which was named one of the year’s top five new restaurants by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, and quickly escalated to one of the capital area’s hottest Japanese dining destinations. Over the past ten years, KAZ Sushi Bistro has received numerous accolades from Zagat, Washingtonian and The Washington Post, as well as the 2006 RAMMY Award for Informal Dining Restaurant of the Year. Always on the “cutting edge,” Chef Kaz works with Japanese, Western, and other international flavors to create what he calls “freestyle Japanese cuisine”—original presentations, often with a modern twist. Kaz is also one of few chefs in the area trained to handle torafugu (blowfish), a great delicacy which can be poisonous if not cleaned and prepared properly.

Additionally, Kaz Okochi is one of the founding members of DC Chef’s Club, along with Roberto Donna, Michel Richard and Jeff Buben. Together they created the organization to honor the legendary Chef Jean-Louis Palladin. Kaz also supports a variety of local charity events, as well as national and international food organizations and is an active member of the James Beard Foundation in New York, and the Food and Fun Event in Iceland.

{Mike Lund, Food}

Most recently serving as Executive Chef at Zynodoa Restaurant in Staunton, Mike Lund is a central figure in Virginia’s local food movement. Having worked on a world-class level for much of his career, Lund brings to the table knowledge and talent that come from years of experience working with farmers, foragers, fishermen and their exceptional products as well as some of the world’s most discriminating clientele. He is expert at finding the best local suppliers as well as encouraging them in their own business development. He is highly talented and flexible in designing inspired dishes around what’s available. His efforts at Zynodoa brought the restaurant unprecedented praise and acclaim, and he has been a force in helping Staunton achieve its newfound status as a culinary stronghold in the local food movement.

Before assuming his role at Zynodoa, Lund spent six years in the kitchen at the Inn at Little Washington, a five-star, five-diamond establishment of world-renown. Working with legendary chef Patrick O’Connell, he learned his impeccable style and quest for perfection while cooking for culinary luminaries and celebrities on a regular basis. His efforts landed him in the position of Executive Sous Chef in charge of all kitchen operations for the #1 globally ranked inn/restaurant.

Lund has cultivated strong relationships with producers and purveyors in Virginia and throughout the mainland US, and he couples this with the experience of working in the international seafood market as well. Lund spent a six-month pause from his duties at the Inn at Little Washington deeply involved in the Hawaiian and Asian seafood industries, where he became familiar with the industry from the ground up; from attending the international seafood auctions at the break of dawn on the docks of Honolulu, to fabricating the highest quality tuna, to working hard to get the choicest fish on the tables at first-class restaurants all over the world.

{ Aaron McClould, The Vintage Restaurant Group }

Chef McCloud has worked in several of the finest restaurants, hotels, and catering venues in Virginia, Michigan, Washington DC, the New York City area, Vermont, Massachusetts, Chicago, and Florida.

As the new chef of Vintage 50, he brings experience, dedication, and passion for fine cuisine and genuine hospitality. Aaron’s style is very seasonal, a bit whimsical, stylish, and greatly American.

While in Florida, Aaron was privileged to work as Saucier at the world renowned, AAA Five Diamond Award winning, Victoria and Albert’s Restaurant. This led to his relocation to Northern Virginia to open the critically acclaimed Aster Restaurant as Chef de Cuisine. Aster earned top marks during Aaron’s tenure and was regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the Washington DC Area.

{Chefs Christophe Poteaux and Michelle Garbee-Poteaux, Bastille }

“Don’t get into the restaurant business…” At least that’s what his parents told him. And they should know. His family had a restaurant in Paris and his grandfather was a third generation pastry chef and baker. Many more of the extended family were in the industry as well. So although cooking was in his blood, Christophe Poteaux, got his Master’s Degree in Finance from the prestigious Finance and banking Institute in Paris. But in his heart of hearts, what he really wanted to master was cuisine. And after graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York, he did just that.

Chef Poteaux’s culinary odyssey has taken him everywhere from among venerable restaurants such as Alain Ducasse in his hometown of Paris, France to Daniel in New York to L’Orangerie in West Hollywood to Aquarelle at The Watergate in Washington, DC, where he followed in the footsteps of legendary chef Jean Louis Palladin. His newest venture, Bastille, serving cuisine of the world’s best known wine countries, is his first solo foray. He has also crafted a diverse wine list to match the menu.

At Bastille, Chef Poteaux’s menu combines the approachable dishes of the world’s best known wine regions from Bordeaux to the Napa Valley. Dishes like a Vichyssoise trio: heirloom tomato, basil and fennel; crabmeat, grapefruit gelee, avocado mousse, cilantro coulis and espelette crisp; grilled branzino filets, fennel and Paulo marmalade and bistro favorites like Steak frittes and charcuterie.

Chef Poteaux follows the advice he would give to anyone starting in the profession—“be humble and be prepared to learn every day of your life.” His commitment to offering simple yet perfectly prepared food to his guests never waivers. It has kept him shoulder to shoulder with the best chefs in the DC Metro area. And with Bastille, his talent and vast experience will continue to shine.

O menu creations are based on a combination of traditional, yet modern interpretations of classic bistro fare.

{ Brad Spates, Cookology }

Brad studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and the James Rumsey School of Culinary Arts. He learned his baking skills from some of the best pastry chefs in the world, such as Master Chef Judeth Stains, CIA Award Winning Chef Steve Brown, and Steve Weiss, Executive Pastry Chef of the Trump Taj Mahal and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

He has traveled and studied pastries worldwide, including an in-depth study of French, Italian, and classical American Pastry. Brad specializes in unique forms of design, including the use of classical techniques that are practiced by very few modern chefs, such as pastillage, formed marzipan, pulled and blown sugar, and casting chocolates. He has a passion for baking and creating, and can’t wait to share his talents with the students at Cookology.

{ John Walsh, Chef’s Expressions }

John Walsh is the Executive Chef for Chef’s Expressions.

Born on Orleans, France and raised in France, Switzerland, England and Belgium, John spent 25 years abroad. He received his first restaurant experience working as a dishwasher in The Hard Rock Café, London while attending The University of London, where he majored in International Finance. He now runs the most highly acclaimed catering kitchen in the region.

John bought his first restaurant and catering company at age 25 and has since worked with many of the best French and American chefs. In 2007, he won the Best Chef of the Year for Maryland. In February of 2008 John and his team won the Gold Medal in Kitchen Contenders for Catersource Magazine in Las Vegas Nevada.
While working in Washington DC, John was voted into Chefs of America which only honors the top ten Chefs in North America. John has been nationally published and is currently working on his own cook book. Additionally, he participates in local programs such as Meals on Wheels, March of Dimes, and Days of Taste. He also cooks once a month for Saint Patrick’s Elementary School for 150 children.

John’s specialty is American cuisine with a Provencal and Tuscan influence. John has also mastered Eurasian cuisine by blending the two cultures together and developing some unique and delicious food combinations. He prefers organic produce in many of his dishes and uses many organic herbs and flowers for garnishing.

{ More News Coming Soon }

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