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Chef Profiles of 9th Annual World Gourmet Festival to be held in Bangkok, September

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Tuesday, 19 August 2008

One of the most highly anticipated events on Bangkok's social calendar, the Annual World Gourmet Festival, now in its 9th year, returns to the city for a week-long gourmet extravaganza between 22-28 September 2008. This year the impressive line up of chefs to be hosted by the Four Seasons Bangkok is as follows:

• Jeffrey Jake, The Carneros Inn, Napa Valley, California, USA
• Michael Ginor, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, USA,
• Maurizio Quaranta, Locanda del Pilone, Alba, Italy
• Glen Ballis, Nedal'nij Vostok, Moscow, Russia
• Siggi Hall, Siggi Hall Restaurant, Reykjavik, Iceland
• Celina Tio, The American Restaurant, Kansas City, USA
• Michael Laiskonis, Executive Pastry Chef, Le Bernardin, New York, USA

The event is coordinated and overseen by Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok Executive Chef Nicolas Schneller and Shintaro Chef Satoshi Sawada and Biscotti Chef Danilo Aiassa.

Jeffrey Jake - The Carneros Inn, Napa Valley, California, USA

A Napa Valley native, Jake began his culinary career at the venerable Domaine Chandon as a sous chef. In his role as executive chef for The Carneros Inn, Jake is inspired by the abundance of fresh local ingredients that abound in Napa Valley’s Carneros winegrowing region. He oversees the Inn’s private dining restaurant; the sophisticated wine country restaurant FARM; local favorite The Boon Fly Café; and all catering and room service for the Inn. One of his main responsibilities is managing the seasonally-changing menus at both restaurants - created primarily from the Carneros region’s bountiful array of top-quality produce, cattle ranches, and award-winning cheese producers, found within a 150-mile radius of the Carneros region to ensure food that is at the peak of its season and flavor. Many of the ingredients are sourced on-property including herbs, apples, figs, pears and pomegranates.

Prior to his arrival at The Carneros Inn, Jake achieved national acclaim in his role as executive chef at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, where he played an integral role in organizing and executing prestigious, high-profile events that include the AT&T Pro Am Golf Tournament and the Concours d’ Elegance. Jake has also served as chef de cuisine at Pebble Beach, Beach and Tennis Club, Sonoma Mission Inn, and as the executive chef at The Old Bath House Restaurant, which was named “Outstanding Restaurant” by the California Writers Association during his tenure.

Jake has also conducted cooking courses at the Culinary Center of Monterey and taught California cuisine cooking classes in Japan. Jake has been the recipient of a number of awards and accolades during his career, including Conde Nast Traveler “Best Resort in North America” award (The Lodge at Pebble Beach, ’03), three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle (Sonoma Mission Inn, ’97), and Gourmet Magazine’s “Top Ten Wine Country Restaurant” (Sonoma Mission Inn, ’98).

Michael Ginor - Hudson Valley Foie Gras, USA

An integral part of the World Gourmet Festival from its beginning, Michael joins the event for a record 9th time. Michael and his business partner Izzy Yanay established Hudson Valley Foie Gras, one of the major foie gras producers in the world today, and since 1998, have distributed its moulard duck products through a network of domestic distributors extending throughout the United States, and beyond to Argentina, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Venezuela. Hudson Valley Foie Gras received the 1993 Gold Merit Award from Chefs in America and the 1996 Award for Excellence from The James Beard Foundation. In 1996, Hudson Valley received the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences and in 1998 the Award of Excellence from the American Tasting Institute.

In 1996, Michael received the first Olive Branch Award from the Jewish National Fund for humanitarian and professional achievements. He was honoured with the 1997 Angel Award from The James Beard Foundation and in 1998 received the American Master Taster Award from the American Tasting Institute. Both Michael and Izzy Yanay were inducted into the James Beard Foundation 2001 Who's Who of Food and Beverage.

M­aurizio Quaranta - Locanda del Pilone, Alba, Italy

Born in Valgrana Small Village near Cuneo, Piedmont and growing up in the northern part of Italy Maurizio joined the culinary school in Mondovi in 1983. During his diploma course he started to perfect his culinary skills by working part time in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the Cote de D”Azur in France as well as in Central Italy.

In 1995 Maurizo opened his first restaurant "Locanda dell'Angelo" near Cuneo which was well recognized by national restaurant guides. In 2000 he opened his second restaurant "Locanda del Pilone" near Alba and was honored with his first Michelin Star in 2002. Maurizio left the restaurant at the end of his contract in May 2008 and is currently working on plans for a new restaurant.

Throughout the years, Maurizio has been through different trainings with several well-known chefs such as Sergio Mei, Giorgio Nardelli, Oriol Castra of "El Bulli" as well as the team at "Balzi Rossi", a 2 Michelin star restaurant in Ventimiglia.

Glen Ballis - Nedal'nij Vostok, Moscow, Russia

Glen Ballis was born in Melbourne, Australia where he received his culinary education at the local college. He started in the restaurant business some 25 years ago including running his own restaurant for two years in Northern Australia. Glen broadened his culinary expertise in Thailand with Banyan Tree Hotels and stints in Shanghai, Malaysia and Guadeloupe. He also supervised all restaurants at Harrods, London’s, and some would claim the world’s, premier department store.

At "Nedal'nij Vostok" Glen describes his menu as fresh, light, with new smells, tastes and textures and unusual combinations from different cuisines. He believes that a chef’s experience plays a crucial role and he travels twice a year to get acquainted with new dishes and to bring new ideas back to Russia. According to Glen a good chef works with enthusiasm and is always ready to learn and grow. A chef's work must be creative and he needs to able to pass the enthusiasm on to his team.

Siggi Hall - Siggi Hall Restaurant, Reykjavik, Iceland

Sigurdur Larus Hall, aka “Siggi Hall”has been a Certified Master Chef since 1982 and while he is now an Ambassador for New Nordic Food as appointed by the Nordic Minister Council he actually started as a trainee in classical French cooking in Reykavik. During the following years he worked both in Norway and Denmark but returned to his native Iceland in 1990. Siggi’s passion is to promote Icelandic or Nordic food to other cultures. He has been a chef and consultant for the Icelandic Trade Council and has lead the Icelandic Culinary Team from 1991-1996 in international competitions and he appeared in over 60 TV shows in USA, Canada and Europe since 2000. Such as CBS Early Morning Show and Fox morning show. His signature restaurant “Siggi Hall Restaurant”, has been situated in Hotel Odinsve in Reykjavik old city center since 2000 and will be moving to the Reykjavik National Theater later this year. The restaurant has achieved many international and domestic awards and top ratings and was recently cited as one of the “100 most exciting new restaurants in the world” by Condé Nast Traveler.

Celina Tio - The American Restaurant, Kansas City, USA

A typical day for Celina Tio used to involve shopping lists, Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet reruns, baking and cooking for family and friends. That was when she was eight. Inheriting her passion for cooking and learning her culinary skills from the men in her life - her brother, father and grandfather - Celina knew at that early age that she wanted to be a chef. Having seen a woman with a TV cooking show, the thought never crossed her mind that she couldn't make a career of it.

While growing up Celina would save her allowance and birthday money to dine at some of the finest restaurants in Philadelphia. At 15 she started her career in the hospitality business as a bus girl in a hotel restaurant dining room where she began to learn the fine details of service and to anticipate the needs of the guests. After two years Celina moved on to serving. Then at 18 years of age, and having been accepted to Drexel University's Hospitality program, she begged her Kitchen Manager at Bennigan's to let her work in the kitchen: her “official” culinary beginning.

After graduating from Drexel University with a B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management and Minors in Business and Psychology, Celina  contemplated going to culinary school but opted for the “hands on” experience of working her way up at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Philadelphia. She started as the breakfast cook and in just under two years - at the age of 23 - became the Chef of The Grill Room.

From the Ritz-Carlton, Celina moved to Orlando to work for Walt Disney World where she opened two of their specialty restaurants: Spoodles, which features Mediterranean cuisine, and Citricos, specializing in dishes from the south of France. She was chosen to be the Task Force Chef for Palo, the fine dining Italian restaurant aboard the M.S. Magic. Celina was then Chef of Narcoossee's for two years prior to accepting her current position as Executive Chef of The American Restaurant in  Kansas City, Missouri.

Having been at The American Restaurant just over four years Celina has already garnered many accolades and has been featured in local and national press. The Kansas City Star's food critic, Lauren Chapin, wrote: “Consider the skills necessary to ascend a peak: balance, calmness,  concentration, focus and forethought ... Tio brings the same attributes to her professional life. Her dishes are composed and understated; her flavors balanced and concentrated.” Chapin went on to say that every dish she sampled was “technically flawless and perfectly flavored.”

Celina has not only wowed local critics, but was named one of thirteen “Chefs to keep your eye on” in Esquire magazine. John Mariani also praised his dining experience at The American Restaurant as one of seven “Best Meals in the USA” in his Virtual Gourmet column and recently  wrote in Wine Spectator, “…Tio has matured into one of the more outstanding chefs in the United States today, with a style of her own ...” Celina was named 2005 Chef of the Year by Chef magazine and was recently garnered 2007 Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Chef Celina still keeps her days busy with shopping lists and cooking for her loyal guests, friends and family, much as she did when she was eight.

Michael Laiskonis - Le Bernardin, New York, USA

As executive pastry chef at New York’s four star Le Bernardin, Michael Laiskonis produces exquisite desserts that are an elegant balance of art and science. Recently awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef of 2007 by the James Beard Foundation, Laiskonis is celebrated for signature desserts that gracefully layer textures and flavors. New York Times reviewer Frank Bruni proclaims Laiskonis’ desserts are “exemplary…They are sophisticated without being pretentious, multifaceted but not unduly fanciful.”

A native of Michigan, Laiskonis’ culinary training is primarily self-directed. As a fine arts student in college, he discovered his passion for pastries while working at a bakery. Initially fascinated by the science of bread, its Zen-like process, and its living, breathing nature, Laiskonis immersed himself in learning everything he could about  baking and pastry. Realizing the architectural nature of dessert, with its foundation in flavor and form, Laiskonis was finally able to unite his passions for art and science.

After two years, he was appointed pastry chef and sous chef under Rick Halberg at Emily’s in Northville, MI. In 1997 he joined Tribute restaurant,  starting as a line cook before assuming the role of pastry chef. Influenced by this experience in both culinary realms, Laiskonis’ approach to dessert often combines tastes that are both savory and sweet. In his five-year tenure as pastry chef at Tribute, Pastry Art and Design twice named him one of the “10 Best Pastry Chefs in America” (2002, 2003).

Now at Le Bernardin since 2004, 35-year-old Laiskonis finds the perfect venue to express his ideas through the alchemy of his unique desserts. Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin executive chef and co-owner, says, “Michael’s sensibilities perfectly complement the Le Bernardin style of light,  inventive, elegant food.”

In addition to his work at Le Bernardin, Laiskonis acts as a consultant and participates in numerous “celebrity chef” events. He served as the moderator of the pastry forum at and also participated as a  challenger on Food Network’s first season of Iron Chef America. Since2006, Laiskonis has consulted for pastry shops in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan and has also worked with the National Peanut Board  developing dessertideas using health conscious techniques and ingredients.

Laiskonis has been featured in numerous television and radio appearances, including most recently The Today Show and The Martha  Stewart Show. He was the recipient of Bon Appétit magazine’s prestigious 2004 American Food & Entertaining Award and acknowledged him as one its Rising Stars in 2006. Laiskonis has received accolades from luminaries such as Patricia Wells in the International Herald Tribune, and has been noted by the GQ, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Quarterly Review of Wines, Forbes, Food & Wine, Gourmet, and Details, as well as in leading industry publications such as Art Culinaire, Food Arts and Chocolatier.

See also: Details of the 9th Annual World Gourmet Festival.

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