Westin Austin Downtown’s Stella San Jac names executive chef


Stella San Jac, at the recently opened Westin Austin Downtown (301 E. Fifth St.), has named Michael Cerrie executive chef. The Pennsylvania native and 25-year culinary veteran has overseen the development of an “eclectic Southern menu that embodies the music, flavors and culture that define Austin,” according to a release.

Menu items include beet blueberry sweet bread French toast, Gulf shrimp and lump crab roll, braised short ribs with sweet potato mash, and, of course, biscuits.

Stella San Jac is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information about Stella San Jac visit StellaSanJac.com.


Sean O’Leary named culinary director and interim executive chef at LaV

(Credit: Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
(Credit: Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Sean O’Leary has taken over as culinary director at East Austin French-inspired restaurant LaV, where he is currently serving as interim executive chef. O’Leary, who career includes time in the kitchen at renowned New York City restaurant Del Posto, is leading the search for a permanent executive chef and will spearhead LaV’s future development a commissary kitchen and catering business.

LaV, which recently opened an adjacent garden for special events, also has plans for an additional phase in their development, but has yet to announce specifics about their plans. O’Leary is the husband of LaV pastry chef Janina O’Leary, who had been leading the kitchen following the recent departure of opening executive chef Allison Jenkins.

“Chef Sean has been an incredible resource for our team. From the moment he stepped into the laV kitchen it was evident that his enthusiasm and leadership made a great impact on the entire team,” LaV general manager Jamie Wagner Rounsavall said. “Since then he has inspired our staff, tightened operations and together with chef Janina overseen menu changes that have been incredibly well-received by our guests. We are excited to lean on his experience and positivity as we expand our brand and offerings in Austin.”

LaV, which landed a spot in my top 10 Austin restaurants of 2014, was recently named one of the top 100 wine restaurants in the U.S. by Wine Enthusiast and earned a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.

Chef David Garrido takes over at Radisson; name and concept changing

The wagyu steak frites from chef David Garrido at the new Dine at the Radisson Hotel & Suites. (Credit: Casey Dunn)
The wagyu steak frites from chef David Garrido at the new Dine at the Radisson Hotel & Suites. (Credit: Casey Dunn)

Veteran Austin chef David Garrido has taken the reins at the restaurant at the Radisson Hotel & Suites on Cesar Chavez Street. The restaurant this week changed names from Chavez to Dine, but the moniker is temporary. Garrido, who closed his eponymous restaurant in the 360 Condominiums last year, will change the concept, menu and name of the restaurant at the end of August.

Garrido, who made his name in Austin serving as executive chef at the original Jeffrey’s, has retooled the menu, which now includes the chef’s take on bistro dishes like steak frites, mushroom mac ’n’ cheese, and chipotle barbecue-glazed baby back ribs with escabeche. Longtime fans of the chef will also recognize Garrido’s signature fried oysters. Garrido plans more menu changes for August when the rebranding occurs.

Chavez opened in early 2014 under the guidance of Parkside chef-owner Shawn Cirkiel. The Austin-born chef departed earlier this year and was replaced by former Carillon executive chef Josh Watkins, who had a brief stay at the hotel’s restaurant.

Bufalina hires McGuire Moorman veteran Alexandra Manley to serve as executive chef

Chef Alex Manley at Josephine House.(Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Chef Alex Manley at Josephine House.(Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Bufalina has hired longtime McGuire Moorman Hospitality employee Alexandra Manley to serve as its executive chef. Manley recently worked as the chef at Josephine House and previously developed the bread program for the popular restaurant group that includes Elizabeth Street Café, Perla’s, et al.

Manley will be the executive chef for the East Austin Italian restaurant and its sister restaurant, Bufalina Due, which is slated to open later this year at 6555 Burnet Rd.

“I’ll still be very much involved in day-to-day pizza operations, but as we start to grow, I feel it’s important to do everything we can to maintain consistency, and I’m confident Alex can help us do just that,” Bufalina owner Steven Dilley said. “In addition, Alex helped open several restaurants while at MMH, and I’m hoping her experience can make things smoother for us as we get closer to opening on Burnet Rd.”

For those wondering what to expect at Bufalina Due, Dilley writes:

“Due will be very slightly larger.  The focus will still be on Neapolitan pizza and wine, but it will not be the same menu.  There will be some overlap, of course, but I’m really focusing on coming up with new ideas and having Due be its own thing.”

South Congress Hotel hires Amanda Rockman of Chicago’s Nico Osteria to serve as executive pastry chef

A rendering of Cafe No Se at the South Congress Hotel
A rendering of Cafe No Se at the South Congress Hotel

South Congress Hotel continued its impressive staffing this week with the hiring of executive pastry chef Amanda Rockman. Currently the pastry chef for the lauded Nico Osteria in Chicago, the 2015 James Beard-award semi-finalist will serve as pastry chef for both Central Standard, a New York-style bar and grill, and Café No Sé, a California-influenced Americana restaurant, as well as the hotel in general.

Originally from Houston, Rockman is returning to Austin, where she worked at Fino about a decade ago. South Congress Hotel partner Jesse Herman calls Rockman “one of the best pastry chefs in the country” and believes her return to Austin indicates that the city’s surging food scene is capable of drawing elite talent from around the country.

Herman calls Rockman’s work “classic and rooted in meticulous technique but not overly fussy from a presentation stand-point.” To get a sense of Rockman’s style, including her unique affogato offerings, check out Nico Osteria’s current dessert menu.

Nico Osteria is located inside the Thompson Chicago hotel, giving Rockman unique insight into creating dishes for both hotel and restaurant guests. The restaurant is operated by One Off Hospitality, whose managing partner, Donnie Madia, recently won the James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurateur.

“Those guys are as good as anyone in the business,” Herman said.

Rockman joins a South Congress Hotel team that includes executive chef Michael Paley, formerly of Proof on Main and Garage Bar in Louisville and the 21c Museum Hotel and Metropole in Cincinnati. Café No Sé is slated to open in July when the hotel opens, with Central Standard opening about a month later.



The Carillon announces new executive chef and executive pastry chef

The Carillon this week introduced new team members executive chef Azhar Mohammadand, director of outlets Nathan Prader and executive pastry chef Robyn Mayo.
The Carillon this week introduced new team members executive chef Azhar Mohammadand, director of outlets Nathan Prater and executive pastry chef Robyn Mayo.

The Carillon at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center on the University of Texas Campus announced a new culinary team this week, top-lined by executive chef Azhar Mohammad. The 16-year restaurant veteran has helmed the restaurants at several upscale hotel properties, including the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis and, most recently, the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.

Joining Mohammad is executive pastry chef Robyn Mayo, most recently of H&F Bread Co. in Atlanta, and Nathan Prater, the former grill manager and wine director at the Driskill Grill will serve as the Carillon’s director of outlets. Mohammad is currently revamping the menu, with expectations to roll out the changes in the next month.

This is the first major hiring announcement from the Carillon since executive chef Josh Watkins departed last year. Watkins, it was announced this week, has taken over control of operating Chavez at the Radisson Hotel and Suites downtown, with plans to change the restaurant’s concept and name.

Chef Josh Watkins taking the reins at Chavez, will change concept

Chef Josh Watkins intends to change the name and concept of the restaurant Chavez at the Radisson Hotel & Suites.
Chef Josh Watkins intends to change the name and concept of the restaurant Chavez at the Radisson Hotel & Suites. (Credit: Jane Ko)

Chef Josh Watkins and his Profile Group ATX hospitality and management company will take over operations of Chavez at the Radisson Hotel beginning tomorrow.

Watkins will continue to operate the restaurant under the same name and as the same concept for a month or so before completely rebranding, with a new name and concept. Watkins, who most recently has served as executive chef at the Carillon and Driskill Grill before that, said the new concept may roll out in March or April. Watkins plans to be in the kitchen on a regular basis during the first stage of the new operation.

While he would not go into much detail, Watkins did mention that the menu will feature a “modern barbecue” section, an idea he bandied about when he served an Asian-inspired pork dish at last year’s Austin Food & Wine Festival.

Watkins, who left the Carillon last spring, takes the place of Parkside and Olive & June owner Shawn Cirkiel, who opened Chavez last February.

Cirkiel will now focus on opening his Spanish-influenced restaurant, Bullfight, later this year on Airport Boulevard, he said in a statement.


Former Uchiko chef de cuisine joins St. Philip as head chef

SSS St. Philip Pizza 3

St. Philip has announced that chef Page Pressley has joined the pizza parlor and bake shop as head chef. Pressley, who joined the Uchi team in 2011, served as chef de cuisine at Uchiko from 2013-2014. He left last year for a brief stint as corporate executive chef at Starr Restaurants in Philadelphia. The New Mexico native and Culinary Institute of America graduate has also worked at Trattoria Nostrani in Santa Fe and The Bellagio’s Le Cirque in Las Vegas.

What does chef Pressley have in store for the South Austin family-friendly restaurant?

“I will definitely be working on new dishes as well as tweaking good dishes to make them great. The biggest areas of focus will be new savory breakfast items for the bake shop, bettering the sandwich program and giving the small plates a more fun, evocative and cohesive feel,” Pressley said in an email. “I also aim to diversify the dessert menu for St. Philip by bringing some fun and playfulness there as well. New chicken and fish dishes will be around the corner as well as giving the brunch menu a face lift.”

For my January review of St. Philip, click here.

Counter 3 Five VII hires pastry chef

Sarah Prieto will be the pastry chef at the forthcoming Counter 3 Five VII.
Sarah Prieto will be the pastry chef at the forthcoming Counter 3 Five VII.

Counter 3 Five VII hired Sarah Prieto to serve as the upcoming restaurant’s pastry chef. Prieto arrives at the Congress Avenue restaurant from Uchiko, where she was pastry lead. The French Culinary Institute graduate has also worked at Tyler Florence’s Wayfare Tavern and at Saison in San Francisco. Counter 3 Five VII will feature a 26-seat chef’s counter and offer diners the options of several multi-course meals (hence the name).

Callie Speer joins Delish Bakery as head pastry chef and creative director

Callie Speer is the new head pastry chef and creative director at Delish Bakery. (Credit: Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Callie Speer is the new head pastry chef and creative director at Delish Bakery. (Credit: Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Swift’s Attic pastry chef Callie Speer has joined Delish Bakery (209 W. Third St.) as head pastry chef and creative director. Speer will continue to work at Swift’s, where her desserts, like the whimsical popcorn and a movie, have drawn raves.

Speer, a Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef Nominee in 2013, will introduce new items to the third street bakery, while continuing with the bakery’s custom cakes and signature cupcakes. She plans to add cake decorating and baking classes later this spring.

“I am excited to introduce new desserts and try new things at Delish. The store-front allows me to be more direct with the customers and see how they react to new desserts,” Speer said. “I love connecting with people over dessert and am ready to keep upping the dessert game in Austin.”

As part of the new partnership, Speer will host bi-weekly pasty pop-ups at 10 a.m. on Saturdays, beginning this weekend. The pop-ups at Delish will feature Parkside Project’s Erica Waksmunski (Jan. 31), former Uchi culinary director Philip Speer (Feb. 14), Casey Wilcox (Feb. 28), Swift’s Attic’s Mat Clouser (March 14), and artist Keith Kreeger (March 28).