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As naturalized Southerner, Chef Matt Bell is happy to call Little Rock home. Since moving to the South from Montana over ten years ago, Bell has fallen in love with the heritage of Southern food. After serving upscale Southern Fare at The Capital Hotelfor five years, Bell opened first restaurant, South on Main, in 2013. Matt is a devoted supported of the No Kid Hungry campaign.
Matthew’s passion for culinary art stems from its ability to bring people together. His style of cooking is rustic and traditional, keeping true to his roots in the South as well as the Pacific Northwest. His celiac condition has enabled him to passionately and creatively cook gluten-friendly. His dedication to local community is evident in his strong commitment to using local and sustainable ingredients, encouraging community building and local cooperation.
Sarah Chase joined Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2013, working with the culinary department in banquets and Eleven, the museum restaurant. Prior to joining the museum, Chef Chase worked at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO. Since moving to Northwest Arkansas, Chef Chase has been involved in with many local culinary projects, including the annual James Beard House dinner, Roots Festival, and Empty Bowls.
Asha Gomez launched Cardamom Hill Restaurant in January 2012 in Atlanta. An instant success, the restaurant received praising reviews, Cardamom Hill was named one of Bon Appetit’s 2012’s 50 Best New Restaurants, was on the 2013 James Beard Semi-Finalist List of 20 Best New Restaurants, one of Southern Living’s 5 Best Restaurants in the South. Asha was also named one of the 2013/2014 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef – People’s Choice semi-finalists. The acclaim universally acknowledged Asha’s pioneering spirit for opening a finer dining venture that focuses on one region of India, a rarity in the U.S. Her Kerala fried chicken, was voted by Fox Television Network as one of the ten best fried chicken dishes in the country and has received numerous national and international acclaim. She has also been showcased in feature stories in the Wall Street Journal, Conde-Nast Traveler, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and numerous other national publications. and her recipes have appeared in issues of Food & Wine, Bon Appetite, Country Living, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, and numerous other publications. Asha opened a new culinary event studio called “The Third Space” in the summer of 2013. In August 2014, she opened Spice to Table, a fast-casual Indian patisserie that has already garnered national and local acclaim including Zagat' s 12 hottest Brunch places in the US. In February 2015, Spice To Table was selected by Alan Richman as # 16 in GQ Magazine's yearly “25 best new restaurants in America award”. Asha is the author of the cookbook “My Two Souths” with Running Press (Perseus Books) which launched this Fall 2016. My Two Souths has received rave reviews from Eater, Garden and Gun, and The New York Times to name a few. Most recently, Asha Gomez is launching a web series of cooking class videos called Curry & Cornbread featuring Asha instructing viewers on some of her most celebrated recipes. Also new for 2017, is the imminent launch of her new tea and spice blend line named Dyad Tea & Spice- a brand of seven unique teas each paired with a spice note. In her spare time she is passionate about her advocacy work as a CARE Global Ambassador, her work with the James Beard Advocacy Network, as well as raising her 11 year-old son Ethan.
Phoebe Lawless is the owner and chef of Durham, North Carolina’s Scratch Bakery. During her time as baker and pastry chef at Durham, North Carolina’s Magnolia Grill under the guidance of Ben and Karen Barker, Phoebe developed an understanding of the delicate balance of texture, temperature, and flavor necessary to produce complex desserts and good, delicious food, and she conveys this same respect in her work today. The menus at Scratch are a reflection of her love of local sourcing and classic southern technique. Throughout her career, Phoebe has been committed to the promotion of sustainable food systems and the benefits of being connected to the foods we eat. She has been an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Chefs Collaborative, and SlowFood USA, and is former co-chair of the Slow Food Triangle chapter. Phoebe also teaches cooking and baking demonstration classes in pastry and the craft of pie-making at her bakery. Her pies and Community Supported Pie program have been featured in Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food and Wine, Saveur, the New York Times, USA Today, and North Carolina’s Our State magazines. Phoebe’s recipes have been published in Saveur, Garden and Gun, Southern Living, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and featured on the TODAY Show and North Carolina Public Radio. Phoebe was a 2013 and 2014 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef award, and in 2015 and 2016 for Outstanding Baker.
Matthew McClure was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, where hunting, fishing and his grandmother’s cooking ignited his passion for food. After studying at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, he settled in Boston working at a number of restaurants including Troquet, Harvest and No. 9 Park under the direction of Barbara Lynch. After years in Boston, Matt was eager to get back to his home state to reconnect with the ingredients and foodways of his childhood. He returned to Little Rock where he worked under Lee Richardson at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, developing strong relationships with local farmers and producers, and rediscovering the agricultural resources of his home state. In 2012, Matt joined the opening team of The Hive, located at 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville. At The Hive, Matt showcases the refined, country cuisine of the High South, focusing on the local ingredients of Northwest Arkansas and the region’s traditional methods of cooking. The menu at The Hive is reflective of the geography and culinary landscape of the region, showcasing Matt’s longstanding commitment to support local farmers and purveyors. Matt was a James Beard Award semifinalist for the “Best Chef: South” award in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and was a speaker at the 2016 James Beard Foundation Conference: Now Trending: The Making of a Food Movement. Matt was awarded Food & Wine Magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef” award for the Midwest in 2015. He is also an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Chef Travis McConnell realized that the lure of the kitchen was the direction he wanted to take while working at Tsunami restaurant in Memphis, TN. The next step was culinary school and stints in kitchens of Philadelphia, Portland, OR, the Four Seasons Hotel, Jackson Hole and the Capital Hotel in Little Rock. It was with the opening team here that he realized his appreciation for the craft of Butchery & Charcuterie. He then moved with his wife to California to work with Boccalone salumeria. It was here that he was highly influenced in the craft of curing meats and all things Italian. He next moved across the bay to join the opening team of Revival Bar + Kitchen. Revival is a kitchen that sources locally and seasonally with a focus on fresh California cuisine. After years in California he made his way back to Arkansas where after some time in Little Rock he and his family joined the great culinary culture and community of Bentonville. He is currently the Executive Chef of Bentonville Butcher & Pint, a full service restaurant and custom butcher shop.
Growing up in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, William was exposed at an early age to the serene beauty of Northwest Arkansas. Whether he was walking through his grandfather’s apple orchards, picking tomatoes, or shucking sweet corn, William found an appreciation for local foods rooted in his very own backyard. Following his passion, he trained at New England Culinary Institute, located in the beautiful Vermont countryside. There his aspiration to create delicious food flourished under the guidance of master chefs, and he earned an internship at the prestigious New England restaurant, L’Espalier. Following his period in New England, William accepted a coveted spot in Texas, working at Abacus Restaurant in Dallas. After a few years, William decided to return to his beloved home in Fayetteville where he was fortunate to lead the openings of several local restaurants.Chef William cooks with an evolved food philosophy and guiding principle, which is to provide the people of the community with inspired, locally sourced modern cuisine. His journey cooking across the country has left him feeling humble and truly appreciative of the craft he loves and shares with his peers.
Since 2002 Justus Moll has cooked at the professional level in Northwest Arkansas, even while completing his degree in Political Science from the U of A. Since moving from his birthplace in Springfield, Missouri, Justus’s passion for the culinary arts has only been surpassed by his love for his beautiful wife and daughter. Justus started out his fine dining cooking at Ella’s Restaurant. He starting out as a line cook, to becoming the pastry chef, all the way to his role as the Executive Sous Chef while moonlighting at Doe’s Eat Place as the Head Grille Master. After a short stint running the kitchen at Green House Grille, Justus found his home at River Grille Steak House as Executive Chef. He also sits on the board for Feed Fayetteville and Feed Communites. Also, has recently been crowned Iron Chef Champion for Arkansas. His style of cooking is reflected in his Rustic Southern Americana dishes. Justus also has an affinity for infusing different international flavor profiles into familiar entrees to achieve a satisfyingly unique experience. With his insistence on perfection and exploration for culinary innovation, Justus is proud to contribute in maintaining River Grille’s reputation of excellence.
Rob Nelson, Owner and Executive Chef of Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie, brings his unique creativity and food passion to the Bentonville, Arkansas food scene. Rob has always had a love for food. After attending the University of Arkansas, Rob spent several years working for local fine dining restaurants. In 2007, Rob moved to Boulder, Colorado to attend the Culinary School of the Rockies (now Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts). Following Boulder, Rob studied in Avignon, France, located in the Provence region, attending Le Marmiton Cooking School and Universite du Vin in Sousse la Rousse, France, where he studied under the Disciples d’Escoffier. While in Avignon, Rob worked at La Mirande, a Michelin 1-star restaurant. In 2011, Rob opened Tusk and Trotter – a casual restaurant focused on High South cuisine. Much of the menu is sourced locally from farmers and ranchers with whom Rob has spent years collaborating.Rob and Tusk & Trotter are proud members of the Bentonville community. Tusk & Trotter has sponsored the Bentonville Farmer’s Market as well as several community events. Rob is on the board of the Arkansas Restaurant Association and of the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, is an Advisory Board member of Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, and is a founding member of the Bentonville Chef’s Alliance.
Chef Pianalto, pastry and baking instructor, is a native to Northwest Arkansas. With over 30 years of experience in the foodservice industry, he has owned and operated restaurants and bakeries in the area ranging from Italian cuisine to European style pastries and breads. During a break from being a restaurateur, he became an accredited culinary teacher for Springdale Public Schools before joining the NWACC team. Vince has had training at Cordon Bleu—Chicago, baking and chocolate training in Seattle with the lead baking chef for the U.S. Baking team, as well as experience as an owner/operator of restaurants. Expanding food knowledge to students and the general public has been a focus for Chef Pianalto throughout his career.
Arkansas native chef Luke Wetzel pursued his culinary education at the California Culinary Academy with a five-year stint at the legendary Chez Panisse in the San Francisco Bay area. While there Wetzel learned the importance of sourcing quality ingredients, allowing seasons to dictate menus and fundamental cookery. Eager to share his experiences with Arkansas, Luke joined the Hive at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville as the executive sous chef and, subsequently, opened Oven and Tap in the spring of 2015 to rave reviews.
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