Friends of James Beard Sunday Supper

November 4, 2018

Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food


Join us at the fifth annual Friends of James Beard Benefit Sunday Supper as Bentonville's local chef's cook up a delicious three-course meal served family style.  A portion of the proceeds goes to support the "Bentonville High South Scholarship Fund".  

Click here to purchase tickets!

2018 Chefs:

Lauren Blanco

Co-Founder and CEO of Markham and Fitz

Lauren has a business/creativity mind. Her background is in cultural anthropology and economic development in the nonprofit sector, where her international work experiences shaped her desire to build a business that could positively impact communities through commerce and the supply chain. Her goal is that Markham & Fitz has more than one bottom line, so that business success can be measured not only in profit, but in impact, both within our local community and globally.

Matt Cooper

Executive Chef at The Preacher's Son

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.

Matthew McClure

Executive Chef at The Hive at 21c Museum Hotel

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.

Travis McConnell

Executive Chef of Pressroom

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 at Pressroom.

William McCormick

Executive Chef at Eleven at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

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.

Justus Moll

Excutive Chef at River Grille Steakhouse

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

Executive Chef of Tusk and Trotter and Butcher and Pint

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.

Rafael Rios

CEO/Founder Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico

Born in Tulare, California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1976 and raised in the State known as the soul of Mexico; Michoacán unDl the age of 14, Chef Rios is a proud ambassador of the authenDc regional cuisine of Mexico. Founder of Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico in 2013, he makes memory of the stories told by his father Hector Rios “Yeyo”, describing the early morning congregations of family and friends, gathering to prepare delicious food that would help them endure long hours harvesting grapes. Chef Rios or as he likes his friends to call him, Rafa or Rafael has lived around kitchens his entire life. As a child, he took every opportunity to learn and master traditional cooking techniques used by his mother and grandmother, thus allowing him to find the road to the unmistakable culinary identity that is worth sharing. In 1997, his desire to make a difference in the life's of others led him to enlist in the U.S Army where he honorably served for 15 years. While on Active duty, he served in countries such as Germany, Korea and Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom where he managed to create partnerships with Turkish and Afghan chefs for unofficial internships that enabled him to expand his appreciation and knowledge of their traditional cuisine and cooking techniques. Today, the same desire to serve and make a difference enables him to genuinely offer Mexico on a plate and transports his valued customers to the different regions of Mexico with his simple and yet delicious menu. Rafael honors Don Yeyo’s who founded the Rios Family Farm and his core family values. They reflect the sustainability efforts and support for local farming initiatives with responsible organic practices, known by locals since 2008. Chef Rios believes the most flavorful cuisine is made simply with the best, highest quality products and he considers it part of his job to inspire and inform guests about the bounty that surrounds North West Arkansas. Rafael has the mission of improving the quality of life in the region and proudly shares his tradition using only the freshest produce grown locally at the Rios Family Farm and other local farms. He can often be found on site creating dishes such as Cochinita Pibil and Colitas de Pavo or simply walking around the restaurant meeting new friends

Preston Stewart

Co-Founder & Chief Chocolate Officer

Preston is the chief of all things chocolate. Preston achieved certification from École Chocolat in Chocolate Making and as a Professional Chocolatier. Preston always had an interest in culinary crafts, and his background is in chemistry, which has turned out to be a perfect fit for chocolate making. Preston is passionate about educating our customers in the complex world of chocolate and our bean-to-bar process. Through his many creations, he wants people to experience chocolate in a variety different flavors, textures, and applications.

Luke Wetzel

Owner and Executive Chef of Oven and Tap

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.