Read about our renowned chefs and Latin cuisine experts who will be presenting at the 2017 Latin Cuisine Summit.
Doreen Colondres is a true force of nature. Her fresh and charismatic personality combined with her passion for flavorful seasonal ingredients has helped propel her successful career. Her popular website, thekitchendoesntbite.com is at the center of that success. Doreen has a degree in business administration and marketing, studied in culinary schools in New York, California, and Florida, and earned certifications with WSET & CMS. Since 2013, Doreen has served as celebrity chef for Novo Nordisk pharmaceuticals and as the first Hispanic Celebrity Chef for the Bordeaux Wine Council. She was spokesperson for the Viva Bordeaux campaign for which she designed an elegant Latin recipe guide paired with Bordeaux wines. In 2015, she became the National Pork Board Celebrity Chef, hosting a national media campaign featuring her pork recipes. Doreen is currently the food and wine editor for more than 10 Hispanic publications including Siempre Mujer—the largest Hispanic women’s magazine in the U.S. Her first book, La Cocina No Muerde, was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House.
Chef Giovanna Huyke is known as the “Julia Child of Puerto Rico,” for revolutionizing lighter and healthier Caribbean cooking, without sacrificing flavor. Giovanna initially studied theater at Tulane University. But while in New Orleans, she worked in Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, which helped fix her interest in food. She moved to New York City to work with renowned Chef Felipe Rojas Lombardi. Giovanna then chose to return to Puerto Rico where she worked at the Caribe Hilton. A year later she founded Amadeus in San Juan, where she pioneered “nouvelle criollo.” Giovanna also founded Don Juan in the El San Juan Hotel and Giovanna’s Café. She has been featured on Good Morning America, Pierre Franey’s Cooking in America, Burt Wolf: Travels and Traditions, Univision’s Despierta America and Martha Stewart Living. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Shape en Español, Vanidades, and Cristina magazine. Giovanna has published six cookbooks and 20 recipe booklets showcasing her culinary creations. She is currently the CEO of Grupo Gio, LLC, a global culinary consulting enterprise based in Washington, DC.
|CHEF OSCAR MEJIA
Born in Queens, NY, Oscar and his parents—who immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic—move to Florida when he was 10. It was there, while working in a Chinese restaurant, that he became hooked on the sounds, smells, and excitement of restaurant life. After high school, he landed a job at Turnberry Isle Elite Yacht club under Chef Allen Susser. He went on to be chef at the Turnberry Ocean Club and then ran the tapas bar at Williams Island under Chef Filipe Rojas. Oscar traveled to Texas where he worked a Brazilian-themed Mardi Gras party for billionaire George Mitchell. He ended up staying for three years and running Mitchell’s properties. He then took the executive chef position at The Wyndham Morgan Bay in St. Lucia, WI, where he was immersed in the food and culture of the Caribbean. From there he became executive chef at The Landings Club in Savannah GA—one of the largest member-owned clubs in the country. There, Oscar started a chapter of the ACF and began lending his talents to the local End Hunger Network. Since 2006 he has been executive chef at the Westin Houston, Downtown.
Recognized as one of Puerto Rico’s best chefs, Mario Pagán has two of the finest restaurants in San Juan—Chayote and Lemongrass. His third restaurant, Laurel, will open in October in the Museum of Art in San Juan. As a child in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he watched his mother prepare meals rooted in Caribbean tradition. He opted to study architecture, but by the time he was in his third year of study, he decided to pursue his passion for the culinary arts and applied to Johnson & Wales University. From there, Mario went on to hone his skills in the kitchen of chef Alfredo Ayala, the original founder of Chayote. Before opening his own restaurants, Mario spent several years in Miami working in some of the city’s best kitchens including The Grand Café in The Grand Bay Hotel, Bugatti, Tamarind Restaurant, and Norman’s New World Cuisine. Mario is the author of two books, Cocinas del Mundo: Caribe (2005) and La Gran Cocina Caribeña y sus 12 Grandes Chefs (2004). Mario is dedicated to introducing Puerto Rican cuisine to the rest of the world.
Chef Wandy Robles hails from the Dominican Republic, so naturally his knowledge of Dominican flavors is unsurpassed. He knew early on that he wanted to be in the hospitality field and sought out the education that would enhance his career. Wandy received a Bachelor of Hotel Administration from Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra and a Masters of Food and Nutrition from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo. In his career, Wandy has worked as an executive chef, quality assurance chef, TV and radio personality, culinary instructor, and traveling demo chef. He has participated in more than 20 culinary congresses and seminars on gastronomy and foodservice in North and South America, and Spain. In the past, Wandy served as the career director for the Hotel Business Administration Program at Universidad del Caribe. He is currently the culinary instructor for Dominican cuisine courses at Instituto Tecnico Superior Comunitario in San Luis, Santo Domingo. During his career, Wandy has received many accolades including the Presidential Medal of Civil Merit from the president of the Dominican Republic.
Raised in Miami by his Cuban immigrant parents, Douglas Rodriguez’s life was filled with the smells and tastes of Cuban/American cuisine. By age 13, he had a collection of cookbooks and was developing and preparing original concepts. After graduating high school, he attended Johnson & Wales University. Experiences at a number of restaurants followed, and in 1989, he opened Yuca, an upscale Cuban-style restaurant in Coral Gables, FL. Yuca was a huge success, and at age 24, Douglas received a “Rising Chef of the Year” nomination from The James Beard Foundation. New York City beckoned and in 1994, Douglas became the executive chef/co-owner of Patria—his laboratory for his “Nuevo Latino” cuisine. Patria received a three-star review in The New York Times. Douglas soon followed up with Chicama, a Peruvian ceviche bar, and Pipa, a tapas bar. In 2001 Rodriguez joined forces with Restaurateur Stephen Starr to open Alma De Cuba in Philadelphia. He is the author of Nuevo Latino (1995), Latin Ladles (1997), Latin Flavors on the Grill (2000), and The Great Ceviche Book (2003).
Zulcoralis Rodríguez hails from the tropical island of Puerto Rico. She attended Colegio San Antonio in Río Piedras. After graduation, Zulcoralis made a home for herself and her family in San Antonio, TX. While studying mortuary sciences at San Antonio College, she worked in the hospitality industry, where she set her sights on making her mark. Until recently, Zulcoralis held the position of head bartender at The Esquire Tavern, the historic oldest bar on the River Walk, where she worked for the last four years. Her accomplishments include winning a cocktail competition and being named Miss Speed Rack Dallas 2015. The Beverage Media Group’s Beverage Network named her one of the 8 Women to Watch in 2015.