Chefs and their restaurants are at the heart of our event. It is through their generosity and dedication that the American Liver Foundation is able to bring you this event. Below is a list of this year’s participating chefs:
Chef Mark Allen
During his early years in Burbank, California, Mark Allen developed a natural passion for cooking through his father, an enthusiastic home chef, and grandfather, chef/owner of a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Mark began his training in a professional kitchen as Garde Manger at Concord’s Colonial Inn.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Mark honed his skills working at a number of top restaurants, including Inn at The Opera in San Francisco, Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands and Mary Elaine’s, a Mobil five-star restaurant under Chef Alessandro Stratta at The Phoenician Resort in Arizona.
After returning to his California roots for a prestigious stage at The French Laundry, Mark opened his eponymous Mark Allen Restaurant at the age of 28. Located in Napa Valley wine country, the Mediterranean restaurant drew a following from throughout Northern California, including the Dining Room Chef at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. When Mark learned from his regular chef guest that a coveted position had opened at the hotel’s Boston outpost, he headed back east to follow this exciting new opportunity.
In 1996, Mark became the youngest and only American chef ever to hold the position of Dining Room Chef at Boston’s venerable Ritz-Carlton. He helmed all kitchen and special event operations there until the hotel closed in 2001.
After hanging up his toque at the Ritz, Mark pursued another solo venture, opening Le Soir Bistro in Newton Highlands in December of that year. A mere 7 miles from downtown Boston, Le Soir brought fine dining to the suburbs and attracted city dwellers for Mark’s high-end French country cuisine. The restaurant was quickly embraced by the local food community, garnered local & national acclaim and put Mark on the map as one of Boston’s most promising young chefs.
With six successful years under his belt, Mark sold Le Soir in 2007 and joined the culinary team at Pine Brook Country Club in Weston as Executive Chef. This position gave Mark the opportunity to expand his scale of service as he oversaw high-volume food operations for the venue’s two restaurants, two snack bars and all special events & member functions.
We are thrilled that Mark will be joining us again for this year’s culinary event on behalf of the University of Massachusetts Club.
Chef Anthony Figueroa
I always had a passion for food since I was little. I started working in the industry when I was 16yrs old in Brandon, FL as a busboy/dishwasher and started serving at 18 and it was at that point I fell in love with the kitchen aspect of the business. Moved to Orlando, FL to attend Le Cordon Bleu in 2003. While attending school I worked at Samba Room and Timpano under Executive Chef Michael Rodriguez. After graduating in 2005 this business has taken me to Chicago, Alabama, Tampa, Orlando, and Boston.
I reached Executive Chef at age 29 at a restaurant called Tavolino in Westboro, MA. I then stepped down to join Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group as a Sous Chef for better opportunities and growth. In 2016, I got my chance to uphold the title again of Executive Chef for Del Frisco’s in Boston.
I would say I’m an all around experienced chef. Not tied down to a specific cuisine. Love going outside the box and creating new dishes guest love. My passion for food and family is what drives me to succeed.
Chef Marisa Iocco
Marisa is a big part of the female iconic Boston-based chefs that hasn’t needed last-name because the food across their specialties has been their calling card. When it comes to Italian, no none has done more to introduce the region to creative, authentic fare than Marissa Iocco.
A native of Abruzzo in Southern Italy’s region and trained in architecture, fine art and the fine art of cooking, as Boston’s only Italian-born female executive chef, Marisa’s decades-long legacy of soulful, edgy, groundbreaking interpretations of traditional Italian food has tempted, tickled and filled the stomachs of loyalists who have followed her remarkably criss-crossed path of restaurants across the city.
Marisa opened her first restaurant in downtown Boston, Galleria Italiana, to huge acclaim, earning raves from critics and consumers locally, regionally and nationally. Morphing from a popular lunch buffet to the city’s hottest dining room and one of 1990’s top new Italian eateries in the country, where Marisa’s name became synonymous with modernity.
Marisa’s family tree of Italian restaurants is astonishing to anyone new to her story yet longtime know it more simply as her legacy. Following Galleria Italiana’s success, Marisa opened La BeKola, South End Galleria, Bricco, Umbria, and Mare—the North End’s lauded seafood restaurant recognized by Esquire and Conde Nast Traveler, among others.
Marisa also consulted for restaurants, including Spiga in 2007. Located in Boston’s metro West, Spiga turned from tired trattoria a to trusted local favorite serving rustic, hearty Italian. After its relaunch, Marisa
went on to be the executive chef at two additional restaurants,
launched a line of prepared foods, “Cibo Cibo con Amore” (Food with Love); and recently published her memoir/cookbook, Every Menu Is A Love Story (Ecco Perche Amore).
In 2017, she returned to Spiga as partner – owner where she face-lifted the space and menu to create a wholly re-imagined experience. Today’s Spiga showcases Marisa’s award-winning career built on menu mastery; sensing trends; ingredient reverence; and a less-is-more approach to creating memorable, Instagram-worthy meals that use bounty from land and sea. Each
recipe, with a whimsical twist.
Chef Kevin Kieley
Kevin is highly regarded in culinary circles as a veteran of the Boston and suburban restaurant scene. He is a talented chef specializing in authentic country cooking. He successfully combines cooking techniques from the US, Europe, Asia and South American and his creations are enhanced by his unique methods of wood grilling and smoking a wide array of natural meats, fish, game and vegetables.
Kevin has been recognized for his talents by local and national press in numerous reviews and awards. In addition, as Executive Chef, he opened seven restaurants in and around Boston from 1985 through 2001; and in 1994 opened Procini’s in Watertown. He attended the Cooking School of Umbria in Perugia, Italy, continuing education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and has worked at Cafe Orientale in Venice and Restaurante Olivero in Florence, Italy.
Kevin opened Sul Mare in 2003 and sold the restaurant in 2009 to move back to his Boston roots and start a family. He has been at The Saint Anthony Shrine since 2010 as their Friary Chef.
Chefs Tatum Knight & Felipe Castro
Chef Tatum Knight began working in the culinary industry at the young age of 16. In 2012, she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Boston. Since then, she has explored the restaurant world all over the city from high end fine dining, corporate hotel banquets to small independent pubs. Chef Knight is now Head of the Kitchen at The Corner Pub and has made a project of revamping the menu, adding simple but delicious touches.
Felipe Castro moved to Boston in 2013 from Chile to begin graduate studies at Northeastern University. While previously studying in Chile, Felipe worked as a cook, and upon moving to Boston found himself back in the kitchen working at The Corner Pub. Felipe enjoys infusing a little of Chile into the quintessential American pub menu.
Chef William Kovel
Chef Kovel is chef/owner of Catalyst Restaurant and Catalyst Cafe in Cambridge, Mass.
Catalyst Restaurant opened in 2011 with the goal of creating a restaurant that is about what the guest wants, an approach shaped by his experience working for master chefs, a Michelin-star restaurant and a five-star hotel. Catalyst Cafe follows in its sister restaurant’s footsteps, offering excellent cuisine and service in a European cafe atmosphere. Catalyst cafe serves breakfast and lunch, as well as catering services.
Chef Kovel marks his growth as a chef and restaurateur through his time at Jardinière under Chef Traci Des Jardins in San Francisco; running the kitchen as Michael Schlow’s sous chef at Radius in Boston; in London as Chef de Partie at Orrery; and as Chef de Cuisine of Aujourd-hui at Four Seasons Hotel Boston. The resulting culinary style focuses on a commitment to the freshest local ingredients, an unforgiving level of attention to proper French technique and an hotelier’s approach when it comes to guest satisfaction.
During his tenure at the Four Seasons, Kovel was recognized by Boston Magazine as one of a talented group of “Boston’s Best Young Chefs;” was honored by Chaine des Rotisseurs and achieved the AAA Five Diamond Award.
Since opening Catalyst, Kovel studied and passed the first two levels of the Court of Master Sommelier exams, making him the only Boston area chef with a sommelier designation.
A native of West Hartford, Connecticut, Kovel received his degree in Culinary and Hospitality Studies at Southern New Hampshire University. Kovel lives in Milton with his wife Sara, daughter Grace and sons Owen & Everett. Outside of the kitchen, Kovel can be found reading, traveling and most importantly, fishing.
Chef Karen Mitchell
Karen Mitchell is a Chef who has been in the restaurant/hospitality industry for more than 20 years. She has headed some of the best restaurants in Boston, as well as in the Mid Atlantic and New York Metropolitan area.
After working for Legal Sea Foods for 10 years, Karen became Executive Chef of The Palm Steakhouse in January 2013. During this time, Karen was on Phantom Gourmet, What’s Cooking with Sarah French, Chronicle, and Food Network’s “Chopped!” and Grillmasters in Napa, CA. She also did radio, live demos, and had numerous magazine/newspaper features! After leaving The Palm, Karen worked for a bakery concept to expand her knowledge in the culinary field. Karen wanted to get back to her seafood roots and became the Executive Chef at Sea Level Oyster Bar in Salem, MA until May 2018.
After all her restaurant years, Karen decided to start something very different for the culinary world as a personal chef service for REGULAR people. Since June, Karen has been cooking in private homes to bring restaurant quality meals to busy families on the go. Shore Can! Chef Services provides “In Home Meal Prep” to jump start dinnertime for her clients. The motto of her company is “Take Back Your Dinner Table” and she boasts that her clients will have no more “meal stress!”
Karen uses her culinary expertise and hospitality experience to provide her clients with an exceptional experience where these very busy people get to have home cooked meals every night with their families. As a mother herself, Karen understands how challenging a dinner routine can be! She has taken her professional kitchen experience on the road and now accommodates families on the North Shore with memorable, healthy and stress free dinnertime!
Karen lives with her 9 year old daughter Haley in Beverly, MA.
Chef Ashley Rokjer
Chef Ashley Rokjer has been living and working in Boston as the Sous Chef for The Palm for the past five years. The culture shock from moving from upstate New York where the mountains are endless to downtown Boston where new buildings go up every day has not yet settled; but this small town chef embraces and welcomes the culinary opportunities Boston has to offer with open arms. In Rokjer’s role at the Boston steakhouse, she seeks to prepare each meal in a way that preserves the integrity of the individual ingredients. She hopes to use the knowledge and experience she gains now to ultimately open her own sustainable restaurant, one that will be entirely supported by local produce and aquaponic farming.
A casual American fare restaurant & bar, with a comfortably warm, inviting atmosphere and attentive, friendly staff located in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Newton.
Chef Ali Waks
A native New Yorker, Ali fell in love with Maine on her first visit, and since moving to there in 2014, after 15 years in Philadelphia, where she was a fixture in the restaurant business, she has immersed herself in the local Maine food scene, reveling in its quality and abundance.
At the Brunswick Inn Ali creates and executes menus for a multitude of special events from weddings to graduation dinners, baby showers to celebrations of life. In 2016 she spearheaded the popular Tuesday Nights Plat Du Jour Dinners, a 3 course fixed price weekly food event, at The Brunswick Inn, which is open to the public and features an ever changing menu of local, seasonal foods.
She is the Producer and Chef/Partner of Butter+Salt Pop Up along with food writer/chef Christine Burns Rudalevige. She can also be found behind the stove at The Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, creating collaborative music dinners with The Arbitare Project, a classical music duo, Maine seafood dinners with The Maine Fisherman’s Association, as well as a few select events, such as their upcoming BIG NIGHT dinner, recreating the dinner from the beloved movie.
Ali has appeared on The 207 Show, WMPG Radio Food Stories, and Good Day Philadelphia. Her recipes have been featured in Food52, The Jewish Exponent, The Forward, self.com, The Portland Press Herald, The Bangor Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and she’s been featured in The Portland Phoenix, The Times Record, Meal Ticket, Cooking Channel TV.com, Philadelphia Magazine, Maine Women Magazine, and AAA New England Magazine.
She lives in Brunswick with her husband, 2 cats and 2 birds and has recently become a member of the New England Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier.
Ali was recently part of our Taste of Maine and we’re thrilled to have her join us in Boston for this year’s event.
Chef Steve Zimei
Chef Steve Zimei brings over twenty years of experience in top kitchens in Massachusetts and a lifelong passion for culinary excellence to his role at CHOPPS American Bar and Grill. Alongside his longtime mentor and CHOPPS consulting chef Daniel Bruce, Zimei marries his zest for working with local and sustainable farms with creative and comforting regional specialties to introduce a new interpretation of the modern American steakhouse at CHOPPS American Bar and Grill.
A Massachusetts native, Zimei graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in culinary arts and began his career immediately thereafter under the direction of chef Daniel Bruce at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Beginning as an intern, Zimei worked and trained under chef Bruce for five years, ultimately earning the role of sous chef at the iconic property’s Rowes Wharf Sea Grille. Eager to broaden his horizons and grow, Zimei joined the opening teams for various independent restaurants in Boston, including Aquitaine, Harvard Square’s Harvest, and the esteemed XV Beacon Hotel for which he earned Bertolli Olive Oil’s award for Top Ten Sous Chefs in the U.S. before being promoted to executive chef. Zimei has continued to hone his craft as executive chef in well-respected establishments in the Boston area, including Gallia, Hotel MIT, The Worcester Restaurant Group (Via Italian Table, The Sole Proprietor, and One Eleven Chop House), the Papa Razzi Group, and most recently Trails End Café in Concord where he oversaw the expansion for the restaurant into a successful dinner and catering operation.
Zimei lives by the mantra “Work Hard, Play Hard” and is excited to lead the tight-knit and talented culinary team at CHOPPS. Alongside his mentor, chef Daniel Bruce, Zimei introduces new flavors to rejuvenate the American chophouse, leveraging relationships with local farmers to offer guests a unique farm-to-table experience where quality and sustainability remain a top priority.
Outside of the kitchen you can find Zimei, an avid runner and cyclist, racing for the local cycling team Optimum Performance and serving his community through various charitable organizations. Zimei currently resides in Leominster with his wife and three young sons.
Chef Josh Ziskin
Josh Ziskin has earned a well-deserved reputation in Greater Boston for his authentic Northern Italian cuisine, which he’s served for over fourteen years at La Morra in Brookline. Josh, and his wife Jen, spent 6 months in the Piedmont region of Italy where Josh cooked at the highly regarded Ristorante Belvedere, and together they studied the food and wine of Northern Italy. In 2003, they opened Ristorante La Morra, naming it after the picturesque hilltop town where they had lived in Barolo country. It quickly became a local favorite, and a destination for lovers of authentic Italian cuisine.
Josh and Jen recently expanded by opening Heritage of Sherborn, serving new American Cuisine in a beloved historic location. Before branching out on his own, Josh worked as Chef de Cuisine at The Tuscan Grill in Waltham. Josh is a long-time resident of Brookline, where his family owned a frame store for more than 30 years just blocks away from La Morra’s present location. Celebrating 14 years of exceptional service and cuisine, La Morra has been fortunate to receive rave reviews from the food critics of Boston.
In 2015, La Morra was voted Best Italian Restaurant in Boston by Boston Magazine and in 2016, La Morra was voted Best Italian Restaurant in Boston by The Improper Bostonian. In 2011 and 2012, La Morra was voted one of Boston’s Best 50 Restaurants by Boston Magazine. In 2008, La Morra was honored by Boston magazine as one of the ‘Best Places to Dine’ in Boston. Additionally, in 2005, La Morra was honored with Best Neighborhood Restaurant Brookline in Boston Magazine.