The Chefs


The Chefs


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Located in the heart of Harlem, Red Rooster serves comfort food celebrating the roots of American cuisine and the diverse culinary traditions of the neighborhood. Named in honor of the legendary Harlem speakeasy that attracted neighborhood folk, jazz greats, authors, politicians and some of the most noteworthy figures of the 20th century such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Nat King Cole and James Baldwin. 

With a focus on the Harlem community, co-Creators Andrew Chapman and Marcus Samuelsson opened Red Rooster Harlem with the aim of having a positive impact on the neighborhood’s culinary landscape and its community at-large. 



Chef Matt Bernero is the Chef de Cuisine at Michelin Star Rated, Minetta Tavern. Billed as "Parisian steakhouse meets classic New York City tavern", Minetta Tavern is a staple of New York City's culinary landscape.

Previously, he was the Chef de Cuisine at Rose Water Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Battersby in Brooklyn, Matt worked under Chefs Walker Stern and Joe Ogrodenk. Prior to Battersby, he cut his teeth in New York in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud and was part of the opening team at Daniel’s Mediterranean restaurant Boulud Sud.   Matt has also served as the Executive Sous Chef of the Member’s Dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as the Chef de Cusine of The Ryland Inn, in his home state of New Jersey.



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Chef Eric Simeon began his culinary career in the Bay Area, working at various culinary hot spots including Wolfgang Puck's Postrio. From San Francisco he moved to Maui where he was inspired by the Asian influenced island cuisine and cooked for well-known restaurants such as Roy’s and The Kapalua Bay Hotel.

In 2000, Eric moved to New York and began cooking at Terrance Brennan’s Picholine, where he became Executive Sous Chef. In 2003, Eric then moved over to the well-known modern Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit. Through his cooking tenure, Eric has participated in various projects with Marcus Samuelsson’s Townhouse Restaurant Group, including AQ Kafe in New York and Washington Square in Philadelphia. He served as Executive Chef of Grace restaurant as well as the award-winning E&E Grillhouse.  He is now the Executive Chef of the Executive Dining Room at Citigroup.

Eric’s cooking is not only inspired by the vast cultures of the Islands, Bay and Apple, but also from the Creole and Mexican dishes of his family that he was raised on.


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Chef Cheikh and his cousin Chef Cisse moved to the United States in 1995 from Senegal. Together, they are the Owners and Executive Chefs of Ponty Bistro & Renaissance Harlem where they serve delicious Pan African-Franco fusion dishes sprinkled with Mediterranean influences. Throughout his 18 year career, Chef Cheikh has been privileged to work with top chefs at Michelin-star restaurants such as Daniel by Daniel Boloud. Cheikh and Cisse's first Ponty Bistro was opened in Gramercy in 2008, with a second location in Harlem following in 2014. Last year they opened their third restaurant together, Renaissance Harlem. Their restaurants bring their African culture and influence to the Harlem community. 

The Chef’s have been featured on ABC News with Harlem Eat-up, and have done celebrity appearances demonstrating their amazing cooking abilities at a variety of events and galas. Last summer at the start of Harlem Week 2017, Ponty Bistro were featured in the NY Daily News under ‘Good Eats’. Chef Cisse and Chef Cheikh’s mushroom risotto balls were a featured appetizer at the 2017 kickoff Harlem Week event at the Mayor’s house, Gracie Mansion. In Spring 2018, Ponty Bistro & Renaissance Harlem were featured in numerous American Express Social Media Campaigns. In May 2018, Renaissance Harlem was featured at Marcus Samuelson’s Harlem EatUP festival and sponsored by CitiBank as Citi’s Restaurant Spotlight.


Rhonda has worked for and with some of New York’s best bakeries and high profile chefs; from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se to Amy’s Bread, Daniel Boulud and Marcus Samuelsson, where she first got her interest in Scandinavian bread making

Rhonda used to work as a chemist and holds a degree in Biological Chemistry from Bates College, as well as diplomas in both Bread Baking and Culinary Arts from the International Culinary Center, where she has also been a bread instructor, and most recently the recipient of the ICC 2017 Outstanding Alumni award for excellence in bread making.

Rhonda takes great pride in perfecting her rye bread, so it tastes like that of a Danish grandmother, and when not baking, she loves to travel the world.



P.S. Kitchen is a chic and tasty restaurant with a charitable twist. Based in Manhattan, P.S. Kitchen is a social enterprise restaurant that donates 100% of its net profits to fund sustainable justice work and creates jobs for people in need of a second chance. Some of the organizations PS Kitchen partners with include Restore NYC (an NYC-based nonprofit working to rescue and restore victims of trafficking) and ShareHope (a Haiti-based nonprofit that serves workers in the garment sector—mainly women—and provides services to improve their lives, such as free breast/cervical cancer screenings, health education projects called “HERhealth,” and much more). Outside of financial support, P.S. Kitchen also offers practical support to other high-impact organizations in New York City, such as Defy Ventures and the Osborne Association, by adding their clients to the PS Kitchen team. And oh, P.S., we're 100% plant based, which lets us impact the environment while impacting society too.



Purslane is a Brooklyn-based, full-service events and catering company brought to you by the team behind RucolaJuneand Mettain partnership with the Gowanus Hospitality Group. Their cuisine is ingredient-driven, with a slow food ethos and a vegetable focused menu. Purslane believes in sourcing locally and humanely, and reducing food waste with an eye toward a zero-waste policy. Their primary mission is to provide food that is delicious, sustainable, and beautifully executed.

Chef Lewis started his culinary journey participating in an intensive training program at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, later graduating from the International Culinary Center in NYC, formerly The French Culinary Institute.

Chef Lewis has worked with notable chefs such as Brad Farmerie at Public, Cesar Ramirez at Bar Blanc, and Nick Anderer at Maialino. Appealing to his sense of seasonality and focus on quality of ingredients, he is right at home serving his brand of market-driven cuisine in Gowanus, Brooklyn with Purslane. Chef Lewis is influenced by many cultures, including his West Indian heritage. His food exhibits his passion for discovering new flavors and ingredients while showcasing food cultures from around the world.



Michael Laiskonis was named Creative Director of New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education in 2012. Previously Executive Pastry Chef Le Bernardin for eight years, his pastry philosophy manifests itself in a style of desserts that balance art and science, and contemporary ideas with classic fundamentals. Awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation, his work helped the restaurant maintain three stars from the esteemed Michelin Guide and four stars from the New York Times. During his five-year tenure as Pastry Chef at Tribute in Detroit, Pastry Art and Design twice named him one of the “10 Best Pastry Chefs in America”. He was named Bon Appétit’s 2004 Pastry Chef of the Year and Starchefs.com declared him a Rising Star in 2006. In 2014, the International Association of Culinary Professionals tapped Laiskonis as its ‘Culinary Professional of the Year’. Autumn of 2018 will see the launch of Récolte Dessert Bar on New York’s Upper West Side, an exciting partnership that will bring his plated desserts back to the city’s dessert scene.



Zinyusile Khumbula (Zi) was born in Zimbabwe and spent some of  his childhood in South Africa.  He moved to the United States in September 2009 and has been connected to Graham Windham as a foster child since the age of 17.  He has taken an active role in improving foster care for other young people as a member of Graham Windham’s Youth Council.  

 Zi discovered his passion for cooking and food at a very young age.  With the help of the Careers through Culinary Arts program (C-CAP), Zi was able to enroll in the Hospitality Management Program at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).  Throughout his education, he began to curate meals that became uniquely memorable culturally driven experiences that reflect not only his expertise in the kitchen, but also the flavors, textures, colors and beauty of  Africa.

 “My dream is to continue building on the work Nelson Mandela started in South Africa and spread it all over the world,” he says.  “ A united rainbow nation.”  A resident of Harlem, Zi’s daily inspiration is the mission of sharing Ubuntu (humanity to others) through food and fun!

With his taco stand and catering company, Zi aims to create unique dining experiences that become a comfortable space allowing people from all walks of life to come together and share their backgrounds, humor, cultures and life experiences.  

“We host intimate moments that drive people to talk and get to know each other while breaking bread,“ he says.  “Our catering niche is African Fusion Cuisine.  We specialize in cooking traditional and authentic dishes that incorporate ingredients and techniques from other cultures.  Think tacos, shrimp & grits, street sandwiches and chicken and waffles with an African flare.”


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The Baking Bean is a Brooklyn, NY based oven-to-door bakery that specializes in all natural desserts and confections.  Focusing on seasonality and using only the highest quality ingredients from around the world, Chef Clarice Lam AKA the Bean provides one-of-a-kind pastries and desserts for events, weddings, parties, and meetings, as well as special orders for delivery within the five boroughs of New York City. Some desserts can be shipped nationwide. 

For Clarice Lam, depth of essence and beauty of form are actively aligned. As a working model from the age of 16, she did assignments in the fashion capitals of LA, New York, Paris and London. But simply walking the runway and posing for photoshoots were not enough. Using her international access to the world’s hotspots as a stepping stone, she pursued a classic culinary education at the finest schools, including Le Cordon Bleu in Italy and The French Culinary Institute in New York. As a graduate of both Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market, she knows the relentless pace of premier kitchens that demand nothing less than consistent perfection. Tested and honed in New York’s best kitchens under the most talented and demanding chefs, she emerged to lead the Chocolate Room, Brooklyn’s famed dessert restaurant that boasted one of Zagat’s highest ratings (28) during her tenure. As The Baking Bean, Clarice has been featured in The New York Times, Oprah, The New York Daily News, South China Morning Post, and Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay to name a few.