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The Chefs


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The Chefs


ERIC SIMEON, EXECUTIVE DINING HALL AT CITIGROUP

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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.

RHONDA CROSSON, MEYERS USA

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.

MICHAEL LAISKONIS, NYC INSTITUTE OF CULINARY EDUCATION

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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’. He recently launched Récolte Dessert Bar on New York’s Upper West Side, an exciting partnership that brings his plated desserts back to the city’s dessert scene.

PIERRE THIAM, TERANGA

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Pierre Thiam is a celebrated chef, restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author, and entrepreneur. Born and raised in Senegal, he is known for his innovative cooking style, at once modern and eclectic yet rooted in the rich culinary traditions of West Africa. His critically acclaimed new restaurant Teranga, located in Harlem, NY, introduces healthy fast casual fare directly sourced from farmers in West Africa. He is the founder of Yolélé Foods, which distributes African food products across the USA, introducing such ingredients like Fonio, a resilient and nutritious ancient grain from the Sahel region of West Africa. Pierre is the author of three cookbooks including his latest, The Fonio Cookbook, released in October 2019. He has won numerous awards and accolades for his cooking and advocacy. He is on the board of directors for two global nonprofits, IDEO.org and SOS Sahel.

MATT AITA, LITTLE BEET TABLE

Chef Matt Aita joined the Little Beet Table team in New York City in the winter of 2018. Chef Aita previously worked in acclaimed kitchens nationwide, including the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, and Rouge Tomate, Daniel, and Jean Georges in New York City. 

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Chef Aita approaches cooking with a philosophy that food should fuel our bodies, souls, and minds without eschewing flavor or the feeling you get after eating a truly great meal. Chef Aita brings his experience from some of New York City’s most celebrated kitchens to Little Beet Table where he experiments with produce, proteins, and flavors in a 100% gluten-free kitchen.

Chef Aita works closely with the Chefs de Cuisine in the New York City, Greenwich, CT, Chicago, IL and Chevy Chase, MD locations to create menus that offer a sense of place and stick close to Little Beet Table’s roots.

GEOFFREY KORNBERG, THE LITTLE BEET

Geoffrey Kornberg is the Executive Chef at The Little Beet. Geoff brings 16-plus years of experience to The Little Beet kitchen with a background in numerous cuisines that support local and sustainable ingredients. Following his grandfather’s culinary career, Geoff attended French Culinary Institute (renamed the International Culinary Center) and graduated in 2002.

Prior to joining The Little Beet team, Geoff held a series of posts at some of New York City’s finest dining institutions like Todd English’s Olives restaurant at the W Hotel in Union Square; the celebrated, but now defunct, Café Gray in the Time Warner Center from acclaimed chef Gray Kunz; Abe & Arthur’s, a popular Meatpacking District restaurant from nightlife impresarios the EMM Group; Almond Restaurant and the Executive Chef at Sadelle’s.

Geoff is now excelling at the next step in his career as the Executive Chef of The Little Beet as he continues to draw inspiration from global adventures and local ingredients.

TREVOR KUNK, THE LITTLE BEET

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Trevor began his career as a dishwasher at First Watch in Sarasota, Florida. In early 2001, Trevor moved to New York to attend the Culinary Institute of America.  After finishing school, he stopped first at Aureole followed by 10 years at Blue Hill in the West Village of Manhattan. The long winters led Trevor & family to the Napa Valley where he served as Executive Chef & Culinary Director at Press Restaurant and Oakville Grocery. Trevor and family returned to Brooklyn and stopped first at the Breslin. Trevor is now the Director of Culinary Innovation at the Little Beet. The Little Beet promotes healthier eating & overall wellness through a vegetable driven, gluten free menu.

ZINYUSILE KHUMBULA, TACO AFRICANA

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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.”

CLARICE LAM, THE BAKING BEAN

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After more than 10 years as an international model, Chef Clarice Lam stepped off the runway and into New York City’s best kitchens donning chef’s whites. 

Using her access to the world’s hotspots as a stepping-stone, she pursued her education at Le Cordon Bleu in Italy and The French Culinary Institute in New York. Her travels through food in fashion capitals like Paris, London, New York City, and Los Angeles inspire her baking to this day.

With experience at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market, she honed the skills to thrive in her second career. During her tenure as executive chef at The Chocolate Room, the Brooklyn dessert restaurant boasted one of Zagat’s highest ratings (28).

In 2012, Clarice launched The Baking Bean, an oven-to-door bakery specializing in all-natural desserts and confections based in Brooklyn, NY. After two years, the devoted yogi decided to go full-time with her growing online business.

Focusing on seasonality and using only the highest-quality ingredients from around the world, Chef Lam provides one-of-a-kind pastries and desserts, including Giant S’mores, Samoan Caramel Popcorn, Salted Caramel Rice Krispy Brownies, Strawberry Nutella Cookies, and much more. Great for events, weddings, parties, and meetings, her confections can be delivered within the five boroughs of NYC or shipped nationwide.

With original and pure flavor combinations that The New York Times calls “high-quality and handsome,” The Baking Bean can be found year-round in local pop-up markets and in various NYC restaurants, museums, and stores.