Mark Henegan came into the world smiling in 1968 in a small town called Benoni near Johannesburg, South Africa, and spent his teenage years in KwaZulu Natal in the city of Durban. Growing up during and after apartheid bred a man of conviction, strength, and compassion with above all a deep love for all humanity. These traits are closely modeled on those of his grandfather Fred Conradie, who, along with Nelson Mandela, is one of his most significant role models.
Amidst dreams of being a fireman, veterinarian or a pianist, Henegan began busing tables at his father’s coffee shop at the age of 12. He graduated from high school and then passed the equivalent of a two year Hotel Management course. At the tender age of 20, Henegan was the youngest pianist to ever be awarded a long term contract by the international hotel group Southern Suns.
Henegan arrived in the United States in 1987 and commenced his hands-on education at top New York City restaurants including Bayard and IL Buco.
He then spent ten years traveling across the US, Europe and Central America and joined up with his partner for life Jenny Kennard, adopted their dog Fender, married in 1997, and in 1998 saw the birth of their son Skyler.
In 1999 Mark and Jenny Henegan, starting from humble beginnings, opened Madiba, the first South African Restaurant in NYC established in Fort Greene (Brooklyn). Madiba pays homage to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and through the eclectic cuisine, authentic music, arts & crafts and highly successful catering business they celebrate by preserving the culture and vitality of a unique South African experience. They have since then made Madiba Restaurant a destination winning “One of the ten best restaurants in America” by Gourmet magazine, with a clientele ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu , Disney’s animal Kingdom Lodge, the U. N, The South African Consulate and Tourism, just to name a few.
In 2002 their second son Troy was born, and in September 2005, the Henegans expanded their restaurant empire with the opening of Madiba Miami in the South Beach and successfully sold this as their first franchise in 2007.
In 2007 the Henegans moved to Asheville, adopted their two new pups Kola and Rudi, and from their home in Kenilworth, began The Asheville Public - Gastro diner as the new chapter in their lives.
***Madiba was named a "Critic Pick" and one of the best places to eat in NYC by Time Out Magazine
***Named one of the 50 Best American Restaurants by Gourmet Magazine
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.
***Top chef that has worked side-by-side with Marcus Samuelsson, Wolfgang Puck, and Terrance Brennan
Chef Matt Bernero brings his interpretation of sustainable, seasonal fare to Rose Water Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn drawing on a global palate of flavors and influences he’s encountered throughout his culinary career.
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.
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.
Chef Swanston grew up in St. Louis, MO, where Gooey Butter Cake originated. Years after moving away from his stomping grounds, he realized how much he missed that distinctive cake, and he immediately called his mother for the recipe. Of course, the recipe he received was the way everyone makes Gooey Butter Cake in St. Louis, with boxed cake mix, margarine, and cream cheese. Chef Swanston has thought for years how much New York would love this cake, and how a from-scratch version, made from farm-fresh goods would make it the best it's ever been. After many trial tastes, Chef Swanston finally found perfection. His Gooey Butter Cake is made from only the best stuff available, and he feels crazy good about that. When Chef Swanston is not making cakes, he is an artist & actor crafting characters for the stage and functional art from salvaged materials for apartments and artsy folks in need. He also enjoys living life a bit on the wild side and seeing where it takes him. That adventurous spirit is what embodies all of his work, from canvas to cakes. You’ll find him at Smorgasburg on the weekends at the Gooey&Co. tent. For more information about Gooey&Co visit www.gooeyandco.com and for more information about Chef Swanston and his creative side visit www.mattswanston.com.
***Martha Stewart American Made Finalist
Born in New York City and raised in Montclair, New Jersey, Lissadell Cohen-Serrins is the executive chef of Dizengoff NYC, the third outpost of James Beard Award winning restaurateurs, Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s Israeli-style hummusiya.
Chef Cohen-Serrins knew she wanted to cook professionally after time spent living in Israel, walking to the famed Carmel Market in Tel Aviv nearly twice a day. She became obsessed with the way each Market vendor adapted the simplest recipes to reflect their individual culture, floored by the things Israelis were doing with the simplest, freshest vegetables. It was these experiences that brought her back to New York to enroll in the French Culinary Institute.
Her first job in a professional kitchen was at City Grit with Chef Sarah Simmons at the helm, which was where she first cooked with Chef Solomonov during his pop-up at the restaurant. After two years, Chef Cohen-Serrins transitioned to Pig and Khao, which The New York Times rewarded two-stars for its Filipino-Thai-accented SE Asian fare. In May of 2016, Chef Cohen-Serrins helped open Dizengoff NYC and has continued to develop the restaurant in order to bring traditional Israeli street food to Chelsea Market. In July 2017 she was a member of team USA in the Maccabi Games in Tel Aviv.