Who’s in the kitchen?
These are the culinary masters that find unique and scrumptious ways to showcase the remarkable fish that inhabit our coastal waters and create a culinary experience anchored in and inspired by our magnificent Bay. They value provenance, freshness, quality, flavor, and most of all, connection to a community of producers, especially local fishermen, and are willing to put in the extra effort to procure and cultivate those relationships. You’ll taste the difference!
Chef Brad Briske
Bradford Briske is the chef/owner of HOME in Soquel. As the chef/owner he sources the freshest, most local and nearly always organic ingredients that are then transformed into handmade California cuisine. While he has been creating unique cuisine for years, HOME is Bradford's first endeavor where his culinary creativity is fully expressed in a distinctive 'outside of the box' dining experience.
A few months after opening, HOME was voted best new restaurant in Santa Cruz and has been featured in The Edible Monterey Bay, The San Francisco Chronicle and various other Santa Cruz publications. Previously Bradford was Executive Chef for La Balena and Il Grillo in Carmel-by-the-Sea where he had received much acclaim, including a "Local Hero Award for Best Chef/Restaurant", "Best Restaurant in Carmel" and "Best Italian Restaurant". Prior to La Balena, Brad worked at Millennium in San Francisco and Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz after graduating from the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan in 2005.
Chef Diane Sturla
Diane fell in love with cooking 10 years old when she and her best friend attempted to make peanut butter cookies to earn their cooking badges for Girl Scouts. After their first batch tasted awful, as all wise cooks do, they turned to mom for help. She dutifully guided them through the recipe and helped correct their botched batter. As an adult, she moved her family to Northern Michigan where she was taught how to cook incredible, homey, comfort food on an antique cast iron wood burning stove and developed an understanding of how the conditions of the environment where food originates, how it was raised, and when it was harvested impacts the final flavor.
After retiring early from a corporate job as a Marketing Director, she turned her passion for cooking and event planning into a catering business, Just In Thyme, with her son (an accomplished chef who worked in restaurants in Carmel, San Francisco, and Napa). After receiving the Gilroy Dispatch’s “Best of Award” in catering for 3 years in a row and the Morgan Hill Times “Best of Award” in catering it was time to open a restaurant. Enter Café Thyme.
Café Thyme fuses what excites its customer’s palettes with what is fresh and local in California resulting in a menu that is unique and representative of people and place. To understand what’s tasting best, Diane shops at the Farmer’s Markets as often as she can and speaks with those food producers resulting in a menu that is never static. It is intentionally designed to highlight the flavors and quality ingredients as they shift from season to season.
Chef Jesus Becerril
Cooking locally since 1989, Jesus has filleted more fish than just about anybody on the Santa Cruz Wharf. Specializing in grilling fresh fish over mesquite charcoal he fears nothing except frozen fish. His favorite saying is, "If it ain't fresh I ain't cooking it!"
Chef Gema Cruz
When she was 17, Cruz’s family left Mexico for California. Cruz paid close attention to her mother and grandmother as they prepared the family’s meals in their simple home. She saw how hard these women worked, starting early in the day, cooking and cleaning up until late at night. Shortly after her arrival here, she and her mother began preparing lunches-togo for fieldworkers. Word about her food spread quickly and she began getting requests for holiday dinners and school functions.
Cruz began as a dishwasher at Gabriella Café. Yet, once owner Paul Cocking took her up on her offer to cook, she became the chef. And not just any chef, “the best chef I’ve ever had,” he says. Today, Cruz expertly fills an esteemed post previously held by such local legends as Jim Denevan, Sean Baker and Brad Briske.
What Cruz brings to Gabriella Café is a family and cultural tradition of feeding and caring for people that she blends with a creative approach to food and the the work has passion intrinsic to it—a dedication to pleasing people through food. Cruz’s children sometimes ask her why she works so much. Her reply is consistent, “Mija, I’m working because I like it and because I want a better life for you. I don’t have time for tired, and once I’m cooking, I’m not tired anymore; I’m transformed. My kitchen is a sacred place.”
Chef Matt Beaudin
After earning his associate degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America, Matthew Beaudin fiercely pursued his passion for cooking by working across the globe, holding chef positions in the Caribbean, China, Rwanda and the West Indies, as well as each geographical food region within the United States. Matthew has run kitchens at jungle base camps, on private islands and at restaurants perched 10,000 feet up the side of a volcano. He began his commitment to sustainability and culinary education during his work in the village of Musanze in Rwanda. He continues to maintain strong ties with the community through his School for the Arts (The Volcano Arts Studio).
Influenced by his travels, Matthew honed his techniques and expertise back home in the United States at such prestigious five-star, five-diamond properties as the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire; The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. His experiences have enabled him to acquire a well-rounded palate, mixing his global travels with modern American cuisine deeply rooted in farm-to-table principles and the ever-increasing importance of food with a future.
In addition to the daily demands of his position as executive chef at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Matthew finds joy and fulfillment in travelling to Mexico where he has the privilege of working with children at local orphanages, such as Casa Eunime, as well as the School for the Deaf. He is also currently working with municipal operations to improve the nutritional opportunities and quality of life for these children.
Chef Chris Moreno
Chef Chris has been working in restaurants since he was 15 and fell in love with the business. He started in front of house and gradually picked up an urge to work in the kitchen. He honed his skills on the wharf for a couple years before opening Lillian’s Italian Kitchen with his family. He learned everything about cooking from his grandma (Lillian) and cook books.
Chef Anthony Guajardo
Chef Anthony Guajardo's passion for cooking developed from being in his Mexican and Italian Grandmother's kitchens growing up. He later pursued his dream by training at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA. Eager to combine his authentic family recipes with a modern culinary twist, he opened Mijo's to create a menu full of bold and unique flavors and has transformed your average taqueria.
Chef Cori Goudge-Ayer
Chef Cori got her culinary career started at our own Cabrillo College Culinary program right here in Aptos. From Cabrillo she went on to attend the San Francisco CCA (California Culinary Academy). After Graduation she worked in a number of restaurants around the bay area acquiring different skills under many talented Chefs including Michelin starred Chef Suzette Gresham of Acquerello. Her experiences throughout her career included learning how to cook in a variety of different cuisines including Italian, French, and Iranian/ Middle Eastern which all show in her food today.
All of this eventually led to her working her way up to being an executive Chef, moving from place to place, and eventually coming back home to Santa Cruz where she served as Executive Chef at Laili in downtown Santa Cruz. Although Cori loved being a Chef she longed for the opportunity to have full creative control, to create a concept all her own, and serve food that truly represents who she is and what she believes. On top of that her dream was to be able to do that in here in her home, to bring her food to her community, and highlight the bounty that exists here. In 2016 her family came together and decided to make that dream a reality and hence Persephone was born!
Chef Tom McNary
Tom McNary used to sneak into a local restaurant as a kid. Seriously. Chef of Soif Restaurant and Wine Bar in Santa Cruz, he has fond memories growing up in Berkeley in the 1970s – especially those nights in the restaurant. “My friend’s mom worked there and we would grab the key and unlock the doors late night to explore the bowls of chocolate mousse, ducks and produce in the kitchen fridge. I didn’t know it at the time but that restaurant was Chez Panisse,” says McNary. After completing his studies at cooking school, his mischief and fascination with restaurants as a child came full circle and McNary began his cooking career at Chez Panisse.
In 1989, he left the Bay Area and headed towards the ocean, launching his own catering company and cafe called Carried Away in Aptos. This operation was a mainstay with locals and visitors alike, serving seasonally prepared foods to a loyal clientele in the small cafe while also executing experiences off-site for special events. In 2018, McNary decided to return to the kitchen, taking on the executive chef role at Soif Restaurant and Wine Bar in downtown Santa Cruz. Having known owner Patrice Boyle for many years they sought out to “create an experience that is approachable and high in quality for our friends, family, visitors and even our staff. As someone who has spent the last several decades in the area, I value everything this special part of California has to offer and truly look to what is in season and what is close by to make the menu you see each time you visit.”
A resident of Aptos, just miles from Santa Cruz, McNary has always supported the local community, working with area farmers, foragers, and producers to source ingredients. He is a regular of the Santa Cruz farmers’ markets – which serve as not only inspiration for his menu but an opportunity for McNary to catch up with the colleagues he has worked with for nearly 30 years.
Chef Peter Henry
Prior to becoming executive chef at the Cremer House in 2017, Chef Peter worked as executive chef at Michael’s on Main in Soquel and has also worked locally at Café Rio in Aptos, Pajaro Street Bar & Grill in Salinas and at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In fact, it was the former head chef at the aquarium, David Anderson, who encouraged him to attend Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in San Francisco.
Chef John-Paul Lechtenberg
It is probably safe to assume that not many twelve year olds sit around pondering farm-to-table cuisine. But for John Paul Lechtenberg, Executive Chef at Hollins House in Santa Cruz, that’s when his first lightbulb food moment happened. He was on a train trip through Canada and ended up eating at a restaurant that had a hydroponic garden. That meal drew a connection for him, linking the farm and the dinner table. That was in 1996 and he’s been connecting the dots ever since.
Like many chefs, JP got his start not at the stove but at the sink, working at the Cadillac Cafe in Watsonville as a dishwasher. But his early field-to-fork ‘aha’ moment as a teenager, working for Yerena Farms out of Moss Landing selling berries at Bay Area farmers’ markets. It was there–amid the hustle and bustle of San Francisco’s Ferry Building market–that JP met up-and-coming chefs that were using those berries in interesting ways.
Aside from the formal culinary education he had, his time in the city opened up many more opportunities to learn. He worked at Hayes Street Grill, Aqua and Spruce, and helped open Archipelago–a high end Filipino and French fusion restaurant in Burlingame with a chef de cuisine from the French Laundry. It was there that JP had first-hand experience watching a restaurant fail.
JP returned home to Santa Cruz in 2009 and worked at Au Midi under Chef Muriel Loubiere in Aptos. After that, a brief stint at Bittersweet Bistro, gave him a good look at a high volume kitchen, doing 300-400 covers every night. But then he was given an opportunity he couldn’t refuse at the Hollins House. He asked the general manager if he could have the head job and so, at age 24, with an already storied career under his belt, JP became executive chef. Under his watch, the restaurant underwent a complete overhaul and started making everything in house, including butter, crackers, bread, sauces and ice cream.And most importantly, whatever they outsource is from local farmers and fishermen.
Chef Sebastian Manjon Cubero
Sebastian was born in Costa Rica where he was immersed into a culture with a deep respect and connection with nature, agriculture and sustainable farming through coffee, cacao and tropical fruits. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy and worked as a traveling chef for 10 years before starting ViDA Juice Inc.. Now Sebastian has partnered with Jason Morgan to bring Santa Cruz a taste of the Americas.
Chef Jonathan Parvis
Chef JP is a local chef, trained at Aubergine, former Chef @ Lionfish/Ulterior, art bar, and La Posta. He has worked with Ocean2Table for many years and loves that they only work with local fishermen. So happy to see sustainable fish on the menu in Santa Cruz!
Chef Jonathan Glass
Jonathan Glass has been working as a chef for over 25 years in Santa Cruz county. He shares his passion now at Avanti, and is committed to the local food culture. Serving organic vegetables, sustainable seafood, pasture-raised meats and poultry, organic milk, butter and eggs, locally roasted coffee and house-made desserts in a newly remodeled space.
Chef Damani Thomas
Damani Thomas brings elegant comfort food with a German twist to the fashionable, hip and popular Oswald in downtown Santa Cruz. As a native of Oakland, Thomas found his way to Santa Cruz over 15 years ago to become chef at Oswald. After a hiatus and a reopening of the restaurant, Thomas is now co-owner and Executive Chef cooking up delicious unique entrées. You'll probably find him most Wednesdays at the Santa Cruz Farmers Market shopping for the freshest ingredients for his menus.