Our Chefs

We believe passionately in our teams and the creative minds of our acclaimed and Michelin-starred executive chefs

OLIVIER JEAN

Executive Chef at The Woodward

After more than 7 years in Taipei, Taiwan, Chef Olivier Jean has moved to The Woodrow hotel in Geneva. L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon will open its doors with the first Swiss address of the famous concept created by the most Michelin's starred Chef in the world.

Trained among the best, Chef Jean began his career in the kitchens of the celebrated Alain Ducasse, who we no longer introduction. It was in this context at Louis XV that the first meeting with his future mentor took place.

Upon his arrival to the family of Joël Robuchon, he was promoted to Sous-Chef at the restaurant of Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo. It was only 3 years later that Chef Jean shared his desire to go abroad to further develop his skills and and his points of view. At 27, Chef Jean became the youngest executive chef in the history of the Robuchon Corporation.

As a French chef in an Asian country, Le Chef Jean has found great success in adapting his native cuisine to the local palate while remaining faithful to the Robuchon brand and philosophy. However, in spring 2016, he was ready to take on a new challenge.

Originally from Valence, France, Olivier Jean always knew he wanted to become a Chef. It was not without rigor and hard work that the impossible suddently became possible. Winner of several culinary competitions and disciple of Michelin-starred restaurants, we are delighted to introduce you to his talents at The Woodrow Hotel.

SALVATORE MARTONE

Executive Pastry Chef

A longtime protégé of the legendary Joël Robuchon, Salvatore Martone is the Executive Pastry Chef, overseeing the dessert programs for the 10 restaurants of the group. he is behind the Michelin-star winning desserts served at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon** and Le Jardinier*, and leads creative efforts at our chocolatier Stettler-Castricher.

Prior to joining Invest Hospitality, Martone was the Executive Pastry Chef at the three Michelin starred Joël Robuchon Restaurant and the Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, a position for which he was initially recruited when it first opened in 2005, moving up the ranks from Executive Pastry Sous-chef to Executive Pastry Chef in 2010.

Prior to working in Las Vegas, Martone served as Pastry Chef at the two Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City. Renowned for his highly creative, whimsical, and delectable plates, Martone’s technical mastery allows him to combine aesthetics and flavor—resulting in desserts that are both visually stunning and delicious. He will often spend months conceptualizing and perfecting a dish, creating custom serviceware and new technique sin order to execute his vision.

A native of Naples, Italy, Martone began his education at the Hotelery School in Naples, Italy, and later attended Instituto Superiore Arti Culinarie in Venice. He came to the United States to pursue his passion for pastry-making and attended the French Pastry School: Art de La Patisserie in Chicago, Illinois, the only culinary school in the country dedicated exclusively to teaching pastry technique. Chef Martone has garnered numerous accolades over the course of his career. He received a James Beard Award nomination for Best Pastry Chef in 2015, was named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professionalin 2015, and won the 3rd Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition in 2012.

Renowned for his exquisite and visually striking pastry creations, Martone most recently created and opened Frohzen, an innovative ice cream shop. Frohzen offers unique treats, including our signature ice cream cupcakes, macaron ice cream sandwiches, and cakesicles.

JONATHAN BENNO

Chef/Partner

Considered one of the top chefs in the country, Jonathan Benno has spent over three decades honing his craft in some of the world’s finest restaurants, counting John Farnsworth, Michael Mina, Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, and Thomas Keller among his culinary mentors. Most recently, Benno spent six years at the helm of Lincoln Center’s Lincoln Ristorante, where he gained critical acclaim for his contemporary Italian Cuisine.

Growing up surrounded by farms in rural Connecticut, Benno developed a strong appreciation for food and agriculture from an early age. “My grandmother was the primary cook in the family. She was of Italian descent and taught me respect for ingredients—that they taste best when you pick them yourself. I vividly remember her eggplant parmigiana, especially in the summer when she used eggplant from our garden.”

After high school, Benno enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he completed an externship at the famed Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. He then worked at the Mayflower Inn and Spa in Washington, CT for the exacting Chef John Farnsworth. “My dad was a carpenter and like a young apprentice looks up to a master, John was a tremendous teacher. He encouraged me to work for great chefs and gave me the push to get out the door,” he recalls.

Upon graduating in 1993, Benno relocated to the Bay Area where he worked under Chef Michael Mina at Aqua, and later moved to Napa Valley to join Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. Chef Keller became an important influence in Benno’s life, helping to shape his philosophy about food and dining, and instilling in him the drive to settle for nothing less than excellence.

Benno then returned home to the East Coast where he gained experience at legendary Chef Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant Daniel in Manhattan; followed by a stretch at the three Michelin-starred Auberge du Vieux Puits in the South of France; and then back to New York as poissonier at Les Celebrites at the Essex House under Chef Christian Delouvrier. Benno then spent two years with Chef Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern, one of which was devoted entirely to pastry. From there, he helped open Craft with Marco Canora. Finally, when Chef Keller was preparing to open his East Coast flagship, Per Se, he recruited his former protégé to serve as Chef de Cuisine.

Benno spent six years at Per Se (2004-2009), overseeing all aspects of the kitchen, and working with Chef Keller to cultivate his distinctive brand of American cuisine and service. Under Benno, Per Se received top marks from the New York Times and three Michelin stars. During this time, Benno was named a StarChefs “Rising Star” (2005), and “Best New Chef” from Food & Wine magazine (2006).

In 2010 when he felt it was time to move on from Per Se, Benno knew he needed to do something completely different if he was going to stay in New York; Italian cuisine was a natural choice. “Since I was a kid I’ve always had a love affair with Italian food, and have traveled to Italy many times over the years.”

Benno went on to open Lincoln Ristorante at New York’s iconic Lincoln Center, where he spent six years as Executive Chef. During this time, he gained acclaim for his contemporary Italian cuisine, including earning a Michelin star, and receiving accolades from notable publications including Esquire, GQ, and the New York Times.

In 2018 the newly redesigned landmark The Evelyn hotel, located in New York’s vibrant NoMad neighborhood, became home to the next chapter in Chef Benno’s culinary epoch. He introduced three distinct, yet complementary concepts: Leonelli Taberna, a casual Roman-inspired trattoria; Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria, a bakery and café inspired by the great bakeries of Rome and New York’s rich history of Italian-American pastry shops; and his first eponymous project, Benno, a fine-dining restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine, which received 3 stars from The New York Times. Having assembled expert culinary, beverage, and service teams—many of whom are alumni of Per Se and Lincoln Ristorante—these three projects represent the culmination of Chef Benno’s life-long dedication to the hospitality profession.

Chef Benno is supported by his wife Elizabeth who works as the Culinary Liaison for Leonelli and Benno. They live in Westchester County with their two daughters, Lucy and Tessa."

ALAIN VERZEROLI

Culinary Director

Michelin-starred Chef Alain Verzeroli has worked in many of the world’s most prestigious restaurants over his notable career. Verzeroli created and oversees the concepts for Le Jardinier and Shun restaurants designed by award-winning French architect Joseph Dirand. The restaurants are situated in 100 East 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, the luxury development by Aby Rosen and designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster.

Verzeroli’s stellar career has included leadership positions at Michelin three-star restaurants across Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. He most recently served as Director of Culinary Operations at Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon in Tokyo, where his guidance led to the annual receipt of three Michelin stars for eleven consecutive years. Prior to working with Robuchon for 21 years, Verzeroli was the Executive Sous Chef at the esteemed three Michelin star Arpège with chef Alain Passard in Paris. He also trained at the famed three Michelin star Taillevent and three Michelin star Guy Savoy in Paris.

Verzeroli was born in Vietnam and grew up in Paris. His culinary story began during his freshman year at Universite Paris-Dauphine studying economics. After his first dining experience at Michelin-starred Alain Rayé restaurant, Verzeroli was inspired to approach the renowned chef and asked to apprentice for him. Following a successful month-long apprenticeship with chef Rayé, he decided to change directions and pursue his passion which prompted him to drop out of business school. Verzeroli attended the acclaimed École Grégoire-Ferrandi’s École Supérieure de Cuisine Française (ESCF) in Paris, France.

Andrew Ayala

Le Jardinier, New York

Andrew was born and raised in San Francisco. He was introduced to the world of food and cooking from a very young age by his mother, who worked as a butcher for over 35 years. Today she remains his main inspiration along with his trips to England and Taiwan. While attending high school, he began cooking at a small local restaurant. After enrolling Audio Engineering School in Emeryville, California, Andrew quickly realized that this was not his passion and decided to join Le Cordon Bleu California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Andrew went on to work at 5 Star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area including the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Chez TJ in Mountain View and Campton Place in San Francisco where he met and worked with Chef, friend and mentor Srijith Gopinathan. In 2013, Andrew decided to move to New York to further develop his career. There, he first joined the team at Restaurant DANIEL and then Per Se restaurant. Andrew joined The Bastion Collection in 2017 as part of the opening team for L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Grill as Executive Sous Chef. In 2019, he was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Le Jardinier New York where we gained one Michelin star 5 months only after opening. Besides New York, Andrew also supports the development of Le Jardinier in Miami and Houston alongside Chef Alain Verzeroli. 

Seth Blumenthal

Le Jardinier, Miami

Seth's culinary journey started in his hometown of Chicago where he got his start in various kitchens around the city. Seth spent 1.5 years at 3 Michelin Star restaurant L20, where he honed his fine-dining skills. After that, Seth joined Chef Brad Kilgore, to help open Alter in Wynwood, FL as Chef de Cuisine. After 4 years at Alter, Seth traveled around Southeast Asia for 4 months, using it as a chance to explore techniques unfamiliar to him. While in Bali Seth also had the opportunity to work with Chef Will Goldfarb at Room 4 Dessert. Seth joined the Le Jardinier team for the restaurant’s opening in Miami in 2019 as Sous Chef and was quickly promoted to his current role of Chef de Cuisine.

James Friedberg

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Miami

James serves as the Chef de Cuisine of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Miami. Upon graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management, James moved to New York City to attend The French Culinary Institute. It was there that he learned the foundation of French cuisine from legendary chefs including André Soltner and Jacques Pépin.

After finishing school, James began working at the iconic Le Cirque. During his 3-year tenure, he worked his way up to Saucier.  After leaving Le Cirque in 2010, James joined the 2-Star Michelin GILT restaurant in the New York Palace hotel, where he became immersed in modern cooking. At age 28, he took the position of Chef de Cuisine at Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s flagship location in New York City.  The restaurant maintained One Michelin Star during his four years there.  After that, James went on to become Executive Chef at Blenheim, a West Village staple known for its innovative farm-to-table cuisine, where he learned the importance of locality and proper sourcing of ingredients.

James joined the Bastion Collection group in 2018 as Chef de Cuisine of l’Atelier New York. He  strives to apply his background of classic French Cuisine while maintaining a strong responsibility towards sourcing and experimenting with non-traditional flavors. He aspires to make this evident in Miami and is thrilled to showcase his dedication to the craft of haute cuisine.  

 

Melissa Catra

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Le Jardinier Miami

Catra serves as the Head Baker for the Miami locations of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Jardinier. Catra’s interest in baking was sparked at a young age by her father, and she quickly learned to read and execute recipes at the age of 6. After high school, Catra enrolled at Johnson & Wales’ Culinary Arts program to pursue her passion. In 2006, she landed an opportunity with the Mandarin Oriental in Bermuda, where she learned to make breads and desserts. Before joining the team at L’Atelier and Le Jardinier, Catra developed her skills at notable restaurants including Hillstone in Coral Gables, Greenstreet Cafe in Coconut Grove and Chef Jose Andres’ Bazaar Mar in Downtown Miami.

Stephen Conklin

La Table, Houston

Precision, culinary innovation, organization and teamwork have been driving forces behind Chef Stephen Conklin’s career success in acclaimed restaurants over the past decade. After graduating with honors from New York’s prestigious Institute of Culinary Education, Conklin trained in kitchens including the 3-star Michelin Le Bernardin and La Grenouille. He went on to secure the position of Sous Chef at Lincoln Ristorante, working closely with luminary Chef Jonathan Benno, and later rising to Chef de Cuisine. Conklin returns to La Table from New York after spearheading La Table’s kitchen operations from summer 2017 through winter 2018, bringing with him once again an approach to food as an art form.

Mark Zuckerman

Leonelli, New York

Mark Zuckerman currently serves as Chef de Cuisine at Benno, tasked with creating new dishes and developing recipes alongside Chef Jonathan Benno.  Having grown up in Staten Island, New York in a Jewish and Italian family, Mark’s culinary career began at an early age.  In high school, he started working at an international catering company and was fortunate enough to travel the world alongside his team to destinations including Beijing and Torino. 

Mark went on to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University and upon graduating, joined the opening team as Chef de Partie for Lincoln Ristorante helmed by Chef Jonathan Benno. Throughout his career, Mark Zuckerman has also worked under world-renowned mentors including Marco Canora and Michael Tusk at Hearth and Quince.  

Yoko Ogata

Leonelli, New York

Yoko is the Pastry Chef at Leonelli. Originally from Japan, Yoko was inspired from a very young age by her father who is a Chef and runs his own restaurant. Before joining the team at Leonelli, Yoko worked and developed her skills at Michelin-starred restaurants including Benoit Tokyo, Joël Robuchon Château Tokyo, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Tokyo, Daniel NYC, and Le Jardinier New York. This industry feels very natural to her and she could not imagine doing anything else. She gets inspired by her co-workers and the talents around her and is very passionate about showing the beauty of ingredients through the lens of her pastry creations.