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Vote for Your Favorite Chef in Palm Desert, Presented By Wells Fargo

Written By: Alana Aronson Chef in Palm Desert 

Chad Spears: Executive Chef, Wilma & Frieda’s Cafe

Chad Spears, Executive Chef at Wilma & Frieda’s Cafe started his career in Whitefish Montana. When he moved to the Coachella Valley he worked at various restaurants, from the Waldorf Astoria property in La Quinta, the classic Lord Fletcher’s, Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion as well as Tommy Bahamas to name a few. He brings extreme creativity, and tenacity to seek the best ingredients, and the skill to meld flavors with precision. This process is very instinctual for him, through his years of culinary experience, from casual to fine dining, he is able to apply techniques that are not standard to a breakfast/lunch diner and because of this he creates a new level of cuisine where people that appreciate approachable comfort food, but have grown up with the food network and have become sophisticated foodies, he is able to satisfy both needs.

Chef in Palm Desert 

Erik Dandee: Executive Chef, WP Kitchen + Bar  

As Executive Chef of WP Kitchen + Bar, located on El Paseo in Palm Desert, CA, Erik Dandee leads the kitchen of the casual dining concept’s third location brought to life by renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. Dandee looks forward to the future ahead and furthering the vision that Puck has set forth, balancing the needs of the kitchen, striving to exceed guest experience expectations at every turn and providing the very best in creative, approachable cuisine using the freshest available ingredients, cooked simply and plated beautifully.  

Chef in Palm Desert 

Thomas Horner: Executive Chef, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Chef Thomas Horner’s love for cooking developed at a very young age, upon receipt of his first frying pan. After graduating from the International Culinary Academy in Pittsburgh, Horner accepted his first position with Marriott in New Orleans and since then has continued his work with the brand. Chef Horner currently oversees all culinary aspects at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, and employs a farm to table approach for the 800+ room resort. Through his partnership with Farmer Lee Jones, Chef Horner sources the highest quality local, seasonal, and unique ingredients into the cuisine at Rockwood Grill.

Chef in Palm Desert 

Engin Onural: Owner and Sushi Chef, The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge

“At age 27, many are still wondering what career path to follow. Engin Onural decided that at 10 years old. He wanted to be a chef. Today, Engin has realized his dreams, as creator, owner and chef of The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge, in the world-famous El Paseo shopping and entertainment district of Palm Desert, California.”

Chef in Palm Desert 

James Holder: Sushi Master and Chef, Mitch’s on El Paseo Prime Seafood

“Respected sushi master and chef, James Holder—who was raised in Japan as the son of an American serviceman and a Japanese mother, and remembers learning to ‘cut fish’ when he was 13, in his village of Hiyama—brings creativity and flavor to Mitch’s on El Paseo.”

Chef in Palm Desert 

Gerard Brunett: Executive Chef, Bellatrix, Classic Club

“In his time with Classic Club, Chef Gerard has elevated (the) culinary vision and established Bellatrix Restaurant as a destination for excellent yet simplistic food, which emphasizes the ingredients while maintaining complex subtleties. Chef Gerard’s eclectic and Mediterranean influences combined with his creative excellence and culinary vision can be seen throughout the various menus, in-house events and wine dinners on offer at Bellatrix.”

Chef in Palm Desert 

Kevin Favinger: Executive Chef, Sullivan’s Steakhouse

“Executive Chef Kevin Favinger moved across the country from Philadelphia to Palm Desert in 2009 to take over the reins at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Palm Desert. Starting at age 15, he quickly worked his way up the ranks in the culinary world while earning his college degree. His leadership earned Sullivan’s the Palm Springs Life 2010 Best Steakhouse of the Desert award.”


Eddie Babai: Executive Chef, Le Paon

“Executive Chef Eddie Babai was trained in classical cooking at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.”


Mario Marfia: Executive Chef, Il Corso

“Chef Mario prepares nightly specials from all over Italy like the world’s best gnocchi, incredible meat dishes, Italian style Martinis and signature cocktails, and a wonderful variety of desserts and fresh salads. If you call ahead, Chef Mario will prepare his Lasagna, Tripe, Spaghetti allo Scoglio, or any other of your favorite dishes. Chef Mario was born in Sicily and learned his skills working as Chef in the Mediterranean. He uses those cultural influences to prepare truly unique and special dishes each and every day. Save room for the ultimate light and tasty homemade desserts.”


Gabino Reyes: Executive Chef, Kaiser Grille Palm Desert

Executive Chef Gabino Reyes has been in the industry over thirty years, half of which have been with the Kaiser Restaurant Group. He has many specialties, some of which are making the best soups, sauces and desserts this side of Cordon Bleu. He believes in providing the best quality possible, with fresh local produce whenever possible, organic and natural meats with consistency second to none.