Featured Chefs & Restaurants:

Chanel Ducharme

Bluewater Grill

Bluewater Grill

Locals will remember Chanel as executive chef of The Hungry Cat. A Ventura native, Chanel attended culinary school in Hollywood and then moved to San Francisco and cooked a various restaurants until 2015. She currently maintains have a garden on the roof of the Bluewater Grill where they grow mint and thyme for the bar drinks during the summer. Her next goal: bees!

Ranferi Rios

Casa Blanca

Ranferi Rios, Casa Blanca

Ranferi was born in Guerrero, Mexico and came to the USA in 1993.  He’s had many experiences in the food industry, working with a number of different cuisines; from Thailand, Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian, American and Mexican. He has been working as a chef for the last 15 years. He  is excited to be part of the Casa Blanca team and hopes his culinary effect can start showing.

Peter Cham

Finch & Fork

Chef Peter Cham, Finch & Fork

Chef Peter Cham grew up in Santa Barbara in a Cambodian household that always embraced food as a way of bringing family together.  His passion for cooking began early on, helping his grandmother cook in the kitchen. Chef Cham began his formal training in the Culinary Arts program at SFCC and worked at highly praised establishments throughout San Francisco. He returned to Santa Barbara in 2015 as Chef de Cuisine at Hungry Cat. In 2016, Chef Cham joined Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants at Finch & Fork Restaurant and the Canary Hotel as Executive Chef Cham.  

Jeff Olsson
Industrial Eats

Jeff began cooking at the age of fifteen, helping tend the barbeque pits of Atlanta’s Old Hickory House. A variety of smaller restaurants followed and he eventually landed in New York City as sous chef at The Miracle Grill (Superstar chef Bobby Flay’s first stomping ground.) In 2000, Jeff and wife Janet moved to Santa Ynez valley where, they own and operate New West Catering, one of the areas premier special event caterers in addition to Industrial Eats.

Weston Richard

Les Marchands 

Chef Weston Richards, Les Marchands

Chef Weston Richards’ career over sixteen years ago at Santa Barbara’s Sage & Onion. He madee his mark at the Wine Cask and Intermezzo, where he created dishes to complement their prestigious Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. Soon after, he founded the critically acclaimed Spare Parts, a locals’ pop-up favorite. In 2013, Chef Weston was integral in opening Les Marchands, an innovative restaurant and retail shop in the Funk Zone. In designing his frequently changing menu, Chef Weston is influenced by his travels around the world. 

Michael Hutchings

Michael’s Catering

Michael Hutchings, MIchael's Catering

**2016 Winner**
*Judges’ & People’s Choice Awards*

Chef Michael’s career began with a restaurant job at Disneyland to work his way through college. An accomplished flutist, he planned a musical career. But in the kitchen of the fabled Club 33, he was taught by the Master Chef Rudolph Stoy and his priorities changed. He eventually became executive chef of Club 33 then worked under several Los Angeles chefs of note. Eventually he opened Michael’s Waterside in Santa Barbara. Now, Chef Michael oversees a catering service business in Santa Barbara. 

Damien Giliberti

Outpost at The Goodland

Damien Giliberti, Outpost at the Goodland

**2018 Runner Up**
*Judges’ Choice Award*

Damien Giliberti, who was named the restaurant’s executive chef earlier this year, seems poised to stay, as he’s rather enthused about his first chance to run a kitchen. Raised in New Jersey, where his family owned and lived adjacent to their pizzeria, Giliberti got his culinary degree from Johnson & Wales in Miami and entered the Kimpton fold there eight years ago. He came to Santa Barbara six years ago, working first for four years at Finch & Fork and then the last two at Outpost.

Renaud Gonthier

Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro

**2018 Winner**
*Judges’ Choice Award*

The Executive Pastry Chef and co-founder of Renaud’s, brings a French flair
and over 20 years of culinary experience to Southern California. Chef Renaud has also demonstrated his culinary expertise television viewers nationwide, having been featured twice on the Food Network’s Emeril Live and on Sugar Rush with Warren Brown.

Jesus Charco

Santa Barbara FisHouse

**2017 Winner**
*People’s Choice Award*

“Chuey” has worked for the FisHouse for the last 10+ years and been the head chef for the last 3 years.  He started cooking in his teenage years and loves creating nightly specials for our establishment.  With his creative ideas and knack for flavor combinations, cooking is a passion of his.

Justin West and Jason Carter
Soul Cal Smokehouse

Soul Cal Smokehouse

Justin West and Jason Carter are the owners at Soul Cal Smokehouse, located inside the Santa Barbara Public Market. They have combined their BBQ rich upbringing creating a cuisine that they call California Soul Food or West Coast BBQ. Their food is a combination of Traditional Southern with California Market Fresh featuring produce from the Local Santa Barbara Farmers Market.

Taylor Melonuk

The Middle Child

Taylor Melonuk, The MIddle Child

The Middle Child cafe is led by Chef Taylor Melonuk. Originally from Corvallis, Oregon, Taylor has recently transitioned from his role as a executive sous Chef at The Lark Restaurant to focus on a farmers market driven cafe in downtown Santa Barbara. 

Michael Amador

Uncorked Wine Tasting & Kitchen

Chef Amador, Uncorked Wine Tasting & Kitchen

Michael has opened a half dozen casual and popular restaurants in Santa Barbara. He also served as Food and Beverage director at San Ysidro Ranch, Hotel Canary, and La Cumbre Country Club. His enthusiasm for undiscovered wineries lead to the recent opening of Uncorked as a tasting room to showcase new rising stars. The kitchen was added to provide a full range of light bites to enjoy while tasting through an array of 20 different central coast wineries.

Celebrity Judges:

Joey Buttitta

KEYT Anchor

Joey is a member of the NewsChannel 3 morning anchor team. He is on the air from 5-7am providing viewers from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties with the news of the day. You may also recognize him from season 27 of “The Amazing Race” where with his fiance, Kelsey Gerckens, they won $1 million dollars after crossing the finish line first.

George Yatchisin

George Yatchisin

Food & Drink Writer

George Yatchisin likes eating, drinking, and writing, therefore has written for Edible Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Independent, Sunset, and KCET’s Food Blog. He is the author of The First Night We Thought the World Would End and Feast Days, and the co-editor of Rare Feathers: Poems on Birds & Art. He markets for the forces of good at UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. Read him at Georgeeats.com.

Hilary Dole Klein

Hilary Dole Klein


Hilary grew up in Santa Barbara and Florence, Italy, where she first discovered the joys of great cuisine. She has been writing about food and restaurants (and art, family, travel, romance, pests, and heroes) for over 30 years, including stints as food editor for The Santa Barbara Independent and editor of Destination Wine Country. In addition to many published articles, she has penned four books: Tiny Game Hunting, Reading Rocks! A Day with a Chef, Santa Barbara Cooks, and Substituting Ingredients

Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives 

Food & Travel Writer

Geneva is a local food and travel writer for USA Today 10Best. She is also the author of Unique Eats & Eateries of Santa Barbara. When she is not busy tasting her way around the county, she works as the manager of marketing content at Yardi.