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Evan Zagha

My name is Evan Zagha and I have been cooking since I was 6 years old. Upon request, my parents gifted me my first sauté pan to cook only eggs and it spawned into the most incredible life journey I could have possibly imagined. At age 12, I became a short order cook at a deli in New Jersey making bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and brewing gallon batches of coffee every 30 minutes. Then began my High School career in the Culinary Vocational Program at Freehold High School. Four years later studying under Chef Maura Zafarana, I applied to one school: The Culinary Institute of America.

From flipping eggs on Sunday mornings to being a part of the opening of a NYC Michelin starred restaurant and eating my way around the world, the ride has been full of excitement, adrenaline and pure joy. As I have progressed into the lifestyle of the food industry, countless realizations have come to fruition. One of the biggest eyeopeners was going from the finely attuned restaurants of NYC to the respectful and mindful cooking of Hawai’i. It was literally a 180 degree flip in a cooking mindset; how can we as chefs utilize all parts of the produce that farmers procure from the earth and return penance to our planet. This is what I wish to share with you, the mindful eater, here on the east coast. My goal is to open anyone’s eyes to the possibility of our uniquely regional agriculture.

KAYLA FOWLER

A San Francisco Bay Area native, Kayla grew up surrounded by a bounty of beautiful produce and endless varieties of cuisines, flavors and hyper-local slow food. She draws heavily on her California roots to create unique and inventive vegetable-forward fare that’s deeply in touch with the seasons. 

Kayla graduated from Bauman College’s Natural Chef Program in Berkeley, California,  and has spent over 10 years in a wide range of culinary environments. She has cooked for private families of all ages, individuals living with chronic and serious illness, allergies and sensitivities, vegetarians and vegans, and groups of 2-200; from the Bay Area and Silicon Valley to NYC and the Hamptons. 

In addition, Kayla’s natural warmth, passion for people and commitment to nourishing the whole person make her shine outside the culinary world. 

ANICIA ANYA

Chef Anica comes from humble beginnings. With two busy, working parents, Anica was often the one cooking for her family, creating healthy and flavorful dishes that they all loved. For years following college Anica worked as a professional, high-profile nanny, which allowed her to further her love of cooking and hospitality. Soon after Anica was given the opportunity to attend The Institute of Culinary Education and work in some of NYC’s most popular restaurants. In addition, Chef Anica has had the privilege of being mentored by Bravo’s Top Chef judge, Gail Simmoms and Food Network’s Chef Anthony Hoy Fong. Chef Anica also has several nutritional certifications, which she implements in her cooking. Both Chef Anica’s experience and bold, bubbly personality bring a wonderful presence inside and outside of any kitchen.

TINA DEJESUS

Chef Tina DeJesus graduated from Le Cordon Bleu where she learned the art of French cuisine. Through continuing education, Tina learned nutrition and plant-based cooking, mastering a healthy lifestyle. With Tina’s professional training in classic French cuisine and her career as a chef in fine dining, she learned to create recipes to suit any lifestyle. She focuses on bringing out the natural flavors of simple seasonal ingredients. 

Since starting Veg Head Chef in 2013, Tina has been cooking for high-end events, teaching healthy living and preparing meals for individuals and families.

ELIZABETH COOPER

My name is Chef Lizzy Cooper, and I create food that is vibrant, healthy, and approachable. I learned to love to cook as a little girl by watching both my grandmothers in the kitchen so effortlessly craft their famous recipes, whether it was Grandma Betty’s Creole gumbo and perfect lemon merengue pie, or Grandma Lil’s matzo ball soup and brisket. I now draw inspiration from dishes at my favorite restaurants, beautiful cookbooks, and my travels around the world.

After cooking in several restaurants over the years and shadowing under some wonderful chefs in Los Angeles, in 2017 I founded AvocaToast by Lizzy, LA’s original gourmet avocado toast pop-up and catering operation which I ran as a social enterprise focused on hiring formerly incarcerated alumni of InsideOut Writers, a program within LA’s Central Juvenile Hall through which I taught creative writing to detained youth weekly for six years. As a private chef, I offer custom meal prep, “a la minute” service, cooking lessons, and small scale catering. There are few things I enjoy more than cooking for and feeding others, and doing so with a whole lotta love.

When I am not in the kitchen, you can find me running marathons, practicing and teaching yoga, reading, and hanging with my sweet pup, Lulu.

JESSICA BLANCO

Jessica Blanco is a private chef, food stylist and recipe developer located in NYC and Hamptons.

She graduated from Johnson and Wales University in Providence R.I. With a Culinary Arts and Foodservice Management Degree.

Has worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years, most recently at Jean George’s Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton.

Using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, she creates delicious and nutritious meals. As a chef, she is always exploring new approaches to new American cuisine. She likes to experiment with Mexican twists and techniques.

With dedication and talent she cares about what she puts down on the plate.

DIANA DESMOND

For as long as I can remember food has been on my mind. I have a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition management from ASU and I am a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. After gaining experience in the restaurant industry through working at Michelin rated Campton Place and Chicago’s Girl and the Goat, I decided to enter the world of being a private chef.
My insatiable appetite for adventure has been the driving force behind my travels to far corners of the globe to countries including Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, France, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, England, Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand.
This has played an integral role in the development of my ever expanding palette, and I plan to be a lifelong student of the craft.

LAUREN MCNALLY

From a young age, Lauren McNally discovered she had an undeniable passion for cooking. She grew up in the kitchen learning family recipes that have been passed down over generations and began following other chefs who shared similar culinary points of view. To further her growing love for cooking, she enrolled in the Natural Gourmet Institute. Her recent accomplishments include starting her private chef business, working expos, catering several private events and volunteering at the James Beard Foundation, while cooking alongside professional chefs. Throughout both her personal and professional experiences, she has learned proper cooking techniques, discovered the pairing of flavors and how, if combined correctly, food fuels our bodies.

OSCAR PINEDA
OSCAR PINEDA

Chef Oscar Pineda grew up surrounded by the aromas emanating from his grandmother’s kitchen. It was in that kitchen at a young age that he first fell in love with the idea of cooking and experimenting with different tastes, flavors and spices.  He carried this passion with him through his teenage years, leading to earning his degree from the Culinary Institute of America. After that culmination, he transitioned into the workforce, continuing his education under the guidance of many renowned chefs in Michelin rated restaurants in both New York and Los Angeles. Over the course of the past 10 years, he has earned the title of Executive Chef at various restaurants as well as transitioning to a   Corporate Chef for a boutique catering company

LALA ZIEMSKI

Recently transplanted from Los Angeles, her cooking style relies on seasonal ingredients and the belief that fresh ingredients don’t need to be overly complicated. She was a part of the opening team of the famed restaurant, Gjelina, in 2008 which has greatly influenced her style of cooking. She then moved into the private chef world in 2009 cooking for events & a celebrity clientele. In 2012 she opened a restaurant in the caribbean (The Firefly Bocas Del Toro) which she still owns/runs today. Lala loves grilling, seafood, rustic, family style presentation, making fresh pasta and continually experimenting with the magical flavors of thai food. She is also a food/travel tv personality appearing on Food Network and most recently as a regular chef/judge on So Yummy network’s tv show, HOT MESS EXPRESS. When not in the kitchen, she’s traveling and most likely eating her face off trying everything she possibly can.

BAILEY COHEN

As a chef and certified health coach with education from NGI, Bailey is committed to a well-rounded, plant-based and health-supportive approach to cooking. She prides herself on providing locally grown, seasonal and organic ingredients. Her priority is to prepare meals that support the health goals of her clients, creating delicious, nutritious and beautiful meals. She keeps the process clean, streamlined and stress free!

Chef Bailey Cohen is a graduate of Indiana University and The Natural Gourmet Institute of New York. She is also a certified health coach and a food safety handler. Over the years she has worked alongside several well-known chefs at the Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton, Florida and Modern Love in Brooklyn, New York. She has extensive experience coordinating catered events and private parties. She enjoys a loyal following of personal chef clients. 

ESTER OVCHARENKO

From an early age, Ester’s interest in health and wellness was evident. Her mother’s inclination toward holistic health and homeopathic remedies through food inspired her own.

While attending the world-renowned programs of Matthew Kenney Culinary and The Natural Gourmet Institute, Ester learned innovative tools and techniques of food handling; including how to use a wide variety of superfoods and healing herbs, all for optimal nutrition. During this time she also became a certified wellness coach from The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, which has allowed her to implement a comprehensive outlook on lifestyle changes and dietary guidelines that enhance her craft of cooking. 

Ester is a firm believer that through proper nutrition and food, we can enhance overall health and wellbeing for our mind, body and soul. 

HANNAH BAIRD

For Hannah, cooking seasonally with fresh, whole, locally sourced food while knowing her farmers, is very important. She believes that the best dishes are those that only have a few simple ingredients, freshly picked at the peak of their season. She is trained in plant-based cooking and holds a health-supportive culinary degree from Natural Gourmet Institute. Vegetable forward, pescatarian diets are her bread and butter, but she also enjoys catering to any client’s dietary wants, needs and restrictions while menu planning. For Hannah, food is medicine.

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