Save The Date
This year's Corks & Forks will celebrate the deep southern roots and rich history of Clay County, drawing inspiration from antebellum plantations that once dotted the area and the stunning liquid landscapes that have long attracted visitors to its beautiful springs and lakes.
Enjoy culinary creations born from the region's natural bounty and presented by Northeast Florida's most notable chefs.
Executive Chef and Owner of 29 South in Fernandina Beach, Chef Schwartz became interested in cooking at a young age by helping his mother in the kitchen. He entered the University of Georgia intending to focus on psychology and Spanish literature but soon realized that, for him, cooking was more than a hobby. His change of career plans led him to the School of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, where he graduated valedictorian. As a student, he apprenticed at Carbos Café, one of Atlanta’s oldest fine dining establishments, and it was there that he gained an appreciation for the finer side of the culinary arts. “I became passionate about food and this passion has provided the drive that has led me to success,” Schwartz says.
Early in his career, Chef Schwartz’s culinary accomplishments included serving as executive chef at many of Atlanta’s best restaurants, as food stylist for National Pork Producers Council during the 1995 World Expo, and as a featured chef during the 1996 Olympic Games festivities. In 1998, he was ranked by Gourmet magazine as one of the top 25 chefs in Atlanta and he also was featured on ABC World News Tonight in a report about cultural tourism. In 2004, Chef Schwartz cooked for the James Beard House and Foundation as chef for the American Express Celebrity Chefs Tour. Throughout his career, Schwartz has earned several culinary awards and is a member of the prestigious Les Toques Blanches. He was twice awarded Folio Magazine “Best Chef Jacksonville” for 2007 and 2008. The previous year Folio Magazine awarded 29 South “Best New Restaurant Jacksonville”. In 2009, 29 South was awarded the “Spirit of SlowFood Award” and a “Snail of Approval”. From 2010-2014, Florida Trend Magazine awarded 29 South the coveted “Golden Spoon”. In 2011, his Coffee and Doughnuts dessert was given the title of one of the “South’s 50 Best Dishes” in Garden and Gun magazine. Chef Schwartz served on the International Advisory Board for the Florida WineFest as Culinary Chairman. He is also a Co-founder of the Legend Series.
He is involved in numerous charities and community events, and is considered one of Jacksonville’s pioneers in the region’s farm-to-fork movements. His philosophy about cooking is to “baby” everything. Schwartz says “When it comes to food, everything you smell, touch, or do has to be handled carefully because one act of carelessness can destroy the final product.” He adds that he always keeps in mind that he is cooking for others and not his ego. “If I start with a perfect product, take care of it, and present it in a way that glorifies it, the least people can expect is something great.”
Tom Gray, the two-time James Beard nominated chef, is the Executive Chef and Owner of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails and Town Hall.
Gray’s culinary adventures have taken him through kitchens across the country and back again. He began his work in his hometown of Jacksonville at the age of 15 at a local country club, then a popular Italian restaurant. After deciding that a formal culinary education was in order, Gray attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y. Stints in California for culinary externships took him to the wildly popular Asylum in Beverly Hills and Wolfgang Puck’s San Diego outpost, Delicias. Upon graduation with honors from the CIA in 1992, Gray joined the team at New York City’s venerable Zoë restaurant, where he lived and worked for two years, earning his stripes in the “big city”.
From 1994 -1998 he was the Executive Sous Chef at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant (WSGR) at the CIA’s Napa Valley campus. During this time, Gray mastered the intricacies of local sourcing, skills for developing seasonally-influenced menus and nuances of building relationships with growers.
Living in California’s wine country developed more than Gray’s culinary skills in that he also became keenly interested and knowledgeable about wines. During his days off, he worked in the cellar at a Calistoga boutique winery and learned every process of winemaking from harvest to fermentation to bottling, as well as how to properly pair foods with wines. The latter is a skill that he uses for each new dish he creates and for special winemaker pairing and charity events.
By 1999, Gray was ready to make his next big move professionally. A partnership offer to open Bistro Aix, located in Jacksonville’s historic San Marco district lured him and his future wife, Sarah Marie, from California back to Jacksonville to do just that. Gray served as Partner/Executive Chef at Bistro Aix for 13 successful years. The desire to take all of his experiences “to the next level” prompted his departure in late 2012, as the planning and development of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails took shape.
Gray’s personal drive, vision, and determination have served him well and earned him respect from peers, guests, and friends from coast to coast, as well as regional and national accolades.
Throughout his culinary career, Gray has received two James Beard: Best Chef South nominations in 2009 and 2010. He has also earned recognition in the Best Chefs America Classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and been featured in its recently published “The American South: A Regional Guide to Dining” as one of the Top 25 Best Chefs in the South.
In 2014, Gray was voted Best Chef Jacksonville by Folio Magazine and Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails was honored with the Golden Spoon Award for Best New Northeast Florida Restaurant byFlorida Trend. Gray has recently appeared in Tastemade’s The Grill Iron series as well as Foodable WebTV Network’s Table 42.
photo credit: Agnes Lopez
Jacksonville native Sam Efron developed his culinary style through formal and experiential training. He discovered European cuisine while living abroad as an exchange student from Florida State University. Upon graduating, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. Sam refined his skills at landmark restaurants such as Four Seasons Hotel in New York, Gramercy Tavern, Aqua, and Silks at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco. Once he returned to Jacksonville, Sam assisted in the opening of Restaurant Orsay. In 2009 he opened Taverna with his wife, Kiley.
Cooking since he could barely reach the kitchen counter at age three, Chef Kenny Gilbert is best known for his appearance on “Top Chef” Season seven, where he displayed big personality and instantly become one of the most likable cheftestants to date.
Kenny attended The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute where he received a degree in Culinary Arts. Upon graduation, Kenny relocated to Jacksonville, FL, where he joined The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as an apprentice in the garde manger kitchen of their Amelia Island property. Kenny worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine at the age of 23 at the Ritz, helping to consistently secure the AAA Five Diamond Award for the property throughout his tenure there.
After a two year stint in Naples, FL, opening Caxambas, a members-only fine dining establishment in the Fiddler’s Creek development, Kenny landed in Sea Island, Georgia where he served as Executive Chef, overseeing all four dining concepts at The Lodge Sea Island Golf Resort. During his tenure at The Lodge, Kenny had the opportunity to cook for the G8 summit while President Bush was in office. After Sea Island, Kenny returned to the Ritz-Carlton family, taking the position of Executive Chef at their Jupiter, FL location. It was then onto Telluride, Colorado, where he led the culinary team at The Inn at Lost Creek, one of Conde Nast’s Top 40 Resorts in the US – Kenny would then join the opening team for the new luxury boutique hotel, Capella, under West Paces Hotel Group.
While working in Colorado, Kenny learned of the open casting call for Bravo’s “Top Chef” season seven. He auditioned and made the cut. While he didn’t take home the winning title in DC, he did well in the competition and impressed the judges with his skills and finesse.
After “Top Chef,” Kenny landed back in Jacksonville, FL, where he designed and opened Caribbean-inspired Nippers Beach Grill. Within one year of opening, Folio Magazine awarded Kenny Chef of the Year, and Nippers, Best Caribbean Restaurant. Next up, Kenny made his way to Miami where he served as Corporate Chef for 50 Eggs Restaurant Group and was responsible for organizing and designing the future kitchens and infrastructure for James Beard recognized concepts like Yardbird, Khong River House and Swine. After Miami, Kenny headed back to the turquoise water and sandy beaches of the Caribbean, working as the Executive Chef at Bajan Blue at Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados (the famous internationally themed restaurant grosses over $10 million in sales annually).
In 2014, Kenny headed north to Edison, NJ where he served as the Executive Chef of Plainfield Country Club, an elite golf facility that hosts the annual Barclay’s Golf Tournament. He has now settled back in Jacksonville where he opened Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen with his wife Anna. UK serves seasonal deep southern cuisine and is located in Fernandina Beach, FL. This Fall, Kenny and Anna will open their second restaurant, Gilbert’s Social, this time in Jacksonville proper, serving seasonal and creative modern Southern fare with international influences.
Throughout his career, Kenny has traveled the world, staging in some of the top restaurants in Japan, Spain, France and the Caribbean. He has cooked at the James Beard House, participated in wine & food festivals around the country, cooked for the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl party and appeared on the “Today Show,” Jacksonville’s FOX 30 and in the LA Times. Kenny has also recently penned his first book titled, A Chef’s Journal. He has cooked for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Stedman Graham, Samuel L. Jackson and A.J Calloway, just to name a few. Kenny has competed on and won Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and beat Chef Bobby Flay at his own game on “Beat Bobby Flay.”
With over 20 years of professional experience in the food & beverage industry, Kenny has run just about every area of Food & Beverage Divisions at the AAA Five Diamond and Mobile Five Star levels. His passion for fine dining is complemented by his vast experience across the entire spectrum of the culinary industry. From banquets to pastries, club and restaurant design to bar and lounge concepts, Kenny’s innovative and creative approach to the restaurant and hospitality industries is unmatched.
Originally from Chicago and a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu School in her native city, Kathy Collins has been with NOLA MOCA since 2005. Serving seasonal foods and creating custom menus for catered events at MOCA Jacksonville give her intimate knowledge of what clients crave. Appearances on television, charity events, and the Publix Aprons Cooking School keep her involved with the community. Her efforts to find local products, use the freshest possible ingredients, and grow some of her own herbs and vegetables have awarded NOLA MOCA a Snail of Approval from Slow Foods First Coast.
Chef and owner of some of Jacksonville’s most admired restaurants, Jon Insetta focuses on exceptional flavors and the freashest ingredients. Corks & Forks will be proud to welcome a chef representing one of Chef Jon’s restaurants, Orsay, Black Sheep or Bellwether.
Growing up in the kitchen of Andalucian Chef Antonio Gomez, Chef Howard was born in to peasant food. Under the careful guidance of his mom (Chef Antonia, Sangria House – trained under Chef Gomez and countless Spanish grandmothers) Howard has learned to trust and love the integrity of ingredients. If you start with good ingredients, preparation is minimal and the end result is good, honest food.
Chef Howard has been in love with simple peasant food his entire life. Born and raised in Spain, it was a total cultural food shock to move to the U.S. – food was overdone, over thought, and over complicated. He has devoted the kitchen at 13 Gypsies to bringing his love of straight forward peasant food to Jacksonville.
In early 1999, Chef Howard got the chance to go back to Europe. He lived in Munich, Germany and spent every free moment travelling and eating food. It was during this trip that he met Chef Sergio of La Citta, that blessed him with a knowledge of how to treat pasta, and embrace the concept of minimal ingredients. With frequent visits to Italy on his weekends, his love of simple peasant food was born again. Staying true to his roots, Chef Howard runs his kitchen with a passion for the simple and elegant food of the old world – passing on his love and passion to young new cooks.
Sheldon Harris started his restaurant career in New York’s Hudson Valley when he was just 16 years of age, beginning a long career distinguished by a fascination with food and a love of experimentation. Locally, he worked at several Jacksonville restaurants, including The French Pantry, 24 Miramar and West River, and cites Tim Felver and Liz Grenamyer as culinary influences. After serving as Executive Chef at Club Continental for fifteen years, he became managing partner five year ago. The Club offers private dining membership and is a popular site for weddings, hosting 150 a year. Annually, the Club works with over 20 local charities.
Mallorie Finnell began working in the food industry at age fifteen. A 2008 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando with a degree in Baking and Pastry, she he has worked in a variety of bakeshops from mom and pop to large scale commercial operations.
During a nearly three year tenure at Sweet By Holly in Orlando, she worked under the direction of then Kitchen Manager/Pastry Chef Krista Newman, creating dessert selections for the opening of Martha Stewart and KB Homes Mabel Ridge Community in Orlando, the United Way Chef Gala at Disney’s Epcot Center, and the Tim Tebow Foundation, among others.
In 2013 she moved to Jacksonville to be Pastry Chef at B the Bakery. She found a home at Biscottis, one of Jacksonville’s best-loved restaurants, where her contributions of new desserts and elegant wedding cake designs have made her one of the area’s most respected Pastry Chefs.
Title Sponsors: The Hilltop Club & Restaurant ≈ Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits ≈ Branan Fields Rehabilitation Center
Presenting Sponsors: W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor, Inc.
Gold Sponsors: Stephen & Monica Boccieri ≈ Gresham Smith & Partners ≈ Walsh Investment Consulting Group of Wells Fargo Advisors
One hundred percent of the net proceeds from Corks & Forks will be used to benefit St. Vincent’s Medical Center Clay County and its vital outreach programs. Join community leaders throughout Duval and Clay County in supporting this event.
Learn more here.