Wellness & Recreation

Chefs Bios

Kenny Gilbert

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. Born and raised in suburban Cleveland, Kenny’s curiosity for the kitchen started young. His mom noticed how captivated her son was when she cooked or entertained and so in an effort to harness it, began teaching him the basics. Kenny’s father, an avid BBQ man, schooled him in the ways of the grill, including homemade sauces and rubs, presenting him with his very own small Weber at the age of seven. By age 11 Kenny was cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner solo, and in high school, was cooking for his entire swim team, before and after practice and meets on a portable electric double burner in the locker room. Cooking had been in Kenny’s blood from day one and so, while still in high school, he enrolled in a local vocational culinary program.

After high school, 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 Magazineawarded 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.

Kenny is also a consultant for Micfood, an international company based out of Miami that produces organic tropical packaged goods like Plantains and Yuca, while also lending his expertise to the menu at Boston neighborhood restaurant, Tempo American Bistro. Over the years, Kenny has developed a passion for herbs and spices, and has paired that passion with his culinary prowess to create Chef Kenny’s Spice Blends, a line of spice blends with equally big personality. The product line, which includes Jerk Spice, Raging Cajun and Cinnamon Coffee Rub, is used by luxury hotel brands including The Lodge at Sea Island Company and the Omni Amelia Island Hotel and Resort. The line of spice blends is also available for purchase at www.chefkennygilbert.com, or at Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen.

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.

Kathleen Blake
Chef/Owner - The Rusty Spoon

A Few Kudos:

• James Beard Award – Best Chef: South – four-time semi-finalist (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)

• Women Chef & Restauranteurs Golden Whisk Award Nominee

• Silver Spoon Award – seven-time award winner (2014)

Four-time James Beard Foundation “Best Chef South” semi-finalist and Iowa native, Kathleen Blake, started cooking at an early age in her grandmother's kitchen where she helped prepare Sunday suppers for her large extended family.

Staying true to her path, Blake worked in restaurants throughout high school before heading west to attend the Community College of San Francisco's Culinary Apprenticeship Program. In 2003, Blake was recruited as Chef de Cuisine, opening Melissa Kelly's Primo in Orlando at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes.

In 2011, she and her husband, William Blake, went on to open their own farm-to-table restaurant, The Rusty Spoon, in Orlando’s Church Street Historical District; earning seven Silver Spoon awards in 2014 after being open for just three years. The Blake's focus continues to be on locally sourced food, simply prepared, in a comfortable environment.

Scott Pizzo
Chef de Cuisine - Highball & Harvest

His Culinary career began in 2007 after graduating from Le Cordon Blue Culinary School. He joined Norman’s here at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes where he grew into the position of Chef Tournant. He then moved on to Dragonfly restaurant as their Chef de Cuisine, during which he helped restructure and grow their business to its current success. Afterwards, Chef Pizzo moved to The Ravenous Pig as Executive Sous Chef under Chef James Petrakis; where his passion for southern food and the farm to table movement really flourished. Due to his success at The Ravenous Pig, Chef Petrakis moved Scott to become the Chef de Cuisine of Cask & Larder before Scott finally returned back to The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes now as Chef de Cuisine at Highball and Harvest.

Sebastien Thieffine
Executive Pastry Chef - The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples

Chef Sebastien Thieffine is Executive Pastry Chef for The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples. He brings more than 25 years of diverse experience in pastry arts to resorts, from serving as the Executive Pastry Chef at luxury resorts, to most recently serving as Chef Instructor at the French Pastry School at the City College of Chicago. Prior to becoming a Chef Instructor, Chef Thieffine served as Executive Pastry Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach and before that held pastry chef positions at The Ritz-Carlton hotels in Philadelphia and Kapalua, and Le Meridien in Boston. A native of France, Chef Thieffine began his apprenticeship at the age of 15 in the pastry kitchens of Soissons and Reims. His studies included both the technical and artistic aspects of his craft, confirming his love for the pastry arts. After earning his Brevet de Maitrise specializing in pastry arts, chocolate and ice cream, he joined Restaurant Marius in Paris and trained with Chef Jean Pierre Vigato at the two star Michelin Apicius, and Chef Gerard Faucher at the acclaimed Faucher. Most recently Chef Thieffine served as an assistant for Master Pastry Chef Sebastian Canonne at The World Pastry Forum in Las Vegas. His creations have been highlighted in numerous local, national and international publications including Gulfshore Life, Naples Illustrated, American Cake Decorating and Le Journal du Patisser. Chef Thieffine has also appeared on the Food Network’s “Follow that Food”, and many local morning shows.

In 2013, Chef Thieffine was recognized by the L’Academie Culinaire de France as one of the Top Pastry chefs in North America. Additionally, in 2004, he competed in the National Bread and Pastry Team Championships winning a team Bronze and “Best Pastry Degustation.”

Since joining The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples, Chef Thieffine has donated his time and talent to various fundraising events including the annual Naples Winter Wine Festival which has raised over $110 million for underprivileged and at risk children in Collier County since its inception in 2001.

Stephane Cheramy
Executive Pastry Chef - The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes

Have you ever taken a bite of dessert and been immediately transported to a state of bliss? Executive Pastry Chef Stephane Cheramy strives to deliver this experience with every confection he serves.

“I love to make people happy, and food is one of the best ways to provide immediate joy and comfort,” he notes.

Born in a country synonymous with amazing desserts, Chef Cheramy was educated and trained throughout the South of France, specializing in pastry, chocolate, and candies. When he arrived in the US in 1998, he took up residence as Assistant Pastry Chef at The Bellagio, Las Vegas, where he also began medaling in dessert competitions.

“I was drawn to pastry because of the connection with glamour, art, fashion, creativity, and precision,” adds Chef Cheramy. He finds inspiration traveling the world and is motivated by the people he meets along the way who are intensely driven in whatever they do. A commitment to greatness is what makes him want to return to his kitchen and create desserts that are tastier, more beautiful, and more blissful than ever before.

Chef Cheramy has held various positions with Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Florida. He joined the company in 2000 as Assistant Pastry Chef at The Ritz-Carlton Naples Florida, and then moved up to Executive Pastry Chef for The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, Florida before joining The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. He currently oversees an international team of 30 pastry cooks and bakers. Along the way he has also trained pastry chefs for Ritz-Carlton Worldwide and participated in and judged numerous pastry competitions.

Chef Cheramy has received many awards and accolades including the Rising Chef Award for Ritz-Carlton Worldwide in 2004 and was named one of the “Top Ten Chefs Under 40” by Sarasota Magazine.

In an industry where seeking social media notoriety or excelling in competitions can sidetrack chefs, Chef Cheramy is more focused on continued excellence in his kitchen. Delighting the diners at The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando and the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes is where he realizes the most satisfaction. “Knowing that we are delivering sweet perfection in everything we do is the best recognition I could have.”

Chef Cheramy loves desserts which combine sensations of fresh, creamy, and crunchy, and diners can expect to find this style of addictive confection at our hotels.

Bon Appetit!