Food, Wine, Spirits & Special Guest Experts at Bern's Winefest

Meet the team that makes Bern's Winefest so spectacular!

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  • Culinary
  • Guest
  • Leadership
  • Sommeliers
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With a quiet, friendly demeanor, David Laxer, son of Bern’s Steak House’s founders, Bern and Gert Laxer, is now guiding this venerable legend and its other two siblings – SideBern’s and Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits to success. The three businesses continue to adhere to, and use Bern Laxer’s original philosophy, “We Do Things Differently” as a guiding principle that David Laxer believes delineates the business from competitors. 
This philosophy has kept guests returning again and again and the recognition flowing. Bern’s continues to be celebrated for excellence in food and wine and SideBern’s follows closely winning prestigious honors including a 2012 James Beard semi-finalist nod and recognition annually from DiRona, Wine Spectator Magazine (Bern’s has been awarded the Grand Award since 1981 and SideBern’s, an Award of Excellence since 2002) and Florida Trend Magazine’s, “Golden Spoon Award.” In 2002, Bern’s was inducted into Florida Trend’s newly created Hall of Fame for its dining excellence. 
“As my father did, I believe the customer must always come back. We consider every night a big event for the restaurants and we strive to go above and beyond our guests’ needs and wishes. Our goal is to continue to elevate the dining experience with consistency being rule number one,” says Laxer. Laxer continues to purchase the famous prime beef that is dry-aged at Bern’s; he also approves any and all wine purchases and investments for the three businesses. 
Laxer graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Furman University, and later interned at the prestigious New York Restaurant School; an experience that he believes helped him prepare to guide and create Bern’s and its subsidiaries, and our next generation in The Epicurean. 
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Brooke Palmer is the creative mastermind behind the PR and Event efforts at all of the Bern’s Steak House properties.  With the exquisite taste she inherited from her mother, and an entrepreneurial spirit instilled by her father, she has dabbled in event planning and business since she was a toddler.  Creating tea parties for friends at five, and discovering a knack for event design at her and her twin sister's birthday pool parties, all while managing a profitable lemonade stand, her hidden talent was noticed early on by her inner circle.

A self-proclaimed 'closet nerd', with a spunky identical twin, Ms. Palmer graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Molecular Biology , completed studies at the University of South Florida with a Master's in Environmental Science, all before pursuing her MBA.   An accomplished student, golfer, lacrosse player and drummer, beneath those blonde locks, she has a sharp mind, and it is a known fact that she can run in high heels. 

Born and raised in Washington, DC, this happy-go-lucky femme fatale has committed the last twelve years pursuing philanthropic endeavors with all sorts of charitable organizations including The Arts Center (now The Chihuly Collection), the 13 Ugly Men, the Tampa Theatre, and the Florida Aquarium. She is also a former member of the Board of Directors for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.   Brooke additionally shares her talents  in print and on Television, as the scene columnist for Tampa Bay Metro Magazine after stints with TBT* and Bay News 9, and occasionally as party planning expert on ABC Action News and on Daytime, Tampa's NBC Affiliate's syndicated morning show, in over 100 markets. 
With the Bern’s organization since 2009, Brooke is in charge of all Public Relations, Marketing, community Relations efforts for Bern’s, Haven  (formerly SideBern's)  Bern’s Fine Wines, Élevage, EDGE, and Chocolate Pi. She provides support for the Epicurean Hotel in Public Relations efforts as well.  In addition, she has headed up Bern’s Winefest for the last five years, expanding the event and creating a sell-out experience while enhancing sponsorships and overall guest enjoyment.
Brooke was named 30 under 30 by the TBBJ in 2005, and was a finalist for the Tampa Bay Business Journal's 2009 and 2010 Young Businesswoman of the Year. In 2010, she was named an Up and Comer by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.  She was a finalist for National Rising Star 2010 and a finalist in 2011 for Event Planner of the Year by Event Solutions Magazine. Concurrently she was also nominated for Event Planner of the Year 2011 by Biz Bash Florida.  She also is a four-time winner of Best of the Knot, Florida.  Most notably however, was her win as the 2008 Suncoast Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society raising $60,000 in a ten week fundraising campaign, setting the chapter record for a female.  Her additional interests include her dogs, traveling, good books, golfing, Orangetheory Fitness and pilates.  She remains active through her volunteer work, golf lessons, lacrosse, the occasional good bottle of champagne, teaching herself French, and being 'crafty'-- all while trying to save the world from its perils… or its event mishaps.  Brooke is newly married to Craig Kuhl,  and is obsessed with her Pit Bulls Lily, and Sacrlett, and her Husky Maya.
|| [category] => Leadership [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 318 [youtube_video_id] => ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 12816 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2018-02-02 14:37:18 [newsDate] => 2018-02-02 14:37:18 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1347 [image] => |089556900201517537708.png [display_order] => 3 [title] => Executive Chef [meta_title] => Chad Johnson - Executive Chef - Haven, Élevage, EDGE Social Drinkery [name] => Chad Johnson [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Chad Johnson|Haven, Élevage, EDGE Social Drinkery|Executive Chef|||||||||||||Johnson began his career in the modern Mediterranean kitchen of Layla under Chef Frank Proto. At Layla, Johnson was introduced to and influenced by the fresh ingredients and cooking styles of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. After a stint at Layla, Johnson worked in the popular kitchen of Montrachet where, as he assisted the pastry chefs and plated amuses nightly, he learned, from Chef Chris Gesualdi, how a high volume, fine dining kitchen could be organized for maximum efficiency. While at Savoy, under Chef Peter Hoffman, Johnson was exposed to premium products in their natural state. This was the essence and focus of Hoffman's cuisine; great ingredients prepared simply, allowing their natural flavors to shine.

Growing up in Paducah, Kentucky, Johnson decided to pursue a culinary career after spending time at his best friend's family's restaurant. He attended the French Culinary Institute in New York where he was determined to learn all he could from the famed staff which included modern culinary luminaries like Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner and Alain Sailhac. He paid for his own tuition, came in early and stayed late - always pressing his instructors for more information. From these legends, Johnson learned the techniques and traditions that have made French chefs leaders in dining for hundreds of years.

His natural passion for great food combined with his French Culinary Institute education and exposure to some of the country's best restaurants have all influenced Johnson's signature modern cuisine at Haven and Élevage. |
|I want to take the great iconic dishes, the ones you've loved your entire life , and elevate them. I want it to be the best you've ever had. [category] => Culinary [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 315 [youtube_video_id] => ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 12880 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2015-02-05 18:45:17 [newsDate] => 2015-02-05 17:16:23 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1294 [image] => |042204500201423174582.png [display_order] => 4 [title] => Chef de Cuisine [meta_title] => Habteab Hamde - Bern\'s Steak House - Chef de Cuisine [name] => Habteab Hamde [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Habteab Hamde|Bern's Steak House|Chef de Cuisine|||||||||||||
Affectionately called "Hab" by everyone at Bern's, Habteab emigrated from the small African country of Eritrea in 1983. Since he enjoyed preparing meals for his family when he was young and everyone predicted he would one day be a chef, he attended the Swedish Culinary Institute in Sudan, Africa.
When he settled in the United States, he left his culinary career behind and began attending USF to pursue a degree in accounting, but soon, the childhood predictions came true and he decided to return to the kitchen.
Hab enjoys cooking because it is so similar to chemistry – especially creating new things with his favorite ingredients, garlic, tomato and onion. He says, "It is truly exciting to take different ingredients, textures and flavors and create something completely new and different and at Bern's we have so many opportunities to utilize some of the best products in the world."
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Raised in the world-renowned wine-growing region of the Red Mountain AVA in Washington State, Gregory was exposed to wine at a young age. It was not until the age of nineteen when he took that life experience to the next level and joined the wine cellar team at Bern's Steak House that he started to really develop his passion. Two weeks after turning twenty-one Gregory took and passed his introductory level sommelier test. Shortly thereafter he accepted a harvest internship position in Washington State at Kestrel Vintners; this three-month long internship helped to solidify his growing knowledge and passion in wine. 

After four years enlisted in the Army, Gregory found himself living in Louisville, KY. Eager to get back into the hospitality industry, he took a job working as the event manager at 610 Magnolia. This gave him the opportunity to reacquaint himself with wine and he would work as sommelier in the restaurant. Just nine months after getting out of the Army, he took and passed the Certified Sommelier test through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Gregory was then offered a position working under Master Sommelier Scott Harper at the Bristol Bar and Grille in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Working as the bar manager, he had the chance to be mentored by one of only 211 Master Sommeliers in the world. While living in Louisville, Gregory received a degree in Beverage Management from Sullivan University. In addition to being a Certified Sommelier, Gregory is also a Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators.
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Born in St. Louis, Missouri, SideBern's Chef de Cuisine, Courtney Orwig, grew up around the culinary world. His mother worked in the hospitality industry, and his grandfather owned a spice supply company. This early introduction to the world of food became the foundation for a career that has spanned the last 20 years.
Like his idol, Marco Pierre White, Courtney chose experience in the kitchen over culinary school. When he moved to Florida, he spent the first part of his career learning the art of pastry. Courtney found the precise execution and discipline of pastry to be challenging and rewarding. This knowledge of pastry's science and intricate techniques continue to shape his culinary skills and creativity today.
After several years, Courtney dove into the savory side of cuisine and again excelled at everything he prepared. Eventually this level of excellence landed him the position of Sous Chef at Sidebern's (now Haven). His hard work, creativity and dedication have allowed him the opportunity to cook at some of the premier events and venues in the country, including Mondavi Winery, Star Chefs annual International Chefs Congress, and the Oscar's of the culinary world – the James Beard Awards.
Currently, Courtney's position as Chef de Cuisine at Haven allows him to utilize his unique knowledge of both savory and sweet techniques. His latest passion is blending classic preparation techniques of charcuterie with modern flavors profiles. His enthusiasm for premium, fresh ingredients and a desire to push the envelope of progressive are showcased in the dishes Courtney produces every night at Haven. 
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Jonathan’s love of food began as a child, growing up with a mixture of Italian and Puerto Rican cuisines.  Growing up in New York City, he was exposed to a wide range of flavors on a daily basis.  He decided to take his passion for food to the next level and complete culinary school at The Art Institute, previously the New York Restaurant School.  After graduating with honors, he took an externship with Francois Payard, learning classic French techniques.  He eventually ended up at famed Soho seafood staple, Aquagrill, where he climbed the ranks and became Chef de Cuisine.  After seven years of service, Jonathan explored other avenues and finally took a job as Executive Sous Chef at Todd English’s Olives in The W Hotel Union Square.  There, he learned about hotel restaurant operations and took part in exciting ventures such as the TV program, Chef Hunter on The Food Network.

Jonathan decided it was time to experience a new city and chose Tampa, partly due to the growing culinary scene.  He accepted a position on the opening team for the Epicurean Hotel and was promoted to Chef de Cuisine.  Being a part of a food-driven concept is exciting and challenging and Jonathan is enthusiastic about the direction that the Epicurean and Elevage are heading.  He is proud to be a part of a team that is revolutionizing the food scene in Tampa and across the bay area.
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Brad Dixon, a native of Dixon, Illinois, joined the Bern’s team in 2003. Dixon manages an exceptional team of wine stewards along with two other sommeliers. Brad and his colleagues successfully oversee one of the largest wine collections in the world with 6,500 different selections and more than 500,000 bottles in inventory. His daily operations include managing inventory, cataloging, computerizing, and updating the wine list. Brad also takes the time to consult with Bern’s guests as they survey the 182-page wine list and offers suggestions and pairing choices. 

In order to provide the best service to clientele, Brad continues his education of fine wine with frequent trips to many of the world’s fine wine producing regions. He has frequented regions in France including, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Alsace, Loire, Champagne, and Cognac. As well as, Hunter Valley, Barossa, Rutherglen, McLaren Vale in Austrailia, Mendoza and Salta in Argentina, and including Australia, Europe and Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Wala Wala, Columbia Valley America on the West Coast of the United States. He, along with the wine team, have been featured in numerous publications and television features. Brad represented Bern’s on Star Watch with Sam Hallenbeck and has appeared in two Travel Channel episodes. 

Brad maintains his passion and respect for vintage wines and continuously studies many of wineries that produce them. He also teaches wine classes at Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits, holds seminars during Bern’s Winefest, and is always available to educate others on the art of fine wine.
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Amber went to Keiser University for the Culinary Arts Program. As a part of the school program she had to complete an internship and Bern's Steak House was her first choice. She learned how the kitchen operated and gained knowledge about the fast paced environment and history of the company, graduating with an A.S. in Culinary Arts. 

Amber began to take art classes and decided that she enjoyed the small intricate details of desserts. Switching over to pastry, she then began to work in the Harry Waugh Dessert Room where she made desserts for Bern's and SideBern’s. Amber’s hard work ethic, creativity, and dedication to the team advanced her through multiple promotions, from pastry cook and assistant pastry chef to her most recent role as pastry chef. Amber’s eleven-year career with Bern’s has provided her the opportunity to collaborate on spectacular events and large menu changes.
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Growing up in a full-blooded Italian family on her mom's side, food was always a part of Heather’s life.  In high school, she wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do, until she took an elective culinary class and her path became instantly clear. The culinary class catered weddings, parties, and even ran a restaurant in the school for the teachers to eat lunch.  Becoming more and more involved in the class, Heather decided to take a chance and apply to a private culinary school. 
She graduated from high school on a Monday, and by that Wednesday she had moved to New York to start culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  Heather enrolled in the Baking and Pastry Art program and twenty-one months later had an AA at the age of nineteen. 

Heather’s first stint of her career was as a cake decorator with Publix where she learned speed and superb customer service. Next she tried her skills with the Walt Disney World Company where she baked desserts for a restaurant in Magic Kingdom. Wanting to further her career and grow in her field, Heather applied at Bern's and quickly worked her way to the top as pastry chef.  Determination and passion have always been the driving factors for Heather, and you won’t meet anyone on the team who will tell you differently. 
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Gregory Schwab, a native of Long Island, New York had never intended on working with wine when he began his professional life after college. After receiving a BA in Political Science from SUNY Oswego in upstate New York, he took a job as an organizer and assistant campaign director for a Non Profit in Baltimore, Maryland. However, after making plans to attend graduate school, and earn money as a server before hand, Greg quickly realized that the world of wine and hospitality was calling much louder than anything else he had ever encountered. 

Greg began his new career from square one, working as a server in a mall anchor restaurant in the Baltimore Suburbs. His goal was to make each year count, and continue down this road as long as the challenges kept coming, and the scope became wider. Within three years of taking a job as a server, he was working as a Sommelier for Lidia Bastianich in New York City, and soon after was running a program of his own at Rare 650 Prime Steak and Sushi on the Gold Coast of Long Island. 

After passing the notoriously difficult Advanced Exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and building a nationally recognized program at La Cuchara Restaurant in Baltimore, Greg's life brought him to Tampa, and the Bern’s Restaurant Family, where he is Wine Director of Haven Restaurant. When not at Haven, Greg can be found spending time with his cats Kalis and Charlie, and his fiancée Alexa, usually playing frisbee or watching Star Trek.
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[category] => Sommeliers [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 316 [youtube_video_id] => ) [17] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18216 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:39 [newsDate] => 2019-02-19 11:33:25 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |059102200201550514555.png [display_order] => 41 [title] => Sous Chef [meta_title] => Brent Hunt- Bern's Steak House [name] => Brent Hunt [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Brent Hunt|Bern's Steak House|Sous Chef|||||||||||||
Brent was born and raised in Rome, GA, just north of Atlanta and not far from his grandparent’s farm in rural Alabama.  Looking back on his childhood, the time he spent on the farm represents some of his fondest memories.  There he learned to appreciate the hard work of producing food.  However, Brent didn’t originally have his eye on the culinary profession. 

He attended college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga working towards an environmental science major and chemistry minor.  After taking a job with friend and successful chef, Toby Willis, his love for food and the fast pace of the kitchen began.  Eventually, he moved to Atlanta, to seek out new opportunities.  He accepted an entry – level kitchen position at the city’s premiere restaurant group, Buckhead Life.  Forgoing a formal culinary education, he questioned recent culinary graduates about what text books to buy and study and went to work early every day to learn a new skill from the chefs. With this diligent attitude Brent quickly worked his way through the ranks of the kitchen and eventually took on the titles of banquet chef, sous chef and executive chef for Buckhead Life Restaurant Group.

Brent came to Bern’s in 2006 and found the quality of food and service, attention to detail, and passion for excellence to be exactly what he left in Atlanta.  He feels that his studies in environmental science and his time spent with his family on the farm gives him a deeper respect and appreciation for the food he serves.
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[category] => Culinary [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 315 [youtube_video_id] => ) [18] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18218 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:42 [newsDate] => 2019-02-26 10:39:36 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1263 [image] => |029807700201550594025.png [display_order] => 42 [title] => Sous Chef [meta_title] => Brady Wiggins- Bern's Steak House [name] => Brady Wiggins [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Brady Wiggins|Bern's Steak House |Sous Chef|||||||||||||

Brady’s culinary journey began at a young age with his interest in cooking, international cuisine, and an obsession with cooking shows. Despite his fascination at a young age, it was not until after his military career that his professional career in the kitchen began. Brady attended culinary school in Tampa at the Art Institute, while simultaneously working at Bern’s Steak House. After a few short weeks working in the wine cellar, he joined the kitchen staff and was quickly promoted to various positions until reaching his current role of Sous Chef. 

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[category] => Culinary [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 315 [youtube_video_id] => ) [19] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18147 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:42 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:50:33 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |072233800201548189931.png [display_order] => 43 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Jeridan Frye- Ruinart [name] => Jeridan Frye [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Jeridan Frye|Ruinart|Speaker|||||||||||||
US Ruinart Brand Ambassador, Jeridan Frye, brings 10 years of experience building luxury brands, holding advanced certifications through the International Sommelier Guild and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma programs.  Currently, she is the President of her local Toastmasters International Club.

Jeridan’s journey in wine began at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago-Beverly Hills, where her enthusiasm for wine grew substantially after her team won the 2005 James Beard award for outstanding food, wine, and service.  She continued as a Sommelier and Wine Director collaborating with teams such as the Dolce Group and David Meyers’ Food Art Group.  

Her affinity towards fine wine naturally brought her to the Napa Valley where she tripled winery sales at Spring Mountain Vineyard as Director of Sales and Hospitality.  She then managed direct-to-consumer sales for the Bespoke Collection & Blackbird Vineyards as their Private Client Director.  As a Champagne Specialist, Jeridan elevated the Moët Hennessy Champagne portfolio by garnering significant company sales and marketing opportunities while actively nurturing distribution and account relationship networks.

Jeridan has been featured in the Patterson’s Beverage Journal, 944 Magazine, 7x7, Best Weekends, The Wine Minute, Henry Arnaud’s monsieurhollywood, Bulles & Millésimes magazine and Gayot for her wine and spirit expertise.  She has also hosted a variety of food and wine related live content segments, including Hollywood Reporter’s ‘Pret-a-Reporter’, S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, “Cooking In with Chef Todd English” and The Multicultural Cooking Network. 

Additionally, Jeridan has been an authority on various educational panels including The Wine Education Council with Raj Parr & Peter Liem, Celebration of Food & Wine Terranea, Relais & Chateaux GourmetFest, Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival, The Guild of Sommeliers, North American Sommelier Association, SommCon, Consular Press Organization CPO-LA and the Order Des Coteaux de Champagne.  

As a native from Colorado, Jeridan stays active outdoors, enjoying hiking, cycling and skiing.  She gained her BA in Sociology from Loyola Marymount and has explored multiple areas of the arts while maintaining her craving for international travel throughout her life.  In her travel throughout diverse wine regions, Jeridan has obtained a wealth of experience building alliances in wine communities across the globe.
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [20] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18181 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:36 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:51:25 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |037819900201549648285.png [display_order] => 44 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Jean-Christophe Crouzet- Bernard Magrez [name] => Jean-Christophe Crouzet [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Jean-Christophe Crouzet|Bernard Magrez|Speaker|||||||||||||
Born in the Rhone valley in the South-East of France, Jean-Christophe Crouzet was raised with the French tradition of “good food and good wine”. He has fond memories of choosing the wine to serve from the cellar with his Granddad and Dad for their Sunday meals together. 

Jean-Christophe’s passion for wine continued to grow through the years. After graduating from Economics University and successfully passing a master in international Wine Business, Jean-Christophe decided to travel.  It was a tough choice, but one he will never regret. When he landed in the UK, he realized that London was one of the centres for the wine world, and that he was in the right place to take his career further. 

Having spent almost ten years with a major wine retailer, Harrods, where Jean-Christophe was the Wine Manager for the company, he took a break to learn the art of winemaking with two experiences; one in Chile and the other in Provence. Then he headed back to London where he met with Bernard MARGEZ, who broadened his mind. Jean-Christophe is still amazed at how a simple chat with this iconic wine entrepreneur gave him such a different perception of himself! Mr. MAGREZ offered Jean-Christophe the opportunity to work with him, a chance that Jean-Christophe grabbed with both hands and now he is in charge of developing Bernard Magrez brands in the US, UK and Middle East markets. 

Jean-Christophe’s philosophy about wine is simple: “You do not need a special occasion to drink a great bottle of wine. The bottle, itself, is the special occasion. However, an exceptional bottle will make this instance memorable.”
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [21] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18182 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:28 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:51:50 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |069395800201549648310.png [display_order] => 45 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Matt Hobbs- Paul Hobbs Winery [name] => Matt Hobbs [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Matt Hobbs|Paul Hobbs Winery|Speaker|||||||||||||
Matt Hobbs was raised on the Hobbs Family Farm in Newfane, New York; the second youngest of eleven children. The family farmed apples, peaches and pears, and as a result, Matt learned the relationship between meticulous farming and its effect on producing quality fruit with a sense of place. As a teenager, Matt experienced his brother’s work living with him in California, while Paul was a winemaker at Simi Winery in Healdsburg, CA.

After graduating from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with a Master of Business Administration and working several years in finance and consulting, Matt turned his focus to helping his brother, international vineyard and winery visionary, Paul Hobbs, with creating something beautiful and meaningful at Paul Hobbs Winery. Since 2001, Matt has been involved in various strategic roles. Currently, Matt serves as the primary ambassador and educator on all wineries under Paul Hobbs Wines. 

Matt’s affinity for the culinary and wine experience is long lived. He enjoys the dynamic nature of the world of wine, how it is inextricably linked with history, culture and food while presenting an opportunity for lifelong learning and fulfillment. Like his brother Paul, Matt shares a passion for quality, exploration and attention to detail.

Matt resides in Jersey City, New Jersey with his two children.
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [22] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18183 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:23 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:52:17 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |073426400201549648337.png [display_order] => 46 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Eric Espuny- Domaine Leroy [name] => Eric Espuny [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Eric Espuny|Domaine Leroy|Speaker|||||||||||||
Eric Espuny has been with Domaine Leroy for the past five years. Prior to this, he represented the wines of Lalou Bize-Leroy in the US, Eric worked as a sommelier at Le Bernardin, Lutèce, and Alain Ducasse in New York City, as well as the J. Splichal Patina group out of Los Angeles. Eric is a James Beard Nominee in addition to being awarded Food and Wine Magazine’s Sommelier of the Year for 2012. Eric enjoys sharing his passion for wines and gastronomy with a fond special interest and expertise for the French regions.

About Domaine Leroy

No name enlivens and ignites a discussion of Burgundy as quickly as Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. She is unrelenting in every way, from her personality to how she runs her business to the quality of the wine in the bottle. The Leroy family’s 50% ownership of Domaine Romanée- Conti gave Lalou ample ability to amass the deepest and most revered cellar in Burgundy during the past six decades. Speculation is rampant about its size and holdings; only one person knows for sure. Today, Lalou is the force behind three domaines: Maison Leroy, Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay.

The story of the Leroy family’s dominance in the wine world began more than a century ago, in 1868, when François Leroy founded Maison Leroy in Auxey-Duresses, a small village near Meursault. When Lalou’s father, Henri, joined the family business in 1919, the firm was already established as one of the greatest in Burgundy. Lalou joined her father in 1955, taking over the house in 1971.

Maison Leroy is the heart of the Leroy empire, a négociant house through which Lalou purchases and distributes wines from most appellations in Burgundy. With her legendary palate and relentless standards, she unearths some of the most thrilling wines of each vintage, then ages or finishes the wines herself, only releasing them to the market when she knows they are at their peak. Lalou never fails to impress with her unparalleled depth and understanding of the most hidden corners of Burgundy’s terroir.
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [23] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18184 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:14 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:52:55 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |096329500201549648364.png [display_order] => 47 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Shayna Kaufman- Brown-Forman [name] => Shayna Kaufman [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Shayna Kaufman |Brown-Forman|Speaker|||||||||||||
Shayna Kaufman is the Florida bourbon brand ambassador for the Brown-Forman portfolio representing Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Coopers' Craft. She travels the state conducting educational seminars, hosting whiskey paired dinners, and preaching the whiskey gospel. 

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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [24] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18185 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:07 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:53:19 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |001062900201549648399.png [display_order] => 48 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Bénédicte Hardy- Hardy Cognac [name] => Bénédicte Hardy [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Bénédicte Hardy|Hardy Cognac|Speaker|||||||||||||
Bénédicte Hardy was born near Cognac, France in Angoulême on March 18, 1957. She is a fifth generation member of the famous Hardy family, producers of Cognac. Her ancestor, Antoine Hardy, originally of English and Scottish descent was a merchant who fell in love with the French Countryside and decided to become a French citizen settling in Cognac in the second part of the 1800’s. After years of working for other Cognac producers, he learned the craft and founded A. Hardy & Company, the first bottle of Hardy Cognac was sold in 1863. 

Bénédicte herself attended High School in Cognac finishing at the age of seventeen. She then went on to study in Bordeaux and graduated with two majors when she was 21. Intending to continue her education in law, Bénédicte applied and was accepted to Columbia University in New York. She chose, however, to attend the University in Geneva, Switzerland where the skiing conditions were much better than in New York. When Bénédicte graduated from Geneva with a degree in International Law (Maritime law or “law of the seas”), she could have begun practicing Law immediately. Instead she chose the wine and spirits industry and joined the family business in 1986. But Bénédicte has no regrets. She has been in charge of the U.S. and Canada for A.Hardy & Company. Along with her importer, Hardy USA, she has worked to build the Hardy brand stone by stone. 

Bénédicte has a wonderful husband, Ludo, and two beautiful children, Pierre and Caroline. She hopes that one day her “little ones” will share her passion for Cognac. Bénédicte skis as much as she can, plays tennis, swims, and runs on a regular basis. She is also an avid reader and wine lover. 
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [25] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18186 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:18:01 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:53:43 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |006328400201549648423.png [display_order] => 49 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Jason Guerra- Moët Hennessy [name] => Jason Guerra [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Jason Guerra|Moët Hennessy|Speaker|||||||||||||Jason Guerra was previously a Portfolio Manager for Moët Hennessy. In 2016, Jason joined Strategic Group as a Portfolio Specialist in Charleston, SC, where he managed 55 accounts. In May 2018, he translated that experience into his role as the Brand Ambassador for the Estates & Wines portfolio of Moët Hennessy. Jason also excels in developing relationships through educating staff with specialized trainings, trade dinners, and seminars.  |
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [26] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18187 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-03-18 11:27:56 [newsDate] => 2019-03-18 11:27:56 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1263 [image] => |075557600201549648443.png [display_order] => 50 [title] => Louis XXI Brand Ambassasor [meta_title] => Maximilien Pats- Rémy Cointreau [name] => Maximilien Pats [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Maximilien Pats|Rémy Cointreau|Louis XXI Brand Ambassasor|||||||||||||
A native of Versailles in France, LOUIS XIII Ambassador Maximilien Pats spent most of his formative years growing up in Portugal, Spain and Japan.  Upon his return to France, Maximilien earned several degrees in business and International Wine & Spirits Management in Bordeaux.
                           
Maximilien began his career in the US spirits sector by holding marketing roles in the luxury Single Malt category for a major French importer in their New York headquarters. From there, Maximilien joined the LOUIS XIII team and moved to Chicago to manage the Central US for the iconic luxury brand owned by The Rémy Cointreau Group. Most recently, Maximilien has returned to New York City where he handles the full portfolio of luxury brands at Rémy Cointreau, based out of their Americas Headquarter Office there.
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [27] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18188 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:17:44 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:54:31 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |007825300201549648471.png [display_order] => 51 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Olivia Lacoste- Chateau Ferran [name] => Olivia Lacoste [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Olivia Lacoste|Chateau Ferran|Speaker|||||||||||||
Olivia Lacoste obtained a Bachelor degree in UK and a “master Grande Ecole” at INSEEC Bordeaux (School of business and economics).

She worked successively as a product manager in tableware and for a wine broker in 2007, before being the family 5th generation joining Château Ferran, under the guidance of her father Philippe Lacoste.

At the end of 90’s, Philippe and his wife Ghislaine took over the lead of the vineyard, supporting the required investments to revive this sleeping beauty.
Since the beginning of 2018, Olivia is progressively taking in charge the management of Chateau Ferran, which means there have been no change hands since 1880.

This enthusiast of nature, mother of 2 children, enjoys to leave her home in Bordeaux to benefit from the 70 ha of Ferran estate, shared equally between vines, century old forest (home to beehives) and meadows for the “Bazadaises” cows.
Olivia kept from the illustrious Ferran’s owner Montesquieu (1715) a part of his philosophy: “Un grand vin se fait d’abord avec de beaux raisins” which means :  “a great wine first exists with fine grape.”

For her : “To succeed, you have to keep land in good condition. Use manure for vines when necessary and lend part of the forest to a beekeeper for mostly 20 years is part of our biodiversity contribution."

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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [28] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18189 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:17:35 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:54:50 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |094851200201549648489.png [display_order] => 52 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Paul Rutherford- Zydeco Brew Werks [name] => Paul Rutherford [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Paul Rutherford|Zydeco Brew Werks|Speaker|||||||||||||Paul Rutherford graduated from the Siebel Institute in Chicago, and Doemens World Brewing Academy in Munich, Germany in 2004. He began his career at Iron Hill Brewery in Philadelphia where he opened three of their locations and received multiple World Beer Cup Awards. In 2017, he relocated to Tampa to build and open Zydeco Brew Werks in Ybor City where he is the head-brewer and co-owner. |
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [29] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18190 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:17:26 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:55:08 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |016353600201549648508.png [display_order] => 53 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Rich Rodriguez- Escape Brewing Company [name] => Rich Rodriguez [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Rich Rodriguez|Escape Brewing Company|Speaker|||||||||||||Rich Rodriguez is a Tampa native and an FSU graduate. He has been with Escape Brewing Company for over 4 years (actually the 2nd person hired). Rich is involved in every aspect on the brewing side at Escape. Rich started out volunteering at Escape and quickly became the lead brewer. He loves fishing, long walks on the beach (not really) and of course brewing beer.  |
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [30] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18191 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:17:13 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:55:24 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |036204600201549648524.png [display_order] => 54 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Travis Kruger- Crooked Thumb Brewery [name] => Travis Kruger [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Travis Kruger|Crooked Thumb Brewery|Speaker|||||||||||||
Travis Kruger, Co-Founder of Crooked Thumb Brewery has been immersed in the craft and specialty import segment of the beer industry around Central Florida since 2000. He started as a brewer with a now defunct local brewpub chain and then managed operations for a small local brewery in Dunedin, Florida. From there he moved on to manage sales and marketing for industry leader Cigar City Brewing. All of this experience equipped Travis to conceptualize and execute Safety Harbor’s first craft brewery focused on an amazing experience for the residents and visitors of Safety Harbor and Pinellas County.

Travis’ approach to brewing is focused on creating ales and lagers that arrive at the right time for any drinker’s palate. Having been in the beer industry for almost two decades in various roles Crooked Thumb’s offerings are in line with not only what the market has dictated, but also what is lacking. With a deep overall appreciation of the craft of brewing, Travis has studied brewing practices and beers produced throughout the world by brewers near and far, even monks!  He uses this knowledge almost daily to help the crew of Crooked Thumb develop exciting, experimental liquids with an emphasis on utilizing local ingredients and giving a nod to the culture of Pinellas county where he grew up.
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [31] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18192 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:17:03 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:55:45 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |057676300201549648545.png [display_order] => 55 [title] => Speaker [meta_title] => Warren Gardner- St. Petersburg Distillery [name] => Warren Gardner [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Warren Gardner|St. Petersburg Distillery|Speaker|||||||||||||
The true heart and Master Distiller of St. Petersburg Distillery is Warren Gardner. He has his hands on every product and is focused on finding the purest processes in distillation to produce the best quality. Over the last five years with the distillery, Warren has manipulated the flavor profiles and temperature cuts to refine and improve each and every product. Through his dedication to detail and the art of his work, St. Petersburg Distillery has become recognized nationally for spirits awards and has been approached by prestigious partners to develop signature lines and liquors.

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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [32] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18193 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:16:45 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:56:05 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1368 [image] => |017598900201549648565.png [display_order] => 56 [title] => [meta_title] => Danny Franco- Breakthru Beverage [name] => Danny Franco [keywords] => [description] => [text] => Danny Franco|Breakthru Beverage||||||||||||||Danny Franco is the Craft Specialist for the Tampa territory at Breakthru Beverage. He represents the distributor's premium spirit portfolio and is responsible for creating unique cocktails, training bar staffs and hosting unique events in the local area.  |
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[category] => Guest [video_link] => [start_time] => [finish_time] => [code] => 1 [category_website] => 92 [category_sort] => 0 [type_category] => members [category_id] => 319 [youtube_video_id] => ) [33] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 18197 [website] => 92 [entryDate] => 2019-02-26 15:16:36 [newsDate] => 2019-02-08 12:17:31 [section] => members [lastUserID] => 1347 [image] => 014358200201549645928.jpg|045084900201549645709.png [display_order] => 57 [title] => Artists [meta_title] => PichiAvo [name] => PichiAvo [keywords] => [description] => [text] => PichiAvo||Artists|||||||||||||All has began in 2007, bringing a spectacularly lucid splash of Mediterannean colour to the streets of Valencia and wider Spain, Pichi and Avo have infused a stunning level of figurative detail into their work. Hints of surrealism leap out and slap the viewer about whiledrawing you into a radiant explosion of unrestrained, spray painted talent.Creating a massive stir in their hometown and just about to set the rest of Europeablaze. Pichi & Avo are one, fleeing the egocentrism of graffiti and come together to give birth a single work, two similar visions of the world are a result of their work.

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Florida Avenue Brewing Co. makes beer for the sunshine state. We may not be the oldest Florida brewery, but our team has created quality beers that encompass what it means to be a Floridian. Easy, great tasting beers meant to be consumed while boating, golfing, playing beach games, or relaxing under an umbrella with good friends. Florida Avenue Brewing fermented in 2010 on North Florida Avenue in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida. We invite you to crack open a can and chill-out under the Florida sun.
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Chad Wiltz is the owner and mead maker at Garagiste Meadery in Tampa, Florida.

Garagiste Meadery takes a modern take on old world meadmaking by combining a culinary approach to the craft and blending it with fun whimsical flavors.

Garagiste Meadery opened in July 2017 and in its relatively short time has won multiple Best of  Show awards in international sanctioned mead competitions including the East Coast Meadmaker of the Year title for 2017 and Best Cidery/Meadery in Florida award in 2018.

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