Signature chefs create a life-saving Menu

Published on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 23:32 - Written by CHRISTINE GARDNER 

Thirteen of the area’s finest chefs are preparing for the tasting event of the year. Sauces are being created, recipes tested and seasonings carefully prepared.

Coming to Willowbrook Country Club on Monday, Sept 23, this elite group of top chefs has found inspiration in a good cause – raising money that gives better lives to premature babies and newborns that are at risk of lifelong disabilities.

But as the chefs prepare their dishes for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala and Auction, there is one ingredients missing. That ingredient is you. You must be there to enjoy the evening, support the March of Dimes and savor the wonderful flavors they’ve so carefully prepared.

Ashley and Kevin Johnson never dreamed their second daughter, Anna-Katherine, would not only be born prematurely but would also spend almost three weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Yet, thanks to research funded by the March of Dimes, their little girl is thriving.

Premature birth is the most serious infant health problem in the United States today. It affects more than half a million babies nationwide each year, with one in every eight babies born premature in our community. Babies born too soon are more likely to die or have lifelong disabilities. March of Dimes is committed to reversing this trend by funding research to find the causes of premature birth and developing strategies to prevent it.  Guests will hear first-hand the impact March of Dimes had on the Johnson family and how their daughter, Anna-Katherine will be forever changed.

Funds raised by Signature Chefs Auction support lifesaving research and educational programs right here in East Texas. Six hospitals in Texas partner with March of Dimes to offer the NICU Family Support Program. The program addresses the needs of the families during their NICU hospitalization, their transition home and additional resources in the event of a newborn death.  It also offers professional education opportunities to the NICU staff to support the care for families centered around their needs and experiences.

This year the March of Dimes will be celebrating it’s 75th anniversary at this 4th annual East Texas edition of the Signature Chefs Gala and Auction. Brookshire’s Grocery Company returns for the fourth year as presenting sponsor. Additional event sponsors include Village Bakery, Tyler Today magazine, Suddenlink, East Texas Refrigeration, Overhead Door, BScene, Henry and Peters, HealthFirst, East Texas Business Printing, Suddenlink and many more.

 “What better way to enjoy a wonderful meal than by supporting the March of Dimes mission and working together for stronger, healthier babies, right here in Tyler,” said Bettie Smith, Owner and Chef at Village Bakery and Signature Chefs Auction Chair. “I am grateful that volunteering for the March of Dimes has offered me the chance to work with some wonderful volunteers.”

Generous donations of sponsorships and auction items have been made by Brookshire Grocery Company, R J Jewelers, The Christmas Store, Villa Montez, Linda Rudd, Dr. Barbara and Richard Huggins, and Willowbrook Country Club.

Some of the auction packages include a six day/seven night Cabo trip, a Vegas package, a fabulous nativity scene from the Christmas Store, and art from the personal collection of Linda Rudd.  Also included is a Mundo Villapudua sculpture, couples spa package from The Parlor and fun children’s party packages.

East Texas chefs participating in this year’s event include Glen Terrell of Brookshire Grocery Company, Bernard Gautier of Bernard Mediterranean Restaurant, Whit and Lisa Bowman of Adalante’ Catering and Events, Carlos Villapudua of Villa Montez, Cedric Fletcher of Fat Catz, Tony Barrera of Lago del Pino, Dion Emanuel of Willow Brook Country Club, Bettie Smith-Desha of The Village Bakery, Rick Neal of Eagles Bluff Country Club, Jackson York of Lakeview Methodist Conference Center, Jack Lewis of Rick’s on the Square, and Simon Webster of Sabor a Pasion.

Guests will have the chance to taste the gourmet signature dishes that each chef has to offer, meet the chefs, bid on auction items and increase their awareness of the March of Dimes mission to improve the health of babies.

For more information about attending contact the March of Dimes office, Vickie Hargrove at 903-707-3584, or



Dion Emanuel, Willowbrook Country Club: Pepper Encrusted Petite Fillet topped with Goat Cheese and finished with a Roasted Red Pepper-Ancho Coulis

Bernard Gautier, Bernard’s Mediterranean Restaurant: Shrimp Genovese

Simon Webster, Sabor a Pasion: New Zealand Lamb Lollipop atop Parmesan Polenta Crouton glazed with Red Onion Lomanto Sauce

Glenn Terrell, Brookshire's: Lemongrass and Ginger Marinated Grilled Chicken and Beef Satay with Warm Indonesian Style Spicy Peanut Sauce and Green Papaya Salad with Mint and Thai Basil

Carlos Villapudua, Villa Montez: Green Chile Pork Tamales

Rick Neal, Eagle's Bluff Country Club: Citrus Infused Duck Tostadas topped with Apricot Peach Glaze

Jack Lewis, Rick's on the Square: Tortilla-Crusted Mahi-Mahi with Habanero Corn Sauce

Cedric Fletcher, Fat Catz: Cajun Blackened Chicken Breast topped with Boudin and Cheese                    

Tony Barrera, Lago del Pino: Smoked Jalapeno Meatloaf with a Homestyle Glaze

Whit and Lisa Bowman, Adalante Catering: Lime Shrimp on Miniature Corn Tostadas with Mango Salsa

Jackson York, Methodist Conference Center: Chicken Florentine with Pasta Pourri

Bettie Smith, Village Bakery: Assorted Desserts






Chefs Whit and Lisa Bowman began their culinary careers at the Conrad N. Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. After acquiring a master’s degree in Hospitality Management, Chef Lisa went on to achieve success as a pastry chef through her work with Certified Master Chef Gitchner and Pastry Chef Philippe Valladares at the Houston Country Club. Her Houston clientele included several celebrities, including President and Mrs. George H. Bush.

After attending the Hilton school, Whit worked with NASA to develop food for the International Space Station. Advancing his skills under Chef Gitchner’s instruction and a multi-national team of chefs at the Houston Country Club. Whit eventually became a trusted assistant to Chef Gitschner and assumed teaching responsibilities for students from the Culinary Institute of America. As executive chef at Abuso Catering in Houston, he cooked for Houston’s elite. He then went on to teach cooking classes at Sur La Table, and as chef at the HEB Central Market.

In 2002, Lisa and Whit created Adalanté Catering and Events Company. Adalanté is known for its attention to detail and quality with multiple awards, including Best of Caterers from Texas Meetings and Events, Who’s Who, Best Caterer for 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well as Best Wedding and Event Planner for 2012. , 903-526-3800




Born in Merrill, Wisconsin Chef Dion Emanuel has lived most of his life in Tyler. He was intrigued at an early age with how the presentation of food could be an art form so he set out to expand his knowledge.

After starting his career as a cook in Wisconsin, Emanuel began a corporate path that lead to the US Virgin Islands with Hess Oil Refineries. That was followed by head chef positions with Newmont Gold Company in Carlin, Nevada and then with Stillwater Mining Company in Nye, Montana.

He then enrolled in the Art Institute of Dallas and graduated with honors in 2011.

Moving back to Tyler, Chef Emanuel was mentored by Certified Executive Chef Jackson York. , 903-592-8228;, 903-570-0234




Chef Glenn Terrell’s culinary career has taken him across America and the Caribbean, but he has always been happiest in Texas. He is delighted to bring his experience and vision to Brookshire’s and to be living back in East Texas.

He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park where he worked for Bobby Flay during summer breaks and holidays. After graduating with honors, he moved to San Francisco to work for several chefs, but returned to Texas to work with Stephan Pyles in his restaurants, Aquaknox and Star Canyon. He then served as a strategic planner and culinary expert in bringing the Central Markets to North Texas and Houston.

From there, his career moved to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Cozumel, where he served as executive chef in several resorts and was once responsible for 12 restaurants.

His dream came true when he and his wife opened Mesa 17, which won rave reviews and quickly built an international following. However, when hurricanes devastated Cozumel in 2005, Terrell was convinced that inland Texas was a much safer, dryer place to be.

He rejoined Central Market, assuming the strategic role as executive chef of the new Southlake store supervising 75 kitchen employees, three sous chefs, and all food production and employee training in three food service outlets.




Chef Jackson York began his career in the restaurant industry nearly 25 years ago as a pot washer, but his passion for cooking began as a child. He recently earned his accreditation as a certified executive chef through the American Culinary Federation.

Over the years York sharpened his skills in several restaurants. In August 2006, he accepted the executive chef position at Edom Bakery and Grill. York was educated in French-Continental cuisine, but says he specializes in country gourmet.

During his career, York’s biggest influences have been David Christensen, who helped him recognize the complexity of the human palate, and Leroi Blanchard, who trained York in pastry making and put him on the path toward earning his certification. York has been a 14-year member of the Texas Chefs Association. The organization has twice named him chef of the year and once, pastry chef of the year.

York enjoys working with high school students through the ProStart Program, which brings the classroom and restaurant industry together to develop future talent.

He joined Lakeview in 2012 as the executive chef where he brings his blend of culinary expertise to the Palestine center. , (903) 538-2711




Chef Bernard Gautier, owner of Bernard’s Mediterranean Restaurant in Tyler, was born in Pau, France, a rich agricultural region nestled in the Pyrenes Mountains. His early years were filled with memories of good food enjoyed around the dining table with his father, a petroleum engineer, his older sister and mother. When he was 13 years old, Gautier’s family moved to Africa where they lived for nine years before moving to the United States.  

In the United States, Gautier gained diverse culinary expertise and learned the business side of the restaurant industry. Fulfilling his father’s wishes that he pursue a business career, Gautier attended Tyler Junior College and graduated from the University of Texas at Tyler with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

While a college student, he worked as a server at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant in Tyler and when the restaurant went up for sale five years later, Gautier bought it. Today, patrons of Bernard’s Mediterranean Restaurant are greeted with a tempting menu featuring Mediterranean, European, French, and Italian cuisine, and a distinctive European ambiance. , 903-534-0265




Chef Carlos Villapudua was born in Durango, Mexico and raised on a dairy farm in Turlock, California. When most kids were out playing, Carlos and his two brothers, Mario and Mundo, were working on the farm. This lifestyle not only exposed him to a disciplined work ethic, it also taught him the importance of farm to table. His mother always had something ready to harvest from the garden, whether fragrant herbs and fresh vegetables or beautiful flowers.

At the age of 18, Carlos and his brother, Mario, bought their first restaurant. A twenty-four year career has yielded 13 restaurant openings in over seven states. Over the last ten years, Chef Carlos had the privilege of traveling to many South American countries, Europe, and Africa in search of great food and inspiration.

Now Carlos and his brother, Mundo, own Villa Montez Latin Kitchen. Because they have always relied on using fresh ingredients, the brothers have developed garden areas on the grounds of the restaurant where they grow all of the herbs used in cooking their Latin-inspired creations. , 903-592-9696




Born in Grapeland, Texas, Chef Cedric Fletcher grew up watching and helping his mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles prepare traditional southern dishes. He worked his way through business school at the University of North Texas in Denton. Starting out as a dishwasher, he moved up to prep cook, and eventually worked as a server and bartender in the Denton and Dallas areas.

After seven years of restaurant management he ultimately landed in Chicago, Illinois. In 1998, Fletcher became part owner of a popular and critically acclaimed restaurant in Houston called Fusion Café. The menu and concept were very unique combining Caribbean, Creole, and soul food. While at Fusion Café, Fletcher took the opportunity to study with the Jamaican chefs and learn new cuisines.

Deciding to move closer to his parents, Fletcher opened Fat Catz Louisiana Kitchen in Terrell in 2004 and later opened a second location in Tyler. At Fat Catz, the emphasis is on high-quality ingredients, an engaging atmosphere, and fresh and delicious food. Fletcher finds inspiration from a variety of cuisines from around the world. Fat Catz, 3320 Troup Highway, Tyler, 903-593-1114




Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Chef Rick Neal was part of a cooking family. Large family functions taught Neal the art of barbeque and traditional southern dishes.

A move to southern California exposed him to West Coast seafood. Neal moved to Texas in the 1990’s and was mentored by Chefs Joseph Jaskiewicz of Joseph’s Catering, and Chef Jason Crysup at Willowbrook Country Club. Through these mentors, he learned what it means to become a great chef.

He found joy and personal satisfaction in his early years of training as he artfully created dishes that enhanced the consumer’s dining experience.

Neal attended the Culinary School in Dallas while working for Whole Foods Market. He later became the executive chef at The Woods in Jacksonville, and now Eagle’s Bluff Country Club in Bullard. A member of the American Culinary Federation and of the Texas Chef’s Association, his goal is to become a Certified Executive Chef. , 903-825-7278




Born in England and raised in New Zealand, Chef Simon Webster was classically trained at the New Zealand Culinary Institute through the City and Guilds of London and apprenticed with some of the finest chefs in the area.

Webster’s experience in the kitchen spans 40 years and includes chef and developer for five-star restaurants in New Zealand, chef and food and beverage manager for prestigious wine bars and pubs in London and Manchester, catering consultant for Nestle corporation, first class chef for BMI Airlines and owner of his own restaurant and catering company in Derbyshire, England and now the United States.

He opened Sabor a Pasion in 2004, and single-handedly transformed it into a restaurant, bed and breakfast, event center, wedding venue, catering headquarters and vineyard.

The venue offers casual fine dining, romantic vineyard weddings, facilities for private dining and parties, relaxing bed and breakfast with beautiful views, culinary instruction and a unique experience, unlike anywhere in East Texas.

Guests have come from across America and around the world to visit Sabor a Pasion. Some come just to relax and unwind while others enjoy guided hunting and fishing trips in the great outdoors of East Texas. No matter the excursion, they all experience the great flavors from Webster’s kitchen.

Well-respected throughout the area, Webster has made a name for himself through his attention to personal service and detail to food and flavor. ,, 903-729-9500.




Chef Antonio Barrera serves as executive chef for Lago del Pino – an expansive two-story oasis featuring four dining rooms, two bars, and a seemingly endless patio with spectacular views of Lost Pine Lake.

Since taking over as head chef, Barrera has made the menu his own by introducing a fresh, edgy take on New American/Spanish style cuisine. The result is quintessential Texan. So come for a relaxed brunch or lunch or celebratory dinner, but stay for the entertaining live music and all that makes Lago del Pino a colorful experience in southern hospitality. , 903-561-5246




Born on the East Coast and raised in the South, Northeast, Midwest and Southwest, Chef Jack Lewis has been exposed to many flavors of American regional cuisine.

Lewis attended Oklahoma State University and then moved to Texas, landing in Tyler in 1986. After 10 years at Cace’s Seafood, Lewis moved to Jake’s Restaurant and eventually, Rick’s On the Square where he currently serves as executive chef.

His creativity has been recognized with a feature on his crawfish-stuffed filet on Food Network’s, Top 5. Mission Foods also awarded him the best entrée, Tortilla Crusted Mahi-mahi with Habanero Corn Sauce, and best dessert, Tortilla-wrapped Chocolate Terrine, in their Think Outside the Tortilla contest.

As one of the premier caterers in Tyler, Jack has coordinated thousands of dinners and parties for up to 2000 guests at a time, including Mistletoe and Magic, the Heart Ball, the East Texas Symphony Ball, All Saints Founders Day dinners and Grace Community School dinners.

Lewis serves the community through Tyler Parks and Recreation Cooking for Life cooking classes and is seen on local access channels. , 903-531-2415




The Village Bakery has baked delicious treats in the Bergfeld Center since 1948. With the feel of an old fashioned bakery, generations of families enjoy homemade pies, cookies and cakes.  

Under the culinary leadership of Bettie Smith-Desha, owner and Executive Chef, who designs all cakes, the Village Bakery is a Tyler tradition.  Bettie has guided the bakery’s success for the more than thirty years.  Although her grandson David stepped in to manage the day-to-day operations, Bettie is still the chief cake designer and the primary architect of Village Bakery’s continuing success.  Bettie, also serves as Chair for this year’s 75th Anniversary of the March of Dimes, Signature Chefs Auction. , 903-592-1011



(Recipes provided by chefs have not been tested by The Tyler Morning Telegraph. For questions regarding these recipes please contact the chef who provided the recipe.)


Smoke-Infused Peach Duck Crostini with Citrus Chipotle Sauce



1 cup kosher salt

3 cups water

6 peaches

3 whole Maple Leaf Farms ducks

chipotle puree, as needed

3 roma tomatoes, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cup whole kernel corn

1 jalapeno fresh, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup lime juice

1 can refried black beans

Flatbread, cut and toasted

1 cup orange juice

1 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

cilantro, minced

Salt and pepper to taste



Make the duck brine by combining salt and water in a large container. Stir until the salt is dissolved in the water. Place the ducks in the water and soak, in the refrigerator, for 24 hours. Drain ducks, rinse and set aside. Peel and seed peaches, stuff two into each duck. Rub ducks with chipotle puree and place on smoker for 3 hours at 250 degrees. When done debone duck by shredding and set aside. In separate bowl add tomatoes, onions, corn, jalapenos, cilantro and fresh lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.   Then mix in duck meat. To make the sauce, in a small saucepan, bring orange juice, pineapple juice, sugar, chipotle puree, to taste, to a boil. Thicken with cornstarch slurry, season with salt and cilantro. Now it is time to build the dish.  Start with a triangle of flatbread, spread black beans on top with duck mixture, garnish with minced cilantro.  Serve sauce on the side or on the dish. Recipe by Chef Rick Neal, Eagle’s Bluff Country Club, 903-825-7278


Green Chile Pork Tamales


For the Masa:

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups of warm water

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

4 cups masa harina (made for tamales)

12 ounces of pork lard


For the Filling:

2 pounds of pork cushion

6 garlic cloves chopped finely

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

7 dried guajillo peppers

2 cups roasted, peeled and deveined green chiles

1/2 cup of hoja santa finely diced (rootbeer leaf), substitute with ½ teaspoon

dried tarragon



To prepare the masa. Mix dry masa harina with baking powder and salt until combined. In an electric mixer, mix half of the masa harina with the two cups of water. Once it starts to come together mix in the rest of the masa harina and chicken stock one cup at a time. Beat together until a grape size sphere of masa float in a cup of cold water. This will ensure your tamales will be light and airy. Boil both chiles, garlic cloves, white pepper, cumin and salt in pot with four cups of water. Wait until it cools then blend and strain through a strainer. Return back to pot and add 2 more cups of water and adjust to a medium simmer until meat is fork tender. This should take about 1 1/2 hours. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Wash and dry cornhusk making sure to rinse off any dry corn silk. Pick 24 to 30 cornhusks that are 5 to 6 inches at the top. Spread a square of masa in center of husk. About 4 inches high by 3 inches wide make sure it is no more than ¼ inch thick. Put filling in center of masa from top to bottom fold over and then fold the bottom up. Put in a steamer with open side up. Steam for 1 1/2 hours, making sure to check every half hour that the water has not evaporated. Recipe by Chef Carlos Villapudua, Villa Montez Latin Kitchen, 903-592-9696


Chicken Veneto



1 bunch broccoli

2 six ounce butterfly chicken breast

2 ounces mozzarella cheese

1/2 ounce toasted slice almonds

4 ounces heavy cream

2 ounces parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste



Take butterflied chicken breasts lay them open on a piece of plastic wrap and pound out with meat hammer to double it’s size or larger. Next, blanch broccoli florettes to bright green and cool in ice water to shock and keep color. When cooled down chop to medium dice and place in bowl. Add mozzarella, add toasted sliced almonds, check for salt and pepper, mix. Place mixture on half of the chicken and fold over. Repeat with other, set aside. Place on a sheet pan, bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown and 160 degrees in the middle. Next, in a sauté pan add heavy cream, parmesan cheese, one tablespoon fresh chopped Italian parsley, salt and pepper, to taste and reduce until the sauce bubbles to a slight thickness. Place hot pasta on serving plate and cut chicken in half, place on pasta, finish with sauce, garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy. Recipe by Chef Jackson York, Methodist Conference Center, 903-538-2711