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Amtrak Culinary Advisory Team

Picture of Chef Jamie Bissonnette

Jamie Bissonnette
Jamie Bissonnette (co-chef/owner of Toro, Coppa and Little Donkey), a 2014 winner of the James Beard Award Best Chef: Northeast, co-helms NYC and Boston's most popular tapas destination Toro as well as Boston's beloved Italian enoteca Coppa. Jamie is also the winner of Food Network's Chopped series and Food and Wine first ever People's Choice Best New Chef. A champion of nose-to-tail cuisine — Jamie is a past winner and judge of the Cochon nose-to-tail competition. In August 2014, Jamie debuted his first cookbook: The New Charcuterie Cookbook, with a foreword by Andrew Zimmern, and can be found serving anything from Beef Heart Pastrami; to Veal Carpaccio; and Duck Prosciutto. In 2016, Jamie alongside co-chef/owner Ken Oringer, will open Toro Bangkok, Toro Dubai and their first project in Cambridge, MA: Little Donkey.

Picture of Chef Roberto SantibaƱez

Roberto Santibañez
Roberto Santibañez is the chef/owner of Fonda restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY. As a native of Mexico City and a graduate with honors from Paris's top culinary institutions, award-winning Chef Roberto Santibañez's culinary resume includes stints as restaurateur, culinary consultant, author and teacher in Mexico, Europe and the United States. He is the author of Rosa's New Mexican Table, nominated for an IACP and a James Beard Award. His second book Truly Mexican was one of the most Notable Cookbooks of 2011 by the New York Times, Epicurious, and Food & Wine. His third cookbook Tortas, Tacos and Tamales was published in the fall of 2012. Roberto is a culinary consultant for Amtrak and a member of The Culinary Institute of America's Latin Cuisines Advisory Council.

Picture of Chef  Matthias Merges

Matthias Merges
It's hard enough for a chef to open one great restaurant. Chicago's Matthias Merges has launched three in three years — one Japanese, one American and one Mediterranean. Though he was born in New Jersey and spent 14 years as executive chef at Charlie Trotter's, Merges has a preternatural knack for Japanese-accented cooking. At Yusho, his one rule is that he won't serve sushi; instead, he makes things like crispy pig's tail ramen. At his deluxe bar, Billy Sunday, he puts short rib potpie and other American dishes on the menu alongside bottled cocktails. And at A10, he celebrates Italy and France with recipes like bucatini carbonara topped with a 60-minute egg. In addition to his restaurant work, Merges is a founding member of Pilot Light, a volunteer organization that advocates for child nutrition, health and wellness. Working with educators, Pilot Light chefs create a hands-on classroom experience for students that gives them authentic experiences in cooking and nutrition.

Merges lives in Chicago with his wife and business partner, Rachel Crowl, and their two daughters.

Picture of Chef Daniel Malzhan

Daniel Malzhan
Daniel brings over three and a half decades of diverse culinary experience to his position in designing long distance dining car menus in his role with Amtrak since coming onboard with the railway in 2007. Prior to Amtrak, Daniel spent a decade developing global menus as Executive Chef for Delta Air Lines in their Atlanta test kitchen facility. Chef Malzhan has held a variety of other food-centric positions with a variety of restaurants throughout the hospitality industry over his career. He is a culinary graduate of the Hotel-Restaurant management school at San Francisco's City College, as well as a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where he holds a degree in art. He completed the Menu Masters continuing educational program at the Culinary Institute of America in 2012.

Picture of Chef David Gottlieb

David Gottlieb
Chef David is new to the Culinary Team at Amtrak overseeing the NEC, Acela First Class and State supported services. David brings with him over thirty-five years of culinary experience and a very diverse background in all aspects of the industry. Chef Gottlieb worked for more than twelve years in the prestigious kitchens of The Four Seasons Hotels in Philadelphia and Chicago, along with West Chester's award winning restaurant, Dilworthtown Inn. He was the District Chef for the Wood Company/Sodexho and led the culinary teams for MBNA with 18 cafés in the US and Canada. As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Gottlieb combines his classic French training with American, European and Asian influences. David's recipes have been featured in The Locals Flavors cook book, Food and Wine and other publications. David believes in freshness, quality, taste and sustainability and is a strong supporter of many national charities.

Picture of Chef Marion Gibson

Marion Gibson
Marion was raised in the country in the northeastern part of Texas, which gave her a strong tie to and interest in artisan, organic and sustainable crops and farmers. Her years in California afforded her a unique opportunity to meet and know organic farmers, artisan producers of cheese and wines, local ranchers and meat suppliers.

Chef Marion graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 1992, and was the recipient of the Daniel Carlisle Walker Award for Culinary Excellence. She further developed her culinary expertise while working at fine dining restaurants in Dallas and San Francisco such as Beau Nash, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, China Moon Café and Vertigo, before moving to Chicago. Marion comes to our group from four star James Beard-nominated Spiaggia, where she was executive chef of the private dining rooms.

Marion was also selected as an International Guest Chef, traveling to the United Nations kitchens in New York before going on her adventures abroad to England, Ireland and Scotland to work with our chefs and serve our guests at premier restaurants in those countries.

Picture of Chef Gerard Bertholon

Gerard Bertholon
Chef Gerard Bertholon has many stars by his name, having served as executive chef in top restaurants both in the United States and in France. A native of France, Chef Bertholon studied elaborate techniques, innovative recipes and precision in presentation. Over the past 22 years, he has combined his stringent training with cutting-edge technology. He is currently Corporate Chef and Chief Strategy Officer for Cuisine Solutions and CEO of FIVELEAF, a project where top chefs partner with Cuisine Solutions to bring the greatest chefs into the homes of people around the world.

Picture of Chef John Hemmer

John Hemmer
With over 35 years of experience in the food service industry, Chef John Hemmer has focused his expertise on providing food in large-volume settings. In addition to his 13 years of experience designing menus for the airline industry with Dobbs/Gate Gourmet, he has spent ten years with Cuisine Solutions as sales manager in the Onboard Services division working with Amtrak. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Hemmer is a firm believer in using the "sous vide" process of cooking in a sealed, protected environment to achieve the maximum flavor, perfect texture and quality.

Picture of Chef Marcel Lagnaz

Marcel Lagnaz
Previously, Marcel was the Executive Chef for the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, where he frequently planned, developed and served meals for the King of Malaysia, his staff and visiting dignitaries to the palace. In 1984 he was promoted to the Executive Chef position at the Westin La Paloma Hotel & Resort in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985, Marcel joined Stouffer Hotels as the Executive Chef for the Cottonwood Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona and in 1986 transferred to Los Angeles for the opening of the Stouffer Concord Hotel.

Currently residing in Southern California, he enjoys biking, traveling the world, working with chefs developing menus and discussing food trends, food related topics, learning and sharing recipes.

Picture of Chef  Francisco Garcia

Francisco Garcia
Francisco Garcia joined Gate Gourmet in 2011 as Executive Chef/Menu Design. He is based out of the Miami, FL office but frequently travels to kitchens across the United States and Canada. Besides Acela First Class, Chef Francisco also designs menus for multiple airlines that serve the Latin American region.

Chef Francisco is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts where after graduation he became a Chef Instructor. He has also worked in prestigious restaurants and hotels in South Florida such as The Ritz Carlton. During his time with the Walt Disney Company, Francisco worked alongside world-renowned chefs including Mario Batali and Cat Cora. At Epcot, he prepared dishes for the International Food and Wine Festival and the Party of the Senses.

His passion for cooking came at a very young age. He spent many years of his youth helping his grandfather, who was a pastry chef. His grandfather came to the United States from Cuba and immediately opened his own bakery. Chef Garcia's hobbies include fishing, boating and hunting. Chef Francisco resides in Miami with his wife, Christina.