Guest Chefs

John Varanese, @dinevaranese


John Varanese obtained his BA in Food Service Management and AS in Culinary arts from Johnson and Wales University in South Carolina. During his enrollment there, Varanese was Kitchen Manager for Magnolias, a landmark in Southern cuisine, for three years. Varanese set himself apart from other chefs quickly after displaying his accomplished understanding of business finance. While working in Magnolias, he revealed his great ability to control costs while producing very high quality cuisine using only the freshest local ingredients.

In 1998 Chef Varanese took the position of Executive Chef at Azalea in Louisville, Kentucky. There, he developed his management style, personality and culinary flair. After 3 years at Azalea, Chef Varanese left and spent 4 years as the Executive Chef at the Cardinal Club during the planning stages for his own restaurant. He resigned to focus on opening Varanese in August 2007.

Varanese is known for his culinary creativity as well as his dedication to local farmers who provide the freshest local products as showcased in many of his signature dishes. He is star and co-producer of his own television show, “Big World of Food” which educates viewers on the importance of local farms’ to the food on their tables. More at

Chef Varanese has won numerous awards and has represented the State of Kentucky’s Dept of Aquaculture three years in a row at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans. He was also invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York in 2012. Recently Chef Varanese was honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the premier edition of Best Chefs America and named “Restaurateur of the Year” for 2013 by the Kentucky Restaurant Association.

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Poppy Tooker, @poppyt

Food personality, culinary teacher and author, Poppy Tooker is passionate about food and the people who bring it to the table. Poppy brings all of these elements to the table in her weekly NPR affiliated radio show, “Louisiana Eats”.

Her first book, “The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook” received a Tabasco cookbook award and was named “Cookbook of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine. Her latest book, “Louisiana Eats” was given the Literary Award of the Year by the Louisiana Library Association.

Poppy provides weekly restaurant commentary on the PBS show, “Steppin’ Out” seen on WYES TV and has appeared on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, the History Channel and CBS Sunday Morning.

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Chef Michael Brady , @FreshiesTweet

Chef Michael Brady believes in “paying it forward.” And because he was trained by some of the best culinary experts in the country, the people of East Texas are in for a real treat.

“Most of my career has been spent in restaurants and vineyards, and I’m excited to bring that experience to FRESH. We offer our customers the best prepared foods to bring home and serve with pride to their own family – without the overhead costs of a fancy restaurant.”

What makes Chef Brady unique is that his “only the best” philosophy extends to every type of food, not just the exotic or expensive. “I believe that if you’re going to make a cheeseburger, you should figure out how to make the best cheeseburger possible. I’m not one to only stick to fancy foods like foie gras and caviar.”

One of Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine’s 2010 “Chefs to Watch”

Chef Brady was a soccer star in high school in Shreveport, Louisiana, before he decided to change direction, turning down athletic scholarships for culinary school in South Carolina. Upon graduation, he was pegged to work with Chef Frank Lee at Charleston’s SNOB (Slightly North of Broad). He also spent time under the tutelage of Chefs Bob Wagner and Michelle Weaver at the Charleston Grill. While there, he attended a wedding on a vineyard in Armissan, France, and fell in love – with the vineyard. “I spent the better part of a year there earning my keep by cooking meals for tourists and visiting business people.”

This exposure in the wine business inspired him to return to Shreveport and jump on board with Wine Country Bottle Shop to develop and open the Bistro portion of the operation with his brother. While at Wine Country Bistro, Chef Brady was named one of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine’s “Chefs To Watch in 2010” – an honor that goes to five of the best young chefs in a state that is known for cooking. This honor allowed Chef Brady to “pay it forward” by hosting a black-tie fundraiser for Café Reconcile, a New Orleans restaurant/culinary school that takes at-risk kids off the street and teaches them the restaurant trade. “That was one of the best and most fulfilling experiences of my life,” said Chef Brady. “Seeing how that restaurant is giving back to the community really motivated me.”

An avid swimmer and biker, Chef Brady is married to a beautiful Cajun girl with two sons, another on the way, and his daughter, a black Labrador named Stella. 

Testimonial from Chef Brady

It was a great time!  It was cool to let our FRESH guests see that we are involved in some fun trendy things as well as the people that were there to shop.  They came across our shoot and were able to get some good "tid bits" on how to make a great classic a little more heart healthy.  It was a great experience and I love every minute of it!  Chef Jeff was a fun outgoing guy that I enjoyed hanging out with and cooking some good food!

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Gerard Maras

Gerard Maras, though not a native of New Orleans or even Louisiana is a well known figure in the recent culinary history of this food-loving culture.Coming to New Orleans in 1983, via Commanders Palace and restaurant “matriarch” Ella Brennan, Gerard would find his new home. Prior to his arrival, he had been schooled in French Classical cooking in New York and Palm Beach Florida. New Orleans seemed a strange new land, with a culture unlike any he has seen. The food, he soon realized was reveled and held sacred to the proud people of this city and state… “They lived, they ate, they drank in a constant celebration…but most of all they ate”. Food is the nucleus and driving force of this land.

Gerard soon moved from Commanders Palace to Ella’s new Bistro in the French Quarter, put at the helm of a premiere new concept for the city, Mr. B’s Bistro. He quickly discovered the passion his clientele had for food and the bounty of beautiful fresh produce and seafood that was available to him. Along with the then ‘New Garde’ of chefs, Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer, Frank Frank Brigtsen and Jamie Shannon, Gerard began networking with farmers and fishermen to bring these products into his restaurant, long before the farmers markets and “farm-to-table” surge had begun. It was this that shaped his food style and career. The freshest product, simply prepared.

For 15 years Gerard ran the brigade of cooks and chefs at Mr. B’s, teaching technique and inspiring them in his passion for fresh product. Many of these young cooks are now the owners and chefs of some of New Orleans finest eating establishments. Gerard opened Gerard’s Downtown, earning accolades both locally and nationally, rated one of the top 15 new American restaurants, by Travel and Leisure its first year and several other awards and favorable articles from media across the country.

In 1993 Gerard bought a farm in Franklinton Louisiana and started growing some of his own produce for his kitchen, fresh farm eggs for baking, micro greens for salads, baby brussel sprouts, peppers,and a variety of product that would enhance his menu. He still uses these products in his catering and private cooking classes because freshness is the key ingredient to truly wonderful food.

Today Gerard teaches private classes at the New Orleans Cooking Experience in New Orleans as well as bringing his expertise into the homes of “foodies” for private classes. His catering of weddingsparties and special events is unsurpassed. Private dinners with menus created by the chef and host are truly special. Whether you are hosting a dinner party, a wedding or just want to learn new recipes and techniques, bringing this esteemed chef into your kitchen adds that personal touch to a memorable evening.

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The Kinfolk Brass Band

The Kinfolk Jazz & Brass Band started in 2005, and is currently directed and managed by brothers Percy and Richard Anderson. Playing music has taken the Anderson brothers around the world, touring Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and France.

The Kinfolk Brass Band is at the forefront of the New Orleans Brass Band renaissance. They fuse numerous styles of music, incorporating Mardi Gras chants, New Orleans Funk, and modern jazz ,with an old world traditional brass band sound.

The band has performed at festivals, weddings, jazz funerals, and corporate events. Playing venues ranging from local clubs and grand ballrooms to second-line parades in the streets, the Kinfolk Brass Band has been enjoyed by millions of people all around the world. In 2009, Kinfolk Brass Band released their debut album, entitled Bourbon Street Parade. Over the past year, Kinfolk has performed in over 100 weddings and conventions, making them the most requested brass band in the City of New Orleans. Most recently, the band has performed at prestigious events such the the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl, and the 2012 Olympics in London.

The Kinfolk Brass Band embodies the unique sound of the City of New Orleans. Whether performing on a large stage, at a street parade, or in an intimate setting, the Kinfolk Brass Band provides the highest quality of entertainment with their animated style and energy. They are sure to be the highlight of any event.

Percy Anderson was born in New Orleans in 1976 and is the leader of Kinfolk Brass Band. He first started playing music in marching bands in Jr high school, under the direction of the late Donald Richardson. In 9th grade he was introduced to Jazz by an Asst. band director who was also a member of De’jean Olympia Brass Band. Percy has been a Jazz musician since 1993. Percy played with many bands in New Orleans before forming the Kinfolk Brass Band after the major disaster that followed hurricane Katrina.

Richard Anderson co-directs Kinfolk Brass Band and like his brother, Percy, first started playing music in his Jr. high school band under the direction of the late Donald Richardson. In 8th grade he was introduced to Jazz by an Asst. band director who was also a member of De’jean Olympia Brass Band. Richard later attend Southern University & AM in Baton Rouge where he studied under Mr. Alvin Batiste (Jazz Program) and received his Bachelor Degree in Music. Richard  gained a lot of experience playing with various bands until becoming a founding member of Kinfolk.

Noel Freeman was born in New Orleans in 1988 and has been playing the trumpet since he was 11 years old. He started playing Brass Band music in 2004 with the Truth Brass Band. The following year he joined the Kinfolk Brass Band.

Byron Bernard Byron “Flee” Bernard’s professional music career began in 1988 under the Olympia Brass Band, performing with the Olympia Junior Band, out growing the name a couple of years later, which became the Young Olympians in 1992, We got the name Soul Rebels from Cyril Neville. As the group leader, He played the tenor, alto saxophone. In 1994, when New Orleans lead the nation in kiling, He arranged musically and vocally the popular song, “Let Your Mind Be Free”. After a 6 year stint with the band he became a member of the Rebirth Brass Band with whom he played until 2007. Since that time he have worked with numerous bands and groups, but the majority of his time is spent playing with the Kinfolk Brass Band.

Frank's Pizza Napoletana, @frank_pizza

FRANK’S specializes in the area’s only true Pizza Napoletana. Our pizzas are prepared the same way Neapolitan pizzas have been made for well over 200 years. Everything from the Caputo flour and the San Marzano tomatoes that we use, the strict techniques that we follow, our Stefano Ferrara oven and the Mecnosud dough mixer and the way use them…all follow strict Neapolitan tradition. FRANK’S also offers daily pasta specials, creative, made-from-scratch appetizers, soups, toasted Panini, salads and desserts. FRANK’s bar offers an extensive selection of wines that will fit any taste and budget, craft beers both on tap and in bottles as well as scratch-made cocktails. Our food and spirits are served in an upscale, relaxed setting that merges the feel of a traditional old world Neapolitan pizzeria with beautiful modern-contemporary architecture.

FRANK’S goal is to be a truly great, neighborhood restaurant that delivers one of a kind quality and is the best at everything we do. We want to keep it simple; buy the best ingredients, hire the best people, make the best dough, make the best pizzas, make the best drinks, provide the best service in a fun, lively and inviting atmosphere.  We work hard everyday to get it right because we care. We strive daily to provide genuine hospitality and great unique products and want our customers to want to come here and come back again and again.

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