2019 Chefs, Judges, Bartenders, and Emcee


Local chefs are making an impact on Nashville’s culinary scene are going head-to-head at Music City Chef Throwdown to benefit Martha O’Bryan Center. NextUP - Martha O’Bryan Center Ambassadors is challenging Nashville chefs to showcase how an amazing meal can be made with the simplest of ingredients. As an exciting introduction to the main event, our VIP Happy Hour ticket holders will taste drinks from three bartenders from some of Nashville's best bartenders, competing to create the best cocktail of Music City Chef Throwdown.

2019 Music City Chef Throwdown Chefs

Chef Duane Loftus | Von Elrod's
Returning 2018 Champion Chef Team

My love for cooking started out of necessity, but ultimately grew into a passion. Prior to coming to Nashville, I was a commercial fisherman in Alaska and did the majority of cooking for our boat crew. I decided to make the move to Nashville about thirteen years ago, where I started cooking professionally at Radius 10 and Tayst. For the past seven years, I worked at Merchants downtown, and most recently, I joined the culinary team at Von Elrod’s Beer Garden & Sausage House in Germantown. Cooking is my passion. I enjoy creating tasty and memorable dishes with fresh, simple ingredients.

 Chef Katie Coss | Husk Nashville

Katie Coss Executive Chef, Husk Nashville was born in Catoosa, Oklahoma and raised in Inola. Her self-described place in the world has always been the kitchen. Through high school, she was a dedicated ballet dancer, and cooked as a means of “stress relief.” She ended up falling in love with the high-pressure atmosphere of the cooking environment instead. A country club line cook job started her culinary career; she went onto the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and traveled from Duck Key, Florida to Charleston, SC in her food adventures. In 2011 she joined Husk Charleston. In this role she began advancing her techniques and ideas of menu conception, shaping her culinary philosophies and expertise for the future.

Coss made the move from Charleston to Nashville where she joined the Husk Nashville team as Chef de Partie, was then later promoted to Executive Sous Chef and her current role is the Executive Chef. Chef Coss utilizes the techniques and principles instilled in her during years spent at both Husk Charleston and Husk Nashville. She continues to expand upon the concept and philosophy of sustainable and locally sourced dining & gracious hospitality at Husk Nashville.

Chef BJ Lofback | Funk Seoul Brother

B.J. Lofback is the chef and owner of Funk Seoul Brother, a Korean and Japanese street food truck and a poke and ramen shop in the Factory at Franklin. His business has received national attention, having consistently been named among the country’s 101 best food trucks by The Daily Meal, 2012-2016. Funk Seoul Brother has been named best food truck by editorial staff and Lofback has won a number of local competitions. In addition to running Funk Seoul Brother, Lofback is responsible for the development of the street food scene in Nashville, leading the formation of the Nashville Food Truck Association and serving as their first president.

Chef Taylor "Dip" Varnell | Dino's 

Dip here! I’m 29 years old and have been cooking for around 10 of 'em. I’m currently the kitchen manager at Dino’s and it’s awesome! I like to have fun in the kitchen and believe that cooking should be, too. When I’m not cooking, I’m probably watching wrestling or playing Kingdom Hearts.

Chef Kristin Beringson | The Green Pheasant

Kristin Beringson, a Chopped Champion appearing on The Food Network in 2014, began her culinary journey in 2009 when she made the bold decision to leave behind her career in retail management and pursue her dream of creating and inspiring in the field of culinary arts. Upon graduation from Culinary School, she was promoted to Executive Chef of Holland House, where she resided for nearly four years, being recognized by not just national publications, but global as well.

She made the decision to open City Winery, Nashville’s only full service restaurant, music venue, private events space, and working winery, but moved back to her fine dining roots in March of 2016, taking over as executive chef at Silo in historic Germantown.

In 2018, she joined Seed Hospitality, working towards opening their latest concept, The Green Pheasant as the Chef de Cuisine. This concept pushed her culinary knowledge to embrace Japanese cuisine. The Green Pheasant has had raving reviews and is one of Nashville’s hottest new restaurants.


Chef Caitlin Darby | Clean Plate Club

Chef Caitlin Darby attended the University of Tennessee Culinary Institute in 2010, and then went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Belmont University in 2014. After graduation, she served as sous chef for both Tomkats Catering and WOOLWORTH on 5th, and has been with Clean Plate Club since April 2018. Caitlin really enjoys exploring other cultures in her cooking and has a particular yen for pickling just about everything she discovers in the walk-in cooler. When not hovering over a hot stove on Houston Street where the Clean Plate Club is headquartered, she can be found on the hilly Tennessee trails hiking with her three dogs Emily, Rocky and Lucy!


Chef Jason Williams | Slim and Husky's Pizza Beeria - CANCELLED

Born and raised in Nashville Jason Williams has been the chef behind Slim & Husky’s innovative pizza creations since their 2015 start. Drawing inspiration from the matriarchs of his family, Chef Jason focuses on preparing food with attention and intention. It shows through his house-made dough and unique sauces, which have become fast fan favorites at Slim & Husky’s locations across Nashville and Atlanta. He enjoys playing a role in bringing communities together through the power of food.

For the last 25 years, Chef Jason learned from the best of the best in some of Nashville’s highest-rated hotels and restaurants. Over time, he developed a simple philosophy which fuels his cooking: food should make you happy, not stress you out.


Chef Jose Camero | Virago - CANCELLED

Born and raised in Laredo, Texas, Jose Camero was immersed in the world of cooking from a very young age. Living so close to the border, Jose had exposure to both authentic Mexican cuisine and southern American fare.

Although he started college in law school, he quickly realized his passion for cooking and began culinary school almost immediately in Austin, Texas. After graduating, he traveled to New York and Florida but settled back in Austin where he worked for La Condesa, Uchi, and Congress. Jose made his way to Nashville a little over a year ago.

Today, Jose is the Chef de Cuisine at M Street’s pioneer restaurant, Virago. “I love that Virago has a long history in Nashville and this huge chance to be even more innovative. I am excited to support such an ambitious team and learn from them just as much as they learn from me.”


2019 Emcee

Mignon Francois 

Mignon Francois is the Founder and CEO of The Cupcake Collection (TCC). While crunching numbers and creating the craze are amongst her job requirements, her favorite responsibilities within this role are giving hugs, listening, and mentoring her team and other up and coming entrepreneurs who seek after her grass roots experience.

Using her “Follow Your Spirit” approach, Mignon developed an iconic flavor that drew lines and attention to the hip nature of her Historic Germantown neighborhood that hadn’t seen this concept developed prior. The success of TCC thereby became icing on the cake amongst the existing North Nashville restaurateurs that would ignite a new movement to the area for other business concepts that might not otherwise have considered doing business in North Nashville.

Since planting its roots in 2008, Mignon’s business savvy has earned her the titles of “Woman of Legend and Merit” by Tennessee State University, “Emerging Business Leader of the Year” and Black Enterprise Magazine “Family Business of the Year Award”.

Prior to her career at TCC, Mignon was a Household Manager and mother of 6 plus 1. A NOLA girl from the core and die-hard Charter School enthusiast, she lends her talent as a Nashville community cheerleader and entrepreneur to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation Foundation, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Pathway Women’s Business Center and to Republic Charter Schools as a board member.

Mignon is an alumnus of Xavier University in New Orleans and received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Houston Baptist University in 1999. While she obtained her M.B.A. from the School of Hard Knocks, she is currently working on an accredited one from Lipscomb University.

In her spare time, Mignon enjoys reading, walking the Nashville Greenway, and donut sampling around the country as a self-proclaimed donut aficionado. I mean someone's got to do it, she's already got the best cake in the country figured out.

2019 Judges

Deb Paquette, Chef and Owner of Etch and Etc.

Chef Deb Paquette has been part of the Nashville food scene since 1997 when she and husband Ernie Paquette opened Zola off West End Ave. The food scene was sleepy then, and Zola served some adventurous food for the times. After 13 years of awards, accolades, teenagers, local farmers, obscure food trends, sustainability, confusing food science, lots of humor, and great food, they hung the “gone fishing” sign on the door and closed in 2010. Two years later, Paquette opened Etch restaurant with partners Doug Hogrefe and Paul Shramkowski. Countless awards, national recognition and overwhelmingly positive reviews from guests proved their decision on a downtown location indisputable.

Four years after the conception of Etch, etc. restaurant was born. Her philosophy is to “cook food for people that they can’t cook at home, using the best ingredients, best knowledge and best people”, a culture shared among the management and service team at her restaurants. Paquette’s signature cuisine boasts creative global and ethnic flavor presentations with no regards to authenticity. 

Hannah Schneider, Founder & CEO Hannah Schneider Creative and co-owner of Salt & Vine

Hannah Schneider, originally from sunny San Diego got her start through hard work and determination knocking on doors until she landed her first PR internship. Jumping right into the workforce, Hannah’s 8 years in public relations and social media includes work as a social media manager, publicist and now founder and CEO of HSC Creative.  

After working in fine dining restaurants holding positions from behind the bar, to private dining coordinator and restaurant manager, to then filling a publicist role at a high-end boutique hospitality firm, Hannah moved from San Diego to New York to assist her sister (now a client ) in operating, Egg Shop. From running social media to managing the restaurant, this gave her vast, hands-on experience in every facet of the hospitality industry. With a love for all things hospitality, travel, and design she now brings her expertise in social media marketing, media relations, market trends, and brand collaborations to a team in multiple cities.

Hannah’s extensive background for top hospitality and travel clients has led to strong relationships with media landing placements on local and national broadcast, print and online outlets including Good Morning America, Today Show, FOOD & WINE, Refinery 29, Thrillist, Eater, Cosmopolitan, Delish, Insider, Buzzfeed, New York Times and more! As Founder and CEO of Hannah Schneider Creative, Hannah splits her time between New York and Nashville and oversees all social strategy, public relations campaigns and influencer management for clients throughout the nation.

Kyle Patterson, Executive Chef, Sinema

A native of Chicago, Kyle worked in the city’s fine dining scene before relocating to Nashville. He moved from the Windy City to Music City to join Sinema team as Sous Chef in advance of its June 2014 opening. Since then, he was promoted to Chef de Cuisine and now serves as Executive Chef. His style of cooking leads diners to eat with their eyes first, nose second, and finally taste. The daily menu at Sinema reflects his delicate, purposeful presentation of dishes that are creative takes on classic American cuisine.

Marilyn Greer, Cayce Place resident & Martha O'Bryan Center Board Member

Marilyn Greer is the heart and soul of Cayce Place. She’s one of the biggest advocates for her neighbors as the Vice President of the Cayce Place Resident Association. She also serves as a board member on the Martha O’Bryan Center Board of Directors and helps with recruitment at Explore! Community School. She’s often found organizing countless drives and community events for the neighborhood. Marilyn works at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, but her favorite job is that of mother and grandmother. 


2019 VIP Bartenders

Mike Wolf | Chopper

Mike Wolf of Chopper, a tiki bar located in East Nashville, has been bartending off and on for 20 years. Before opening Chopper, he helped open Husk in Nashville and established a dynamic bar program there.  He is the author of a new book called "Garden to Glass," due out in November of 2019. Wolf also hosts a podcast called "Liquid Gold," where he delves into all manner of beverage topics and conducts interviews with other beverage professionals. Mike is passionate about how plants and the natural world factor into our daily drinking lives and is a believer in sustainability and community.


Nathanael Mehrens | Stay Golden

Nathanael Mehrens is a respected 13-year coffee veteran and entrepreneur turned bartender with experience founding cafes, cocktail bars and wholesale beverage companies, as well as creating training programs and menus for esteemed Nashville concepts including Steadfast Coffee, CREMA and Pinewood Social. Mehrens brings his extensive industry knowledge and creativity to Stay Golden as the Beverage Director.

With a knack for thinking outside of the box and a passion for pursuing the culinary potential of coffee in different contexts, Mehrens is the creator of coffee soda, a nationally recognized beverage known as Matchless Coffee Soda that has necessitated the evolution of an entirely new brewing process.

Mehrens is actively involved in the regional and national coffee scene having just placed 4th in Coffee In Good Spirits (a coffee cocktail competition) at the 2019 US Coffee Championships. He enjoys finding opportunities to blend the disciplines of coffee and bartending in ways that inform the execution of both.


Paul Morrison | L.A. Jackson

Paul Morrison moved to Nashville five years ago to pursue his passion in the food and beverage industry. Tapping into the Nashville drinking scene, he joined L.A. Jackson at the Thompson Nashville where he has worked his way up to Lead Bartender. At L.A. Jackson, Morrison oversees all cocktail and beverage curation and execution alongside Sally Gatza.