CBR Bios

Read about the chefs who competed in the Stella Artois Chef Battle Royale

The Chefs of the 2017 Stella Artois Battle Royale

Cork & Barrel Chophouse

Seasonal culinary professional Lee Gustin, has been in the restaurant industry for 37 years. Although he’s worked all over the country, Gustin grew up in nearby Pocahontas, IL and began his career washing dishes at a local favorite, Michael's Restaurant. While serving in the United States Navy, Gustin attended the Restaurant School of Philadelphia. After graduation, he worked in a variety of restaurants, hotels and country clubs before becoming a sous chef, followed by purchasing mgr and sous chef for the St. Louis Blues.

A huge sports fan, Gustin greatly enjoyed his time in sporting venues and traveled coast to coast having the opportunity to work with a variety of different sports teams and music artists, even working NCAA Championship events. After the birth of his granddaughter, Gustin decided to move back to the St. Louis area. He became the Executive Chef at Cedar Lake Cellars, where he created unique and custom menus for their restaurant, weddings and events. After 5 years, Gustin joined Jill and Joel Ragan in opening a new steakhouse in St. Peters. Cork & Barrel Chophouse and Spirits is a farm-to-fork, scratch kitchen focusing on hand-cut steaks and blending cultural flavors into one-of-a-kind dishes. Gustin helped build the concept from the ground up and currently serves as their Executive Chef


Chef and Pit Master David Sandusky abandoned the fine-dining scene in 2007 to plant his roots in BBQ.

He created his "Craft BBQ" concept in late 2014 when he teamed with his wife, Meggan to bring BEAST Craft BBQ Co. to the super-competitive St. Louis BBQ scene. David brought his fine-dining culture and "All Killer. No Filler." mentality to Belleville, a town with no shortage of good BBQ.

Since its formation, BEAST Craft BBQ Co. has earned several nominations and won many awards, including "Favorite BBQ in St. Louis" by the readers of the RFT & GO! Magazine.

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Matthew Birkenmeier “Chef Birk”, born and raised in St. Louis, 93’ graduate of Ladue Horton Watkins. Started my culinary journey with my mentor, Tommy Bahn, at Cousin Hugos. Has worked for the Millennium Hotel, Wolfgang Puck's, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Ritz Carlton Resorts-Montego Bay Jamaica, Owner of Biggs BBQ-Montego Bay Jamaica, currently Executive Chef at Quincy Street Bistro; bringing my flare and fondness of South American Classics and Midwestern BBQ to South St. Louis.

Mango Peruvian

Sergio Nakayoshi was born in Lima, Peru. His mother, Julia, was originally from southern Peru and his father Eduardo (raised in Lima), is of Japanese descent. Sergio and his family moved to the states in 2000 where they took up residence in Webster Groves.

Sergio became interested in Peruvian food at an early age.  At age 16 he accepted a position at Mango Peruvian Cuisine washing dishes so that he could eat Peruvian food -  a year later he expressed interest in learning how to cook and was promoted to pantry cook under Executive Chef/Owner Jorge Calvo.

In 2000, he accepted a line cook position with Chef Jack MacMurray at Sage Urban American Grill to further his education in American Cuisine.  He also spent time working under Chef Rex Hale at 360, and in 2012 Sergio was promoted to Sous Chef at Mango Peruvian Cuisine.

2016 allowed Sergio to spend one month traveling Peru in order to delve deeper into his native cuisine. During his time there he was able to journey through the coast, the Amazon jungle and the Andes to sample the many different regional cuisines of the this diverse country.

On returning home to the states, Sergio spent 9 months in New York broadening his culinary education. He was able to work at Michelin Star restaurant The Musket Room under Chef Matt Lambert, with James Beard Best Chef New York, Marco Canora at Hearth and at Lllama Inn (The New York Times Top 10 Best New Restaurants) under Chef Eric Ramirez.

Sergio is currently the Sous Chef at Mango Peruvian Cuisine and resides in South St. Louis City where he is often found drinking pisco and playing washers.

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Gamlin Whiskey House

Chef Carl Hazel’s upbringing on a Southeastern Missouri farm lead to his passion for slow food and influenced him to build his menus around locally available produce and meat. Chef Hazel is a nose-to-tail chef, utilizing all parts of the animal for pates, head cheese and more.

With 20 years of experience in the culinary field, chef Hazel has held the positions of Sous Chef at Sqwires in Lafayette Square, Executive Chef at the Scottish Arms, and prior he was Executive Chef for Roxane of Clayton.

Currently the Executive Chef at Gamlin Whiskey House, Chef Hazel has also been featured in local media including Sauce Magazine, The Post Dispatch, The Riverfront Times, Great Day St. Louis and News Channel 11, and is currently theExecutive Chef at Gamlin Whiskey House

The Dam

Chef Matthew started cooking and helping in the kitchen at a very young age – helping his mom bake during the holidays and cut out all the cookies. By age 11, he was making dinner for the family.

By the age of 15, he knew that cooking would offer a world with unlimited possibilities and soon after, enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu.

"I learned so much from that experience, how to become a chef, and what that means. I've worn many hats in the kitchens I've worked in, I've helped Gerard Kraft open the first Niche. I helped the Viviano family open a second location in Chesterfield. I've worked with Chef Vito Racanelli, through most of his adventures – I'd say he helped me learn most of all."

Chef Matthew now owns and operates his own restaurant (The Dam) and catering business (Michele C. Catering) with co-owner Michele Coen.

St. Louis Country Club

Chef Scotty went to the Culinary Institute of St. Louis at Hickey College to introduce himself to the Culinary world, but it wasn’t until his opportunity to work for Chef Paul Kampff at St. Louis Country Club that he fell in love with food and fine dining.

Chef Scotty has dedicated himself to the kitchen and climbing the ranks to become a talented and passionate Sous Chef. He aspires to become an Executive Chef and is excited to continue to show his competitive edge at the Taste of St. Louis.

Eleven Eleven Mississippi

During high school, Trevor Ploeger got his first job in the restaurant industry at one of the “nicer restaurants” in his hometown. He was drawn in immediately — working his way up from dishwasher to line cook. He then knew that this was what he wanted to do the rest of his life.

After graduating high school, Trevor went on to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, MN. Shortly after graduating he moved to St. Louis and got a job with Sunset 44 Bistro. He worked his way up to Sous Chef, and after a few years was given the title of Executive Chef.

Trevor left Sunset 44 in search of new experiences and soon he joined the culinary team at Harrah’s Casino as Sous Chef. A year later he was given the opportunity to work with a close friend at Old Hickory Golf Club. He started out as the Sous Chef, working with both the bistro and banquet sides, and worked his way up to Executive Chef.

Later on, Trevor was contacted about a job at Vin de Set where he was hired as the Sous Chef. Soon after, owners Paul and Wendy Hamilton promoted him to Executive Chef at its sister restaurant Eleven Eleven Mississippi, where he has been now for two years.