MEET THE COMPETING CHEFS OF THE CHEF BATTLE ROYALE
Click here for our chefs-behind-the-scenes who make it all happen!
RETURNING CHAMPION, CHEF THU REIN
Executive Chef, The Crossing
Thu Rein was born in 1988 in Burma, now commonly known as Myanmar. In 2007 he decided to pursue a new life in America, and began his career in Indianapolis. While there, he was able to take high school classes although he was still learning English at that time. After about two years, Thu Rein left Indianapolis for St. Louis where his uncle lived. He became involved in a United Nations organization that helped him find work and through this organization, he took a job as a dishwasher at The Crossing Restaurant.
Before long, Thu Rein expressed an interest in doing more than dishes. He watched the salads being made, and thought that he would be able to learn how to prepare them. He asked owner Jim Fiala if he could try, and it wasn’t long until Jim realized that Thu Rein had a knack for learning new skills, and excelling in them. After salads, he learned fish and grill where he became an invaluable help to the chef. Jim also gave Thu Rein chances to learn more by placing him in his other restaurants, Acero, Liluma and The Terrace View, where he honed his kitchen skills further.
In 2017, the Executive Chef position became available and it was an obvious choice for Jim to give Thu Rein this opportunity. In the past year, he had been exemplary in every way and was a true inspiration to all the people he encountered. On a personal note, Thu Rein married his hometown sweetheart, lives in a home he purchased, and has become a U.S. Citizen!
CHEF MATT DUBOIS
Executive Chef, The Scottish Arms
Matthew DuBois is Currently the Executive Chef at the Scottish Arms.He has previously held the title of Executive chef in the kitchens of The Wild Flower and Bella Vino wine Bar and Tapas. Matthew moved to University City at the age of 7 from the small Alpine Country, Liechtenstein. While in high school he would work his first kitchen job as a dishwasher at the Former Lebanon Café. He would graduate from Rockwood Summit high school and attend Saint Louis University with the intention of becoming a dentist, before following his passion of becoming a chef. Matthew loves fresh pasta, the good butter and anything braised in wine. He has a deeply rooted mistrust of margarine, “cheese food” and foods that smell like Yankee candles.
CHEF AUSTIN HAMBLIN
Executive Chef, Cork Wine Bar
Austin Hamblin started his career as an American Culinary Federation Apprentice working for Brian Hardy at The Gatesworth were he entered multiple A.C.F competitions winning Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. All the while attending the Culinary program at Forest Park Community College.
He later went on to be Sous Chef at Meadowbrook Country Club. That eventually led him to opening up his first restaurant, The Muddled Pig in Maplewood,MO. Earlier this year Austin and his partner Michelle Allender Sold The Muddled Pig to take over ownership of Cork Wine Bar in Downtown Ferguson Missouri were they serve up vegetable forward plates and a wine and cocktail focused bar.
CHEF MATT BIRK
Executive Chef, Union 30/Hotel St. Louis
Specializing in American BBQ, Jamaican Jerk, Cajun, Creole, Italian, French, Pan Asian, American Southern Favorites. Three Meal Restaurants, Fine Dining, Buffet, High Volume Dining 4200+, High Volume Banquets, Continental Fine-Dining Cuisine, Menu Costing, Development and execution, Opening experience OVERVIEW More than twenty-one years of professional cooking and kitchen management experience. Backed by a consistent, verifiable record of achievement. Opening Experience on the Largest Cruise Ships in the World with Oasis of the Seas, and the Disney Dream. High-end Hotel & Resort experiences with Hotel Saint Louis opening team of the first Marriott Autograph Collection in St Louis, an all-inclusive aspect at the Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort – Montego Bay, Jamaica, AAA Rated Five Star Five Diamond Property 10 Consecutive Years, Worked on all three of the DCL (Disney Cruise Ships including the Opening of the Disney Dream, Worked one of the largest Ship in the World “Liberty of the Seas”- Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Nassau, Bahamas, 4275 Guests and 1225 Crew, American Queen Riverboat – Delta Steamboat Company,-New Orleans LA., World’s Largest Paddle Wheel Steamship, Consistently maintain AAA 3* rated restaurant establishments including: Monarch – Maplewood Mo., Pucks – St Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Mo., Top of the Riverfront – St Louis MO. - Love to travel, enjoys life and a passion for cooking - Huge Sports Fan, St Louis Cardinals, St Louis Blues, Missouri Tigers, St Louis University
CHEF MATTHEW R. DAWSON
Executive Chef, Cafe Coeur
Chef Matthew R. Dawson is a St. Louis-born chef and author who has worked in and out of the St. Louis Metro area for most of his career. As the Executive Chef of Cafe Coeur, Chef Matt set out to redefine Kosher restaurants by creating a Japanese-Italian Fusion menu that highlights both styles of cuisine while still keeping to the high standards of certified Kosher. Has never competed at The Taste of St. Louis Chef Battle Royale.
CHEF EMILY NOVOTNY
Pastry Chef, Eleven Eleven Mississippi
Emily Novotny was born in Princeton, Illinois but grew up in South St. Louis county. Testing her curiosity in the kitchen at a young age, she loved baking & pastries. She got her first job at a local pizzeria called Fortel's Pizza Den. Graduating from Affton High School in 2007, Emily enrolled at The Culinary Institute of St. Louis, where she was mentored by Chef Chris Desens. Helping achieve her goals, he introduced Emily to ACF salon & team competitions. She fell in love with competing. After graduating in 2012 from culinary school, Emily started working at eleven eleven Mississippi, guided by Chef Bob Colosimo. Emily has been with the restaurant for almost 8 years, and was also acting sous chef for Chef Bob Colosimo in 2015 as well as Chef Trevor Ploeger in 2017 when they won Chef Battle Royale.
CHEF CASSY VIRES
Executive Chef, Winslow’s Home & Farm
Chef Cassy received her culinary training in Houston, Texas at The Art Institute. It was there that she gained an appreciation of American cuisine as a true melting pot of cultures, traditions, ingredients, and techniques. She has put her talent to work as a chef, restaurateur, culinary instructor, and food writer, for which she was nominated for a James Beard Award. She has been named one of America’s “Eight Chefs with Hidden Talents” by Zagat and nominated for the “The People’s Choice Best New Chef” by Food & Wine Magazine. Cassy is currently the Executive Chef for Winslow's Home & Farm maintaining the restaurant’s decade long reputation of serving true farm-to-table fare in a socially responsible way.
CHEF JASON SPARKS
Executive Chef, Owner Layla
[Bio to come]