Meet The Chefs:

Sponsored by:

Renewal Remodels and Additions

Bates Technical College




Tacoma Cooking for the Holidays Host Jackie Casella, has been a resident of Tacoma and surrounding areas since she was just a glimmer. She’s the Founder and Event Producer of Tacoma based literary non profit Creative Colloquy and was awarded the 2018 AMOCAT Award for Outreach by an Individual. She is also a longtime restaurant industry veteran and an editorial and food writer who’s had columns among the pages of the Weekly Volcano, City Arts Magazine, South Sound Talk, Post Defiance, South Sound Magazine, and Grit City Magazine. 

Jackie Casella

Executive Chef Hudson Slater, the Flavor Hammer, is a Gig Harbor native and local chef, dreamed of an opportunity to craft whimsical food outside of the familiar establishments where he clocked his culinary hours. He enjoyed plating the usual steak and fish entrees found on most classy restaurant menus, but wished for an avenue to cook food that pushed boundaries — food re-imagined. With an urge to find a creative outlet, he noticed a new concept dubbed “pop-up” restaurants becoming increasingly popular in cities around the country. Pop-ups are usually set for one night only, offering a chef-driven menu in a mysterious location. With help from friends, Slater’s idea of the Secret Sauce Society became reality. In summer of 2014, he set up camp at Early Bird Farms in Puyallup, and strung eggs through every one of his eight courses. He served eggs raw, deviled, poached, pickled, fried, and everything in between. He cooked without any substitutions or special requests. With diners satisfied and eager for another tasting, he knew his pop-up concept satiated the cravings of South Sound foodies.

Executive Chef Hudson Slater


Executive Chef Jon Maley, of Chuch, was born in a small farm town in New Jersey. Growing up next to a farm and having goats of his own, he learned what it meant to put in a hard day’s work. He stared work at 14 years of age in a cake shop washing dishes. From that point on, he knew his future was in the food and beverage business.In 2008 Chef Jon decided to move to Washington and enjoy the fruits and labor of the Northwest. He took the job of Executive Chef of The Local Vine, which was started by James Beard Award winning Chef Jason Wilson. After the closure of the restaurant due to hard times, he was extended the opportunity to open the highly acclaimed restaurant, Book Bindery, under Chef Shaun McCrain as his Sous Chef. In 2011 Chef Jon joined the team at The University of Washington Club as a Sous Chef, and 2 months later was promoted to Executive Chef. Since then, Chef Jon and the whole leadership team have taken this club to all new levels.

After winning the “Club Chef of the Year” award in 2013, Chef Jon and his team took innovative ideas to rebrand the club in every area. He has been instrumental in creating blogs and social media pages to promote the club’s food offerings. He has also headlined “Dinner and Demonstration” events to inspire and engage the club members of all levels of culinary experience. In addition to bolstering the clubs social media and web presence, Chef Jon has dramatically improved the clubs daily lunch program by creating visionary weekly special desserts that wow and impress the members.

Chef Jon Maley
Chef Jan Parker, started Jan Parker Cookery in Wiesbaden, Germany in 2017.  After her husband retired from the Army.  She decided to continue her small business in Tacoma, WA where she serves up Fresh & Distinct Filipinx food at the Proctor Farmers Market, Steilacoom Farmers Market, Tacoma Night Market, Tacoma Sunday Market and other outdoor market venues.  Chef Jan recognizes the power of connection with food and the  community. Her food incorporates produce from local farmers.  She continues her mission to put Filipinx food at the forefront. Most importantly, representing and spreading awareness regarding her culture from the Philippines.  Chef Jan was awarded Best Chef 2020 by South Sound Magazine.

Chef Jan Parker

Chef Reginald Jacob Howell, of En Rama, is a local chef born and raised in Tacoma and a proud University of Washington Alumni. Chef Howell is a Washington state based private chef who has been cooking professionally since 2014.  He’s won notable titles such as, Chef’s Roll Plate 2019 Champion, and Industry’s Chef of The Year 2019 – for the state of Washington.

Chef Reginald Jacob Howell

Kris Blondin, is one of the owners of Vin Grotto, Wine Shop and Tasting Room is located in The Sounth Sound Tacoma, Washington. Owners Jack Noble and Kris have over 30 years of restaurant and wine experience to provide you expertise in finding that perfect bottle. They are the founders and former owners of STINK Cheese & Meat restaurant located in Tacoma, Washington’s Theater District.  Kris and Jack started Vin Grotto in order to celebrate the power of friendship and share their knowledge with those who appreciate the relationship between food and wine.   They are currently working on an additional project – a food, wine and hospitality Podcast called The Deep Dish where they will talk about the wine and restaurant industry along with many other topical subjects that they hope will inspire you and make you laugh!

Chef Kris Blondin

Chef Abigail Bardwell, of Milk & Honey, is a semi-retired chef born in Little Rock, AR. Abigail started her culinary career as a 17-year-old prep cook; most recently, she has appeared multiple times on the Food Network, has worked as a culinary instructor for a James Beard Award-winning Seattle-based reintegration program, and has had the pleasure of being involved with many local community programs, food festivals and cooking expos – this being her fourth year with Tacoma’s Food and Gift Festival. After cooking professionally for 13 years, Abigail transitioned full-time into behavioral health, using cooking and nutrition in her role as a counselor for in-crisis and under-served youth. She is currently writing a cookbook that acknowledges using culinary practices as self-care tools.

Chef Abigail Bardwell

Chef Blake Lord Witig, of Chef Blake Lord-Wittig Catering, says the Pacific Northwest is my home and I am happy to be back here. My food journey took me to New York for six years where I graduated from the French Culinary Institute and learned the art of food and the profession of hospitality at restaurants such as Jean Georges, Artisan, and Seasonal. After that, I spent many years zigzagging the globe exploring culture and cuisine throughout Asia, South America, and Europe. Seeking to expand my professional experience as a Sommelier, two years ago I closed De La Terre, my restaurant in Steilacoom featuring French and European cuisine relying on micro seasonal northwest ingredients and took the position of beverage director for Rider at Hotel Theodore in Seattle’s retail and convention center.. When Covid closed Rider, I joined forces with the new owner of Harmon Brewing Company in Tacoma, incorporating flavors from my past travels to more traditional American fare in a pop-up restaurant called Spice Lab within the Harmon. While exploring how I might help you build an even more incredible dining experience that helps heal, rebuild and enrich our industry, our community of hospitality professions and our past and future patrons. Chef Blake Lord Wittig
Chef Warnessa Victorian, of Lizzie Lou’s, after 22 years of working, Nessa ‘went out to play’ as her Nana would say. She is the Head Flavor Experience Maker of Lizzie Lou’s Comfort Food Truck & Lizzie Lou’s Too! Lizzie Lou’s Comfort Food Truck is event based only at this time but we invite you to come see us in person with some of our other offerings at Lizzie Lou’s Too! – our cafe inside Destination Harley-Davidson for our unique cafe experience. If you miss us, invite us out to your next event. We can’t wait to see you! Chef  Warnessa Victorian
Aura Mae, of the Aura Mae Way, spends her workdays creating fabulous colorful hair at Azarra Salon & Wine, and her off days promoting colorful eating and living. She’s the President of the Board of the Tacoma Farmers Market where she works to improve access to fresh produce in our under-served communities and nourish microbusinesses in their infancy to find customers for their products. She’s also a wildlife photography hobbyist with a love for Tacoma’s urban wildlife.  @theauramaeway @auramaehair @auramaephoto Aura Mae
Tanya Jirapolchet, Founder & Recipe Curator of Namjai Thai. Coming from a large family of 6 and raised by a single mom, home-cooked meals have a special place in my heart. After building my corporate catering business from the ground up with recipes passed down for generations, my daughters inspired me to share my recipes and love for authentic Thai cuisine through Namjai Thai. I am excited to share our tried and true sauce & seasoning collection where it all started; here in Washington. Chef Tanya Jirapolchet
Chef Andres Bell, of  E9 Firehouse and Gastropub, started his career in 2003 and attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle. After graduation in 2005, he was fortunate to work for notable chefs such as Matt Puck, Gordon Nacarrado, and Kelly Wilson. Chef Andres has more than eight years of experience in sushi, as well as over five years of experience in country French cuisine, and new American cuisine. Chef Andres Bell
Chef Shawn Tibbitts, of [email protected], says Tibbitts at Fern Hill was a tiny restaurant that almost wasn’t. Shawn Tibbitts was a cook in Puyallup when the owners had to shut the doors. He was approached to open his own place in Tacoma’s Fern Hill neighborhood where he grew up and he started saving, with plans of opening in January 2017. But two weeks before that, he received a call that would stop him in his tracks. His mother’s car had hit black ice in Shelton and the accident took her life. “After that I took all the money I had, and I gave her the best funeral a son could give his mother. And I was broke,” he said. “I had nothing.” A couple of weeks later, he received another life-changing call. This time, it was a childhood friend Tibbitts hadn’t heard from in 15 years. He said he was sorry to hear about the passing of Tibbitts’ mom and he also had another question; he wanted to know how much money Tibbitts needed to start the restaurant. “Well, I gave him a number and he cut a check,” Tibbitts recalled, still in disbelief. “So, when everything was said and done, I opened this place with $32 and a prayer. “Tibbitts was raised in the Fern Hill neighborhood by his single mom who struggled to raise her two sons with little money but with a lot of love and support. However, he didn’t get his cooking chops from her. “She’d burn water,” he joked. Tibbitts dropped out of high school and worked as line cook in a variety of restaurants, learning everywhere 🙂 Chef Shawn Tibbitts
Chef Hailey Hernandez, of Side Piece Kitchen, is Tacoma raised and making her Tacoma Holiday Show debut. After over a decade working in all types of kitchens, with all types of cuisine, climbing from cook to executive chef, in 2022 Hailey changed roles again as she opened take out brunch & munchie concept Side Piece Kitchen on South Tacoma Way with her husband Dante. As one of TNT’s 6 women stirring things up and reshaping Tacoma’s food scene, Hailey’s number one priority is keeping her food approachable to all and keeping it humble. When she’s not folding biscuits or coming up with new cheesecakes, Hailey enjoys spending time with the “#1 world’s all time best ever dog” Choncho Hernandez. Chef Hailey Hernandez
Chef Kevin Michalk and Sous Chef Giovanni Perez lead ALMA Kitchen’s indigenized seasonal cuisine, one of downtown Tacoma’s most innovative venues, feature progressive farm fresh fare based on peak ingredient availability. Chef Michalk started his career in 2010. After over a decade working in all types of kitchens, with all types of cuisine, climbing from prep cook to executive chef, he has been fortunate to work for notable chefs such as Derek Bray and Gordon Naccarato. Chef Michalk has several years of experience in Pacific Northwest fare, 5 years in elevated catering, and new American cuisine. He also grew up learning, cooking, and eating food from many cultures that inspire his dishes today. Chef Kevin Michalk