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Top Taco

Judges

Previous Top Taco and Food Fight Judges

Jyl Benson
Jyl Benson
Jyl Benson

Jyl Benson is a freelance journalist specializing in culinary and cultural subjects. She writes a monthly recipe-oriented column, The NOSH, for New Orleans Magazine and a monthly entertaining column, How to Host, for Avenue Magazine. She has written several cookbooks and contributes frequent features to a host of publications.

Jamie Bernstein
Jamie Bernstein
Jamie Bernstein

For more than 20 years, Jamie has been writing songs, poetry, music, and performing. Jamie grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, the heart of the Old-Timey music scene. His musical approach combines this strong folk element with the rhythms and themes of the city he has called home since 1996, New Orleans. Jamie’s songs have been featured in feature films and have been covered by grammy-winning artists. He fronts two bands that frequently perform in and around New Orleans, Future Cowboys, and Yakameiniacs. Jamie Bernstein also hosts a weekly radio show on 102.3FM.

Heather Chapman
Heather Chapman
Heather Chapman

Heather has been in the SIN since 2006, more professionally since 2011 from DE to SC to FL, with a few in between. She has bartended at GW Fins since 2019, truly loving working for the family and with her coworkers. She has constantly tried to check out the new spots that have opened up in the City since moving here in 2013, along with challenge myself along the way.

David Claus
David Claus
David Claus

EatingNOLA is New Orleans oldest and most trusted IG food blog. Run by David Claus and Brian Maurice, these two local foodies make it their mission to eat their way through New Orleans and document their experiences one meal at a time.

James Cruse
James Cruse
James Cruse

3X World Barbecue Championship Finalist (Top 3 in the world 19, 21, 22) ••Including winning the World Championship in 2021 •2 Top 10 Finishes at The Jack Daniels World Barbecue Championship •Top 6 Overall World Food Championship - BBQ, 1st Place Pork •3X Hogs For The Cause Grand Champion •2019 Whole Hog National Champion •30+ Grand Championships •Seen on Food Network's BBQ Brawl

Liam Deegan
Liam Deegan
Liam Deegan

Liam is the managing partner of Barrel Proof and partner in Anna's and the Will & the Way in the Leblanc + Smith Portfolio. Liam's bar career started on Bourbon St, then a few blocks over at Sylvain, started as a food runner, getting Certified Cicerone in 2011 and Level 1 Somm in 2013, and eventually running Sylvain's bar program before opening Barrel Proof with partner Robert LeBlanc in 2014.

Bryan Dias
Bryan Dias
Bryan Dias

Bryan is the Host and Executive Producer of “The NOLADrinks Show with Bryan Dias." He is also co-executive Producer of Nitty Grits Podcasts – the podcast network of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and the National Food and Beverage Foundation. The NOLADrinks Show with Bryan Dias airs Fridays from 5-6 pm (repeats Sundays from 7-8 pm) on WGS0 990 AM in NOLA – Extended podcast-only content, “Another Shot with NOLADrinks” each week.

Zahara Dmassi
Zahara Dmassi
Zahara Dmassi

Florida-born from Lebanese Immigrant parents and raised in the restaurants owned by her Dad. Zahara started working in non-family restaurants when she was in college and has spent years behind the bar in various settings from dive to craft.

Richard Dubus
Richard Dubus
Richard Dubus

3rd place in bourbon brawl cocktail contest, cocktail youtuber and blogger Gnome's Tavern, wrote e book "Gnome's Tavern volume 1" stand-up comedian

Mitch Gibbs
Mitch Gibbs
Mitch Gibbs

Mitch Gibbs is a radio personality on WODT and WGSO New Orleans and currently hosts a weekly podcast recorded live at Drago’s downtown location inside the Hilton. Mitch loves all things sports.

Randy Good
Randy Good
Randy Good

Born in southwest Louisiana, this Florida-college graduate moved to the New Orleans area to further his career in the motorcycle industry. Known by his family and friends as a true “foodie,” he’ll go to great lengths for the perfect meal or pair of shoes.

Jason Harris
Jason Harris
Jason Harris

Over 25 years of restaurant and bar experience with the last 8 helping to lead the 3 Felipe's Taqueria locations here in NOLA.

Emily Hingle
Emily Hingle
Emily Hingle

Emily Hingle is a Louisiana native who loves experiencing the unique culture of New Orleans every day through food, drinks, and especially music. She has been with Where Y’at Magazine since 2009.

Star Hodgsen
Star Hodgsen
Star Hodgsen

Star is a founding member and past President of the New Orleans Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG), Star now serves the bartending community as a Chair of the USBG National Charity Foundation Board. She contributes to several online and print publications, has served as a judge for many esteemed cocktail competitions, teaches seminars at industry conferences, and is a blind tasting spirits judge for the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition.

Kappa Horn
Kappa Horn
Kappa Horn

Kappa opened her first diner over 22 years ago on Magazine Street. She moved on from Slim Goody's, but now owns Little Horn's in the Marigny neighborhood.

Brian Kern
Brian Kern
Brian Kern

Brian Kern is a man about town with a passion for parades and parties. Brian currently reigns as the Captain of the Krewe of Boo, the annual Halloween Parade that has become a big attraction on the fall calendar in New Orleans since it’s inception back in 2008. Brian proudly fought for, and won, his krewes’ right to parade this Mardi Gras season.

Rachel  Krol
Rachel Krol
Rachel Krol

Rachel Krol has been in the industry for fifteen years, mostly as a bartender at Muriel’s in the French Quarter. She recently took a position with the House of Blues. In her spare time, she enjoy spending time with her son.

Diane Lundeen
Diane Lundeen
Diane Lundeen

Lundeen is Petcetera’s pet pastry chef and baker. She is the lead designer for NOLA Bitch Couture, a doggy style design house, making creative apparel, accessories and toys for pets and people. Lundeen dedicates her spare time to charity and animal rescue, including Bad toThe Bone: Rescued on The Runway, a feast of food and fashion in which dogs from local rescues strut the catwalk in hopes of finding homes.

Andrew Marin
Andrew Marin
Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin writes about food and cocktails for Where Y’at Magazine. He is a former chef and bartender. He's judged Top Taco every year it's been held and is excited to judge Food Fight. Follow him @ndrewmarin on instagram for photos and live story updates from the festival.

Malik Mingo
Malik Mingo
Malik Mingo

Malik is the host of the local talk show, "Great Day Louisiana," on WWL-TV in New Orleans. The show features everything that makes Louisiana great! From food, to cocktails & events, you can learn how to live your best life by watching the show! Check out Malik on Instagram @MalikonTV or @greatdaylouisiana

Leroy Mitchell
Leroy Mitchell
Leroy Mitchell

Leroy Mitchell was born and raised in Metairie, LA. On any given Sunday, Leroy can be found antagonizing opposing players at the Superdome dressed in black and gold with a giant whistle attached to his head. When he’s not dressed as the most recognizable Saint Supafan, he can be found holding court at Galatoire’s every Friday after a long work week at Heartland Payment Services. No one loves a great cocktail more than the Whistle Monsta.

Tracy Napolitano
Tracy Napolitano
Tracy Napolitano

Tracy is the founder and producer of the popular New Orleans Bourbon Festival which celebrates all things bourbon. When not sipping on bourbon, he is enjoying other spirits and cocktails.

Leslie Norwood
Leslie Norwood
Leslie Norwood

Bio coming soon.

Jammer Orinitas
Jammer Orinitas
Jammer Orinitas

Jammer Orintas, Co-Owner of Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza, discovered his passion for food at an early age. In addition to operating 5 pizza restaurants in the Metro area, he is a self proclaimed taco expert. Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza has been recognized by The Gambit, New Orleans Magazine and The Times-Picyanue as one of the best pizza joints in the city.

Brett Patron
Brett Patron
Brett Patron

Brett “Slab” Patron, co-founder of the 610 Stompers, comes from a long line of eaters and dancers. His grandparents are from Merida, located on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. Slab spent many Sundays throughout his life, cooking and eating traditional Mexican food, but he believes tacos can cover a diverse range of food from many cultures.

Ronnie Pendelton
Ronnie Pendelton
Ronnie Pendelton

New Orleans native and service industry vet of over 15 years. Food is not only a passion but therapy and Ronnie loves the language. He is currently a server and bartender at both Zasu & Piece of Meat.

Woody Poche
Woody Poche
Woody Poche

Woody is the proprietor of the eponymously named Woody’s Fish Tacos, a fixture on the New Orleans Festival Circuit for several years. Currently enjoying retirement with his new Nepalese sidekick, Rin Poche, he’s excited to make a rare public appearance in support of this “Juan”derful event.

Andy Quaid
Andy Quaid
Andy Quaid

The Super Saints Fan Mr. Everythang helps to keep the Who Dat Nation Motivated in the Dome and everywhere he goes. A transplant to New Orleans in March 2005, he quickly fell in love with Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Your NOLA Saints & Pelicans, and “Everything” that New Orleans has to offer.

Kim Ranjbar
Kim Ranjbar
Kim Ranjbar

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kim Ranjbar felt New Orleans calling her home as soon as she hit puberty. Kim took her passion for the written word and dragged it over 2000 miles to flourish in the city she loves. After over seventeen years as a transplant — surviving hurricanes, levee failures, oil spills, boil water advisories and hipster invasions — Kim hopes to eventually earn the status of local and be welcomed into the fold

Matt Ray
Matt Ray
Matt Ray

Matt Ray is the Experience Team Lead at the Sazerac House, an interactive cocktail museum located in downtown New Orleans. The Sazerac House serves as a museum, a working distillery, an event space, and the official headquarters of the Sazerac Company, the largest liquor producer in North America. Matt has worked in hospitality for over twenty years, from Walt Disney World to local James Beard winner "Cure". He is on the board of directors of the New Orleans Chapter of the US Bartender's Guild and is speaking at the upcoming 20th Anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail.

Deborah Schumacher
Deborah Schumacher
Deborah Schumacher

Ms. Schumacher arrived in NOLA originally from Southern California. She has made New Orleans her permanent home since 1984. Ms Schumacher produced food service events for the Olympics, Super Bowls, Microsoft and Ford Motor Company to mention a few. Her passion is the restaurant business. She owns and operates Slim Goodies Diner on historic Magazine Street in New Orleans, which features an eclectic blend of the traditional American Diner fare paired with the Creole influences of Louisiana.

Jason Seither
Jason Seither
Jason Seither

Owner and chef Jason Seither spent his early life on the Bayou (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayou) cooking with his mother and boiling crawfish with his father. Seither’s Seafood in New Orleans uses the best local, traditional ingredients while Jason incorporates his own wild flair into his meals. Jason's also a huge music fan and his restaurant hosts nightly gigs for local musicians on the patio. You can catch Jason and Seither's Seafood on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri.

Amy Sins
Amy Sins
Amy Sins

Amy is a chef, author, and owner of Langlois Catering, named one of the “Best Cooking Schools Around the World,” by Travel + Leisure. She can also be found rallying the troupes to provide aid to disaster victims in Louisiana and around the gulf. She was also named a “Southern of the Year” by Southern Living Magazine.

Michael Skinkus
Michael Skinkus
Michael Skinkus

Freelance percussionist for the past 35 years in NO. I’m fascinated by the idea of New Orleans being culturally and historically a Caribbean city and try my hardest to exemplify this concept.

Scotty
Scotty "Sparky" Sparks
Scotty "Sparky" Sparks

Scott “Sparky” Sparks aka NOLA’s King of Tailgating” is the quintessential southern gentleman known for his off-the-hook tailgates and frequent appearances on local TV plus the Food Network & Amazon Prime.

Noah Stambovsky
Noah Stambovsky
Noah Stambovsky

Noah Stambovsky has made his mark on the restaurant community here as a server, bartender, and manager. If you frequent the Freret corridor, he probably looks familiar to you. Noah is also the Co-founder of Nola-grown startup, Drinker’s Edition. As CMO, he is responsible for all the great cocktail recipes and happy hour recommendations seen on the app’s social media channels. His hobbies include making new cocktail creations at home, and writing episodes for his speculative TV show, Time Team.

Poppy Tooker
Poppy Tooker
Poppy Tooker

Poppy Tooker is a native New Orleanian who has spent her life immersed in the vibrant colors and flavors of her state. Poppy’s NPR-affiliated radio show and podcast,Louisiana Eats!, carries her message state-wide and beyond. Poppy also appears weekly on the WYES public television show, Stepping Out, with spicy food commentary. Poppy also founded the Slow Food New Orleans Chapter in 1999 creating one of the first 10 chapters in the United States. She was selected to serve as an International Governor with the movement.

Thanh  Tran (Truc)
Thanh Tran (Truc)
Thanh Tran (Truc)

Truc is from Salt Lake City, UT and she's an avid rock climber who recently conquered Monkey Hill. She's excited to join the Food Fight Fest as a cocktail judge. She loves trying new food and drinks with her friends in her free time. She also loves creating new dishes and cocktails that are fun and makes people happy.

Micah Williams
Micah Williams
Micah Williams

Owner of Hard Core BBQ, a local pop-up that serves tacos, nachos, and po-boys. Micah has always had a love for food and cooking. BBQ became a reality over covid and Hardcore BBQ has been operating and active since 2020.

Robert Witkowski
Robert Witkowski
Robert Witkowski

Creative professional, author, and food lover who now calls New Orleans home! Directs and designs visuals, marketing, and graphic voice for print and online content at the Crescent City's leading lifestyle and entertainment magazine. Experiencing food in his past foodie towns including Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; New York, NY, and Portland, ME; Robert has a passion for the flavorful fun of Louisiana culinary innovation and creativity.

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