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Top Taco

Judges

Top Taco 2022 Judges

Jed Anderson
Jed Anderson
Jed Anderson

Bio coming soon.

Jabez Berniard
Jabez Berniard
Jabez Berniard

Jabez Berniard is a senior mass communication student at Loyola University New Orleans, where she has won awards for her sports and feature reporting at The Maroon. She now covers food and culture as a staff writer at The Times-Picayune. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her scrolling through fitness videos on YouTube or trying to bake the ultimate chocolate chip cookies.

Jamie Bernstein
Jamie Bernstein
Jamie Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein is an entertainer and culture supporter who has been a New Orleans resident since 1996. He has appeared in numerous television shows including Scream Queens, American Horror Story and Preacher. He also fronts two bands here in town. The Future Cowboys, a post quasi-electronic folk-rock band and Yakameiniacs, a beefy acoustic string band. When he is not performing he enjoys walking his dogs on the Lakefront.

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 Clesi
James Clesi
James Clesi

Clesi's Restaurant and Catering is a family run seafood restaurant serving authentic New Orleans cuisine with a backyard flair. Come for the food enjoy the experience!

Preston  Curtis Jr.
Preston Curtis Jr.
Preston Curtis Jr.

Taco Enthusiast

Phil  de Gruy
Phil de Gruy
Phil de Gruy

“Retired” Baron of Beef and owner of Phil’s Grill now a fish monger at Fortune Fish & Gourmet (formerly New Orleans Fish House), podcast host, endurance athlete, 2x cancer survivor and founder of Running for Dreams a 501c3 non-profit raising money for kids who have lost a parent or loved one to cancer. And I love tacos.

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. 2nd place in Malort cocktail contest, my cocktail got Most Unique at 2022 Garden to Glass

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.

Michael Gulotta
Michael Gulotta
Michael Gulotta

Michael Gulotta graduated from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute and joined the newly opened Restaurant August. Gulotta took leave to train in the Italian Riviera and Germany’s Black Forest. After Katrina, Michael helped rebuild and assist with August’s re-opening and was named Chef de Cuisine in 2007. Gulotta's first restaurant, MOPHO, opened in January 2014, known for Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine utilizing the Louisiana pantry. MOPHO was nominated for America’s Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit Magazine and named Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine. In 2017, his team opened Maypop in the CBD further pushing the concept of blending the Mekong delta with the Mississippi delta. Named a Top 5 Best New Restaurant by The Times-Picayune, a Best New Restaurant by New Orleans Magazine, and a New Orleans top 20 restaurant by Condé Nast Traveler. In 2018, Michael helped start the Fair Kitchens movement, along with the Unilever Foods global team, focusing on improving kitchen culture across the world. A second MOPHO location opened in 2019 in the new Louis Armstrong Airport. Michael was also a finalist for The James Beard Awards Best Chef South in 2020 and a semifinalist every year from 2015 to 2019. His latest project, TANA, will be a move back into fine dining, focusing on his New Orleans Sicilian heritage as well as his training in northern Italy.

Nick Guth
Nick Guth
Nick Guth

Nick is a graduate of Belle Chasse High and LSU, who currently resides in the French Quarter. He developed a deep love for tequila during his 23 years tied to bars/restaurants (8 years working in restaurants and 15 years working in the spirits industry). After nearly four years of volunteering for Son of a Saint as a mentor, he made a career change and joined their staff full-time as the Donor Relations Manager. After years of being involved with TOP TACO as a vendor/sponsor, Nick is excited to experience this year's event from a new vantage point.

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 Hodgson
Star Hodgson
Star Hodgson

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.

Dana Honn
Dana Honn
Dana Honn

Dana Honn is chef/owner of Carmo and Café Cour, both of which are focused on high-quality local ingredients, sustainability, and affordability. For over 15 years, he has been an advocate for ocean and coastal conservation and restoration, and for the use of sustainably-sourced seafood. As a passionate supporter of local farmers and fishers, he is also the founder of Tropical Foodways Institute, launched in 2013 with the primary function of acting as a conduit for research, education, and resources relating to the cuisine and culture of the tropics, its history and preservation. Most recently, he has been busy in the creation and and launch of a new project entitled, "Origins: Amazon," in conjunction with Carmo and the recently-formed BioCultural Institute. He is a member of the Audubon GULF Chef’s Council, Slow Food Chef’s Alliance, American Culinary Federation, and Chef’s Collaborative. As an educator, he has also conducted classes and cooking demonstrations for fellow chefs via NOCHI, the James Beard Foundation, Southern Food & Beverage Museum, and was the adjunct professor for the launch of the Restaurant and Catering Management program at Dillard University.

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.

Duke  LoCicero
Duke LoCicero
Duke LoCicero

Chef and owner of the New restaurant in metairie Dabs bistro and call Emily at Cafe Giovanni for 27 years in the French quarter award winning restaurant

Kenny Lopez
Kenny Lopez
Kenny Lopez

Bio coming soon.

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 and has judged Top Taco every year it's been held. Follow him @ndrewmarin on instagram for photos and live story updates from the festival.

Demetrio Marquez
Demetrio Marquez
Demetrio Marquez

Chef D Marquez, has 43 years of professional culinary experience cooking, instructing, and leading as Executive Chef with several major hotel resorts, fine dining restaurants, country clubs and health- care groups in the southeastern region of Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Chef D was the former Chef and Owner of a successful Southwestern cuisine restaurant in downtown Ocean Springs, MS named "Chile Poblano". He is proficient in many cuisines such as World Fusion, Pan-Asian, and Classical French, Central and South American, Italian and Regional American Foods. Chef D is currently the Hispanic Brands Specialist with Performance Food Service New Orleans. His responsibility is to develop and consult with restaurants, muti-unit groups and new prospects with technology, trends, concepts, and food products offered by Performance Food Service

Malik Mingo
Malik Mingo
Malik Mingo

Malik is the host of the local talk show, "Great Day Louisiana," on WWL-TV. Airing weekdays at 9 a.m., the show features everything that makes Louisiana great, whether it is events, restaurants, bars, or lifestyle topics that can help you live a better life. When Malik is not on TV, you can catch him at a festival, eating somewhere new or watching something on TV!

Jason Mitzen
Jason Mitzen
Jason Mitzen

Jason is the first and only Master Mezcalier in Louisiana. He is a current owner of Espiritu in the Warehouse District and has conducted many mezcal and tequila tastings as well as agave educational events in New Orleans. In addition, he created and often hosts the "Mezcal Society", a club of agave spirit fans that meet at Espiritu on Thursday nights.

Juan Moncivais
Juan Moncivais
Juan Moncivais

Food & BBQ Enthusiast, Owner of Bubbalicious BBQ LLC, Loves Eating Great Food, Co-Captain of Memphis In May World Championship Teams, Multi BCA BBQ Grand Champion, Co-Captain of 2021 Whole Hog National Championship, and Algebra Teacher

Michael Nelson
Michael Nelson
Michael Nelson

Chef Michael Nelson arrived in New Orleans in July 2005, bringing with him experience from the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, and restaurants in Chicago and Seattle. He quickly rose through the ranks at GW Fins, first being named Chef de Cuisine in 2007, and then in 2015, he was named Executive Chef of GW Fins. Chef Nelson was recognized by New Orleans City Business’ Culinary Connoisseurs as being one of the top 50 professionals in New Orleans Dining Industry and was named a “Chopped Champion” on Food Network’s popular cooking competition.

T. Cole Newton
T. Cole Newton
T. Cole Newton

Born and raised in Washington, DC, T. Cole Newton moved to New Orleans in 2006 to volunteer with AmeriCorps. After his service year, Cole took a bartending job at Commander’s Palace. In 2008, he developed and implemented the cocktail program at the Uptown bistro Coquette. Inspired by that experience, Cole opened his Mid City cocktail dive Twelve Mile Limit in 2010. Twelve Mile Limit was chosen as the Best Bar in New Orleans by The Manual in 2017. Cole’s second bar, the Domino, opened in 2019 on St. Claude Avenue in the New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. Cole’s book, Cocktail Dive Bar: Real Drinks, Fake History, and Questionable Advice From New Orleans’s Twelve Mile Limit (Running Press, 2021), recounts his experience as a young bar owner in the Crescent City with classic and original recipes, humorous and insightful essays. “The book is knowledgeable but not pretentious, entertaining but not distracting—Newton's writing is almost as good as the drinks. Almost,” writes Nathan Matisse in Ars Technica. In addition to his work in bars, Cole is President and Board Chair of the United States Bartending Guild and the Board Secretary of the New Orleans Women and Children’s Shelter.

Leslie Norwood
Leslie Norwood
Leslie Norwood

Born and raised in St. Louis, Mo, Leslie started her Food and Beverage journey in The Windy City circa 2009. From there she’s worked in many different sectors of the industry from Casinos, local bars, rooftops, members' lounges, etc. Her love for F&B stems from her own passion for cooking and creating. One of her favorite parts of the meal is the cocktail! She has been in the industry for 12 years and has plans to one day open her own lounge very 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.

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.

Matt Ray
Matt Ray
Matt Ray

Matt Ray is one of the Experience Team Leads of the Sazerac House, an interactive cocktail museum located in downtown New Orleans. Matt has worked in hospitality for over twenty years, from Walt Disney World to local James Beard winner "Cure". He left the industry at one point to teach at a local high school, but returned to the hospitality industry with his education experience in tow. He was featured in Imbibe Magazine's "Imbibe 75: The People and Places That Will Shape the Way You Drink in 2022" for his work at the Sazerac House.

Jas Rogers
Jas Rogers
Jas Rogers

Jas “Chef Jas” Rogers has fed the tastebuds of many throughout her culinary career. Born and raised in Houston, she found her passion for cooking at an early age. Her joy for the craft went beyond the kitchen and in 2010 she enlisted in the United States Army as a 92G, food service specialist. After her time in the Army, Jasmine attended the Art Institute of Houston where she received her degree in Culinary Management. With her degree in one hand and her passion for cooking in the other, she moved to New Orleans where she would not only aid in opening countless restaurants in the greater New Orleans area but eventually opened her own establishments and brands, Coalesce Goods, as well as her sauce and seasoning line Saucexdat.

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.

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.

Daniel Victory
Daniel Victory
Daniel Victory

Brand ambassador for DuNord social spirits. He is the founder of Victory and the New Orleans Drink Lab. He is dedicated to teaching the history, as well as the art of cocktail making.

Steve Watson
Steve Watson
Steve Watson

Steve Watson is the coolest cat in town and owner of the popular Elvis-loving bar, The King Pin. In 2011, Watson helped revitalize the Freret Street corridor by opening his first Midway Pizza. The Chicago-style deep dish pizza joint opened a second location in the newly renovated Louis Armstrong International Airport in 2018.

Aaron  Wilkinson
Aaron Wilkinson
Aaron Wilkinson

Aaron is the lead singer and founder of Honey Island Swamp Band. The swamp rock band was founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and has gone on to win numerous New Orleans music awards and has produced five acclaimed full-length albums since 2006. Currently, the band is at work on their 6th record and back on the road touring live music venues nationwide.

Micah Williams
Micah Williams
Micah Williams

Owner of Hard Core BBQ! Food enthusiast and previous Top Taco and Food Fight judge. I love bringing quality BBQ to the community in different varieties!

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