Today’s Culinary Experience: The Importance of a Great Chef

With a booming wedding industry here in the U.S., and as we approach the height of wedding engagement season, it’s important to keep in mind the role chefs and food choices play on your big day.

If you’re recently engaged and planning your wedding, take notes! 

Food is more than just a basic necessity for survival. It’s also something that so many people find pleasure in. Even if you aren’t a proclaimed “foodie” most of us can admit to having great memories made in the kitchen or around a table.

From small dinners to large events, today the expectations are a far cry from the rubber chicken and dry filet that was once anticipated.

There’s no doubt that encounters with food are taking on greater importance. Especially as more people are leaning on food prepared outside the home. They are expecting top-quality experiences and incredible taste every time they eat.

Today’s Culinary Experience

From a pop culture trend to the social experience of dining – there are so many reasons why food and the chefs responsible for preparing meals today are essential.

Chefs play a critical role in the kitchen. Their role extends beyond managing other cooks to also planning the menus, ensuring that presentation is on point and even developing new, creative recipes for those unique meals everyone craves.

Here at Riverhouse Hospitality, we have always understood the fundamental role that chefs play in the overall picture for any event. In the wedding industry especially, they play a critical role for the big day and must deliver food that is delicious and memorable.

We have always brought on the talent we know will infuse culinary originality and bring one of a kind dining experiences for our customers. The chefs we employ at our establishments exemplify modern, unique and exquisite leadership and execution in the kitchen.

Here is a closer look at our executive chef team.

Stefan DragoCorporate Executive Chef, Riverhouse Hospitality /  Executive Chef, The Society Room of Hartford

Stefan Drago earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music at Belmont University while working in foodservice and operations at local Tennessee restaurants he refined his culinary skills in some of the Nashville area’s finest restaurants. Fusing his music and culinary background he has performed musically with country music celebrities like Josh Turner, and Dean Sams of Lonestar and cooked his way into the CMT Video Awards After Party in 2002 and 2003 which hosted country artists including Diamond Rio, Kenny Chesney, and Brad Paisley.

He was also the Sous Chef at Trumbull Kitchen and Catering Chef for The Bushnell Center for The Performing Arts with the Max Restaurant Group.

Drago began his career The Society Room of Hartford before working on the opening of Belle Terrace at Avon and partnerships with Priam Vineyards, and The Palace Theatre in Waterbury, as well as managing the Goodspeed Opera House 50th Anniversary Gala, one of the largest events in my career to date!

Now back at Hartford Society Room, Drago is bringing together the highest quality ingredients Connecticut has to offer, to prepare meals that not only would I be proud to serve to my family, but also to present to your guests for that special occasion.

Van Hurd-  Executive Chef Riverhouse Catering / Perfectly Prepared

Van Hurd received his culinary degree from The Art Institute of Dallas in 2007. His culinary experience over the year’s spans performing under pressure and creating Tex-Asian cuisine that drew crowds. In 2006 he worked at the well-respected French Room along with celebrated chefs and mastered hot appetizers to soufflés.

Van Hurd has also appeared on two seasons of the hit television show “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay invited him back to appear in All Star’s Season 17!

In his career he also served as Executive Sous Chef for Jordan Caterers, voted by Connecticut Magazine readers as the “Best Catering Company in CT” for 12 years in a row.

Shortly after he began his chef career with Riverhouse Catering as Executive Sous Chef he then took on a position as Executive Chef to help launch Sayulita in South Glastonbury, CT as well as Executive Chef and Pit Master for Taino Smokehouse in Middletown, CT and then orchestrated the opening of Taino’s second location in Meriden, CT where he mastered the smoking foods.

He is now back with Riverhouse Catering and Perfectly Prepared, Gourmet to Go as Executive Chef where is leads a culinary team that produces widely diverse food creations for weddings, corporate and social occasions as well as daily culinary delights offered at Perfectly Prepared based in Cheshire, CT.

John ThompsonExecutive Chef of The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station

Before joining The Riverhouse, Thompson spent 14 years as the Executive Chef at The Simsbury Inn in Simsbury Connecticut. In his 30 year career as a chef, he has trained under several well-accomplished chefs and has experience working in prestigious venues including the Sheraton Hotel-Boston, Holiday Inn/Crown Plaza Hotel-Hartford, the Brazilian Court hotel in Palm Beach and The Montauk Yacht Club.

Thompson has been recognized by the American Culinary Federation, Les Amis d’Escoffier Society, and the James Beard Foundation and has appeared at several guest chef events, where the best-of-the-best create culinary presentations for organizations such as The March of Dimes, United States Department of Defense and The American Cancer Society.

Thompson has overseen the culinary presentation for more than 1000 weddings and has extraordinary skills for detail and a passion for creating original sauces and soups.

We invite you to inquire about your upcoming events. Get in touch today! 

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