Six local chefs have a lot on their plates these days as they cook up plans to represent San Antonio’s culinary scene on the international stage.
For the next two years, these well-regarded San Antonio chefs will symbolize the culture and creativity of the area’s culinary community through the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy program.
Earlier this year, the City of San Antonio World Heritage Office made a call for interested local chefs to apply to act as ambassadors for the Alamo City as part of the UNESCO program, a significant designation that includes chefs representing the city in local, national, and international festivals, media opportunities, and other events through 2023.
The chef ambassadors will demonstrate local culinary traditions, cooking techniques, and recipes authentic to the city during Creative Cities Network activities.
A special presentation will take place in October to officially recognize San Antonio’s new chef ambassadors, which include:
- Lilla Bernal, Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio. An assistant professor of baking and pastry arts at CIA’s San Antonio campus at Pearl, Bernal previously worked at Biga on the Banks and at other restaurant destinations in New York City, Belize, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
- John Brand, Hotel Emma. Currently Hotel Emma’s culinary director, Brand previously worked at luxury hotels and resorts in Colorado and Virginia.
- David Caceres, La Panaderia. Before opening the much-loved La Panaderia in 2014, David Caceres and his brother José had run their mother’s business, baking bread and pan dulce for companies across Mexico.
- Kelly Daughety, San Antonio Food Bank. Community wellness chef and educator with the local food bank, Daughety was previously lead baker at the renowned Nadler’s Bakery and Deli, and has worked for California Pizza Kitchen, JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa, and H-E-B’s Central Market.
- Jesse “chef Kirk” Kuykendall, Hotel Havana and Milpa. Overseeing Ocho’s offerings at Hotel Havana, Kuykendall recently launched Milpa, a food truck focused on Mexican street food. The Laredo native was also a winner on the most recent season of the Food Network show “Chopped.”
- Stephen Paprocki, Chef Cooperatives. Paprocki presides over Chef Cooperatives, a nonprofit made up of chefs who support the farm-to-table movement. He’s also the founder of Texas Black Gold Garlic and previously worked at Omni La Mansión del Rio and at The Fig Tree restaurant.
“San Antonio’s culinary community and the local food traditions they uphold are becoming increasingly more recognized on national and international levels, and the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designation has played a significant role in that increased awareness,” World Heritage Office director Colleen Swain says in a news release.
It was Halloween 2017 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network named San Antonio a Creative City of Gastronomy, formally recognizing the city for its “culinary legacy as a confluence of cultures.”
San Antonio and Tucson, Arizona, are the only U.S. cities with the Creative City of Gastronomy designation.
The chef ambassadors selection committee was made up of city staff and members from the city’s Creative City of Gastronomy advisory group. Local culinary professionals contributing to the group included chef Johnny Hernandez of Grupo La Gloria, chef Frank Salinas of St. Philip’s College, chef Elizabeth Johnson of Pharm Table, and chef Jose Frade of the Culinary Institute of America.
Frade says he and his colleagues sought experienced individuals for the chef ambassador roles who are committed to culinary innovation and sustainability — and to San Antonio’s heritage.
“Being a representative of our city at national and international events is an honor that should not be taken lightly, and we feel we selected individuals who will rise to the challenge,” Frade says.
And the new chef ambassadors say they’re ready for that challenge.
“It’s an honor I was selected with this great group of chefs,” Paprocki says. “I look forward to helping anyway I can. One team, one goal.”
Chef Kirk says they are “very honored and blessed” to be part of such a talented group and looks forward to collaborating with fellow chef ambassadors.
One of the first events ambassadors will attend is the 91st Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bian-co d’Alba in Italy in November, at which Brand and Daughety will represent San Antonio.
“It’s going to like rolling with the punches while further developing your skills,” Kuykendall says. “It’ll be like getting ready for a game each time.”