Beau Rivage Chefs
Executive Chef Joseph Friel
Bringing over three decades of experience and award-winning talent to the table, the vision and leadership of Executive Chef Joseph Friel inspires the culinary team of Beau Rivage to achieve its highest potential in all aspects of the company's food and beverage operations. As the company's own "Top Chef," his laser focus is evident throughout Beau Rivage -- from elaborate, large scale banquets to the unique culinary points of view presented by each restaurant on property.
Chef Friel's impeccable reputation is built on a career of high-profile positions in New York’s most prestigious restaurants and hotels, including the fabled “21” Club, The Pierre, and The Plaza (where, as Executive Banquet Chef, Friel finessed such notable events as TIME magazine’s 75th anniversary celebration and Tiffany & Co.’s “Feather Ball”). Named one of the Great Chefs of New York and invited to cook at the famed James Beard House, he joined Beau Rivage in 2001 and has been instrumental in the evolution of the Gulf Coast's most innovative dining venues. A native of Donegal, Ireland, Chef Friel's passion for food was honed early on, working alongside chefs in his parents' hotel. The journey has been long and remarkable, but this Celtic tiger shows no signs of waning. We invite you to experience the gastronomic vision and progressive, but classic, approach that has delighted celebrities such as Donald Trump, Tony Bennett, Joan Rivers and Eddie Murphy.
Executive Sous Chef Kristian Wade
Few know the Gulf Coast’s culinary tastes better than Beau Rivage Executive Sous Chef Kristian Wade. Born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Wade has called this area home most of his life. The Beau Rivage culinary second in command has risen through the resort’s ranks since his start with the company in 1999. “Kristian began his career at Beau Rivage as a line cook at Memphis Q. He was promoted to lead cook, commis, sous chef and executive room chef,” said Executive Chef Joseph Friel. “He has held the position of executive room chef at Coast, Memphis Q, Terrace Café and the Main Kitchen. Kristian is exceptionally reliable and supportive of his team. He is a fantastic culinarian and totally understands all aspects of Southern cuisine and barbecue.”
Chef Wade learned the art of cooking at The School of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, but it was unplanned on-the-job training that taught him the true ropes. “I was in Atlanta for my culinary degree and worked at Shoney’s in one of the busiest parts of town. My first night there, the cook on shift quit and walked out. I was immediately thrown into the fire. I knew absolutely nothing, but I figured it out quick,” Chef Wade recounts. He transitioned to upscale dining while working at the award-winning Murphy’s Restaurant in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta.
Wade credits his late grandmother with instilling his love of cooking. Growing up, she fed him oysters with homemade hot sauce and horseradish. Morning fishing trips for brim meant fish and grits for lunch. “She encouraged me to cook, and I think that time with her is where my love for cooking really started,” says Wade.
Wade’s talent has earned him accolades throughout his career. He’s received numerous awards including first place wins at The World Championship of Gumbo in New Iberia, Louisiana, Puttin’ on the Roux Gumbo Cook Off in Biloxi and the Biloxi Shrimp Festival. Tack on several barbecue awards and there’s no doubt Chef Kristian knows his way around the kitchen.
Executive chef James Balster
As head chef of Beau’s signature steakhouse, James Balster directs kitchen staff in ensuring only the finest cuts of steak and freshest seafood are prepared at the Wine Spectator and DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) award-winning establishment.
The Connecticut native comes to South Mississippi from Greensboro, Georgia where he honed his skills at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation. Classicly trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Balster also learned the art of cooking by working as a Chef in resturants and hotels in Boston, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
Chef Balster‘s love for culinary stems from spending time with family. “The first experience I remember about cooking was on my grandparent’s farm in Iowa,” says Balster. Cooking was always a family event growing up. All family gatherings seemed to end up in the kitchen or at the table involving a large meal. I started getting involved because it brought me closer to my family, and I realized that it helped make memories and made people happy.”
While he can’t pinpoint a favorite food to prepare, Chef Balster relishes in designing dining experiences that create lasting memories. When visiting BR Prime, make a point to try a daily chef’s special which often includes local and regional classics mixed with tasty twists.
Sommelier Mark Warren
As sommelier at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, Mark Warren oversees a wine list of more than 350 selections with ever-changing daily wine-pairings to accompany the resort’s many award-winning menus.
Warren’s passion for the vine has taken him to the wine countries of France, Italy, Australia, California and Virginia, and earned him a certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Warren began his culinary career nearly a decade ago working in many facets of the restaurant business before delving exclusively into cultivating his mastery of wine and his pursuit of becoming a sommelier. In his earlier roles, Warren served respectively as general manager and operating partner for Mississippi-based restaurants Chicago Steakhouse and Bonne Terre, shaping and maintaining wine lists, educating staff on food and wine service, and developing tasting menus and wine dinners for guests beyond his managerial and operational responsibilities.
Warren’s interests then took him to Virginia with The Country Vintner, for which he procured and managed the company’s Australia and New Zealand portfolio, comprised of both direct and secondary imports. In this role, Warren corresponded directly with winery principals and secondary suppliers while managing a sales staff spanning eight states. Warren’s marketing savvy and creative sales techniques displayed through tastings, trade shows and wine dinners increased sales of his products from $.5 million to $5 million during his tenure with the company. Before joining Beau Rivage, Warren relocated to Philadelphia to work with Vine Street Imports managing wine distributors in 14 states, sharing his sales and marketing expertise to help them achieve impressive sales results for their many product lines.
A graduate from the University of Mississippi with a degree in psychology, Warren feels the most important characteristic of wine has little to do with its technical components, but rather the joy it brings to the table.
Chef Robert Minor
Growing up in the Tidewater area of Virginia, Robert Minor brings 15 years of culinary experience to Beau Rivage, ranging from family tavern to fine dining establishments. Starting as a line cook at Jamestown Settlement Café, Minor recognized his passion for food and the joy of creating a dining experience for others.
Minor graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Atlanta in 2009 and set off into the culinary world with an extensive amount of skill and passion. After graduation Minor found himself pushing his limits with food an flavors as well as gaining a full knowledge of true customer service. Minor began to enhance his culinary style of a fusion of American regional and French with an Asian twist in restaurants like Roy’s Atlanta and Opus 9 Steakhouse. In 2011, Minor’s talents soon secured him a position as Sous Chef with Roy’s Restaurant in Naples, Florida.
Minor's fare focuses on creating a fun and exciting experience that can be shared with family and friends, whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner, a coursed dinner with friends or a simple cookout. In July of 2013, Minor joined the Beau Rivage team as the Executive Chef of Jia where he enjoys the strong sense of family and the variety of Pan-Asian cuisine in one restaurant.
Chef Paola Bugli
Paola Bugli is in many ways considered a codifier of Italian cooking techniques. Hailing from Florence, Italy with nearly 20 years of culinary experience, Bugli offers diners a wealth of skill gained at some of the country's top Italian restaurants. She has worked with renowned chefs in Atlanta’s most exclusive restaurants and her unparalleled experiences now bring her to Stalla inside Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
Bugli attended the Institute of Culinary Arts at Aurelio Saffi in Firenze, Italy where she gained a deep knowledge of traditional and contemporary Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. After mastering her craft in Italy, Bugli traveled to Atlanta, Georgia and began her stateside career as a Sous Chef at Terra di Siena Italian Restaurant. There she assisted the Executive Chef and rounded out her practice in Tuscan cuisine, including the production of fresh pasta and traditional desserts.
Soon she had worked her way through the ranks as a Pastry Chef, Sous Chef, Chef de Cuisine and Head Chef at renowned restaurants such as Veni Vidi Vici and Pricci’s in Atlanta’s Buckhead Life Restaurants Group. Her constant stellar performance in the art of cuisine quickly lead her to embrace opportunity.
Her ambitions lead her to St. Louis, Missouri in 2010, where she became the Executive Room Chef at The House of Savoy. There she managed the Cascade Lounge in Hotelumier in St. Louis, designed special menus and hosted hotel banquets. Her global experience continued to encourage her creativity in the culinary arts.
Constantly submerging herself into new successes, Bugli accepted the position of Chef de Cuisine Tavola inside The Cloister at Sea Island Resorts in Sea Island, Georgia in 2012. There, she contributed in the initial kitchen and operation installation, setup and opening. As Chef de Cuisine, she continued her talent in organizing private parties and banquets and created a specialty menu for each. Her distinctive experiences in the resort and restaurant industry quickly advanced her professional career. In 2013, she moved to Biloxi, Mississippi where Beau Rivage Resort & Casino proudly welcomed Chef Bugli to Stalla as its freshest addition.
Chef Sarah Cormier
Chef Sarah Cormier brings a wealth of culinary knowledge to Beau Rivage. As Restaurant Chef for Coast, she ensures Coast delivers the heartiest lunches and dinners and provides the best casual dining experience in the region. Before joining Coast, Cormier was Memphis Q Room Chef and has also led the staff at The Buffet, one of Beau Rivage’s most high profile venues. With more than nine years experience cooking in kitchens across the world, this Boston-born, internationally trained chef has quickly adopted South Mississippi as home.
Classically trained at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, Cormier began her culinary career as kitchen manager and line cook at a small pub and restaurant in Narragansett, Rhode Island. A quick study who’s eager to learn new concepts, Cormier expanded her repertoire with international experience in Surrey, England. During her time as commis chef at The Wentworth Club, she served up to 2,500 guests during the British Match Play Golf Tournament. In the quest to continue developing her skills, Cormier moved from England to Queensland, Australia, to hone her talents at Couran Cove Island Resort. Her next stop brought her closer to home, where she was Banquets Kitchen sous chef at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Cormier joined the Beau Rivage family in September 2010 and quickly moved up the ranks. In addition to leading staffs in Beau Rivage’s restaurants, Cormier has assisted at the resort’s Employee Dining Room.
Chef Jaison Sheckart
Jaison Sheckart began working at Beau Rivage in February of 1999 as part of the resort’s opening team. Sheckart began as lead cook at Café Jardin and was later promoted to sous chef of both Café Jardin and Coast. After Hurricane Katrina, Sheckart returned to Beau Rivage and assisted with the opening of Terrace Café. In October of 2006, Sheckart was promoted to the position of chef at Fallen Oak Golf Course. At Fallen Oak, Sheckart is responsible for satisfying the taste buds of all golf enthusiasts who frequent Beau Rivage.
Born in Southbend, Indiana, Sheckart was raised in Long Beach, Mississippi. He attended Delgado Community College in New Orleans, Louisiana, and participated in the Associate of Applied Studies ACF Apprenticeship Program. He is currently a member of the New Orleans Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
Before beginning his career at Beau Rivage, Sheckart had 15 years of culinary experience on the Gulf Coast. He worked in several different well-known restaurants including Chappy’s Restaurant and The Chimney’s Restaurant in Long Beach; Copeland’s in New Orleans; Back Bay Buffet at the IP Casino Resort Spa; and Sister’s at the Grand Casino Biloxi.
A graduate of the MGM MIRAGE Management Development Program, Shechart is a Beau Rivage Diversity Champion.
Room Chef Josef Straub started working at age 6 in his uncle's butcher shop in Switzerland. His first project was making cookies and learning the importance of quality control because he was working with raw dough.
At age 12, he began working as a dishwasher in a brewery and restaurant, and the next year, he had the opportunity at the same restaurant to work on the salad station. The following year, the chef let Josef work next to him on the hot line. After these experiences, Josef went to culinary school in the Black Forest in southwestern Germany and graduated after three years as a "green chef" in the hotel business. He used all locally available food in his preparations, including fish, meats, produce and wine and beer.
Josef moved from culinary school into a seasonal position in different hotels and restaurants in Germany and Switzerland. He later moved to Key West, Fla., to work in a German bakery, where he met restaurant owners from Long Island, N.Y., and moved to Long Island to run their restaurant for three seasons.
From there, Josef opened the Emerald Plaza in San Diego for Pacific Hotels then went to work for Wyndham Hotels. He stayed in the hotel industry for the next seven years as an executive sous chef. He was promoted to executive chef at Miami Airport Hotels and later moved to Wisconsin to work for Kalahari Resort in the Dells.
He moved back to Key West to work for Hyatt Hotels and was promoted to chef garde manager in Orlando at the Orlando airport property.
Josef joined Beau Rivage in March 2012 as Chef at Terrace Café.