If there is any group that has weathered the pandemic with resiliency, it’s the restaurant industry as it has navigated everything from shutdowns to new health and safety protocols. We are showcasing hospitality leaders who have managed to take it all in stride—all the while debuting creative and mouthwatering new menus. Some have even recently opened their doors. Get to know our list of the next wave of Palm Beach County movers and shakers in the industry.
EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF, 1000 NORTH
Mary Maugeri has always been captivated by food. Cooking is at the heart of her earliest memories, and she recalls making chocolate chip cookies on Sundays with her grandmother. These experiences inspired the Florida native to become a pastry chef, and her style is to take a simple but elegant approach, mixing a variety of elements in her creations. Her commitment to excellence and quest for innovation guide the pastry team at 1000 NORTH.
OWNER AND EXECUTIVE CHEF, AIOLI
Michael Hackman has been a fixture on the Palm Beach culinary scene for almost 20 years, having worked his way through the kitchens of the most prominent hotels and restaurants in Palm Beach, but Aioli is his own creation. Specializing in casual, locavore foods and gourmet to-go, the industrial-chic eatery and bakery caters to the locals’ breakfast and lunch crowd. Building on his years of achievement, creativity and relationships that have been cornerstones of his ongoing success, involvement in the community is important to Hackman.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, LE BILBOQUET
Growing up snowboarding in the mountains of Bulgaria and taking summer swims in the Black Sea, the adventurous Dobi Trendafilova always dreamed of eventually coming to America. After graduating from Bard College with degrees in finance and economics, she had a chance encounter with legendary restaurateur Philippe Delgrange and embarked on a culinary career. Trendafilova is director of operations for all Le Bilboquet restaurants. She was also instrumental in the private restaurant group’s entree into Palm Beach. As a principal partner of Le Bilboquet Palm Beach, Trendafilova has made it into one of the most desirable dining reservations on the island.
EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE BEN
After spending so much time in kitchens throughout Hawaii, Jesse Pita brings what he calls a sense of “aloha” to The Ben’s culinary team, creating a laid-back, positive vibe that keeps his staff productive, energized and motivated to execute the highest-quality dishes for guests every day. Pita’s exceptional ability to source the best available produce—a skill highly utilized in creating dishes at The Ben—comes from his love for preparing the foods of his southern Italian roots. His desire to turn fresh, simple ingredients into something that excites the palate is evident in every dish he creates for The Ben’s dining program.
CESAR BREA JR.
As executive chef of The SoSo and co-founder at Akadis Hospitality, Cesar Brea Jr. says the most memorable experience about dining at The SoSo is that it is “cozy, convenient, consistent, clean and delicious.” A Miami native, Brea’s inspiration to become a chef started with his father, who taught him the fundamentals of cooking and the importance of nutrition from an early age. Brea connected with co-founders Kye Akavia and Alex DiSchino, and with the three sharing a passion for food, ownership and the community, plans for The SoSo began.
EXECUTIVE CHEF, 3800 OCEAN RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE
Jeffrey Armusik’s ability to create innovative, thought-provoking cuisine is inspired by his desire to take guests on delicious dining adventures at 3800 Ocean Restaurant and Lounge at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa. His coastal, tropical fare can be attributed to his world travels, along with his vast cookbook collection. The comforts of his culinary journeys also come from his mom, who created amazing dishes of her own while Armusik was growing up and encouraged him to pursue a career as a chef.
EXECUTIVE CHEF, CACTUS GRILLE & TEQUILA BAR
A self-described innovative, kind and generous chef, Billy Rosenberg aims to satisfy all palates with his menu, balancing inventive culinary trends without alienating any tastes. He draws inspiration from Mexico’s bright, spicy and exciting food and culture, which translates through his dishes and is complemented by Cactus Grille’s creative cocktails and lively atmosphere. A New York native, Rosenberg developed a passion for cooking while watching his grandmother whip up incredible meals in her kitchen.
CHEF DE CUISINE, PISTACHE
Michael Burgio is an accomplished culinary professional with a vast knowledge of classical cooking techniques and modern flavor profiles. In 2019, pursuing a desire to develop elevated and healthy cuisine, Burgio created a home meal delivery plan for families looking to introduce healthy meals into their diet, and worked with individual families to achieve their dietary goals. Following the execution of that venture, Burgio joined the TITOU Hospitality team in 2021 and was elevated to Pistache’s chef de cuisine in record time.
EXECUTIVE CHEF, PREZZO
Hailing from the West Coast, David Garcia believes fresh ingredients warm the soul. Making every dish at Prezzo vibrant, Garcia blends modern twists with Italian classics. He started at Prezzo as a sous chef and was quickly promoted to executive chef, and he finds inspiration in traveling and exploring new places.
EXECUTIVE CHEF, LUCKY SHUCK OYSTER BAR & TAPHOUSE
Hailing from the Midwest, Nick Dellinger started his culinary career in his family’s restaurant. The experience solidified his interest in the hospitality industry, and he set out to learn every aspect of the business. Dellinger expanded his skill set, creativity and understanding of traditional European cuisine by studying and working under a Danish master chef. He is happy to be a part of the South Florida culinary scene and loves making mouths water with incredible Creole-inspired creations at Lucky Shuck.
JAIR SOLIS MENDOZA
EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE RESTAURANT AT THE NORTON MUSEUM OF ART
Throughout his tenure, Jair Solis Mendoza has built a refined reputation for not only succulent dishes but also detailed aesthetic design and expert execution. Born in Lima, Peru, and fluent in three languages—Spanish, English and Portuguese—Mendoza infuses his global influences into his approach to all things culinary as executive chef at The Restaurant at the Norton Museum of Art.
Photography by: From Top: PHOTO COURTESY OF WAVELENGTH; PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL HACKMAN; PHOTO COURTESY OF ORI HARPAZ; PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BEN; PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SOSO; PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACEY BENSON; PHOTO COURTESY OF BILLY ROSENBERG; PHOTO COURTESY OF PISTACHE; PHOTO COURTESY OF LIBBYVISION.COM; PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACEY BENSON;PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NORTON MUSEUM OF ART
Cover image by Pylyp Sukhenko/Unsplash