WE ARE urbanCHEF

ABOUT US
CHEFS AND STAFF
 
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CHARA GAFFORD

President

After receiving her bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago she decided to pursue her passion for food and received her AAS in Culinary Arts from The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. She trained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Chicago as well as with A la Baker catering company. Before launching Urban Chef, Chara owned Artisan Cakes, a specialty wedding cake company. Chara has been a volunteer with Recipe for Success and served as the co-president of the Houston chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier, an international association for professional women in the culinary industry. She currently serves on the board of The Catastrophic Theatre.

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JADA CRE

Executive Chef

After realizing her true dream was to be immersed in food, Jada left her job as an accountant to receive a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA. Jada's passion is helping people expand their palates by trying new ingredients. Her favorite style of cuisine is Pacific Rim which she describes as “Asian flavors and techniques mixed with the West Coast’s love of fresh produce.” However, Jada can’t forget about her Southern roots and her love for those classics as well. When she’s not teaching or cooking as a private chef, she enjoys coaching elementary and middle school kids for her sister’s step team organization. Learn more

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TOM VALDIVIESO

Chef Instructor

Tom has worked in the Food and Beverage Industry as a Chef for 20 years. He received his Culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He's worked in Las Vegas, Houston, New Jersey, New York and Prague, Czech Republic.

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Catherine Rodriguez

Chef Instructor/Pastry Chef

Chef Rodriguez began her career at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu in Glion, Switzerland, where she studied the Cordon Bleu method of cooking. Upon her return from Switzerland, she enrolled at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduation, she worked at Farallon, where she was part of the original pastry staff with Executive Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti. Catherine then became the Assistant Pastry Chef at Kokkari Restaurant on Jackson Square. She then moved to Bay Village Bakery in Mill Valley where she worked for Liz Prueitt and Chad Robertson and subsequently became their Pastry Chef at Tartine Bakery in the Mission District.

In 2004, Catherine moved to Houston and accepted a position as Pastry Chef at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse. In 2006, she became the Pastry Chef at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa where she remained for 13 years. In 2008, My Table magazine presented Catherine with an award as Pastry Chef of the Year.

Catherine continues to take professional courses to improve and expand her mastery of pastries. She has completed advanced courses at The French Pastry School in Chicago and at L’Ecole Valrhona, in Brooklyn, New York. In January 2013, Catherine was invited to attend the Coupe du Monde Pastry Competition in Lyon, France, as a guest of the Valrhona Chocolate Company.

Catherine also received certification as a member of the first group of United States Pastry Chefs and Chocolatiers invited to attend the L’Ecole Valrhona Japanese Pastry Class at their school in Tokyo, Japan. This class included hands-on training at the school and tours of many of Tokyo’s finest patisseries as well as food shops. It also included a trip to historic Kyoto.

 

Among other activities, Catherine has helped many organizations raise money for special causes including the Houston Food Bank, March of Dimes, AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse), Little Plates for Little Feet, SOS (Share Our Strength), the Houston SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Dress for Success, and the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation.

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CHRISTINE RANIERI

Chef Instructor

Christine is a 2003 graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, where, during an introductory nutrition class, she discovered her dual love for both dietetics and cooking. She worked as a baker, line cook, sous chef, and private chef as she completed her master’s degree in nutrition as well as a dietetic internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Since 2011, she has been integrating her training in her work as a research dietitian specializing in clinical feeding studies; a university nutrition lecturer and culinary medicine instructor; and as a child and adult cooking instructor.

She has been a team member on three service trips with the CulinaryCorps, a Washington, DC-based service organization for culinary professionals, including co-coordinating and co-leading a trip in Houston in July 2017. She enjoys making soups, stews, and bread, and loves witnessing people enhance their health, self-confidence, and every day pleasure by learning to cook. She moved to Houston in 2016 to work as an oncology-research dietitian at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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BARBARA SUAREZ

Chef Instructor

Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, her interest in cooking and the art of sugar began at an early age of five when she was introduced to cooking by introduced by my mother.  She first studied Civil Engineering but decided that her true passion was to become a chef.  After moving to Boston she received an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts from Newbury College. After moving to Houston she founded managed a wedding cake company earning "Houston's Best Wedding Cake Business" in 2007 and 2010. For the last three years she has been traveling and the world, teaching in France and Columbia and learning about food and their cultures. She loves teaching and enjoys turning food into art.

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JANE ADANOSKY

Associate Instructor

Jane has been working in the food industry for 26 years, with many of those years making pizzas and managing staff. She loves to bake, especially cookies.

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AURELIUS PEMBROKE

Facility Manager

Aurelius explored a number of different career paths before landing in the food industry.  His work includes working on a farm in Maine and landscaping for the second largest garden cemetery in the country. Since moving to Houston in 2008 he has worked as a manager, prep cook and server in restaurants, catering, hotel banquet halls, and pizza shops. He is passionate about customer service.

Contact Us

713.504.1700