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urbanCHEF was founded in 2005 when Chara Gafford sought a way to bring the hands-on cooking experience of traditional culinary school to the casual cooking classes she was teaching.

Our first location was in Houston's Third Ward, in the small building behind Chara's home. The classes held up to a dozen people in a kitchen designed with counter-space and stove access for everyone. When she decided to expand they moved to the Greenway Plaza location in 2012. Two large kitchens accommodate a total of up to 48 with separate dining room and patio seating. Our off-site events bring the culinary competition to you for groups of up to 100 guests. With a small but mighty team of formally trained chefs and culinary professionals we continue to be dedicated to providing 100% hands-on cooking classes for corporate groups, private parties, date nights, birthday parties and kid's classes. 

Staff List



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.


Jada Glasby

Executive Chef

Chef Jada Cre joined the urbanCHEF team in 2017.  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.

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Aylin Contreras

Chef Instructor

Chef Aylin began cooking when she was 6 years old and has enjoyed it ever since! She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio and has worked at Disney Resorts in Orlando and most recently at Lazy Dog in Houston. She has always wanted to teach cooking classes and is excited to join the urbanCHEF team!


Sabra Palmros


Sabra grew up learning and loving to cook in her Grandmothers kitchen. Her career began in Port Aransas at the Historic Tarpon Inn and Beulah’s Restaurants where she was immersed in Gulf Coast seafood and Island Cuisine, and fishing of course!
She moved to New Orleans to pursue an AAS degree in Culinary Arts at Delgado C.C. where she graduated with honors. This lead to an apprenticeship at Palace Cafe and helping open Smith & Wollensky Restaurant.
She relocated to Houston to help open another S&W, becoming Executive Sous Chef and learning the fine art of dry aging beef and butchering and spent 20 years with the S&W Restaurant Group.
Her other passion is volunteering with local rescues saving homeless animals from the streets of Houston.

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Aurelius Pembroke

Facility Manager

Aurelius joined the urbanCHEF team when we first moved to Greenway Plaza in 2012. He has worked in the culinary industry for more than 20 years with experience in hotels, casual restaurants and fine dining. Outside of the culinary world his work has ranged from landscaping to construction. He was born in France and has lived throughout the United States.


Clenard Pettis


Clenard was born in Houston. His father was a marine and he lived on the East and West coasts. He studied hospitality, hotel and restaurant management as well as marketing management research. He joined the urbanCHEF team in 2020 and loves to keep learning.

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