Guest chefs


Carlos and Felipe Arellano

Chef Partners, Chela

Brothers Felipe and Carlos Arellano began their culinary career as young children in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the age of 4, they were already making ceviches and learning the art of developing flavor using salt, acidity, and local produce. As young adults, Carlos and Felipe packed their bags and migrated to California to break into the action on the bustling restaurant scene in Los Angeles. They worked in a variety of restaurants on the West Coast before deciding to come to the East Coast, settling in NYC where they worked as chefs at the famous Rosa Mexicano Restaurant. After working there for several years, they were poached to join the successful boutique chain of restaurants, Besito Mexican, where they have worked for the past decade as the Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chef respectively. During their tenure, they developed the entire menu for the widely popular chain and have assisted in opening their eight different locations around the East Coast. The brothers are excited to bring their love and passion of all foods Mexican to Park Slope, Brooklyn.


Chef, Owner, Oxomoco

Justin Bazdarich hales from Kansas City, and embarked on to Arizona State University where he majored in industrial design.  After his junior year, Justin decided to take a different path and move to NYC.  The physical act of making a product, working under a deadline, and using your brain in a creative way were things that appealed to Justin in industrial design so being a chef seemed to be the perfect fit.  Justin graduated from the French Culinary Institute with honors and began his career working under Jean-Georges Vongerichten at his flagship restaurant “Jean-Georges.”  Justin climbed the ranks and was eventually promoted to sous chef, before moving on to be the opening chef de cuisine at “Perry Street.” Under the tutelage of Gregory Brainin,  Justin’s culinary vision came to fruition and resulted in a Michelin star. After three productive years at “Perry Street,” Bazdarich had a desire to learn more about all facets of running a restaurant and when the opportunity arose to work at Culinary Concepts for Jean-Georges, he took it.  Culinary Concepts brought Justin on a path to help Jean-Georges open 15 restaurants worldwide. He was responsible for overseeing complete culinary training for the kitchen, and implementation and management on all cost control.

Deciding it was time to finally open his own project, Justin joined forces with a friend from college, Todd Feldman, to open the first Speedy Romeo in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood in 2012.At Speedy, the emphasis is on the wood-fired oven and grill, where Justin turns out pizza and Italian-influenced dishes.After four years of success, and building a loyal following, the pair opened a second Speedy, this time in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. This past year, Justin decided to take his love of Mexican fare, and many trips to Mexico, and open Oxomoco, in partnership with childhood friend Chris Walton. Oxomoco, which borrows its name from the Aztec Goddess of the Night, offers guests wood-fired Mexican fare using techniques and flavors from all regions of Mexico, and calls Greenpoint, Brooklyn home. In 2019, Oxomoco received a Michelin star.

Natalia Mendez

Chef, Owner, La Morada

La Morada s a family-owned and operated Mexican (Oaxacan) Restaurant in the South Bronx. Their goal is to preserve and share indigenous Mexican cuisine with their neighbors and friends. They love sharing culture, art, and community initiatives and actively participate in social justice causes

Natalia Mendez was born in the small village of San Miguel Ahuehueticlan in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the tender age of six she began to work as a housekeeper in Mexico City to sustain her family in the village. Mendez migrated to the United States in the early 1900s to make sure her children received the education and had all the basic needs that she lacked in her native village. Mendez is the matriarch and founder of La Morada Restaurant. She was won various awards including Michelin Bib for three years consecutively.

TJ Steele

Chef/Partner, Claro

TJ Steele was born into an Italian family in New Jersey where he grew up cooking next to his mother and grandmother. As early as middle school, he preferred the kitchen to the classroom, and started as a dishwasher when he was 12 years old. He has never looked back. 

Steele attended The Culinary Institute of America and moved to New York City in 2002. Within three years he was made Executive Sous Chef at Danny Meyer's landmark, award-winning Union Square Cafe. At 25 years old, he was the youngest Executive Sous Chef in the restaurant's history. While at Union Square Cafe, Steele developed lasting relationships with the farmers and purveyors, and learned the art of cooking within the seasons. During this time, he immersed himself in the food scene - whether in the far-flung boroughs of New York City, or in Spain, where he started to make annual pilgrimages to eat.

His first trip to Mexico was as a teenager, but a serendipitous visit in 2006 brought TJ to Oaxaca and changed his trajectory. He fell in love with the country, its culture and its cuisine. He first immersed himself through mezcal, working with the locally based Jimenez family and their farms to bring handmade, affordable product to New York City. He founded El Buho Mezcal and eleven years later, it is available in over 20 states, internationally, and still growing. 

He continued to visit and work in Oaxaca for many years until joining acclaimed tapas restaurant, Tia Pol in 2010. After a two-year stint as Kitchen Manager, Steele's attention once again turned towards Mexico. He left Tia Pol in 2012 and went back to Oaxaca, setting up a residence there to study, eat, and travel in the hopes of marrying his love of seasonal, farm-to-table cooking, with his love of Mexican gastronomy.

In the summer of 2017, he opened Claro, a Oaxacan influenced restaurant in Gowanus, Brooklyn with an emphasis on seasonal cooking around corn, barbacoa, consommé and mezcal. The restaurant reflects Steele’s time spent in Oaxaca and the community of craftsmen, cooks, farmers and neighbors that have become family to him over the past dozen years.

At the restaurant, Steele is dedicated to making everything by hand, including the cheeses, chorizo and moles and of course, masa. He is planting corn on his land in Oaxaca as well as working directly with Oaxacan farmers to source and import non-GMO heirloom corn.

Since opening, Steele has been awarded a Michelin Star for Claro, named StarChefs Rising Star Chef and the reader’s choice winner for Eater Chef of the Year as well as Chef to Watch by Plate Magazine. He was a featured subject in a documentary on the history of food and led Claro to a two-star review and top 10 restaurant of the year from The New York Times. He continues to source the mezcals for El Buho and his palate remains the standard for the brand.

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Sue Torres

Television Personality, Consultant

Sue Torres has been setting the standard for gourmet Mexican fare for over twenty years. She’s a highly accomplished chef, television personality, consultant and philanthropist. Her impressive culinary career has been marked by creativity, critical acclaim, and passion for good food.


Born to an Italian mother and a Puerto Rican father, Chef Torres grew up on Long Island, where her grandparents grew vegetables in their home garden and taught her the basics of preparing meals with organic, locally grown, seasonal ingredients. Ever since, she has had a sharp eye for selecting only the best quality ingredients, which she buys directly from local producers.


After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Torres officially earned her cooking stripes at some of New York City’s best restaurants: The “21” Club, La Grenouille, Isabella’s, Lola’s, Arizona 206, Rocking Horse Café Mexicano, and Hell’s Kitchen.


She also studied with Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy; toured the markets of Oaxaca with Susana Trilling, a prominent cookbook author and founder of Seasons of My Heart cooking School; and apprenticed under renowned chef and food anthropologist Ricardo Muñoz Zurita in Mexico City. Adapting her training and techniques in the creative manner of a master and visionary, Chef Torres became comfortable with both traditional home-style Mexican cooking and Mexican haute cuisine, but she also became skilled in the operations of running a restaurant.


In 2003, Sue realized her dream as a chef when she opened her own restaurant, Sueños, in New York City. Her ingenious high-end dishes and cocktails earned her rave reviews as well as local and national acclaim, including The New York Times, Vogue, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit, to mention a few. In 2004 Time Out Magazine named her Culinary Ambassador, and Working Woman Magazine included her in their list of “20 under 30” to watch.


In 2014, after the birth of her first child, Chef Torres decided to close Sueños so that she could spend more time with her family. A year later, she and her husband, Chef Darren Carbone, started a catering and consulting company offering a wide range of services from ideation to turn-key, with an emphasis on restaurants, food and beverage and the hospitality industry. Since, the wife-and-husband team has consulted on the opening of several successful restaurants in New York and Florida.


Chef Torres' vast talents have been showcased on national television, including Food Network’s Iron Chef America, Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, and Discovery Channel’s Go Ahead, Make My Dinner. She has also appeared as a guest judge in Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America, Rachael vs. Ray, and Chopped, and has been featured guest chef in The Best Thing I Ever Ate, My Fair Wedding, Top 10 Amazing Kitchens, The Martha Stewart Show, The Rachael Ray Show, The Today Show, and CBS’ Saturday Morning Show, among others.  


Throughout the years, Chef Torres has contributed an endless number of delectable recipes, cooking techniques and tips to several publications, including Dr. BBQ’s

Pork Chop: 60 Recipes for Living High On the Hog, Alex’s Table Cookbook, Allison Adato’s Smart Chefs Stay Slim, Bobbi Brown’s Pretty Powerful, New York Magazine’s Cookbook In Season, Joan Schwartz’ Meat & Potatoes, Battman Studios’ Soup, Dr. Manny Alvarez’ The Hot Latin Diet, Food & Wine Magazine, Fine Cooking Magazine, and CBS’ Chef on a Shoestring recipe book, among others.


An artist of the kitchen as well as a humanitarian, Chef Torres has used her renown to serve as a role model and to actively participate in various fundraisers, like the Cystic Fibrosis Organization, Autism Speaks, SHARE Women’s Breast & Ovarian Cancer, The St. Jude Children’s Foundation, and many more. A firm believer in community relationships, she also makes time to give back to the community through children and adult cooking classes and apprenticeships. In the spring of 2011, Chef Torres was honored by the White House as “Champion of Change” for participating in the “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative, which intends to make children's lunches more healthful and curb childhood obesity. By teaching the next generation to engage in healthy cooking and eating, Chef Sue Torres is creating a legacy that will certainly live beyond even her most brilliant recipes.