About the Chefs

Some of America’s top chefs have appeared at the Tennessee Aquarium’s Serve & Protect live cooking shows.

They come to Chattanooga because they support the Aquarium’s objectives to:  make sustainable seafood easier to understand, help diversify everyone’s “seafood portfolios” and empower others with information, tips and techniques that make preparing sustainable seafood fun and enjoyable.

2019 Chefs

Chef Michael Gulotta - “Big Easy” through and through

Chef Michael GulottaBorn and raised in New Orleans, Michael Gulotta began cooking in local restaurants at a young age.  After graduating from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, he joined the newly opened Restaurant August.  Gulotta then took leave to train in the Italian Riviera and Germany’s Black Forest. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Michael returned home to help rebuild and assist with August’s re-opening. He was named Chef de Cuisine in 2007 and led the award-winning kitchen for 6 years, while establishing relationships with local farmers and purveyors. 

He opened his first restaurant, MOPHO, in January of 2014 with his brother, Jeffrey Gulotta, and high-school friend, Jeffrey Bybee.  Located in New Orleans’ Mid City, MOPHO strives to be a true neighborhood restaurant and a destination for Southeast Asian inspired cuisine utilizing the Louisiana pantry.  In its first year MOPHO was nominated for America’s Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit Magazine and named Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine.  In 2016 Michael was named one of Top 30 Chefs to Watch in the nation by Plate Magazine, A New Orleans Rising Star by Starchefs, a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, and Chef of the Year by New Orleans Magazine.

His team recently opened its second full service restaurant, Maypop, in the Central Business District of New Orleans.  Maypop has been named a Top 5 Best New Restaurant by The Times Picayune, A Best New Restaurant by New Orleans Magazine, a New Orleans top 20 restaurant by Condé Nast Traveler, and most recently made New Orleans’ Top Ten Restaurants for 2019, by Brett Anderson of the Times Picayune.

Chef Ricky Moore – “Evangelist for bone-in fish and neglected finny species.”

Chef Ricky MooreRicky Moore, originally from New Bern, North Carolina is the award winning Chef and Proprietor of SALTBOX Seafood Joint® with two locations and a food truck in Durham, North Carolina.  Moore is the author of SALTBOX Seafood Joint ® Cookbook that will be released Fall 2019. 

Moore has traveled extensively cooking in many of the major cities and abroad. Moore has been featured in Saveur, Travel & Leisure, Southern Living, The New Yorker (The Week), Garden & Gun, Our State, Vogue, USA TODAY, Eaters, Bravo TV, Tasting Table,Taste of the South and was a competitor on Food Network's Iron Chef America. He is a graduate of Culinary Institute of America and a US Army veteran.

Chef Tamie Cook 

Cook has been an integral part of the Aquarium’s Serve & Protect sustainable seafood program since it was launched in 2011, both producing and starring in this top-rated event each year. For nearly a decade, Cook served as culinary director for the Food Network show “Good Eats.”

Her many talents have paved the way for her to work on award-winning cookbooks and videos while utilizing her technical culinary art skills in the roles of food stylist and recipe tester/developer.

Cook is also a freelance food writer and teacher who has a passion for leading others to sustainable seafood and mindful eating.




Famed foodist Alton Brown helped found the Aquarium’s Serve & Protect program. Brown counts himself as among those who have been inspired by consuming a steady diet of Jacques Cousteau television specials and being an enthusiastic SCUBA diver. Using his culinary fame and talents, Brown seeks to reach new audiences with information and recipes that lead to wider adoption of preparing only sustainable seafood. Brown wrote, produced and hosted Good Eats on the Food Network for 13 years, winning a Peabody Award and a James Beard award along the way. He is also the author of seven books including, I’m Just Here for the Food which won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Cookbook in the Reference category. His three volume Good Eats companion books all made the New York Times best seller list. 

Brown’s most recent endeavors include hosting Cutthroat Kitchen on Food Network and mounting a nationwide traveling road show called the “Edible Inevitable Tour.”

Chef Virginia WillisVIRGINIA WILLIS

Willis returns to the Serve & Protect stage at the top of her game. She is a 2016 James Beard award winner for her most recent cookbook, “Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome.” She is also currently in development with Boston’s WGBH-TV on “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South,” which will air on PBS stations nationwide in 2018. A new companion book will be released to accompany the program’s debut.

Willis is also a contributing editor for Southern Living. Her column “Cooking with Virginia” will debut this fall. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.”


Severson has been a staff writer for The New York Times since 2004. She is a correspondent based in the South, reporting on the nation’s food and culture. She also contributes to NYT Cooking, a new website and app based on the extensive New York Times collection of recipes and cooking videos.





Suzanne was the champion chef on Food Network’s popular "Chopped" TV show in 2011. Suzanne says winning the competition before an international viewing audience was a phenomenal experience, giving her the confidence to be a successful chef and launch her own restaurant.  She’s had a lot of fun throughout her culinary career. In 2014 Suzanne appeared on NBC’s TODAY Show, teaching weatherman Al Roker how to deep-fry a turkey in a sweet tea brine.

Suzanne says, “A lot of people hear the term ‘farm to table’, and it’s become almost this trendy term to say. It’s really not a term, it’s really just a movement we support as chefs. Knowing where your food comes from is really important, and I think that we as chefs and restaurateurs should be able to educate the public on what you should be eating.“


Steven has earned many titles since he traded a successful music career for a profession in the culinary arts. His resume includes: James Beard Foundation finalist for Best Chef, Southeast 2013; also nominated for Food & Wine magazine’s People’s Best New Chef. Under his direction, Miller Union has been placed on the “Best New Restaurants in America” lists from Bon Appétit and Esquire, as well as Atlanta magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year.” Steven is also the author of two cookbooks; Celebrity Chef: More than 60 Delicious Recipes and Root to Leaf.  As a member of Slow Food Atlanta, Georgia Organics and the Southern Foodways Alliance, Satterfield remains actively engaged with Atlanta’s progressive culinary community.


Spicer is a one-woman industry in New Orleans. Among her many awards, Spicer has been named one of Food and Wine's 10 Best New Chefs and received the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southeast Region, 1993. Her French Quarter restaurant, Bayona, has been featured in Bon Appetit and has been listed as one of the top 5 restaurants in the Zagat Guide for New Orleans. She has received the DiRoNa designation from Distinguished Restaurants of North America and the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence. In May 2010, Susan was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. 

Spicer appeared on the Bravo television program Top Chef during the finale in 2009. Susan is also credited with inspiring a Hollywood persona. Ms. Desautel, a character in the HBO series Treme, a television series depicting post-Katrina New Orleans, was loosely based on Spicer’s career.

Chef Barton SeaverBARTON SEAVER

Chef Barton Seaver is the Director, Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University’s School of Public Health. He is also a National Geographic Society Fellow and Sustainability Fellow in Residence at the New England Aquarium. Barton is the author of, “For Cod and Country,” “Where There’s Smoke,” and the forthcoming National Geographic books, “Foods for Health” and “NatGeo Kids Cookbook” which are scheduled to be released in September.

As a chef Barton’s restaurant career has always focused on sustainability, helping establishments garner eco-friendly recognition from publications like Bon Appetit.   In June, Barton was part of the panel at the U.S. Department of State’s “Our Ocean Conference.” Later he had the honor of preparing and serving dinner to Secretary of State John Kerry and other dignitaries. 


Born in Lyon, France, Chef Nico Romo is the distinguished culinary executive director of Fish Restaurant in downtown Charleston.  Chef Romo rose to prominence among the United States’ finest hotels – including the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, and the Ritz Carlton Atlanta, and is a US member of The French Culinary Academy and Master French Chef.  Both elite international assemblies comprise the most highly skilled chefs in techniques and traditions of the French culinary art. 

In addition to being a  Monterey Bay Aquarium 2014 Sustainable Seafood Ambassador, Chef Romo was selected by the James Beard Foundation from more than 450 applicants nationwide to participate in hands-on advocacy training with a focus on sustainable seafood.

Chef Lisa DonovanLISA DONOVAN

Lisa Donovan started selling breads and cakes out of her third floor walk-up with two babies under her feet and a pile of Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan books on her counter top. As a server at the famed Margot Café and Bar in Nashville, Lisa received a deep education on food and wine and connected with Anne Kostroski and Tandy Wilson who were on their way to building City House. Lisa opened City House as assistant pastry chef under Anne and, within six months, was head pastry chef under Tandy’s very encouraging, smart and efficient hand. Lisa now spends all of her time writing, consulting and learning. She lives in Nashville with her sculptor/potter husband John Donovan and her two nearly-grown, giant children, Joseph and Maggie Donovan – both about to fly the coop and making Lisa very emotional in a way she is not accustomed to. Life is funny that way. But not as funny as how I am writing a bio in third person. 

Chef Ryan PrewittRYAN PREWITT

Ryan Prewitt began his culinary career in the farmer’s markets of San Francisco, where a burgeoning interest in food developed into a full-blown career. After spending time working for chefs Robert Cubberly and Alicia Jenish at Le Petite Robert Bistro, he moved to New Orleans to work with Chef Donald Link at Herbsaint. Ryan proved to be a quick study under Link’s tutelage and became Chef de Cuisine in 2009. He subsequently moved on to oversee culinary operations at Link Restaurant Group as Executive Chef for the company.

With a new job came an increased ability to learn and travel. As a member of the Fatback Collective, a group of Southern chefs who have compiled numerous accolades and awards in restaurants across the South, Ryan has learned new traditions and techniques from many talented BBQ pitmasters and has traveled to Uruguay to study traditional open-fire cooking. These experiences, along with a trip to observe grilling techniques in Spain, culminated in the opening of Pêche Seafood Grill. Ryan received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in May 2014, the same year Pêche earned the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.


Kristen Essig was born and raised in Florida. After graduating from the Johnson & Wales Culinary School in 1998, Kristen worked with James Beard award winning chefs, Chef Frank Lee of Slightly North of Broad and Chef Louis Osteen of Louis’ Charleston Grill. Seventeen years ago, Kristen made New Orleans her home, kicking off her Crescent City culinary career with Chef Emeril Lagasse at Emeril’s, followed by a four-year turn with Chef and mentor Anne Kearney at the famed New Orleans Restaurant, Peristyle. She joined the Crescent City Farmers Market as market manager where she cultivated strong relationships with local farmers, producers and vendors. She’s been a Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine “Chef to Watch” (2005), a sought-after private chef, and in April, 2013 Kristen returned full time to the restaurant kitchens. Since then she’s been named one of Coastal Living Magazines “5 Coastal Chefs to Watch” (2015), nominated as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef” (2015), and one of Times Picayunes Chefs to Watch (2014). Kristen proudly joined the Coquette family in the fall of 2016 as a co-chef and partner with her love, Michael.


From his upbringings in the hills & mountains of Appalachia, Chef William Dissen always has been in touch with the outdoors & nature.  Spending time on his Grandparents’ farm – watching his Grandmother cook bountiful meals straight from the garden to the kitchen table – has been a major influence on his style of cooking, as well as his beliefs in sustainable agriculture, seafood, & local cuisine.  

At his restaurants, The Market Place, in Asheville, NC – Haymaker Restaurant in Charlotte, NC – and Billy D’s Fried Chicken at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC – Chef William Dissen works with a network of local farms, artisan producers, & sustainable fishermen to produce flavorful, fresh food for his patrons.

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