Chef Bios for the Williamsburg Taste Festival

Learn more about the chefs participating in this year's Williamsburg Taste Festival.

La Tienda

Chef Ika Zaken is the Executive Chef of La Tienda Tapas Bar & Market.  A Jerusalem, Israel native with Moroccan heritage, he was born into a colorful and rich culture of food and tradition.  His mother taught cooking classes at local trade school and his father was in international shipping.  Perhaps this is where his love of food and travel was first conceived. After his military service, he worked for a local butchery and delicatessen, learning the craft of cured and smoked meats. From there he set off for Europe to study French cuisine at L’Ecôle Supérieure de Cuisine Française-Ferrandi in Paris.  It was there that he met his wife, Molly, a native Virginian, also a student at the school. After an internship at the Château de La Chèvre d'Or in Eze in Provençe, he returned to Israel to hone his skills at leading establishments in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In 2002, he and Molly opened a restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium where they lived for 10 years and started a family. They eventually felt the call to return to Molly's home town of Williamsburg where Ika became Executive Chef of The Williamsburg Winery. In 2016, they met Tim and Jonathan Harris and both joined La Tienda where he has enjoyed discovering connections in Spanish food culture to those of his Moroccan roots. Last year, he traveled to Spain on a sort of pilgrimage of Paella where he learned the secrets of the traditional rice dish from local Paella gurus. He shares these secrets through monthly Paella classes at the tapas bar. When he is not at La Tienda, he can most likely be found underneath the hood of his '76 Fiat 124. 

The Hound's Tale

A Virginian native who had returned to his home city of Williamsburg to open The Hound’s Tale, Steven Sowell started out his culinary career working during college at Aromas Coffeehouse on Prince George Street. He then went on to join the elite at The Culinary Institute of America where he met his wife Monique. Steve and Monique graduated together, each with a degree in Culinary Arts. Monique graduated prior to the CIA from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising. Steve went on to work for the Tribeca Grill in New York City, while Monique worked for the high end catering company, Sterling Affair. Steve then moved with the Executive Chef of the Tribeca Grill to open Harlan Social in Stamford Connecticut. When the opportunity came about to move back and be a part of this creation, he jumped at the chance to settle his family in Virginia. The Sowell’s have a three-year-old daughter who loves dogs and food, and are expecting a second child in September 2017.

Riverwalk Restaurant & Water Street Grille

For Riverwalk Restaurant and Water Street Grille’s Executive Chef Brian Hines, the world is quite literally his oyster. Chef Hines manages two waterfront restaurants in Historic Yorktown. Both are situated along the beautiful (and bountiful) York River where oysters, scallops, crabs, and rockfish are aplenty. They also happen to be his specialty! Brian has more than 20 years of culinary experience, and creating innovative features is his passion. He has established relationships with several of our area’s watermen and farmers to incorporate only the freshest, local ingredients into his menus. Chef Hines is a New York native. Before relocating to the Peninsula he received his culinary education at J. Sargeant Reynolds. Brian started as a dishwasher and worked his way up in the business, which may be why he takes such pride in his kitchens and his staff. He’s constantly challenging them to experiment with unique flavors and methods.  In his spare time, Brian enjoys live music festivals, and globe-trotting to find inspiration in different cultures and cuisines. 


Guest Chef Hartmut Handke, CMC, is a European-trained chef with more than 50 years of experience in various hotels, clubs, restaurants and resorts throughout the world. He is also a Certified Master Chef from the American Culinary Federation. 

Our Exquisite Chef and Restaurateur, Hans J. Schadler, CEC, AAC, has had an illustrious 45-year culinary career. He received his culinary training in Frankfurt, Germany and received his Doctorate of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University in providence, Rhode Island. Chef Schadler served as Chairman of the Resort Food Executive Committee (RFEC) for over two decades. His career can be highlighted by multiple accolades including cooking for several presidents of the United States and even being responsible for coordinating all meal functions during the Queen of England’s visitation to the Williamsburg Inn in 2007. Additionally, he has appeared on several television programs including the Today Show, Good Morning America, Great Chefs of the East series, the Farm to Tables series, and Family Holiday Table show. Although Chef Schadler planned on retiring after an incredible career filled with many accomplishments, his infinite passion for food and serving patrons motivated him to conquer a new endeavor. He decided to open a fine dining restaurant called Waypoint with his wife Liv and daughter Tina Schadler-Phillips. His idea was to incorporate a theme featuring a menu “where tradition intersects creativity”. Chef Schadlers impeccable talent for creating an elegant menu and atmosphere designed to meet any guest’s expectation proves to provide Waypoint the perfect ingredient to be successful.

It’s true what Chef Steve Perkins, CEC says. When you put your heart into your cooking, you can taste the love. Steve puts his heart, and a career filled with passion, into his dishes and serves as Waypoint Seafood & Grill’s Executive Chef. In many ways, being part of the Waypoint culinary family is like coming home for Chef Perkins, who has known Chef Hans Schadler for decades having worked for him at the Williamsburg Inn after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1987.

“I grew up with Chef,” Chef Perkins said. “I know his quality, know his expectations – it doesn’t matter if you’re cooking a hamburger or a dish for the queen. You must always bring integrity to cooking.”

Chef Perkins has served as Executive Chef in a number of establishments, including the Williamsburg Inn, The Jefferson Hotel, the Founders Inn, The Princess Anne County Cub and the Marriott Corporation. He most recently served as a member of the faculty at the Culinary Institute of Virginia, were he coached student culinary teams for the American Culinary Federation and San Pellegrino competitions.

If you really want to prove to Chef Perkins how well you know him, the next time you’re in Waypoint, ask him about his coffee cake! Rumor has it that before culinary school, while working at a diner, he was known to make the best coffee cake on the Jersey Turnpike!

Amber Ox Public House

Chef Troy Buckley leads the culinary team for the Amber Ox Public House. Chef Troy is a progressive, driven chef who prides himself of securing the seasons best ingredients for his menus. Chef Troy's food is edgy andprogressive, yet elegant and refined. He brings a new meaning to Soul Food.

Edwards Virginia Smokehouse

A native Virginian, Keith Roberts joined the Edwards team in 2010 where he works closely with third-generation President & Cure Master Sam Edwards III to educate Americans on the company’s time-honored tradition of curing and smoking meats. As  the “Resident Hamevangelist”, his message is focused on preserving the rich history and heritage of local Virginia Foodways, as well as all the Commonwealth has to offer the culinary world. With over 40 years’ experience in the food service industry, he has found his true passion and enjoys nothing more than sharing his knowledge of The Great American Country Ham with charcuterie lovers across the country.

The Hound's Tale

A Virginia native who had returned to his home city of Williamsburg to open the Hound’s Tale, Chef Steven Sowell started out his culinary career working during college at Aromas’s Coffeehouse on Prince George Street.  He then went to join the elite at the Culinary Institute of America.  Steve graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts.  He went to work for the Tribeca Grill in New York City.  Steven then moved with the Executive Chef of the Tribeca Grill to open Halan Social in Stamford, Conneticut.  When the opportunity came about to move back and be part of this creation, he jumped a the chance to settle in Virginia.

Colonial Williamsburg

Travis Brust CEC is executive chef and food and beverage director of the Williamsburg Inn, where his innovative cuisine and events highlight creative pairings of fine wines and spirits with regional foods sourced to local purveyors. He became the historic hotel’s executive chef in March of 2011 at the age of just 29 and rose to his current role in September 2015, responsible for all restaurant and culinary operations including development of the Regency Room and Terrace Room menus. 

Under his leadership the Inn has introduced special dining events such as Virginia Wine and Moonlight, a four-course dinner served on the Inn’s terrace under the full moon; Smoke and Spirits, offering fine cigars, smoked meats and cheeses accompanied by scotches, bourbons and cognacs; and Art of Fine Food and Spirits, a cooking demonstration and tasting of the perfect culinary accompaniments to cocktails made with vodka, gin, bourbon and scotch. 

Brust’s enthusiasm and engaging style drive the popular chef’s garden tour and tastings that culminate at Colonial Williamsburg’s Taste Studio demonstration kitchen. His personal favorite program, Sips with Chefs, combines fine barrel aged spirits with fun food pairings and great conversation. 

Brust excels in the preparation of such classics as rack of lamb and chateaubriand. In October 2012 he led a Williamsburg Inn culinary team in the preparation and presentation of a six-course Regency Room-inspired reception and dinner at the James Beard House in New York. In April 2003, Brust was one of the first four chefs to complete and pass the Pro Chef Level One exam administered by the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. 

Brust is a recipient of the 2013 Chef of the Year award from the Virginia Chefs Association and in 2012 placed first in the World Food Championships’ inaugural World Chefs Challenge in Las Vegas. He received the Johnson & Wales University Grand Award for Professionalism in 2003 and in 2004 was named Chapter Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation’s Northern New Hampshire chapter. He has received multiple gold and silver medals in state and regional culinary competitions and is an ACF Certified Executive Chef.

Brust joined the Inn’s culinary staff in 2002 during an apprenticeship working as a cook in night production. He became lead line cook in 2004 was named sous chef in 2005. He was promoted to executive sous chef in 2008 and chef du cuisine in 2009. He is committed to the Colonial Williamsburg’s chef apprenticeship program and counts as his greatest accomplishment the success of culinary students he has mentored and trained in the profession. 

Brust’s career began as a teenager washing pots in a small fine dining restaurant in Mongaup Valley, New York, when the appetizer cook broke his leg. He was asked to step in and discovered his passion for cooking – and he has been in the kitchen ever since. He earned his culinary certification from the Balsams Apprenticeship Program in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, and his associate’s degree in culinary arts from New Hampshire Community Technical College in Berlin. His career grew during apprenticeships and internships in nearly every kitchen position at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch; Russini’s Restaurant in Forestburg, New York; the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin; the Gasparilla Inn in Gasparilla, Florida; the Jupiter Island Club in Jupiter Island, Florida and the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Brust is president of the Resort Food Executive Committee, which seats 30 of the top resort chefs in the nation, and chairman of the Virginia Chefs Association’s Culinary Apprenticeship Board.