Drew Horton

Drew Horton

Drew Horton is the Enology Specialist for the U of Minnesota's Grape Breeding & Enology Project. For many years the project has been developing new varietals of wine grapes in support of the emerging MN wine industry.

In his role as Enology Specialist Drew spends half the year producing, analyzing and bottling some 100 micro-batches of grape wines and apple ciders. The rest of the year Drew works in support of the greater Midwest wine and grape industry as an adviser and wine specialist presenter at conferences, meetings and in teaching classes and short-courses.

With a degree in Anthropology and some 20 years of experience as a wine sales person, winemaker and wine educator, Drew's natural enthusiasm and knowledge about wine and wine-making are a great asset to U of MN grape research and the greater industry.

Iman Mefleh

Iman MeflehIman is the co-owner and "master fermenter" of You Betcha Kimchi, a farm-to-jar kimchi company she and her partner Joe started in 2013. She holds a Masters of Education from the University of Minnesota, and has been an educator in many settings- from Minneapolis Public Schools to rural Bhutan to commercial kitchens and farms- for over a decade. She is also a farmer, and has managed urban farms (Growing Lots and Frogtown Farm) for the past 4 years. She is passionate about connecting people to their food and the sources of their food, as well as empowering them through teaching skills that deepen those connections. She is an avid student of language (French, Arabic, Swahili, Spanish, Finnish, and Swedish), Yoga, and the land she farms. In the summer, you'll find her in a lake with her son Loren, and the winter, on cross country skis!

Dinesh Jayawardena

Dinesh JayawardenaDinesh had dreamed of becoming a chef since the age of five, a goal he has pursued with passion and dedication. While most children spent their time outside playing games, Dinesh was in the kitchen playing "Iron Chef."

Dinesh started his culinary journey at Mount Lavinia Hotel in Sri Lanka while attending culinary school. He graduated from culinary school in 1997, while also holding various full-time positions at Mount Lavinia. This on-the-job training helped Dinesh build a solid foundation to take the next step. He was selected to further his education and training at the Churchill Intercontinental Hotel in London, United Kingdom. Dinesh then moved to Minnesota to be the Sri Lankan Culinary Consultant for a private restaurant in Minneapolis. Following this, he held various roles including overnight baker, line cook, pastry cook, assistant banquet chef, and executive sous chef.

In 2012, Dinesh held the position of Club Chef at Target Field managing Townball Tavern and Hrbeks Restaurant, as well as the Legends Club, before joining FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar - Mall of America - as Executive Sous Chef. Dinesh took on the role of Executive Chef in October 2015.

Carrie Riggs

Carrie Riggs, Restaurant AlmaExecutive Pastry Chef - Alma Group

Carrie Riggs spent years as a preschool teacher, and was on her way to get her master's degree when she took a life-changing trip to Vietnam. There, she found herself drawn to French Bakeries, and when she came back to the States, she decided to take a risk and turn her life-long hobby of baking into a career. Carrie returned to culinary school to study pastry, and while in school, took a job as the Pastry Chef at Café Maude. Working simultaneously at Café Maude and Sea Change (where she was an Intern under her mentor, Niki Francioli), Carrie was encouraged by Maude's Chef to apply for a job at Alma. She joined the team in 2013, and has run both the pastry program at Alma and Brasa. Carrie is drawn to old world technique, presented in a way that speaks to the community surrounding her. Her pastries are beautiful, accessible, and balanced - utilizing whole grains and rustic flavors. She appreciates everything from hearty buckwheat breads to home-made girl scout cookies, and hopes to continue to innovate the pastry program at Alma, using locally milled flours and heritage grains. Her favorite item to make is pie dough, which she does completely by hand.

Alex Roberts

Alex Roberts, Restaurant AlmaChef Alex Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York but raised in Minneapolis from a very young age. His twenty-eight years of restaurant experience started in local Twin Cities kitchens during high school and continued while attending college. After 6 years of experience working in casual Minneapolis restaurants, Alex moved to New York City in 1993 to pursue cooking professionally. He attended the French Culinary Institute and gained experience working in several renowned restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Bouley and Union Square Café.

An intensive period of food and wine related travel in Northern Italy followed New York and Alex returned to the Twin Cities in 1999 to open Restaurant Alma, a casual-fine dining restaurant dedicated to a changing menu of seasonal cooking, featuring organic and locally produced foods. In 2007 he opened a second restaurant concept in Minneapolis, Brasa Rotisserie, with a St. Paul location following in 2009. As a chef/owner of three restaurants, Alex is committed to creating a new model of restaurant success through demonstrating excellence and sustainable practices in food, hospitality, job quality and service to community. After purchasing the historic building home of Restaurant Alma in 2013, Alex commenced work on an expansion project to includes an all-day Café, a seven room hotel and renovation of the original restaurant space. The projected opened in November 2016.

Both Alma and Brasa Rotisserie have been recognized locally and nationally. In 2010, Alex received the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest. He has twice been a James Beard Award semifinalist in the Outstanding Chef category. The restaurants have been featured in a wide range of publications and television including: Art Culinaire, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, GQ, Man vs. Food, People Magazine, The Today Show and Washington Post.

Eli Wollenzien

Eli Wollenzien, a Wisconsin native, has been working in restaurants since he was in high school. It wasn't until he met coworkers who were attending culinary school that he realized that the culinary industry could be a career instead of just a job. After a brief period at the University of Minnesota studying history, Chef Eli decided to go to culinary school at the Art Institutes to earn an Associate in Culinary Arts. Eli was not only interested in food, but also in the business side of restaurants. While working as a sous chef at Zelo Restaurant, Chef Eli met the eventual owners of Crave restaurants. Eli became the founding chef of CRAVE Restaurant, eventually leading their national expansion as their corporate executive chef. Today, Chef Eli has shifted from the corporate to the local in opening his own restaurants; Coalition Restaurant in Excelsior, Coalition Restaurant at 50th & France, and Red Sauce Rebellion in Excelsior.