STAFF DIRECTORY

CHRIS LUSK
Chef de Cuisine

Chris Lusk’s career has spanned an eclectic range of culinary experiences – from an externship in an Irish hotel and time as a sous chef cooking Tex‐Mex under Stephen Pyles at Star Canyon in Dallas, to creating Asian cuisine in Florida and Italian under Mario Batali at Otto Enoteca in New York. Yet Lusk, a Texas native, has earned his Louisiana cooking stripes, working with the renowned Brennan family at Foodie’s Kitchen in Metairie and, most recently, at both Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide in New Orleans. Now, he joins the Restaurant R’evolution team as chef de cuisine under the tutelage of Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramanto.

Though Lusk attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales, he confirms, “Commander’s Palace was my culinary education.” Lusk hadn’t planned on cooking professionally. After a high school job in a local restaurant, he recalls thinking that he would, “never chop an onion again.” After high school he earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, TX, but the kitchen continued to call to him.

“Once I graduated from college, I just knew I had to give it another shot,” he recalls. Chef Lusk is a passionate follower of author Harold McGee’s extensive works on food and science, and his inquisitiveness has stayed with him throughout his more than 13 years as a professional chef. In his most recent role as Executive Chef of New Orleans’ Café Adelaide, Chef Lusk spent three years honing his Creole and Southern‐style kitchen expertise, bringing a playful, abstract take on the region’s classic cuisine to the menu. Chef Lusk continues his study of Cajun and Creole cuisine at Restaurant R’evolution.

Chef Lusk’s talent has earned him accolades both locally and nationally. In 2009, he was named one of Esquire magazine’s “Four Breakout Chefs to Watch,” as well as a “Chef to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. In 2010, Lusk achieved top honors as the winner of the Louisiana Seafood Cook‐Off, and in 2011, Chef Lusk was honored with an invitation to cook at the esteemed James Beard House, and was recognized again by Esquire magazine’s John Mariani with a nod for “Best Dessert of 2011.” With his new role at Restaurant R’evolution, Lusk’s star continues to rise as he assists in introducing guests to an exciting new dining experience in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Erin Swanson
Executive Pastry Chef

Growing up in Gurnee, IL, Erin Swanson was an avid fan of television cooking shows, especially Julia Child. That childhood fascination turned into a career path in high school, when she decided to pursue a career as a pastry chef.

After graduation, she enrolled at the culinary school of Chicago’s Kendall College. “During my time at Kendall, I was strongly influenced by Gale Gand, as she was a well-known female pastry chef in the Chicago area,” Swanson notes. Coincidentally, Swanson traveled to New Orleans for a food tour of the city just prior to graduation, which yielded one of her best meals ever, at Susan Spicer’s Bayona restaurant. These early culinary inspirations would create ripples through her career in ways she never imagined. 

After graduating with her degree in Culinary Arts in 1998, Swanson relocated to Aspen, CO, to work as a pastry chef at the Aspen Institute. In 1999, she returned to Illinois and worked as a line cook at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago. In 2002, Swanson was hired as a pastry assistant at Chicago’s renowned Mobil Four-Star, AAA Five-Diamond restaurant Tru, which brought two of her early culinary influences back into her life. The first time she met Gale Gand was at a benefit for Julia Child, where she also met Julia herself. “After that chance meeting, I began to work and build a relationship with Gale at Tru,” Swanson notes, “which really helped me hone my skills and find my own voice as a pastry chef.”

After two years at Tru, Swanson accepted a position as pastry chef of the Bear’s Club, Jack Nicklaus’s private golf club in Jupiter, FL. Returning to Chicago, she headed the pastry kitchen at Zealous restaurant, and in 2006 she reunited with Gand to work as executive sous chef and pastry chef for Gale’s Coffee Bar, Osteria di Tramonto, and Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood, for Cenitare Restaurant Group.

When Chef Tramonto decided to team with Chef John Folse to open Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans, he called upon Swanson to move down south to become the Executive Pastry Chef.  Swanson has relished in utilizing local ingredients and cuisine for a modernized version of more traditional New Orleans desserts, such as her White Chocolate Bread Pudding Crème Brulee. In 2013, this dessert won her the gold medal at the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience’s Fleur de Lis Culinary Awards. This year, Swanson took home the silver medal with her crowd-pleaser, a Macadamia Nut Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Swanson’s style is what she likes to call a modern spin on traditional desserts. She likes exploring the nuances of traditional Cajun and Creole flavors that have made New Orleans what it is and combining them to make interesting and fresh desserts. Her philosophy, however, remains refreshingly simple. “I love the instant gratification I receive when I watch someone try a dish I have made and see how happy it has made them,” she says.
MOLLY WISMEIER
Wine Director

At first glance, there may seem to be few parallels between studying Russian in college and becoming a wine professional. For Molly Wismeier, however, the connection between these life experiences is palpable. “In a lot of ways, working with wines encompasses things I am passionate about: history, culture, languages,” she explains. “Wine itself is a language, and working in a restaurant with guests, I am, in many ways, a translator. I help them understand and choose the wines that are right for them.” Wismeier sees wine as something that touches on her roots in Iowa, where food was always an important part of her family life.

After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in Russian, Wismeier relocated to Denver and freelanced as a translator. To ensure a steadier income, she also worked part time at restaurants, landing her first sommelier position in 1999 at Enoteca Wine Bar. Wismeier quickly realized that she enjoyed working with wine, and the job opened her up to new career possibilities.

Relocating to Chicago in 2002, Wismeier continued to learn on the job, working as a sommelier at Cru Cafe for three years before moving to Ambria, where she maintained a 1,000-bottle wine list that emphasized Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Spanish wines. In 2004, Wismeier completed the introductory exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and in 2005 became sommelier at the venerable Charlie Trotter’s, where she managed the restaurant’s world-renowned wine program and was responsible for educating staff about wine and service. In 2007, Wismeier became director of wine and spirits for Cenitare Restaurants, in Buffalo Grove, IL. In this capacity, she oversaw training of staff, including sommeliers, for three restaurants. In 2009, Wismeier joined Epic restaurant in Chicago as wine director and helped propel it to local and national acclaim, including a “Best New Restaurants” nod from Esquire magazine.

In 2010, chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto approached her with an opportunity to work with them on Restaurant R’evolution, the first restaurant project under their new Home on the Range restaurant development company. The opportunity to move to New Orleans—a city renowned for its culinary and cultural history—was one she could not pass up. “New Orleans is an epicenter for food, wine, art, and so much more,” she notes. “It embodies the best of all the things I love in one place.” Restaurant R’evolution at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans opened in the French Quarter in June 2012.

In her role as wine & spirits director at Restaurant R’evolution, Wismeier focuses on maintaining a world-class selection of wines from around the world, with an emphasis on the seven nations that originally settled Louisiana and make up the backbone of what has become known as Creole cuisine. Wismeier’s wine list also features selections from emerging wine-producing regions, including Lebanon, Slovenia, and Greece, among others. 

Selected in February 2015 by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top sommeliers in the country, Wismeier was referenced by the publication as “an exceptional talent scout, she stocks her 10,000 bottle wine cellar with impressive old vintages from lesser-known talents as well as superstars.”  Under her guidance, Wine Enthusiast magazine twice selected Restaurant R’evolution among  “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” in 2013 and 2014.  And, in its first year of operation, New Orleans Magazine also declared R’evolution “Restaurant of the Year”.

Outside of the dining room, Wismeier is a notable presence at a number of wine and food events around the world. She has appeared at the prestigious Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival as one of 25 top sommeliers from around the country. Whenever possible, she enjoys exploring the ever changing cultural landscape of New Orleans.  As a lover of history, Wismeier particularly appreciates her French Quarter residence that was once occupied by the great American playwright Tennessee Williams.
Courtney Ward
Reservations Coordinator

cward@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

   
Carlos Ramirez
General Manager

cramirez1@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

   
David Harris
Sommelier

dharris1@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

   
Ryan Turnage
Maitre d'

rturnage@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

   
Haeja Sanchez
Restaurant Floor Manager

504-553-2277

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