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.

Erik Veney
Executive Sous Chef

A native of New York, Erik Veney obtained a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religions from the University of Virginia. After a ‘now what’ moment and a nudge from his father, Veney headed to Providence, Rhode Island to enroll in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University. His lifelong love of cooking was honed into a professional career that would eventually lead him to New Orleans in 1994.

Veney landed with the famed Brennan Family and refined his skills at Mr. B’s Bistro under Chef Gerard Maras who taught Veney the fine art of seasoning food. After a stint at Bacco, he would eventually move on to become the Executive Sous Chef for Muriel’s Jackson Square. His work there would earn Veney culinary acclaim and the honor of being named Chef of the Year by New Orleans Magazine in 2003. Food writer Lorin Gaudin wrote of Veney, “he knows exactly how far to push the envelope and where to keep it comfortable.”

Quiet and soft-spoken by nature, Veney allows his food do all the talking. In 2006, his talents were called upon by Chef Scott Bosworth of Stella where Veney rose to Director of Kitchen Operations.

In October of 2011, two award-winning chefs teamed up for an exciting new joint venture that Veney would find impossible to resist. Those chefs were John Folse and Rick Tramonto. Their vision was Restaurant R’evolution.

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 Swanson 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, 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.

In 2010, Swanson accepted the opportunity to be part of the opening team for Restaurant R’evolution, the first restaurant from chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto’s Home on the Range restaurant development company. The restaurant will open in June 2012 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans. Relocating to New Orleans as the restaurant’s pastry chef, Swanson is exploring the nuances of traditional Cajun and Creole sweets, incorporating them into her brand of traditional desserts executed with what she calls a “modern spin.” Her philosophy, however, remains refreshingly simple. “I love being able to create things that make people happy,” she says. “There’s a moment of instant gratification I get to see when someone eats my desserts, and that’s one of the highest compliments.”

In her free time, Swanson likes to cook in her own kitchen, as well as explore her new home by sampling cuisine of all kinds throughout New Orleans.

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.” The restaurant will open in June 2012 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans.

In her new role, 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.

Outside of the dining room, Wismeier is a notable presence at a number of wine and food events around the world. She appeared at the 2010 Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival as one of 25 top sommeliers from around the country. Whenever possible, she makes time to explore New Orleans, enjoying the cultural opportunities her new home provides.

MATTHEW ALLEN
Assistant Sommelier

mallen@revolutionnola.com
504-553-2277

Gayle Bailey-Gray
Restaurant Sales Manager

ggray@sonesta.com
504-553-2224

Gayle Bailey-Gray brings her expertise in event planning and group functions to the city’s newest fine-dining establishment led by award-winning chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto.

Prior to her new role as Restaurant R’evolution’s Catering Sales Manager, Bailey-Gray held a similar position at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans where some of her many duties included supporting the Restaurant R’evolution team. Before joining the Royal Sonesta New Orleans, Bailey-Gray was employed by Whitney National Bank as an advertising and public relations specialist responsible for the bank’s Louisiana branches.

In her new position at Restaurant R’evolution, Bailey-Gray is responsible for scheduling meetings and site visits with potential new clients, establishing and maintaining VIP guest relations, preparing dining contracts for special events and private functions, and maintaining open communications with professional associations and social organizations with the purpose of promoting the restaurant.

“We are thrilled that Gayle has joined the Restaurant R’evolution team. She is a tremendous asset to our team and brings a level of depth and expertise to our ongoing efforts to attract more group functions our restaurant. Her communication skills compliment our brand and reinforce our overall commitment to exceed our client’s expectations,” explains Restaurant R’evolution General Manager Misty Beazley. “As New Orleans continues to dominate as a top destination for business and leisure travel, it’s important that our restaurant offer an experienced and knowledgeable Catering Sales Manager to interact with clients and meet their demands.”

Shannon Derkacht
Restaurant Floor Manager

sderkacht@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

Amber Mouton
Restaurant Floor Manager

amouton@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

Barrett Cobb
Restaurant Floor Manager

bcobb@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

Courtney Ward
Reservations Coordinator

cward@sonesta.com
504-553-2277

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