New Chefs At Bern's

Young, Talented and Ready to Prove It

Bern’s Family of Legends Promotes Talented Sous Chefs to Top Posts

Tampa, FL – They have experience. They have talent. They have drive. And they all are obsessed with food. They are the former Sous Chefs of Bern’s Steak House and SideBern’s and they are ready to step into the drivers seats.

After the departure of former executive chef Jeannie Pierola in early November, many wondered who would man the top posts of the legendary steak house and its progressive sister. “There was never any question that we couldn’t or wouldn’t promote from within the company,” says David Laxer, Bern’s owner. “We are confident that we have both the talent and vision within our culinary teams and we are pleased to finally announce the promotions.”

At Bern’s Steak House, there will no longer be one executive chef, instead Sous Chefs Andy Minney and Habteab Hamde will share the title of Chef de Cuisine. They have been running the kitchen for quite sometime, and both feel that the title and job responsibilities can easily be shared.

Minney, 36, a graduate of Johnson & Whales, Charleston, SC, always wanted to be a chef. He was inspired by his grandfather, who had a farm and butchered his own animals and canned his own vegetables. “Since I was a kid, I always wanted to cook and to understand the whole story of food – where it comes from, how it is grown and harvested.”

Hamde, 44, who everyone at Bern’s calls simply ‘Hab’, emigrated from the country of Eritrea, located in northern eastern Africa, in 1983. He attended the Swedish Culinary Institute in Sudan, but due to the country’s continual unrest and war he was unable to finish his training. When he arrived in the U.S. he completed high school and was attending USF for accounting when he decided that he would follow the childhood advice that many gave him in his village; that he would one day become a chef. “I really enjoy cooking and food because it is like chemistry; putting new things together and creating brand new dishes,” he says.

Currently, the chefs at Bern’s are changing a few of the items on the menu and are continuing to write the “Kitchen within a Kitchen” specials menu that now changes every three weeks.

At SideBern’s, Chad Johnson will be the new Executive Chef and Courtney Orwig has been promoted to Chef de Cuisine. Although he is 28, and one of the youngest executive chefs in the market, Johnson is obsessed with the culinary experience, a perfect match for SideBern’s progressive nature.

He attended the French Culinary Institute in New York where he learned to cook with names like Pepin, Torres and his personal favorite Andre Soltner. He also worked at Layla, Montrachet and Savory in Manhattan. “I always wanted to cook, my best friend’s family owned a restaurant and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I enjoy the pace of the work and the control that is required while cooking. SideBern’s is a great place to begin as an executive chef because there are no absolute boundaries about what we can create or serve.”

Courtney Orwig, 35, SideBern’s Chef de Cuisine, started his career in pastry. He, like SideBern’s former chef Pierola, did not attend culinary school, choosing instead to learn on the job. He originally began his career in pastry, but after one and a half years at Redwoods, he met Pierola and she taught him the “other side” of being a chef. “For me, the creativity that is inherent in the field of food and cooking is what is exciting and the science of food is amazing,” says Orwig.

Jeannie's been replaced and it looks like it's all going to be promotions from within the organization.

Duties at Bern's Steak House will be shared by long-time kitchen guys Andy Minney and Habteab Hamde (both labeled Chef De Cuisine). Youngster Chad Johnson will be jumped from sous to the new SideBern's Exec and Courtney Orwig will be moving up to Chef De Cuisine.

Full Bern's press release after the jump.

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