THIS YEAR’S TACO JUDGES

IAN MCNULTY

IAN MCNULTY

Ian McNulty is a writer for The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate, covering restaurants and food culture. His commentary series Where Y’Eat airs weekly on NPR affiliate WWNO, and he is a frequent contributor to WWL-TV and WWL radio in New Orleans.

MITCH GIBBS

MITCH GIBBS

Mitch Gibbs is a radio personality on WODT and WGSO New Orleans and currently hosts a weekly podcast recorded live at Drago’s downtown location inside the Hilton. Mitch loves all things sports.

POPPY TOOKER

POPPY TOOKER

Poppy Tooker is a native New Orleanian who has spent her life immersed in the vibrant colors and flavors of her state.  Poppy’s NPR-affiliated radio show and podcast, Louisiana Eats!, carries her message state-wide and beyond. Poppy also appears weekly on the WYES public television show, Stepping Out,  with spicy food commentary. Poppy also founded the Slow Food New Orleans Chapter in 1999 creating one of the first 10 chapters in the United States. She was selected to serve as an International Governor with the movement.

Amy Sins

Amy Sins

Amy is a chef, author, and owner of Langlois Catering, named one of the “Best Cooking Schools Around the World,” by Travel + Leisure. She can also be found rallying the troupes to provide aid to disaster victims in Louisiana and around the gulf. She was also named a “Southern of the Year” by Southern Living Magazine.

KENNY LOPEZ

KENNY LOPEZ

Kenny Lopez, aka K-Lo has been on the local TV scene for ten years, after a stint on Good Morning America in New York and as a kids-DJ on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. His motto is “Love Living and Live Loving”

MARC STONE

MARC STONE

World traveling guitarist, songwriter and WWOZ DJ Marc Stone has been reputed to eat his amplifier’s weight in tacos. Let’s see what offerings he finds transformative at this year’s Top Taco…

MICAH WILLIAMS

MICAH WILLIAMS

Micah is a bartender and a pitmaster and owner for of Hard Core BBQ catering and pop up business.

JAMMER ORINTAS

JAMMER ORINTAS

Jammer Orintas, Co-Owner of Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza, discovered his passion for food at an early age. In addition to operating 5 pizza restaurants in the Metro area, he is a self proclaimed taco expert. Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza has been recognized by The Gambit, New Orleans Magazine and The Times-Picyanue as one of the best pizza joints in the city.

LORIN GAUDIN

LORIN GAUDIN

Lorin Gaudin has passion for all things food, drink and arts. She is the Food Editor for Where Magazine New Orleans, has authored three books (86 Recipes and two editions of The New Orleans Chef’s Table) and has written for FoodandWine.com, Chef Emeril Lagasse, The New York Post, New Orleans Magazine, Louisiana Cookin’, GoNola.com and more. Lorin is also the creator-founder of FiveOhFork.

EMILY HINGLE

EMILY HINGLE

Emily Hingle is a Louisiana native who loves experiencing the unique culture of New Orleans every day through food, drinks, and especially music. She has been with Where Y’at Magazine since 2009.

TODD WANNER

TODD WANNER

Todd Wanner serves as Executive VP and CFO for Fidelity Bank, NOLA Lending Group, and Homestead Title. Beyond finance, Todd loves to cook and eat great food. With his family, Todd created a local charity BBQ team called Swinel Richie (a fun tribute to our favorite artist Lionel Richie). As the head chef, this charity team raises money, cooks for several local causes, and feeds a thousand plus people per year.

JAMIE BERNSTEIN

JAMIE BERNSTEIN

>Jamie Bernstein is a songwriter, musician, actor and radio personality. His original songs have been featured in multiple films and he appears live throughout New Orleans. He is best known for his role as Caveman in Season 2 of Preacher. Jamie hosts a weekly radio program called The Offer Radio Hour, 2-3pm, on Mondays for 102.3WHIVfm New Orleans.

SCOTT ``SPARKY`` SPARKS

SCOTT ``SPARKY`` SPARKS

Scott “Sparky” Sparks aka NOLA’s King of Tailgating” is the quintessential southern gentleman known for his off-the-hook tailgates and frequent appearances on local TV plus the Food Network & Amazon Prime.

CHEF MIKE NELSON

CHEF MIKE NELSON

Chef Michael Nelson arrived in New Orleans in July 2005, bringing with him experience from the CIA of Napa Valley, and restaurants in Chicago and Seattle. He quickly rose through the ranks at GW Fins, first as Chef de Cuisine in 2007, and then in 2015, he was named Executive Chef of GW Fins. Chef Nelson was recognized by New Orleans City Business’ Culinary Connoisseurs as being one of the top 50 professionals in New Orleans Dining Industry and was named a “Chopped Champion” on Food Network’s popular cooking competition.

WOODY POCHE

WOODY POCHE

Woody is the proprietor of the eponymously named Woody’s Fish Tacos, a fixture on the New Orleans Festival Circuit for several years. Currently enjoying retirement with his new Nepalese sidekick, Rin Poche, he’s excited to make a rare public appearance in support of this “Juan”derful event.

WILLY HERNANGOMEZ

WILLY HERNANGOMEZ

Willy Hernangomez is a professional basketball player from Madrid, Spain. After getting drafted by the New York Knicks in the 2015 NBA Draft, Willy made an instant impact in the league earning All-Rookie first team honors. Along the way he has earned an Olympic medal (2016) and won the World Cup (2019) with the Spanish National Team. Willy will be entering his 6th season in the NBA and his second with the New Orleans Pelicans. Willy is a big taco aficionado and is glad to be part of an event to support kids and the PLEASE Foundation.

 

THIS YEAR’S COCKTAIL JUDGES

BRETT PATRON

BRETT PATRON

Brett “Slab” Patron, co-founder of the 610 Stompers, comes from a long line of eaters and dancers. His grandparents are from Merida, located on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. Slab spent many Sundays throughout his life, cooking and eating traditional Mexican food, but he believes tacos can cover a diverse range of food from many cultures.

matt ray

matt ray

Matt Ray is one of the Experience Team Leads of the Sazerac House, an interactive cocktail museum and distillery located in downtown New Orleans. Before joining the Sazerac House, Matt worked in hospitality for over twenty years, from dives to Disney. He was most recently a speaker at the 2021 Tales of the Cocktail and the USBG southern regional conference.

ZAHARA DIMASSI

ZAHARA DIMASSI

Zaraha is a life-long service industry professional who grew up in her father’s family restaurant in Largo, Florida. While in college, she gravitated to the bar and she hasn’t looked back since. In 2019, she got her CRT tequilier certification at the 2019 Agave Week celebration at the Ace Hotel. She can currently be found supervising the front of house over at the popular Elysian Bar.

JED ANDERSON

JED ANDERSON

Jed Anderson has been in the industry for almost ten years and has extensive knowledge of wines and spirits. He’s helped open multiple restaurants and bars in New Orleans and has a passion for telling stories through cocktail creations. He’s currently expressing his passion as the GM of the Lobby Bar and 3 Keys at the ACE Hotel.

LEROY MITCHELL

LEROY MITCHELL

Leroy Mitchell was born and raised in Metairie, LA. On any given Sunday, Leroy can be found antagonizing opposing players at the Superdome dressed in black and gold with a giant whistle attached to his head. When he’s not dressed as the most recognizable Saint Supafan, he can be found holding court at Galatoire’s every Friday after a long work week at Heartland Payment Services. No one loves a great cocktail more than the Whistle Monsta.

STAR HODGSON

STAR HODGSON

Star is a founding member and past President of the New Orleans Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG), Star now serves the bartending community as a Chair of the USBG National Charity Foundation Board. She contributes to several online and print publications, has served as a judge for many esteemed cocktail competitions, teaches seminars at industry conferences, and is a blind tasting spirits judge for the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition.

Andrew Quaid

Andrew Quaid

The Super Saints Fan Mr. Everythang helps to keep the Who Dat Nation Motivated in the Dome and everywhere he goes. A transplant to New Orleans in March 2005, he quickly fell in love with Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Your NOLA Saints & Pelicans, and “Everything” that New Orleans has to offer.

DANIEL VICTORY

DANIEL VICTORY

Daniel Victory is the founder and owner of Victory and the New Orleans Drink Lab. His businesses are both in the heart of downtown New Orleans, offering an array of craft cocktails, small gourmet plates and a venue dedicated to teaching the history and art of cocktail making.

AARON WILKINSON

AARON WILKINSON

Aaron  is the bandleader for New Orleans roots rock outfit Honey Island Swamp Band. A life long taco and tequila lover, he is a dedicated champion of all things taco culture!

leslie norwood

leslie norwood

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Brittany Perniciaro

Brittany Perniciaro

Brittany been a potion maker in the New Orleans area for 13yrs, & in the industry for 17. Born & raised in Columbus, OH, but moved here 3mths after turning 18. I’ve lived here for more of my life than there, & this great city & the people I’ve met along the way whilst bartending is what has shaped me into the rad individual I am today & become daily.

noah stambovsky

noah stambovsky

Noah Stambovsky has made his mark on the restaurant community here as a server, bartender, and manager. If you frequent the Freret corridor, he probably looks familiar to you. Noah is also the Co-founder of Nola-grown startup, Drinker’s Edition. As CMO, he is responsible for all the great cocktail recipes and happy hour recommendations seen on the app’s social media channels. His hobbies include making new cocktail creations at home, and writing episodes for his speculative TV show, Time Team.

AARON NACHLAS

AARON NACHLAS

Aaron Nachlas recently moved to Phoenix, AZ after 22 years living on and off in New Orleans. A dedicated consumer and cocktail enthusiast, he has designed tours and assisted in articles highlighting the New Orleans cocktail culture. He is often found behind the bar, creating specialty cocktails for private events. As part of Agave Week, Aaron designed and directed the Industry Tequila Seminar and ‘Farm to Bar’ Panel Discussion, as well as the Top Tequila Competition.

brian kern

brian kern

Brian Kern is a man about town with a passion for parades and parties. Brian currently reigns as the Captain of the Krewe of Boo, the annual Halloween Parade that has become a big attraction on the fall calendar in New Orleans since it’s inception back in 2008. Brian proudly fought for, and won, his krewes’ right to parade this Mardi Gras season.

ANDREW MARIN

ANDREW MARIN

Andrew Marin writes about food and cocktails for Where Y’at Magazine. He is a former chef and bartender, a slim percentage Mexican, and a taco and tequila enthusiast. It’s his four year judging Top Taco. Follow him @ndrewmarin on instagram for photos, and watch his instagram story for live updates from the festival.

DIANE LUNDEEN

DIANE LUNDEEN

Lundeen is Petcetera’s pet pastry chef and baker. She is the lead designer for NOLA Bitch Couture, a doggy style design house, making creative apparel, accessories and toys for pets and people. Lundeen dedicates her spare time to charity and animal rescue, including Bad toThe Bone: Rescued on The Runway, a feast of food and fashion in which dogs from local rescues strut the catwalk in hopes of finding homes.

RACHEL KROL

RACHEL KROL

NEED BIO

HEATHER CHAPMAN

HEATHER CHAPMAN

Heather has been in the SIN since 2006, more professionally since 2011 from DE to SC to FL, with a few in between. She has bartended at GW Fins since 2019, truly loving working for the family and with her coworkers. She has constantly tried to check out the new spots that have opened up in the City since moving here in 2013, along with challenge myself along the way.

GARLAND HOOVER

GARLAND HOOVER

Bartender and musician with undying love for New Orleans. Can be seen behind the bar at the new Mahogany Jazz Hall or at private events for self-owned bar service Bevuto.

JYL BENSON

JYL BENSON

Jyl Benson is a freelance journalist specializing in culinary and cultural subjects. She writes a monthly recipe-oriented column, The NOSH, for New Orleans Magazine and a monthly entertaining column, How to Host, for Avenue Magazine. She has written several cookbooks and contributes frequent features to a host of publications.

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