2016 Guest Chefs

Wally Bone

Chef Walter Bone cooks with style and soul. Growing up on Long Island, NY, Chef Wally’s first job was a dishwasher, at the tender age of 13, at the local country club. He draws inspiration for cooking for others from volunteering side by side with his father at pancake and spaghetti feeds for New York City’s finest firemen. He spent his younger years causing mayhem and fishing off the docks of the east coast with friends and family. Chef Wally served as a volunteer on the fire department for seven years before returning to the pull of the hospitality industry. He worked in Billings for many years at the Grandstand as a member of management, truly allowing him to have his finger on the pulse of the Billings population.

He brought his style of boldly flavored farm-to-table inspired meals to the Northern Hotel’s grand re-opening in 2013. He worked his way up through the ranks to become the sous chef of TEN. Chef Wally has over 20 years’ experience in the restaurant hospitality business. He delights locals and tourists alike with popular staples while daring them to step into something new with exotic wild game dishes as well as offering top of the line American Kobe beef steaks. Nothing brings more joy to Chef Wally than seeing people enjoy his meals and watching them talk about his food with a smile on their face.

FUN FACT: Wally loves expensive socks that match his favorite sports team, the New York Yankees, of course!

Milford Burke

Kreative Kapers began in 1995 servicing groups of 10 to 1,000, offering formal to casual elegant business events, weddings, anniversaries and other social events.

Chef Milford and his staff work to “deliver what the guest wants, not what we want to offer the guest.” Their client’s events are not just about the food, they are designed to meet the entertaining objectives of the client – which includes delicious food.

Michael Callahan

Mike Callaghan is CEO of Callaghan Enterprises. Callaghan Enterprises specializes in providing restaurants and food service establishments with the tools needed to survive in a competitive environment. His most recent position prior to starting his own business was director of business development for Food Services of America in Billings, Montana. Mike spent 17 years with Food Services of America. His primary role as director of business development was to consult and work with food service customers on the operational and financial aspects of their business. He has over 35 years of experience in the food service industry. He has degrees in hotel, restaurant and catering management from Athlone Hotel and Restaurant School, Ireland, and a culinary arts degree from City and Guilds of London, England.

He is a Certified European-trained Chef (CEC), and Food Management Professional (FMP). He has been part owner, managed and operated restaurants in Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; and Billings, MT. He has instructed numerous cooking classes in Billings over the past 18 years. In his spare time he teaches culinary and food safety classes throughout Montana and Wyoming. He has been a supporter and mentor to the ProStart culinary program in Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming for the past nine years.

He is also a certified ServSafe trainer with over three hundred national certification classes to his credit. While he was the executive chef at Jack’s Firehouse restaurant in Philadelphia, it was recognized as a top ten restaurant in the nation by Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and Gourmet magazines. He was also the executive chef at Silk Purse Sow’s Ear in Wilmington Delaware, voted best restaurant in the state by Food and Wine. His most recent executive chef position prior to working at Food Services of America was at Walker’s Grill, Billings.

Jim Carlson

Jim’s love of cooking began in college while he was working for a French caterer who taught him the art of preparing and serving fine food. Jim moved from Minnesota to Montana in the early 1980s and since then has worked for many fine chefs from many different cultures and backgrounds.

In 2009, he was named Chef of the Year by the Chefs and Cooks of Montana. Jim has worked at and managed several restaurants and catering services and is now the executive chef at MorningStar Senior Living. According to Jim, the joy, satisfaction and creative challenge of preparing and serving food are what energize his day.

Jeremy Goldsmith

Jeremy Goldsmith returns for his eighth year as Executive Chef for the Wine & Food Festival’s Saturday night gala dinner. Having worked in the Seattle, Portland and Spokane areas, Jeremy has nearly twenty years of fine-dining experience. He brings a culinary style that is Pacific Northwest inspired, with a rich foundation in traditional French techniques.

Jeremy is a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR, and currently is the Executive Catering Chef for the Hemmingson Center at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA.

Melissa Harrison

Seasonal is a Chef-inspired Farm to Table business operating in Southwestern Montana April through December. Seasonal is dedicated to the sustainable food movement working to build community through food. Our culinary philosophy maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest ingredients produced sustainably and locally.

Chef Melissa Harrison is a passionate advocate for a delicious, clean and fair food economy. We procure ingredients from Montana farmers, ranchers and producers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures Seasonal with a consistent supply of fresh and pure ingredients.

Melissa Harrison was born and raised on a horse farm in Sparks, Maryland. She spent her youth surrounded by farm fresh produce and livestock. Her upbringing influenced her love of food and cooking from an early age. After receiving her culinary degree from Baltimore International College, Melissa relocated to Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder, she worked for several establishments operated by the Big Red F Restaurant Group, owned by Dave Query, including Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace, Jax Fish House and The Bitter Bar. In 2008, Melissa was asked to appear on Bravo’s hit television series, Top Chef where she demonstrated her culinary talent and resilience to many respected Chefs

In 2009, Melissa left the Big Red F Restaurant group to serve as the guest Chef at Rancho Pacifico 5-star Eco Luxury Resort in Costa Rica for two months. From there, she traveled to Martin Pescador Lodge in Patagonia, Chile to serve as Chef seasonally for five years.

During the off-season in Chile, Melissa found her home in Montana and opened Seasonal Montana in spring of 2011. Seasonal Montana’s doors are open April – December. In 2013 she expanded Seasonal Montana to a custom catering and lodging company. In 2015, Melissa opened a second location in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Seasonal Puerto Rico offers an exotic Caribbean adventure, private dining and Tarpon stalking paired with unprecedented comfortable lodging and amenities. Seasonal Puerto Rico’s doors are open January through March. Chef Melissa is passionate about redefining the indoor and outdoor experience with unforgettable accommodations in Montana & Puerto Rico.

Christine Helmers

“The best feeling is to see someone look so grateful to be eating what you cook, even with the simplest of dishes.”

Christine’s cooking career has spanned over a decade with the humble beginnings of a prep cook in Plentywood, Montana, where she worked in a local family restaurant. After a brief stint as a customer service agent for a hotel, she returned to her love of cooking and baking and began her journey into the culinary world full time. With stops in North Dakota and New York, she made her way to Oregon, where she went to school at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute, focusing on baking and pastry skills. She went on to refine her skills back in New York at the Westchester Country Club Apprenticeship Program in Rye, and then returned once again to Oregon Coast Culinary Institute for a degree in Culinary Arts.

Christine has worked in Belgrade, Montana, as a pastry chef at Elle’s Belles Bakery and then found her way to Billings, Montana, where she has resided as a prep cook and pastry chef, and now serves as Northern Hotel’s banquet chef. Her love for cooking and teaching others valuable skills in the kitchen has never faltered and that is always noticeable by her amazing smile. She has received two gold medals and one bronze medal for competing in American Culinary Federation food competitions. On any given day you can find Christine prepping meals to upbeat music or getting in a quick “boot camp” workout at the gym. Christine loves spending free time with her fiancé, Chance, and her family.

Jake Irwin

In 2014, Jake moved to Montana from Arizona, where he spent 10 years honing his skills as a chef working in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the state. Excited to be back in Montana and working with the Rainbow Ranch team, Jake continues to provide guests with a unique dining experience using some of the best local products Montana has to offer.

Jake’s ardent passion is food and the creation of innovative menus. Most recently, Jake was the Sous Chef at Superstition Mountain Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus designed course in Gold Canyon, Arizona. While at Superstition Mountain, Jake was able to assist in designing a fine-dining menu and upscale experience for its members. He also worked as a private chef cooking for high profile clients such as Major League Baseball player Albert Belle and Phoenix Home and Garden magazine owner Bill Pholen.

Jake’s experience working in fine-dining restaurants and lodges also includes Talking Rock Golf Club in Prescott, Arizona; The Palace Restaurant in Prescott, Arizona; Lake Marie Fishing Lodge in Chugiak, Alaska; and Sierra Pointe in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Restaurant at Rainbow Ranch Lodge has a long-running tradition of pairing local ranch-to-table cuisine with an award-winning wine list to provide a true taste of Big Sky and Montana. Having spent time in Montana as a young boy, Jake is excited to be back in Big Sky country, where he can design a menu rooted in wild game and traditional Montana fare.

In his spare time, Jake loves hiking, hunting, fishing and being outdoors with his two dogs.

Carl Kurokawa

Chef Carl Kurokawa worked in numerous hotels and restaurants on three different islands in his home state of Hawaii before relocating to Montana in 1980. After three years as the Executive Sous Chef at the Billings Sheraton and a year as Manager of the Carriage Inn at Twin Lakes Village in Idaho, he took the position of Executive Chef at Bozeman’s Riverside Country Club.

In 1987, Chef Carl returned to Billings as Executive Chef of the Radisson Northern Hotel for a year. The next six years, Chef Kurokawa was Chef at DeVerniero’s Ristorante until 1995 when he and two partners purchased Juliano’s Restaurant. Chef Carl and Juliano’s have received numerous awards, including the DiRoNa Award as one of the distinguished restaurants in America, one of only three establishments in to receive this distinction in Montana.

Chef Carl serves on the board of the Chefs and Cooks of Montana and was named “Chef of the Year” three straight years from 1987 to 1989.

David Maplethorpe

Though his training and experience have taken him all over the country, David Maplethorpe returned to Billings for good eleven years ago, resuming his position as executive chef at The Rex Restaurant Bar & Grill. In February 2008, The Rex was acknowledged by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association with the “2007 National Beef Backer Award for Innovator of the Year.” This coveted award recognizes the efforts of owner Gene Burgad,  David, and the highly professional team at The Rex Restaurant.

It wasn’t until after he completed a degree in Political Science at the University of the Pacific at Stockton that David, a California native, decided he had to follow his passion for great food. He trained in the French style and was mentored by a French chef in Denver, CO. David continued his education with the Culinary Institute of America both in Hyde Park, NY, and Greystone in Napa Valley, CA.

During his five-year hiatus, David helped open the Dakota Chop House in Tyler, TX, where he served as executive chef and also worked as executive chef at Michigan Tech University. David nevertheless returned to Billings once a year to visit Gene and friends and also to participate in the MSU Billings Wine & Food Festival Rogue Chef’s Dinner with Chef/Owner Carl Kurokawa of Juliano’s Restaurant.

David is currently the Co-Chair of the Guest Chef Dinner, and on the Steering Committee.

Carrie McCully

In 2012, Chef Carrie left the spotlight as the host of Food Network’s Chef Hunter. She imagined a year in Montana fly fishing, recovering from the burn-out she felt after a lifetime of living in New York City and Los Angeles. Carrie is a native New Yorker who previously worked for and with Alain Ducasse, Martha Stewart, the Museum of Modern Art, and Terrance Brennan, to name a few.

ADOUR Good Food, a Montana catering and events company, came about by accident after Carrie catered a few luncheons for friends and realized she could no longer stay out of the kitchen with all of the good food found locally. Chef Carrie vowed to provide only the finest quality ingredients, exceptional customer service and innovative concepts for her clients.

ADOUR Good Food is a full-service catering, event production and film location catering company, offering fresh local Montana ingredients and menus reflecting global and local cuisines.

Carrie is also the food columnist for The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Mike Melius

Born and raised in Billings, Montana, Executive Chef Michael Melius discovered his passion for food and all types of cuisine around the age of 16. He loved to create recipes of his own and watch Great Chefs of the World and Graham Kerr videos. Straight from high school he attended the culinary program at MSU Billings College of Technology and graduated in 1996 with a Culinary Arts Certification.

Fresh out of culinary school, Chef Melius began his career at Juliano’s, then soon moved to Washington to work at the Italian restaurant Garlinis. Deciding to come back to his roots, Michael returned to Billings and worked at Q Cuisine and as sous chef at the Beanery Bar and Grill, where he eventually moved up to kitchen manager. Chef Melius also had the opportunity to learn about Asian cuisine while working at Sweet Ginger and spent several years as executive chef at the Windmill. Currently the executive chef at the Petroleum Club, Chef Melius draws on all of his experience to create a superior dining experience for members and guests.

Ranga Perera

Born in Sri Lanka, raised in Oman, and settling in California as a nine-year old, Ranga Laurian Perera brings an adventurous soul and refined palette through his Bozeman-based adventure catering service: Laurian’s Table.

It took a degree in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a summer working as a ranch hand in the Gallatin Canyon for Ranga to realize that bringing unique and creative food to the table was his first love. Ranga has cooked in both Montana and California, has worked closely with James Beard award-winning chef Charles Schommer at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, and has been cooking as a personal chef since graduating from Berkeley in 2002.

For the last four years, Laurian’s Table has presented a revolving “underground restaurant” – think speakeasy, but with food – to share the exotic flavors and cultures that Ranga has experienced through his international travel, which includes a six-month stint in Sri Lanka to help during the tsunami relief effort and another eight-month soul-searching adventure that took him through Greece and India.

Ranga uses only the finest produce and meats available, local whenever possible, and perfect wine pairings. His intimate and engaging meals transport diners to the bustling back alleys of Benares and the exotic souks of Casablanca. Nothing pleases Ranga more than watching a group of wonderful people getting to know each other over great food. Ranga finds his inspiration for tasty treats foraging the local flora and fauna in Montana, utilizing hot rocks for cooking meats and garnishing with wild herbs and plants.

On the rare occasion when he isn’t thinking or breathing food, Ranga pursues his love for meditation and yoga, and days off find him casting a trout spell with his fly rod on the myriad world-class rivers and streams of Montana.

Shane Ryan

Executive Chef, Matt’s In the Market

Matt’s In the Market Executive Chef Shane Ryan began his culinary career humbly as a dishwasher at the age of 15. Interest sparked, Ryan honed his skills at South Seattle Community College’s Culinary Arts program, where he learned the attention to detail which would serve him well in his next move in 2005 to Las Vegas. It was beneath the bright lights of Sin City that Ryan joined the team which opened the now three Michelin Star Joël Robuchon at The Mansion, and cut his teeth under the watchful eye of the famed Robuchon. Las Vegas spurred in him a sense of adventure, which he indulged in 2007 by moving half way around the world to take a chef position in Thimphu, Bhutan. There he managed a Western and Thai kitchen at Aman Resorts Amankora, a boutique resort in the Himalayas.

After two years, Ryan leveraged his position with Aman to make way for the Caribbean where he served as head chef at the highly-influential Sheer in St. Maarten. While the tropical paradise lived up to everything Ryan had hoped for, the Seattle native longed for home. “I missed the personal connection that had become expected between the farmer, chef, and diners. It was also about regaining access to the abundance of produce, meats, seafood, and specialty items I wanted to explore.”

Upon returning to the Emerald City, Ryan cultivated a sterling reputation, not to mention an enviable resume, by helping to open some of Seattle’s and indeed America’s top restaurants, among them Tavolata, How To Cook A Wolf, and Staple and Fancy prior to assuming the sous chef position at Matt’s in the Market. Ryan came to Matt’s as sous chef in January 2011 and was promoted to executive chef in October of 2012. Never straying too far from local food, Shane is an avid gardener, mushroom forager, crabber, fisherman, and shellfish harvester.

Marlo Spreng

Marlo Spreng joined the Walkers family as Executive Chef in February of 2005. Marlo graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI with a degree in Culinary Arts. She spent the next five years working her way up the ranks at the Tante Louise, one of Denver’s oldest and most renowned French Restaurants. During her tenure at the Tante Louise, she developed a passion for French cuisine and classic cooking techniques. She then took her talents to the mountains of Vail, Colorado and held the helm as Chef de Cuisine at The Grouse Mountain Grill. Working alongside Chef Rick Kangas, Marlo honed her skills as a manager, banquet chef and snowboarder, and had the honor of cooking at New York City’s James Beard House. From Vail, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she became Executive Sous Chef of the Eldorado Hotel. Marlo then moved back to her native Denver to accept the Executive Chef position at the Tante Louise. Working among Denver’s finest chefs, she continued practicing her passion for all things French and ushered the Tante into a new era of modern French cuisine.

In 2005, Marlo made the big move north to Montana, where she has made Billings and Walkers her home. According to Marlo, the team at Walkers is second to none; and gives credit to her support staff for making Walkers one of Billings’ best restaurants. Her advice to an aspiring chef is to always remember that although it’s never listed in any recipe, the most important ingredient in every dish is a little bit of Gran Mariner… for the Chef.

Nick Steen

Nick entered the food scene as a prep cook heavily influenced by chefs from San Francisco and New Zealand. He briefly switched careers, becoming an EMT/ firefighter while starting a family. The switch was short lived and he returned to his first love of cooking in Bozeman, Montana, where his concept of farm-to-table cooking was used in a Bozeman elementary school.

An open position as the executive chef and food and beverage director at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky caught Nick’s eye and he quickly applied and was offered the job. Chef Nick’s approach to fine dining is rooted in transforming the simplest of ingredients into unique dishes, which added to the dining experience at Lone Mountain. Swayed heavily by the creative genius of James Beard, Chef Nick believes in diversity in his dishes.

Chef Nick and his family yearned to move back to his hometown of Billings, so when the executive chef spot opened up at the Northern Hotel, he immediately applied for the position and was offered the job. He was barely in his new chef coat when he competed and won an Iron Chef competition at MSUB.

Chef Nick hopes to rediscover some classic dishes as well as “push the boundaries of creativity in the kitchen.” When you sit down with Nick it is impossible not to get excited about food.

Recent accolades include being named twice as one of “The Ten Best Chefs in the Northwest” by The Culture Trip and his gastronomy featured in Zagat’s “8 Reasons to Visit Yellowstone Right Now.”

Marcy Tatarka

Marcy opened Beyond Basil Catering on a dare in 1994 and since then has strived to build the type of business that fulfills the wishes of her clients. She specializes in custom menus and superb service and enjoys creating dishes using unique foods and fresh herbs and spices, all within the budget of the customer. Marcy was named Chef of the Year in 2007 by the Chefs and Cooks of Montana.

Her love of food has allowed her to follow her passion for ethnic foods. Whether roasting chilies to make mole, toasting and grinding spices for curry powder, making pastas or roasting bones for stock, she continues to explore the world of flavors and to create exciting new dishes for her clients.

Marcy has been fortunate enough to work with some great people in the industry. She has taken classes from Masaharu Morimoto, Ferran Adria, Jose Garces and Rick Bayless. She has had the great pleasure of food styling for Jamie Oliver and has catered for many celebrities and concerts, from Alice Cooper to Elton John.

Currently, Marcy is on sabbatical, learning to relax and play and discovering where her passion for food will take her next… Stay tuned!

Eric Trager

Eric Trager is the executive chef at the Old Piney Dell located at Rock Creek Resort in Red Lodge, MT. There he utilizes his 25 years of experience providing European-influenced meals, creating daily features and coaching his staff to create a culinary experience for their guests. Eric is the President of the Chefs and Cooks of Montana and has been on the board for two years. His recent work experience includes Executive Chef at Morning Star Senior Living in Billings and two years as the Executive Chef of Red Lodge restaurants, which consists of the Carbon County Steakhouse, Bogart’s Restaurant and Red Lodge Pizza Company. He was the Executive Chef of Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen & Wine Bar August 1998-2012.

Eric uses innovative styles while utilizing ingredients from the local ranchers and farmers in the kitchen and garden and while teaching cooking classes. As a member of Western Sustainability Exchange he became active in promoting Montana-made products and sustainable practices. He has worked with the Montana Dept. of Agriculture, showcasing Montana-made products in Florida, New York, Massachusetts and California. In 2010 he prepared meals for the Taiwanese government in Helena, MT, to promote Montana agriculture and Montana-made products.

He was honored as the Chef of the Year by the Chefs and Cooks of MT, in 2009. In 2004, Eric received a gold medal for his entree at the Montana Connection Chefs’ Competition, and he received a silver medal in the 2005 competition.

Eric is a graduate of the culinary program at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York, where he medaled in numerous culinary competitions. A member of Who’s Who in Junior Colleges, he apprenticed on Nantucket, MA, and then continued his culinary training in Beaver Creek, CO; Laramie, WY; and Napa, CA, before settling in Red Lodge. Eric with his wife Dulcie, have two children, Anja and Cedric.

Jason Wilson

Jason’s tenure in the restaurant business spans over 25 years. His prowess for cooking American regional food in the Pacific Northwest has garnered numerous awards and celebrity status in the culinary world. His restaurant CRUSH put him solidly on the map both nationally and locally as an innovator in modern cooking styles and a leader in fine dining. Through the 10 years owning and operating CRUSH, Jason was awarded a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest (2010), a Food and Wine magazine’s Best New Chef (2006) and a 40 Under 40 leader from the Puget Sound Business Journal, along with numerous other accolades the restaurant earned.

His second restaurant, Miller’s Guild, brought Seattle a new level of steakhouse and allowed Jason to showcase wood-fired cooking and a very rustic approach to fresh vegetables, sustainable seafood and the very best prime dry-aged beef. Miller’s Guild is housed in the historic Hotel Max and is in its third year of growth. The restaurant is quickly becoming a local favorite and a destination for visitors alike. Miller’s Guild was honored to be part of Fodor’s Top 10 Steakhouses of 2015 in the Nation.