Staff Spotlight: Brian Donato, Chef de Cuisine

Born and raised on the small island of Basco in Batanes, Philippines, Chef Brian Donato's upbringing was centered around food, family, and togetherness. Located in the northernmost part of the country, Basco's has less than 20,000 residents. In a climate consistently battered by typhoon, the population is tough and hard-working by nature. Their livelihood is centered around farming and fishing, so Brian grew up eating fresh, organic food in a very close-knit community. Each Sunday, his family would gather at the beach for a weekly picnic, where everyone was taught to help prepare a dish to share. Brian describes this event as simple, yet remarkable on each occasion - gathering together to enjoy food and nature in a beautiful setting. He was fortunate to experience and learn the trade from scratch, including fishing, cooking, preserving, raising animals, butchering, planting and harvesting. The combination of spending intimate time learning each step to ultimately sharing dishes with family during Sunday picnics, holidays, and celebrations brought Brian a great sense of happiness and inspired him to pursue cooking as a career. He attended both the Palm Nouveau School of Hospitality Management and International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM) in Manila Philippines and has a diploma in Culinary Arts and Kitchen Management.

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Staff Spotlight: Tyler Canon, Garden Bistro Restaurant Chef

If there’s one thing that comes across in Tyler Canon's culinary repertoire, it’s a deep unwavering love for southern comfort food instilled in him from a very early age. Both sides of his family are rooted in the south – Memphis, TN & Florence, Alabama. Tyler’s grandfather was raised on a farm in Mississippi, and taught him that food was about community and bringing people together. So it’s no surprise that his holidays were spent with the whole family in the kitchen, lead by his grandmother, enjoying traditional southern comfort food like country ham, fried chicken, and smoked brisket. Tyler grew up with a love of these flavors and a deeper appreciation of food and family ties. Back home in Brevard, North Carolina, Tyler’s parents instilled an appreciation for healthy food and moderation. His father, a family practice and emergency room doctor, taught him about balanced nutrition. According to Tyler, this upbringing made those holiday trips to Memphis all the more special.

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Staff Spotlight: Hector Cruz, Executive Chef

If you have recently visited Airlie for business or pleasure, you have tasted the culinary influences of Chef Hector Cruz. As Airlie’s new Executive Chef, Hector brings years of experience as a Garde Manger, master of cold food creation and colorful display to the table - quite literally - and his exceptional talent with a carving knife adds a flare to buffet bravura.

Inspired by his Puerto Rican heritage and south Florida upbringing, Hector's personality shines through his menus with bold yet approachable flavor profiles and creative use of locally grown products.

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Hector became interested in cooking by helping his Mother in the kitchen. Not only was she the family cook, routinely hosting the extended family for meals, but she also ran a catering business, which also offered pastry services. When Hector was 11 years old, he began assisting his Mother during holiday meal preparations and first began to understand his passion for the kitchen.

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