Jason Balestrieri is executive chef / partner of Cantinetta Luca, Carmel’s popular and bustling neighborhood trattoria. Appointed to the position in 2008, Balestrieri offers the pure flavors of authentic Italian food in a casual, modern setting. With deep familial roots in Southern Italian cuisine, Chef Balestrieri specializes in handmade pastas, wood-oven baked pizza, unique varieties of house-cured salumi, roasted whole fish and meats served family-style. In September 2011 Balestrieri launched the neighboring Salumeria Luca, a wonderfully authentic Italian deli and bakery offering high-quality imported and house-made items.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Balestrieri was steeped in his Italian family’s deep culinary traditions. After receiving his Culinary Arts degree from the Milwaukee Area Technical College, Balestrieri worked at a Milwaukee neighborhood café before moving to the highly regarded Pfister Hotel, where he trained as line and pantry cook.
The sunny skies of California beckoned, however, and Balestrieri moved to Los Angeles in 1993, accepting a position at Pinot Bistro under chef/founder Joachim Splichal and executive chef Octavio Beccera.
Dedicating the next five years to Twin Palms in Pasadena, Balestrieri advanced from sous chef to chef de cuisine under chef/owner Michael Roberts, and finally to executive chef at the Twin Palms in Valencia.
In 2000, Jason’s association with Joachim Splichal evolved when he accepted a position as lead line cook at Los Angeles’ acclaimed Patina. He was quickly promoted to sous chef for Splichal’s Cafe Pinot, and for three years worked as executive chef at Pinot Hollywood. Ultimately, Jason became executive chef at Splichal’s Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse, where he assumed complete responsibility for all kitchen operations of the 250-seat restaurant.
During his time with Splichal, Balestrieri was introduced to David Fink, a close friend of Splichal’s and owner of Cantinetta Luca and L’Auberge Carmel. Balestrieri became executive chef at Cantinetta Luca in 2006, and partner two years later.
George Nagata is the Hotel Manager at L’Auberge Carmel. He comes to us with seven years in the hospitality industry. Prior to joining Mirabel Group, George was the Assistant Housekeeping Manager at the Lodge at Pebble Beach were he learned the luxury side of travel. Here George was able to hone in on his abilities and skills as a Manager and learn the ins and outs of the hospitality industry. After leaving Pebble Beach, George joined Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey, California. Here he learned to fine tune his skills as a Manager and develop an understanding of how large corporations run.
Justin Cogley joined Aubergine restaurant in January 2011, as Executive Chef he oversees Aubergine and all of L’Auberge Carmel’s culinary programs.
Cogley comes to Carmel by way of Chicago, Illinois, where he was instrumental in opening the Elysian Hotel’s new kitchen as executive sous chef. He previously worked at Charlie Trotter’s critically acclaimed restaurant for four years, claiming the position of chef de cuisine for the last two. As such, he was responsible for menu creation, special events, and extensive instruction and management of the culinary staff.
With delicate interplay between creativity, tradition, and respect for his ingredients, Cogley’s food is deeply unique. His style is a sophisticated balance between innovation and unwavering deference for the finest ingredients he procures. “If I had to describe my food,” Cogley says, “I would say each plate has a purpose.” Cogley’s goal is to inspire guests to enjoy a broad combination of flavors and textures. He may present a diner with a vegetable prepared three ways on his plate but, Cogley says, “each of the flavors will be unique and pure.”
Prior to his career as a chef, Cogley was a professional international figure skater performing with “Disney on Ice.” Traveling and touring with the show for four years in Asia, Australia and Europe, Cogley was exposed to new flavors and cuisines, as well as a myriad of food markets and international techniques. These culinary experiences confirmed his passion for food, travel, and good wine, and when he returned to the United States, he enrolled at the Western Culinary Institute and began working in select restaurants in Portland, Oregon. After graduating with top honors in 2005, he launched his culinary career on the team at Charlie Trotter’s.
Under the direction of Chef Cogley and his team, Aubergine has enjoyed substantial acclaim. In 2015 & 2016 they were nominated for two James Beard Foundation awards including Best Chef, West and Outstanding Service. 2014 & 2015 saw Aubergine earn Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence and Forbes Travel Guide’s highest Five-Star rating recognizing excellence in restaurants. Also in 2014 L’Auberge Carmel was named Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards as a Top 100 Hotels Overall and one of the Top Resorts in the Continental United State. In 2013, Cogley was awarded the prestigious title of Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux, joining an esteemed list of internationally celebrated chefs and Food & Wine magazine named Justin Cogley “Best New Chef”.
Christian Morando joined 400° Gourmet Burgers and Fries in early 2015 with the vision to expand the horizons of the restaurant, and to make a difference with his passion for food and people. With his vision and guidance, 400° launched their new menu concept in May of 2015, adding new recipes, combos and featuring seasonal ingredients.
Born in Bolivia, South America Christian moved to San Francisco at the age of 5. Being a San Francisco native has offered Christian the ability to learn and enjoy all types of food from all over the world. He began his journey in the culinary industry early as a supervisor for Jamba Juice. He continued to explore the culinary industry by becoming a cook for facilities and restaurants in the Northern California region. Christian began to learn his true culinary skills from many great chefs who mentored him at Zynga, Facebook, and DropBox headquarters.
In 2011, Christian partnered with two professionals to start and create a menu for a clean eating fast food franchise in the city center of Oakland, CA. It has since expanded to multiple locations with the guidance and help of Chef Christian Morando and his recipes.
Born and raised in Monterey County, Lauren is a firm believer that cultivating unique and memorable guest experiences is imperative for maintaining Carmel as a coveted vacation destination.
After attending San Francisco State University and graduating with B.A. in Communication Studies, she began her hospitality career back in Monterey. Earning a position at Embassy Suites Monterey Bay, she honed her hospitality skills, working in multiple departments. Her roles at the John Q. Hammons property included Sales Associate, Guest Services Representative, Reservationist, Executive Assistant to the General Manager, and Group Rooms Coordinator.
Nadine Mancuso is the Human Resource Specialist for the Mirabel Hotel and Restaurant Group. Recently returning home to the Monterey Bay area from Boston, Nadine brings with her 10 years of experience in Hospitality and Human Resources. Her previous work has included Payroll and Human Resources Administration for KLD Research Analytics, a sustainable investment research firm; Hampton Brown Company, an educational publishing company in Carmel; and the Monterey Marriott. Her passion for finding, inspiring, and encouraging talents is at the heart of our business.
After receiving her MS in Math and MBA in Operations, Terry enjoyed a long career with IBM in both marketing and manufacturing divisions. Relocating from Florida to California, Terry created a consulting business around Strategic Planning and Development/Outreach for nonprofits. Her third career came when Terry joined Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, California as Accounting Manager for the restaurant, café and gift shop. She worked for the Fassett Family for many years before joining the Mirabel Hotel and Restaurant Group in Carmel, California as Accounting Manager in 2016. Terry has trekked in Nepal and Patagonia and has her sights on the Dolomiti and northern Greece in the near future. She also volunteers many hours for the local community nonprofits.