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Meet the Chefs of Plates with Purpose 2019!

Christian Petroni

Fortina, Chef Owner

Christian is currently living the dream. His restaurant Fortina represents the beloved Italian culture that surrounded him growing up, combined with the love of rustic, wholesome, seasonal (yet whimsical) cooking that is the best part of the chef he is as an adult. With his partners John Nealon & Rob Krauss, with whom he connected while working at Barcelona restaurant group, Christian has created a truly unique restaurant group. Additionally he has lately appeared as a judge on both Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay.

Tyler Anderson

Millwrights, Chef Owner

Chef Tyler Anderson started his Culinary career at the age of sixteen, working in a range of well respected kitchens throughout California and Chicago. During this time Tyler had the opportunity to cook with some of the best Chefs in the Country.

Tyler opened his first restaurant Millwright’s in Simsbury, CT in 2012. Paying homage to strong New England traditions, Millwright’s prides itself on local purchasing and utilizing seasonal ingredients. Millwright’s has received perfect reviews from The New York Times, CT Magazine and Hartford Magazine, becoming one of the most award winning restaurants in the history of Connecticut restaurants.

His second venture, The Cook & The Bear in West Hartford, CT transported Tyler into the world of casual dining. The Cook & The Bear is a delicious collaboration between Tyler and famed Pitmaster Jamie MacDonald, and is the epitome of chef inspired BBQ. The result has been a perfect marriage of two acclaimed Chef’s expertise. The restaurant opened in mid 2017 and was named Best New Restaurant (in state) by CT Magazine.

Tyler and his team most recently opened Porrón&Piña, a Spanish inspired restaurant and wine bar in the historic Goodwin Hotel in Hartford, CT in 2018. His team handles all food and beverage for the entire hotel, including all functions, a donut and coffee shop, and a throwback cocktail bar.

Tyler is in the process of opening Square Peg Pizzeria in Glastonbury, CT. The restaurant is set to open in 2019 and is a collaboration with Chef Bruce Kalman from Top Chef, and local Pizza Chef Dante Cistulli.

Tyler has twice been named Chef of the Year in Connecticut by the CT Restaurant Association. He has been nominated as Best Chef Northeast from the James Beard Foundation for the last six years in a row (2013-19). He was a Cheftestant on the most recent season of Bravo’s Top Chef, and also appeared (and won) on Food Network’s Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. Tyler supports many charities including Share our Strength (a national organization working to end childhood hunger in the United States, of which he’s been the Hartford Chair for the past four years), as well as The American Liver Foundation, March of Dimes, and numerous others.

Hannah Gorman

Revel with DinnerThyme, Chef Owner

Hannah Gorman trained and cooked professionally at celebrated restaurants and catering companies in Boston, San Francisco and New York City. Originally from the Boston area, Hannah grew up on a working farm called "Seahorse Farm" in Ipswich, MA. Her obsession and passion for great food and parties started very early and has never stopped. She is a permanent student of Food and Entertaining, with endless culinary travels, eating, drinking, soaking up inspiration from the greats around the globe, writing and learning. The end result has been 20 plus years of massive amounts of reveling with “Revel with DinnerThyme Catering”. “It is so exciting and always a challenge and joy to bring a great party to life, large or small. Great parties absolutely inspire people and make life great”.

Luke Venner

Elm, Executive Chef

Born and raised on his grandfather’s farm in rural South Dakota, Luke trained in kitchens from Napa Valley to New York City, where he was mentored by Michelin two-star chef Shaun Hergatt. He first ventured into Connecticut as the opening chef de cuisine of the James Beard Nominated Millwright’s in Simsbury and his style has since been praised by The New York Times, Gotham, Elle, and Wine Spectator. Luke’s approach at Elm is influenced by the culinary traditions of the east coast, with imaginative nods to the travels that brought him here. Before discovering Elm, he was the chef at the beloved Manhattan restaurants BLT Fish and BLT Steak.

Samantha Benjamin


After moving to NYC in 2007 with degrees in both business and art Samantha needed a creative outlet to put her artistic talents to use. With lack of space she opted to use her kitchen as a studio by using cake, cookies and other desserts as her medium. She discovered the fun and excitement in making edible art and it quickly became her passion. Her love of art and baking helped turn her dreams into a reality and with that she launched her company THE DESSERTIST.

THE DESSERTIST has since then become a well-recognized name and Samantha has become a notable Artistic Pastry Chef with a growing list of cliental across the country. Her ability to create customized, one-of-a-kind desserts have captured the eye of many giving her the privilege to create pieces for notable chefs and celebrities. As the brand expanded, Samantha has become a voice within the culinary industry and not only inspires but also educates her followers. As an ambassador for working mothers she takes part in many parent organizations and her daughter, Charley, is constantly featured as part of THE DESSERTIST brand. In June 2019, the Dessertist family welcomed their daughter Laney to the kitchen crew!

Food Network described Samantha as an - “An easy-to-love chef", one that kids and adults can relate to as well as professionals and experts of the field respect. The outlook on the future of dessert is guaranteed success with her expert knowledge of flavor combinations and unique concepts of presentation; for her creativity is key. She is always working on the next "big" thing and her ability to create edible beauty is one-of-a-kind that has been well noticed.

An award-winning chef, her unique approach to desserts in both flavor and design have gained her recognition within the culinary and design worlds. She regularly makes appearances at national food festivals and charity events sharing her love of edible art. She is often a guest writer for multiple publications, recipe developer and a guest culinary instructor in schools across the area.

THE DESSERTIST is a business that gives back by supporting many charitable organizations, including Cookies for Kids Cancer, No Kid Hungry and Westchester Food Bank. THE DESSERTIST has supported and sponsored numerous organizations and charities on both local and national levels, with a strong belief to use the brand for the greater good.

In January 2016 with the help of her husband Matt, "Mr. Dessertist", THE DESSERTIST opened the doors of their first DESSERT STUDIO. A full family business that is an interactive one-of-a-kind bakery and kitchen space, allowing consumers to spend time in Chef Samantha’s world of confectionery Art. THE DESSERTIST is a full retail bakery, and also serves as an event space, classroom and edible art gallery. You can also find THE DESSERTIST products in more than 40 stores locally and sold nationally in their online store.


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