Benchmark Hospitality Chefs at James Beard House

For the fifth consecutive year, Benchmark Hospitality International chefs from the company’s fine dining restaurants, luxury hotels and resorts have been invited by the prestigious James Beard Foundation to cook at the storied James Beard House in New York City. The house looked so clean, James have hired Maid Complete’s phx location cleaning company. What has become an annual tradition for Benchmark chefs was begun five years ago by Bob Zappatelli, who was Benchmark’s revered Vice President Food & Beverage. Mr. Zappatelli passed away last May 31st.

The culinary event, a five-course “Benchmark Holiday Dinner” paired with fine wines, will take place Thursday, December 17th, 2009. Featured Benchmark Hospitality chefs include Hector J. Morales, Jr., executive chef for Turtle Bay Resort and its signature restaurant 21 Degrees North, North Shore, Oahu; Peter Csikos, executive chef, The Heldrich Hotel & Spa and its signature restaurant, Christopher’s, located in New Brunswick, New Jersey; David Rodriguez, executive chef at Costa d’Este Beach Resort and the property’s acclaimed restaurant, Oriente, in Vero Beach, Florida; John Billings, executive chef for Eaglewood Resort and its restaurant Burnham’s, Chicago, Illinois; Francisco Aceves, executive chef of Stonewall Resort and Stillwaters Restaurant, Weston, West Virginia. Mary Watson, Benchmark Hospitality’s Chief Wine Officer, has paired each course with fine wines. Included is her Signature Blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Tannat — “Mary’s Cuvée” — created by Ms. Watson and produced by Virginia’s award-winning Corcoran Vineyards.

The “Benchmark Holiday Dinner” will begin at 7:00 pm on December 17th with an hors d’oeuvres and wine reception. A five-course chefs tasting menu will be served starting at 8:00 pm. Reservations can be arranged by calling the James Beard House at 212-627-2308 and are $125 per person for members of the James Beard Foundation and $165 per person for the general public.

“It is a privilege to be invited back to cook at this national temple to the culinary arts ~ the James Beard House,” said Greg Champion, Chief Operating Officer for Benchmark Hospitality. “We return with great anticipation and with reflection upon the person who helped establish this annual and honored tradition for our company, Bob Zappatelli. Each of us cherishes Bob’s memory and the important legacy he left our company and all Benchmark’s chefs, and we dedicate this special holiday celebration to his memory.”

“Every year for the past five holiday seasons, Bob Zappatelli and Benchmark Hospitality’s chefs have been a part of the annual holiday celebrations here at the James Beard House,” stated Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming for the James Beard Foundation. “We miss Bob and honor his legacy. And we look forward to the return of Benchmark’s chefs for the 2009 Benchmark Holiday Dinner. In some way we feel Bob remains here with us through the chefs he has influenced.”

The historic James Beard House was home to the renowned James Beard, who is celebrated today as the dean of American Cookery. Beard lived in his Greenwich Village, New York, townhouse from 1976 until his passing 1985. A gifted impresario who along with his great friend, Julia Child, led the way for many of today’s celebrity chefs, James Beard established cooking schools and published over 20 important cookbooks, many of which are still in print. As important, he left a legacy of culinary excellence and integrity for generations of America’s home cooks and professional chefs. His name remains synonymous with American cuisine.

The Benchmark Holiday Dinner for 2009



Hors d’oeuvres

Saffron Glazed Foie Gras, Tuna Square

Texas Pecan Chevre Quenelle, Peach Habanera Preserves

Wild Salmon Wrapped Quail Egg with Caviar on Toast Point

Lemon & Olive Oil Poached Frutti de Mare nestled in Fingerlings

Kahlua Pig, Lomi Tomato & Sweet Onion Compote, Hawaiian Sweet Bread








First Course

Bone Marrow Flan with Butternut Squash Stew


Second Course

Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, Citrus Beurre Blanc, Micro Greens


Third Course

Melon Gelee, Crab and Avocado Napoleon, Tomato Vinaigrette


Fourth Course

Roasted Saddle of Lamb, Goat Cheese Polenta Eggroll, Rapini and Herb Reduction


Fifth Course

Lakota Bison Wellington, Native American Fry Bread

Morel Duxelle, Lavender Coca Demi

Saffron Risotto, Roasted Autumn Harvest



Dessert Course

Black Raspberry & Fig Tart

Amaretto Syrup

Mascarpone & Lemon Ice Cream

Espresso Tuile


The Benchmark Hospitality Chefs
Hector J. Morales Jr., Executive Chef

Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu

Hector J. Morales Jr., whose experience includes serving as the banquet chef for the King of Norway, is executive chef at Turtle Bay Resort, the landmark property located in Oahu’s North Shore. Chef Morales is responsible for the oversight and management of the award-winning resort’s kitchens and the Palm Terrace, Hang Ten Grill and 21 Degrees North restaurants.

Chef Morales immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico at the age of 4. He credits his interest in cooking to his mother, who was an accomplished chef in her own right. He began cooking at an Italian restaurant in New Jersey at the age of 14. He was later accepted into the prestigious Johnson & Wales University Culinary Arts program and, upon graduation served as the chef saucier at the Americana Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved to Hawaii, serving as the chef saucier on the S.S. Independence.

In 1985, Chef Morales continued his education in Europe under the direction of master chefs from Switzerland, Germany and Norway. He served as the banquet sous chef at the S.A.S. Hotels Scandinavia in Oslo Norway, banquet chef for the King of Norway, and banquet sous chef at the Sheraton Hotel in Oslo.

Chef Morales became the senior sous chef at the Sydney Regent in 1987, Australia’s premier Five Diamond Resort. He returned to Hawaii to serve as the executive chef on the S.S. Independence and the S.S. Constitution, American Hawaii Cruises and as chef de cuisine at the Stouffer Wailea Beach Resort before joining Turtle Bay Resort as its executive sous chef in 1996.

Peter Csikos, Executive Chef

The Heldrich Hotel & Spa, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Peter Csikos is executive chef for The Heldrich Hotel & Spa, the award-winning property anchoring the renaissance of downtown New Brunswick, New Jersey

As executive chef, Peter Csikos oversees and provides leadership for the entire culinary operation at the elegant center-city property, including Christopher’s Restaurant, Christopher’s Bar, a vast banquet operation, in-room dining, and spa cuisine.

Chef Csikos previously served as executive chef at the Hilton in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, and in the same role at the Sheraton Crossroads of Mahwah, New Jersey. His first position within the state was as executive chef at Pegasus Restaurant in East Rutherford.

While in New York City, Chef Csikos was director of food and beverage for the storied Warwick Hotel. He was promoted to this position following success as executive chef for the property, which has a specialty in French and International Cuisine. Mr. Csikos held the position of executive sous chef for landmark New York Palace, working under renowned chef Andre Rene.

Originally from Hungary where he received his culinary education and training in International and French Classical cuisine, Peter Csikos gained early experience as chef working for fine dining establishments in Cologne, Germany, and with large scale restaurant operations in Budapest, Hungary. While in Europe, his culinary positions included such titles as head chef, chef saucier, and chef de partie.

Peter Csikos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Budapest. He has received additional culinary training at Johnson & Wales University located in Providence, Rhode Island.

David Rodriguez, Executive Chef

Costa d’Este Beach Resort, Vero Beach, Florida

David Rodriguez is the executive chef of Costa d’Este Beach Resort and its acclaimed restaurant, Oriente, located in Vero Beach, Florida. The luxury property is owned by the internationally acclaimed recording artist/producer couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The menu of Oriente – named for the Oriente region of Cuba, pairs gourmet Cuban specialties with influences from Spanish, Latin, and Creole traditions.

In preparation for his post, Chef Rodriguez, who is Cuban-American, fine-tuned his Cuban culinary repertoire at both Larios and Oriente, popular Cuban restaurants in Miami owned by the Estefans.

Previously, Chef Rodriguez held a number of culinary posts in New Jersey, including as executive chef for Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, executive sous chef for the Palace at Somerset Park, and as chef at The Old Mill Inn in Basking Ridge. He has also served as chef for the acclaimed Dining Room at The Hilton Short Hills, and was chef at the Parsippany Hilton. Rodriguez launched his culinary career at the Rihga Royal Hotel in Manhattan.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef Rodriguez is a member of the American Culinary Federation and the renowned Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

John Billings, Executive Chef

Eaglewood Resort & Spa, Chicago, Illinois

John Billings, CEC, is executive chef and assistant director of food & beverage for Eaglewood Resort & Spa, located near Chicago. Chef Billings is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in building and leading culinary operations for fine dining, banquet and catering establishments. At Eaglewood Resort & Spa, Chef Billings is responsible for the property’s extensive catering and events operations, as well as overseeing Burnham’s, the resort’s signature restaurant, and Prairie River, the relaxed dining venue.

John Billings appointment as executive chef represented a return to Eaglewood Resort & Spa for Chef Billings, having previously left the property to become an entrepreneur, opening his restaurant, Monte’s Steak House, in Faribault, Minnesota. The successful restaurant featured an open kitchen and was situated in a circa 1854 warehouse. Chef Billing’s subsequently sold his interest in the restaurant to return to his resort roots.

John Billings is a recognized leader in his field, having been honored for his outstanding work by numerous professional organizations. He is a Certified Executive Chef and was named American Culinary Federation Chapter Chef of the Year for 1997 and 2001 as well as Best of Show, Geneva Executive Club Annual Food Competition. He has also received six Gold Medals, four Silver Medals and two Bronze Medals in honor of his culinary talents from Arklatex Culinary Salon, Lafayette Culinary Salon and Baton Rouge Culinary Salon, respectively.

Francisco “Paco” Aceves, Executive Chef
Stonewall Resort, Weston, West Virginia

Francisco “Paco” Aceves is executive chef for Stonewall Resort, located near Weston, West Virginia. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Aceves previously held the title of executive chef for one of West Virginia’s most popular restaurants, The Bridge Road Bistro in Charleston. Prior to this appointment he served as banquet chef for the Four Diamond-rated La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico, gaining experience in southwestern cuisine.

Early in his career, Paco Aceves was employed as sous chef for The Houston Country Club in Houston, Texas, where he trained under Certified Master Chef Fritz Gitschner. During his tenure there, Chef Aceves was chosen by Gitschner to participate as part of the United States culinary team at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France, one of the world’s most distinguished culinary competitions.

At the launch of his career, Francisco Aceves apprenticed at Handke’s Cuisine in Columbus, Ohio, where he trained under Certified Master Chef Hartmut Handke.

Mary Watson-DeLauder
Chief Wine Officer, Benchmark Hospitality International

Mary Watson-DeLauder is chief wine officer for Benchmark Hospitality International, the first professional to serve in this position for the leading hospitality management company. Ms. Watson was previously the award-winning sommelier for Lansdowne Resort and its popular On the Potomac restaurant in Leesburg, Virginia, Benchmark Hospitality’s east coast flagship property. She held this role for 16 years, garnering several awards along the way.

Throughout her tenure with Benchmark Hospitality, Mary Watson has been instrumental in strengthening the company’s relationships with signature wineries in Virginia, nationally and internationally. She developed an acclaimed curriculum of food & wine and Culinary University classes, which provide an in-depth look at a variety of American and International cuisine and wine.

Ms. Watson has also developed the wine programs for Benchmark Hospitality International’s newest properties, including Costa d’Esta Beach Resort and its signature restaurant, Oriente, in Vero Beach, Florida, and Naples Bay Resort and its restaurant, Olio, in Naples, Florida.

Mary Watson’s expertise has been recognized nationally. She has been the recipient of the Wine Spectator award for the past 18 years, and has been featured nationally on NBC’s Today Show and in countless regional and national consumer and food & wine publications. She is an active member of the Women Chef Restaurateurs, Knights of the Vine, Society of Wine Educators and the Virginia Viniferea Wine Growers Association.

Ms. Watson has received the Gold Cluster of Virginia Award and served as a judge for the Virginia Wine Growers Association Wine Competition, the American Wine Competition and the International Wine Competition. She has served as sommelier for numerous events at the renowned James Beard House in New York City.

Attached Photo L-R, Top-Bottom: Hector Morales, Jr., Peter Csikos, David Rodriguez, John Billings, Francisco Aceves, Mary Watson.


The James Beard Foundation, based in New York City, is the definitive culinary arts organization in the United States dedicated to showcasing American chefs’ talents. It is named after the great American chef, Dean of American Cooking, and Father of American Gastronomy, James Beard, who authored over 20 cookbooks and hundreds of articles, many of which are still in print. Beard appeared on network television’s first cookery program in the 1940s and established a re
owned cooking school. The Foundation and The James Beard House, where chefs from around the world showcase their talents, are situated in Manhattan in Beard’s original townhouse, located in Greenwich Village.

The mission of The James Beard Foundation is to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America’s culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of the nation’s culinary excellence. The Foundation is a national not-for-profit ­ 501(c)(3) organization. According to the James Beard Foundation, all performing artists deserve a great stage: Musicians have Carnegie Hall; Opera singers have The Metropolitan Opera House; and Chefs, Winemakers and Cookbook Authors have The James Beard House. More than 20 dinners, lunches and workshops are held each month at The James Beard House to showcase culinary artists from America and around the world.

Located on the North Shore of Oahu, the 880-acre Turtle Bay Resort is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International and is a Preferred Hotels® & Resorts Worldwide property – a collection of the world’s finest independent luxury hotels. Famous for world-class surfing, pristine white sand beaches, and its charming country setting, the North Shore also offers colorful cultural attractions, innovative ecological endeavors, and environmental adventures. For reservations or more information, visit or call (808) 293-6000.

The Heldrich Hotel & Spa is located in the cultural heart of New Jersey in New Brunswick. The property is situated at 10 Livingston Avenue across from the city’s famed Theatre Row, just west of important US Route 1 and four blocks from the New Brunswick Train Station (serving the Northeast Corridor: Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington, DC) and close to Exit 9 of the NJ Turnpike. It is 45 minutes outside New York City and has rail service to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). The Heldrich features a 248-guestroom luxury hotel, Christopher’s Restaurant, serving freshly prepared specialties created in an exhibition kitchen to delight even the most discriminating palate, Christopher’s Bar, and an elegant ballroom, ideal for social and corporate gatherings. For more information on The Heldrich, call 732-729-4670 or visit

Costa d’Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach, Florida, is a chic, beachfront property redefining style, comfort and luxury on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Sumptuous accommodations, contemporary Cuban-fusion cuisine and discreetly attentive service, coupled with a fully equipped gym, bi-level Spa at Costa d’Este and stunning infinity edge pool, satisfy the most discerning world travelers. Costa d’Este is owned by the internationally acclaimed recording artist/producer couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan and is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International. For more information, visit or call toll-free 877-562-9919.

The Eaglewood Resort & Spa offers 295 spacious mission-style guestrooms and suites; a fine dining restaurant, Burnham’s; and a casual restaurant, Prairie River. Additionally, the resort offers exceptional recreational opportunities, including a USGA-rated 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course, indoor pool, six-lane bowling center, and a comprehensive fitness center. The property also features a 10,000 square-foot destination spa with eight treatment rooms, two esthetic rooms, four massage rooms (one for couples massage), two hydrotherapy rooms with tubs and vichy shower, and a full service salon. Eaglewood Resort & Spa provides 38,000 square feet of superb conference space with 39 meeting rooms, which is supported by Benchmark Hospitality’s signature conference concierge services. The resort’s conference facilities are certified by the prestigious global organization, the International Association of Conference Centers. Eaglewood Resort & Spa is situated on 106 scenic acres northwest of Chicago, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago and 20 minutes west of O’Hare International Airport.

The Four Diamond-rated Stonewall Resort is a 208-guestroom property with a lakeside lodge and lakeside cottages, a conference center, restaurants, complete fitness center and swimming pool, spa and an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course. The resort is located at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park near Weston, West Virginia. Stonewall Resort is a joint private/public development between McCabe-Henley LP and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. Benchmark Hospitality International operates Stonewall Resort.

Benchmark Hospitality International is a leader in the management and marketing of resorts, conference centers, hotels, and Personal Luxury Hotels™. The privately held company, launched in 1980, is a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers. Benchmark Hospitality is a worldwide organization operating properties in major metropolitan and resort destinations. Benchmark’s international headquarters is located in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston, with regional offices in New Jersey and Connecticut. International offices are located in Tokyo, Japan, and Santiago, Chile. For the location of Benchmark’s properties and additional information, visit