Azhar Mohammad, Executive Chef
Azhar Mohammad, Executive Chef at The Omni Grove Park Inn, was raised in Northern India, where he was exposed to wide array of cooking that fused unique Indian cuisine with modern influences to create the flavorful repertoire that is now the calling card of Azhar. From early on, Azhar knew he enjoyed creating food to please his friends and family. His love for cooking came from his mother who spent countless hours in kitchen passing on typical dishes and sharing a few secret ingredients with him as well.
Educated at the Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore in India from reputed Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore, Azhar joined the opening team of the famed Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman in 2005, a sprawling property which boasts 365 guest rooms and seven restaurants. As Sous Chef, it was his team that worked to get Seven Prime Restaurant the coveted 4 diamond award. From there he went to JW Marriott Dubai as Banquet Chef overlooking an expansive operation consisting of Garde Manger, Hot kitchen, Butchery and Commissary and offsite caterings. It was there that he achieved finesse in both Indian and Lebanese cuisine. Azhar joined The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans in April 2008 as Chef Garde manger where he developed a passion for blending his culture and native Creole dishes to create a style unlike any other. Soon he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef. He was in that role for a year and then moved to Ritz Carlton St. Louis, Missouri as an Executive Chef. He spent 2 years in Midwest and made considerable changes in the restaurant concept, menu design for all the outlets at Ritz Carlton St Louis. His food style was blending cuisines that he learned over last 15 years as a culinarian. After St. Louis, Chef Azhar decided to move to the Caribbean as the Executive Chef of the Ritz Carlton San Juan.
Chef Azhar has over 16 years of culinary experience and has worked in the Caribbean, Middle East, New Orleans, St. Louis, and now Asheville, NC. He has learned the food ethics and cuisines of the regions he has worked and pays homage to them in every menu that he creates. Chef Azhar is excited to take the reigns as Executive Chef at the historic Omni Grove Park Inn with its 5 locally sourced full-service restaurants, 24 hour In Room Dining, and Marketplace.
William Bierlein, Executive Sous Chef
With more than two decades of culinary experience, William Bierlein now serves as the Executive Sous Chef at The Omni Grove Park Inn. One of five siblings born in Pontiac, Michigan, Bierlein was 12 when his family relocated to Las Vegas and opened the Sunrise Café to showcase his father's culinary talents. Six years later, Bierlein joined the opening team at Mirage Resort and Hotel Casino, a 5-star destination owned by Steve Wynn. Bierlein made the most of that opportunity and others that followed, rising from cook's helper to work alongside many chefs, among them David Kellaway, a Certified Master Chef who handpicked Bierlein to be part of his team at Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Passionate about his art, Bierlein takes inspiration from a French mentor who told him: "You will only be as good as your taste buds will take you. Try everything."
Jake Schmidt, Executive Sous Chef-Outlets
Chef Jake Schmidt attended the Culinary School at Kendall College in Evanston, Illinois where he graduated in 1998 with an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts. Upon graduation, Chef Jake excelled in the private club sector of the industry. He worked at many exclusive country clubs in the Chicago suburbs including the Sous, Banquet and Executive Sous Chef positions at both Exmoor Country Club and Onwentsia Club. In 2007 Jake became the Executive Sous Chef at The Signature Room at the 95th located atop the John Hancock Center in downtown Chicago. The Signature Room is world renowned for its incredible views, food and service. In late September of 2011, Jake happily accepted the position of Chef de Cuisine of the Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet. Two years later, Jake was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of EDISON, Craft Ales + Kitchen and in 2014 was appointed Executive Sous Chef-Outlets at The Omni Grove Park Inn.
Kelly Koppinger, Chef de Tournant
Born in New York City, raised in Trinidad, and schooled in the culinary arts in West Palm Beach, FL, Kelley Koppinger brings passion and a strong skill set to her role as Chef de Tournant at The Omni Grove Park Inn. As Chef de Tournant, Koppinger is responsible for assisting all outlets and ensuring standards and policies are up to par. Koppinger began her career in food & beverage following service in the U.S. Navy. Inspired by the long line of hospitality professionals in her family, she accepted a job with Room Service at Loews Hotels, Portofino Bay Resort. A year later, she enrolled at Florida Culinary Institute. Following graduation, Koppinger spent 14 years honing skills and learning the ropes in hotel kitchens across the U.S. and the Caribbean, including Wyndhams, Westins, Loews Hotels and most recently Omni Hotels & Resorts.
James Lumley, Chef de Cuisine, Vue 1913
As Chef de Cuisine at Vue 1913, James Lumley continues the tradition of developing innovative classic American cuisine using fresh ingredients acquired from local producers throughout Western North Carolina. Originally from Melbourne, Fla., Lumley began his career in hospitality working as a restaurant dishwasher. By the time he completed high school, he had worked his way through every level of restaurant operations. Following graduation from Johnson and Wales University in north Miami, Fla., he joined The Ritz-Carlton, Naples Golf Resort as a culinary intern in 2002. Moving steadily through the ranks, Lumley became a trainer in the resort's culinary division and supervisor of the 4-star/4-diamond Italian restaurant Lemonia, the Bella Vista Lounge and In-Room Dining. After rising to Sous Chef of Lemonia, Lumley joined Naples Beach Resort becoming Chef at the Poolside Café as well as Food and Safety Trainer.