Meet the Great Chefs

Stephen Landon

Executive Chef of Great Chefs Dinner

Executive Chef, Vernak Farms, Skaneateles

Stephen Landon is Executive Chef of Vernak Country Store and Catering in Skaneateles and Executive Chef of this year’s Great Chefs. Chef Landon is a proud board member of the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation who was recently named “Inspiring Chef of the Year” and nominated twice for Chef of the Year by the ACF.

Chef Landon traces his love of all things food to his roots growing up on the family farm nestled in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He continues to apply his farm upbringing today and is a passionate supporter of “farm-to-table.”

Chef Landon’s travels have provided him opportunities to hone his craft alongside culinary legends like Jacques Pepin, Guiliano Bugiallo and more. Chef Landon also served as chef to Skitch Henderson, conductor of the New York Pops.

Before moving to Central New York, Chef Landon opened and ran numerous top-rated hospitality operations and co-owned the award-winning Persimmons Bistro in Landrum, South Carolina.

“I have a real desire to continue to teach new generations of children through our national organization’s (ACF) Chef to Child and Chefs Move to School Programs,” Chef Landon said.

Gerald Bolton

Sous Chef of Great Chefs Dinner

Executive Chef, Oncenter

Chef Gerald “Jerry” Bolton has been the executive chef at the Oncenter in Syracuse for the past 18 years. Chef Bolton is a founding member of the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, which was formed in 1984. He has held many positions and is currently serving as the Chapter’s Chairman of the Board.

Chef Bolton has twice been the recipient of the ACF’s prestigious Chef of the Year Award (1990 and 2011). He was also the recipient of the Chef Professionalism Award in 2008 and was recently one of several chefs from around the country who received the ACF’s Presidential Medallion in 2013.

Chef Bolton’s community service and memberships include the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council for OCM BOCES and the Onondaga Community College Hospitality Management Committee. He has a passion for the hospitality industry and works closely with Partners for Education, providing leadership for student Career Days at local schools and job shadowing for students interested in a career in the hospitality field.

Chef Bolton is proud to be a member of the Savor community with SMG taking over the daily operations of the Oncenter in 2012. Savor is the SMG’s branch of Food and Beverage, offering a tightknit community of Food and Beverage professionals who provide a broad menu of services tailored specifically to the needs of each facility and the types of events and crowds each facility attracts. Savor has extensive experience catering every type of occasion, from cocktail receptions and buffets to trade show exhibitor entertaining and large sit-down dinners.

Jason Drysdale

Sous Chef of Great Chefs Dinner

Director of Culinary, Turning Stone Resort

Growing up in Western Australia, Chef Drysdale developed a passion for cooking that was sparked by his mother, Pippin Drysdale. Pippin was the owner of an elaborate herb garden, and later became one of Western Australia’s most prominent potters. That gave Chef Drysdale the taste for fresh herbs as well his artistic creativity.

Chef Drysdale’s first taste of culinary life was in 1987, when served his apprenticeship at the legendary Peruginos Restaurant in West Perth. After completing his apprenticeship, Chef Drysdale moved to Europe, where worked in Italy and as a private chef and then on Harley Street in London. Starting in 1991 and for more than a decade, Chef Drysdale was a chef for an array of cruise lines, giving him an opportunity to explore different culinary procedures and techniques from around the world.

Today, as Culinary Director at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, Chef Drysdale incorporates these techniques with his artistic ideas to make unique culinary creations. As when he was a boy, Chef Drysdale retains his passion for contemporary culinary arts by using the very best fresh quality produce and emphasizing flavors, colors, textures and personality.

Christopher Cesta

Sous Chef of Great Chefs Dinner

Executive Chef and Owner, The Inn Between

Christopher Cesta is the Executive Chef/Owner of The Inn Between Restaurant in Camillus, where he has worked for more than 35 years. His 10-acre restaurant property comprises a 20-hive bee apiary for honey production, an orchard with over 12 varieties of fruit, a large herb and vegetable garden and a trout pond.

Chef Cesta is a founding member, past president, vice president, secretary, chairman of the board and current treasurer of the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. He was certified at the Executive Chef level in 1988. He received the “Chef of the Year” award presented by the Syracuse ACF in 1989 and 2009, becoming the first chef to receive the award twice.

He also received the Syracuse New Times’ “Best Chef” award in 2009, and he was recognized by the “Slow Food CNY” organization in 2010 with an award for featuring and using local agricultural products.

Chef Cesta is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for national recipe contests, culinary competitions, and ice sculpturing. In 2002, he was recognized by the Camillus Chamber of Commerce as “Business Person of the Year.” He is also the Fifth Ward chair of the Camillus Republican Committee, and a member of the Town of Camillus Planning Board.

Mary Kiernan, MBA, CCC, CEH

Front House Supervisor of Great Chefs Dinner

Instructor, Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition

Mary Kiernan, a certified chef de cuisine (from the American Culinary Federation) and professional chef, level II (from the Culinary Institute of America), is the current president of the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Chef Kiernan is employed by Syracuse University an instructor.

Chef Kiernan has won several culinary awards, including: 2013 Presidential Medallion from the ACF for leadership of the Northeast Regional Conference at Turning Stone Resort & Casino; 2010 Chef of the Year from the Syracuse Chapter of the ACF; 2009 Chef Professionalism from the Syracuse Chapter of the ACF; and 2008 Aspiring Chef from the Syracuse Chapter of the ACF.

Chef Kiernan, who grew up in Homer, attended the Culinary Institute of America in 1985, when she was 18, and started her professional career in Boston. From 1991-2001 she owned and operated a café in Cortland, and from 2000-07 she managed the catering department at the Carrier Dome. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University in 1988 and in May 2012, received her MBA from the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.

Ann Pellegrino

Award Winner in Contemporary Patisserie

Owner, The Gingersnap Bakery, Phoenix

Ann Pellegrino is a gold, silver and bronze medalist in contemporary patisserie. As an advocate of education in the industry, Chef Pellegrino enjoys teaching adult pastry classes, speaking at local schools and has been a guest on the “Bridge Street” and “Hour CNY” television shows.

Chef Pellegrino started her affiliation with the American Red Cross as a Disaster Services Instructor in 1990. She is delighted to continue her support of the Red Cross relief efforts as a member of the American Culinary Federation. Chef Pellegrino has been a proud part of the Great Chefs Dinner since 2003. Chef Pellegrino owns The Gingersnap Bakery in Phoenix, where she and her team specialize in 3-D cake construction and design.