With the return of Visit Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival comes the exclusive Tower Bridge Dinner. For one night, on Sunday, Sept. 12, top chefs from Sacramento and the world at large will serve a multiple-course dinner to hundreds of guests. Tables are set on the historic lift bridge overlooking the Sacramento River.
Seats for the dinner have been reserved by corporate groups for the eighth annual event. Visit Sacramento also held a random drawing for two public tickets, which has since closed. For guests and those curious about what might be served, here is a rundown of the chefs cooking for Tower Bridge Dinner.
Santana Diaz of UC Davis Health
Diaz, executive chef and director of culinary operations and innovation at UC Davis Health, will lead the Tower Bridge Dinner. From Yuba City, he previously made a name for himself at the upscale Taste in Plymouth and The Firehouse Restaurant in Old Sacramento. At UC Davis Health, Diaz spearheaded a sustainable farm-to-fork program for hospital patients and staff, working with local farmers, ranchers and processing companies.
Patricio Wise of Nixtaco
A self-trained culinary expert, Wise is the chef and owner of Nixtaco Mexican Kitchen in Roseville. What was previously a pop-up at farmers’ markets and breweries, Nixtaco quickly became a brick-and-mortar destination and was recognized as “One of America’s Best New Taquerias” in 2019 by Food & Wine Magazine. The restaurateur is known for channeling his northeast Mexican roots for his dishes at Nixtaco, from making ingredients from scratch and nixtamalization, a traditional process for preparing corn to make masa.
Evelyn Miliate of Raley’s
Miliate is the executive chef at Raley’s Family of Fine Stores. She’ll be bringing to the Twin Bridge Dinner tables her experience in creating holiday dinners, gourmet dishes and ready-to-go meals. The Culinary Institute of America graduate moved to Sacramento in 1990, sharing her culinary skills at a European bakery and a catering company.
Dane Blom of Grange Restaurant & Bar
Blom, executive chef of the high-end Grange Restaurant & Bar in The Citizen Hotel, will be on the Twin Bridge Dinner chef team. The eatery’s well-known farm-to-fork menus are anchored by Blom’s focus on evolving to seasonal changes in local tastebuds. Hailing from Sacramento, the chef had stints at Hawks Restaurant and the now-shuttered Michelin-starred restaurant Terra in Napa Valley.
Sarah Saldana of Track 7 Brewing Company
One of the lead chefs for this year’s Tower Bridge Dinner, Saldana is the head of the food program at Track 7 Brewing Company. Experienced in the Sacramento-area culinary scene, Saldana has held positions at Red Rabbit Kitchen, Oak Park Brewing Co., Localis, Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., The Golden Bear, and Honey and the Trapcat.
Billy Ngo of Kru
Ngo, a California Culinary Academy graduate, is the founder, partner and chef of Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine, Healthy Hounds Kitchen, Kodaiko Ramen and Bar, and Fish Face Poke Bar. Ngo’s menus are built on a foundation for sustainability and expert use of flavor and ingredients. He has been lauded as the feature chef by Los Angeles Food & Wine and Pebble Beach Food & Wine. Ngo has appeared on culinary TV shows such as “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
Patrick Prager of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Having worked with notable chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina and Traci Des Jardin, Prager has honed in on his French and California culinary skills. Now the executive chef at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, his main take on cooking is not overworking dishes, buying local ingredients and focusing on farm-to-fork techniques.
Juan Barajas of SavoryCafé
Barajas and his wife, Kristin, operate SavoryCafé in West Sacramento with a mission to unite the community with local and organic dishes. The restaurant was named “Small Business of the Year for State Assembly District 4.” Barajas is dedicated to working with local businesses, farms, breweries and eateries for the betterment of Sacramento. He will be serving as one of the Tower Bridge Dinner appetizer chefs.
Rob Lind of Ella
Lind is the executive chef at Ella in Downtown Sacramento, acclaimed for its New American and French cuisine. A Yuba City native, Lind collected his stripes working at Paragary’s Bar and Oven, Mason’s Restaurant, Murray Circle, as well as alongside chef Scott Rose.
Wesley Nilssen of the Irish Hospitality Group
In company with Barajas, Nilssen will be an appetizer chef for the Tower Bridge Dinner. The Ink Eats and Drinks alum has worked with the Irish Hospitality Group for over 11 years, creating dishes for de Vere’s Irish Pub, The Snug and Roshambeaux. Nilssen’s cuisines range from authentic Irish cooking and Mediterranean-style dishes.
Sara Arbabian of The Rind
Arbabian is a connoisseur of cheese and wine and beer pairings with two degrees from UC Davis and certification from the American Cheese Society. Also the restaurateur of The Rind and La Crosta, Arbabian manages with an eye on community awareness and humane and artisan food. This is her second time at the Tower Bridge Dinner sharing her love and knowledge of cheese and local ingredients.
Kevin Cabrera of The Save Mart Companies
Cabrera serves as the executive chef for The Save Mart Companies, a family-owned grocer with over 200 stores in California and Northern Nevada. The Filipino-born chef incorporates his global perspective, fondness for travel and grasp of diverse tastes through his food.
Dustin Harvey of Ella
Ella sous chef Harvey will be another appetizer chef for the Tower Bridge Dinner. With his culinary background rooted at restaurants such as The Driskell Hotel, Uchi, and Uchiko, Harvey is deeply committed to local sourcing, health and sustainability.
Jamie Mack of SpiderMonkey’s Dessert Studio
Mack, a born and bred Sacramentan, will be the dessert chef for the Tower Bridge Dinner. The pastry chef, who was previously an illustrator, carpenter and production decorator, is known for her affinity for aesthetics and specialization for traditional sweet treats, such as beignets and cream cakes, at SpiderMonkey’s Dessert Studio. Mack appeared on “Baketopia” on HBOMAX, landing a win on episode 6.
Devil May Care Ice Cream and Frozen Treats
Devil May Care Ice Cream will share their frozen and baked goodies for the dessert leg of the dinner. The shop has more than 400 flavors, from vanilla to chicken and waffles and bacon-butterscotch.
Q Bennett of Q1227 Restaurant
Bennet’s career of cooking for the U.S. Navy, Universal and Paramount Studios, restaurants — including his own — and for big celebrity names (Steve Harvey, Bill Clinton and CeCe, just to name a few) all began in his mother’s kitchen. Now the executive chef and owner of Q1227 in Roseville, Bennet curates a menu that blends savory, southern comfort with fresh California ingredients.
Nina Curtis of Vitaliz Café
Curtis has her upper hand on plant-based cooking and wellness, working as the executive chef and director at Adventist Health’s Vitaliz Café and the Culinary Arts department. She also worked with the Marriott Group, Hilton Hotels and Baxters, as well as led lectures on nutrition and health. In 2018, she was the head chef for the James Beard Foundation’s International Women’s Day Dinner.
Greg Desmangles of Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse
Desmangles rounds up the list of appetizer chefs for the Tower Bridge Dinner. The Sacramento native is the executive chef for Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse. Introduced to cooking as a child, Desmangles began manning the kitchen professionally in 2011 at Pangaea Bier Cafe, where he climbed the ladder as a busser and dishwasher to sous chef, earning the tavern back-to-back wins in the Sacramento Burger Battle.