Meet the Team

Meet The Team

Carrie Nahabedian

A native of Chicago’s northern suburbs, Chef Carrie Nahabedian began her career as a teenager, working in the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton. Her celebrated path has taken her from Le Perroquet, Jovan and Le Francais to LaTour at the Park Hyatt, and ultimately, a hard-earned title as Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotels in Chicago, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

With her invaluable education in hospitality, Chef Carrie and her restaurateur cousin, Michael Nahabedian, opened NAHA in November of 2000. Her Mediterranean-inspired American cuisine earned a Michelin Star for seven consecutive years, a James Beard Award for “Best Chef, Great Lakes”, and four stars by Phil Vettel—the highest rating given by the legendary Chicago Tribune critic.

In April of 2013, Carrie and Michael opened Brindille—French for “twig”—offering refined Parisian cuisine, a celebration of their love of French culinary traditions, techniques and flavors. Hailed as the “Best Restaurant to Open in 2013” by the Chicago Tribune, Brindille was later awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Restaurant Design, 2015” for the work of Tom Nahabedian and Bureau of Architecture and Design.

On September 22, 2009, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley named it “Carrie Nahabedian Day”, coinciding with her induction into the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame, and in 2016, Chef Carrie was awarded the Jean Banchet Lifetime Achievement Award. On March 31, 2018, NAHA closed after eighteen years, just as Brindille celebrated its fifth anniversary on Clark Street. With the closing of her beloved NAHA comes the announcement of a new restaurant, further securing Chef Carrie’s place as not only a pioneer of the past, but an active participant in the future of hospitality.

Michael Nahabedian

Restaurateur and wine expert Michael Nahabedian, whose talent and style brought the likes of Green Dolphin Street and Café Absinthe to the forefront of Chicago’s Cocktail Culture, opened NAHA with his cousin, Chef Carrie Nahabedian, in 2000. After much success and acclaim, the duo opened Brindille in 2013, with a menu and atmosphere that reflects their love and great respect of the culinary traditions and true flavors of France.


Jose Valdez

Chef de Cuisine

Growing up in a family of cooks, who at one time owned a small restaurant, Jose Valdez was exposed to the culinary world from a young age. But it wasn’t until he wandered into the culinary department at his school, Joliet Junior College, and was mesmerized watching its culinary team prepare to compete that Valdez knew he wanted to pursue a career as a chef.

Since graduating in 2012 with a culinary arts degree, Valdez has worked hard to expand and refine his culinary skills and techniques, managing operations in award-winning hotels and high-end restaurants with cuisines ranging from farm-to-table and modern American to Italian and classic French. His resume includes some of Chicago’s most well-respected places, including Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort, Fairmont Chicago and, most recently, The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel. “The freedom to express myself through cooking, seeing people’s reaction to something I have created and the comradery that is created in a kitchen are what I like best about being a chef,” says Valdez.

As the chef de cuisine at Kostali by Naha in The Gwen, Valdez continues to follow his culinary philosophy of ensuring every ingredient on the plate has a purpose while creating dishes that are vibrant and perfectly balanced. In his role, Valdez works closely with celebrated, James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian to bring her creative vision of the coastal cuisines of the Mediterranean to each and every plate. “To be able to work with one of Chicago’s finest chefs and see what the future has in store for us is very exciting for me,” says Valdez of his new role.

Karen Gizowski

Pastry Chef

From a young age, Karen Gizowski was drawn to her family’s kitchen. That interest often led Gizowski to conduct her own hands-on experiments with her self-confessed sweet tooth often steering her in the direction of desserts. Years later, her love for the sweeter side of the culinary world has remained a constant. In her position as pastry chef at Kostali by Naha located in The Gwen, a Luxury Collective Hotel, Gizowski taps into her life-long passion to make desserts that have been thoughtfully created to leave the guests wanting more.

After graduating from Kendall College, Gizowski spent the next 10 years accumulating a variety of experience, skills and knowledge, including working at The Ahwahee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.

In 2012, Gizowski joined acclaimed Pastry Chef Mindy Segal at her Bucktown restaurant Hot Chocolate. Working her way up from bread baker to pastry sous chef, Gizowski assisted in executing Segal’s vision and crafting award-winning desserts.

In 2015, Gizowski headed to Naha and Brindille to work with James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian. During her three years there, Gizowski was able to hone her craft under the knowledgeable eye of Executive Pastry Chef Craig Harzewski—“It was my first experience working in a Michelin Star restaurant and I quickly learned how every small detail made a difference for each guest,” she says—as well as create relationships that would later impact her career.

After a brief stint as pastry chef at modern steakhouse Boeufhaus, Gizowski is excited to once again work with Nahabedian at her new restaurant, Kostali. There, her adventurous desserts will be a harmonious reflection of Nahabedian’s vision of Mediterranean coastal cuisine.

Jorie Taylor

General Manager, Kostali

Formerly a day trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, Jorie Taylor began her culinary career by accident. A regular at the tavern below the building, she was asked to fill in for a bartender there one night, and she quickly fell in love with the energy and fast pace at the bar. One shift soon became several as Taylor read everything she could to support her burgeoning interest. With the trading world undergoing drastic changes, she soon seized the opportunity to transition into the hospitality industry. Taylor joined Concentrics Hospitality and helped open Roof on theWit in 2009. As the corporate mixologist for Concentrics, she worked on projects in Atlanta, Keystone, Colorado and St. Louis before moving on to receive her Sommelier Certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers. She followed up this experience working at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. A longtime fan of The Alinea Group, Taylor then returned to Chicago to become general manager at Roister in 2016, curating the wine list at the casual, Michelin-starred West Loop restaurant while also helping to create pairing menus for multiple seasons at Next. With experience in both independent restaurants and hotels and her deepening knowledge of wine and cocktails as she pursues an Advanced Sommelier Certification, Taylor is excited to join James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian at Kostali. In her role as general manager, she works with Nahabedian and The Gwen team to create luxurious, memorable experiences for every guest she meets.

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