Festival
Personalities

David Ortiz

The major league sports star, known affectionately to his fans as “Big Papi,” will welcome guests to Friday’s open-to-the-public Fired Up! event and host two exclusive, private gatherings for fans on Friday evening. The events will highlight Ortiz’s new line of cigars and Arias wine. Ortiz played 20 Major League seasons, primarily with the Boston Red Sox. He was a ten-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion, and seven-time Silver Slugger winner. Ortiz also holds the Red Sox single-season record for home runs with 54, during the 2006 season. Ortiz is not only a baseball hero, he is an inspiration to millions. A portion of the proceeds from his participation in the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, an organization that supports lifesaving pediatric care for children in need.

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Suvir Saran

New Delhi-born Top Chef Master Suvir Saran has nurtured a lifelong passion for the traditional flavors of Indian cooking, which has led him to become an accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator, and organic farmer.

Saran has penned three cookbooks: Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes with Stephanie Lyness; American Masala: 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen with Raquel Pelzel; and Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country with Charlie Burd and Raquel Pelzel. He has been a featured judge on Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef on the Food Network and in 2011, Suvir was a break out star on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Most recently, Saran was Executive Chef/Owner at Devi in New York City, where he shared the authentic flavors of Indian home cooking with guests. Under Saran’s leadership, Devi consistently received popular and critical acclaim and earned a three-star rating from New York magazine and two stars from the New York Times. It was the first Indian restaurant in the U.S. to earn a Michelin star.

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Jay Hajj

Jay Hajj is the chef and owner of Mike’s City Diner. He is also a frequent guest on the Food Network, where he whips up his favorite dishes with Guy Fieri on “Guy’s Big Bite,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Guy’s Grocery Games.” In 2014, The Food Network named Jay’s Pilgrim sandwich one of the five best Thanksgiving meals in America. Mike’s City Diner is now a beloved Boston institution that that serves classic American fare savored by neighbors, celebrities and political power brokers such as President Bill Clinton.

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M.H.A Thibeault

M. H. A Thibeault has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC, Ms. Hines Abram studied under eminent chefs Alain Sailhac and Jacques Pepin. She was Executive Chef for Mood Food, which under her leadership garnered a spot on New York Magazine’s Top Ten list. After spending a few years in the kitchen, she was recruited to be the Director of Special Events for RDC & The Destination Group. Chef M.HA.T produced hundreds of events for NYC’s elite clientele. She eventually went out on her own and started Innovative Events, a boutique luxury event planning and catering companies in NYC and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. She was a Trustee Member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and was recognized for her charitable work for the Jacksonville Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Returning to upstate New York as the Director of Banquet & Convention Services at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany, New York . She became the Director of the hotel’s wine program and then transitioned to Food & Beverage Director.

In 2009 M.H.A. Thibeault was a Founding Director and currently serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the “Albany Chefs’ Food & Wine Festival: Wine & Dine for the Arts”, who’s mission is to promote and enhance Albany by highlighting and marketing its’ chefs and innovative cuisine and to provide sustainable funding to the downtown arts community. The Festival has raised over $785,000 for the Arts in Albany. Chef M.H.A.T has made a commitment to help build a better community. Her numerous charitable endeavors include serving as Exec. Director for Dance Crazy, serving on the board of directors for the Stakeholders Foundation, yearly campaigns for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society including being a 2013 Woman of the Year Candidate, LunaFest to benefit Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, founding the Meil Fleur Societé, annual fundraisers for Yono’s Scholarship Foundation and for the Albany Barn.

MHA Innovations was founded in 2010 to provide public relations, marketing, brand management and hospitality management resources to the hospitality industry. She was a 2013 finalist for the Mark of Excellence Award, 2014 Jefferson Award recipient, and was named the 2014 Arts Ambassador. In 2017 Chef M.H.A. Thibeault decided to return to the kitchen to provide distinctive events and private chef services to the Saratoga & Greater Capital Region merging those services with MHA Innovations to create Chef MHAT Llc. She was recently named a BlueStar All-Star Chef and BlueStar Corporate Chef.

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Melissa Doney

Chef Doney was a competitor on Season Eight of Hell’s Kitchen hosted by Gordon Ramsey. She is the Executive Chef of Brown’s Brewing Company, Adjunct Culinary Arts Professor at Schenectady County Community College, and formerly area chef for ShopRite Supermarkets. Doney is also a Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation. BlueStar celebrity chef Melissa Doney will participate in a cook-off with the chef finalist from SPAC’s “Home Rangers” Amateur Chef Competition as part of Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

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Joshua Wesson

Best-known as the co-founder of Best Cellars, Joshua Wesson won the title of Best Sommelier in French Wines & Spirits in the United States in 1984. Two years later, he was named one of the top five sommeliers in the world by Sopexa, Food and Wines from France. In 2003, he received the prestigious Ambassador’s Award from the European Wine Council. Mr. Wesson is a leading authority on the pairing of wine and food and has written two books on the subject: Williams-Sonoma Wine & Food – A New Look at Flavor and Red Wine with Fish; The New Art of Matching Food with Wine (1989 Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year) which he co-authored with David Rosengarten. He has been a guest on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CBS-The Early Show, Headline News, Moneyline and Power Lunch. Mr. Wesson is also a regular commentator on NPR/Public Radio International’s “The Splendid Table.” Most recently, in February of 2016, Mr. Wesson launched Suprema Provisions – a food market, salumeria and wine bar – in the west village.

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