Meet the Chefs

The LaRue Group Family

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Chef Naimah Rutling

IMG_89401Naimah grew up in North Philadelphia. Inspired by her father and uncle, Naimah spent most of her play time in the kitchen observing the men in her life cooking. At the age of nine, Naimah prepared her first six-course meal for her family. In her teenage years, Naimah would get paid for cooking for the people in her neighborhood. She was known as the young girl with an old soul. After several years of working as a housekeeper, Naimah was offered a supervisor position which she declined in order to accept an entry-level kitchen position with the Restaurant P.S.F.S.  under Executive Chef Tom Krieble. Thus began Naimah's formal entry into the culinary world where she was able to hone her skills as a chef. While searching for her niche in the culinary world, Naimah worked as a caterer at Festivities Catering in Roxborough, and as a line cook at Cresent City Restaurant. It was not until she was given the opportunity to work for Wolfgang Puck Catering, that Naimah found her niche.

Working closely with Chef Roshan Martin, Naimah began to learn the skills of fine dining. Under the tutelage of Chef Martin she was able to master her craft, leading Naimah to supervising events with her own team.   While working at Wolfgang Puck, Naimah enrolled in The Art Institute of Philadelphia where she earned a Food Science Degree. Shortly after Naimah was offered a position to become the banquet Chef at Xfinity Live in Philadelphia. It was at Xfinity Live that her passion for food exploded. Naimah was given creative liberty to create menus and oversee banquet events. It was during this time that she was promoted to the position as supervisor and creative culinary director of Broad Street Bullies Sports Bar. While in this position Naimah was able to create a menu that put Broad Street Bullies as the go to spot for a new flare on pub food.  After her time with Xfinity Live, Naimah moved on to become the kitchen manager at Outback Steakhouse. It was during this time that Naimah begun working with The LaRue Group.

Her time with The LaRue Group has allowed Naimah to be a part of the Chef Series Experience, lead cooking classes, appear on The Fox 29 Good Morning Show, as well as being featured in an editorial piece in the Philadelphia Tribune. All of the roads in  Naimah's culinary journey have led to her becoming the proud owner of her catering company, H.E.R. by Chef Nai, which specializes in catering public and private events, galas, parties, and cooking classes. It is Naimah's dream to one day be the owner of a BYOB. 

Naimah gives her mentor and very good friend Chef Peter DeAngelis a huge thank you for believing in her, and pushing her to be ambitious

The LaRue Group
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Christopher Lee Abbott

TLG_Chris Abbott03.jpg1Christopher Lee Abbott, also known as Chef Kristo, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a young adult he discovered that he had a passion for food. Chef Kristov a major Food Network enthusiast and I consider himself to be an excellent Chef.

During the time that he worked in the food industry for more than 12 years, he found himself pursuing his own Personal Chef business, Chef Kristov & Company. In the early 90’s, he was a caterer for
La’Petite Bakeries and remained on staff for 6 years. From there, he continued his career in the industry as a catering assistant for Philadelphia’s top catering company, Keven Parker’s “Simply Delicious Caterer” and co-owner of “Gumbo For Da Soul” with Chef Kim Shaw. Chef Kristov, is passionate about healthy, tasty cuisine – even working two acres of farmland on a co-op in Delaware to cultivate fresh ingredients to use in his dishes to promote Farm to table healthy eating.

“I cook for the enjoyment that it gives me and to see the look of satisfaction on the person who is eating my Healthy creations. Cooking is a creative outlet for me, I use the freshest and best ingredients from farm to table so that my clients will enjoy the visual, taste, and texture aspects of the Healthy meal that I prepare.

Cooking allows me to express my creativity by trying different combinations of foods. I like to see the reaction of the person eating my creation when they first put it their mouth. I like the feeling of knowing that something that I have created can make people feel good, and I know that I have done my job when they go back for more.

I want people who taste my food to have an experience that they will never forget, that what they have tasted is like nothing they have ever had before. I cooked for one client and knew that I had hit the mark when they told me that what they were eating was ‘heaven on earth’. That’s what I am looking for when I cook.

My great passion for food drives me to constantly research, read, and learn new ways to prepare delightful dishes that are stimulating to the eye and that makes people’s taste buds tingle with delight. I am very interested in the latest food trends and methods in the culinary world. I have a great deal of knowledge about cooking for people with special dietary needs.

I understand the importance of cooking carefully to ensure health and safety, while not compromising
flavor. I started this personal chef Service to share my love of food and cooking. I want to prepare food
customized to your needs to ensure you the best quality of life, while giving you amazing flavor.”

Chef Amber Harris

TLG_Amber07.jpg1I grew up in a North Philadelphia. I was not always a privileged child, but I was able to travel to New Jersey occasionally to be with my Grandmother. She taught me gardening and how to use those ingredients to cook great food. I knew at the young age of 6 years old, I wanted to be a Chef. I watched cooking shows on WHYY, channel 12 with my grandmother and mother. My favorite Chef was Julia child. I was fascinated by her creativity and ability to easily make a dish.

My love of food and cooking lead me to pursue a job in the food industry. I got my first job at McDonald’s, then Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A. I gained extensive cooking experience while working at Aramark’s Sports and Entertainment at the Veterans Stadium, Wachovia Center, Convention Center, Citizens Bank Park, and Lincoln Financial Field. I have held many titles including Prep/line cook, Sous Chef and Food & Beverage Director/Manager.

I currently work at Sugarhouse Casino as the Sous Chef of Banquets, VIP Lounge, Employee dining, and Production. I created many dishes in the kitchen including crab cakes. They are a best seller at Sugarhouse Casino. Customers often return asking for crab cakes with their compliments to the chef. I have created several menus at the Sugarhouse Casino depicting an array of delectable dishes.

I recently graduated from University of Phoenix with a Bachelors Degree in Business. When I am not working, I mentor high school students at Community College of Philadelphia on how to become restaurant professionals.

 

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Chef Monterray Keys

TLG_Monterry05.jpg1I’m a personal chef and caterer. I was born October 12th 1976 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. My childhood was spent mainly in the Germantown & southwest sections of the city. I’ve always loved food and different flavors as I often could be found cooking with my grandmother and mother in the kitchen. My brother, Derrick Fowler was a big influence in my culinary career. Tragically, Derrick was killed before he could complete his degree in culinary arts. His last bit of advice to me was to take cooking more seriously because he felt like I was really good at it. With my brother’s words in mind, I did just that and threw myself into cooking.

I started out as a busboy at a local brewery and eventually worked my way up to lead line cook and even the sous chef. 4 years ago I auditioned and landed a spot on season 9 of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen. After that experience I decided to start a life long dream of Derrick’s which was to start a business. Currently I am the owner and executive chef to my catering company Keys To Catering. We specialize in American bistro with a global flare cuisine. When I’m not helping people plan food menus, I enjoy spending time with my wife and children. Food, friends, and family are three constants in my life.

 

Chef Tim Thomas

IMG_7825Executive Chef Tim Thomas brings extensive knowledge and leadership to modern American cuisine. A graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia’s School for Culinary Arts, Thomas has over a decade of experience in the restaurant and catering industry. During the last 2 years he has spent as an executive chef, Thomas has developed specialized culinary skills and particularly enjoys cooking New American cuisine with a fusion of classic French.

Thomas’s culinary career began at age 15 in Philadelphia when he entered catering industry learning prep and working the line at a family-owned business. He then spent time studying Classic French Cuisine at the Art Institute and in the kitchens of famous chefs such as Chip Roman. He has held simultaneous roles as sous chef at Spectrum Grille and Mica, a delicate balancing act of a fine dining steak house and a classic French restaurant. Chef Thomas later became the executive chef at acclaimed gastropub, Bainbridge Street Barrel House, and opened BYOB, Forcella Restaurant in Jenkintown, PA, receiving an average 4.5 out of 5 star rating. He currently leads the culinary team as Chef de Cuisine at Flora Jenkintown, an intimate Fine Dining Vegan experience. At Flora, Chef Thomas has transformed the menu taking true Vegan cuisine to the next level with four delectable courses showcasing the finest seasonal vegetables and botanicals.

When he’s not at the restaurant, Thomas enjoys spending quality time with his daughters, swapping pastry recipes with his mother Karen and prepping his girlfriend, Kimberly to be the next winning home cook on Master Chef.

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Chef Teddy Torres

IMG_9772I was born & raised in the Bronx, New York. After graduating DeWitt Clinton High School in 1995 I made the decision to move to Philadelphia 1996. I attended The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. I gained an associates Degree in culinary arts. I began my restaurant career in Burlington New Jersey at a classical French restaurant called Cafe Gallery. There I started as a steward & moved to prep then cold apps & desserts. 1996 Moving on to The Moshulu in Philadelphia. Starting on cold apps & desserts, I moved all around the line learning continental cuisine & all aspects of high volume restaurants. 1997 After the Moshulu I went to work on South Street, Philadelphia at a restaurant called the Latest Dish. There I learned about American & fusion cuisine, later being involved in the conception & execution of special events. 1998 Then I went to an Asian concept called Twenty Manning on Rittenhouse Square. Becoming the headline cook. 1999 My first Sous chef opportunity came in Old city, doing soul food at a place called Bluzette. 2000 Wanting a more corporate environment & experience I went to the Starr Restaurant organization. Starting at Alma de Cuba working with chef Jose Garces & Douglas Rodrigues who mentored my development as a Latin chef. I began as a line cook learning all aspects of the kitchen. Later being promoted as executive Sous chef at an opening New York City restaurant called O.L.A. . Returning to Philadelphia to help with the opening of El Ves an upscale Mexican restaurant. Splitting time between Alma de Cuba & El Ves. 2001-2003 Wanting a change I moved to Chicago & worked for Brazilian/ Japanese fusion concept called Sushi Samba. 2004 Being recruited by Ted Turner, to be Executive Chef of an American concept. The company wanted to implement the concept to the Philadelphia market. The restaurant concept was an amercing steakhouse, which featured Bison (Buffalo). 2005-2006

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Wanting to get back into the Latin concept I went to Cuba Libre restaurant & Rum Bar as Executive Sous Chef. 2007 After Cuba Libre I went on to the Pyramid Club Pyramid Club 2008- Present- Executive Sous Chef.
During my time working at the club I appeared on the Food Network program “Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell” where I competed against three other chef for a job for long establish Latin concept restaurant in New York city. We had had three challenges to complete.
1st. Adobo challenge was to create a unique adobo & apply to any dish.
2nd. I had to make a classical dish & create a new dish within an hour.
3rd. The final was to complete a dinner service & I completed the task without having any my dishes sent back. It was a first for the program.
I eventually turned down the position because I have established myself in Philadelphia. I believe that it would be better working on my career & pursue my dream out here rather than New York. I believe I have established a solid foundation that has put me into a position for which I can grow & reach my full potential. My experience has reinforced my confident to pursue my dream of owning & operating Food & Beverage establishments. It is only natural because it is the next step in my progression as a chef.