venoy rogers IIIexecutive chef
Chef Rogers comes to Miami by way of San Diego, where he was most recently Executive Sous Chef and Interim Executive Chef at W San Diego. As he takes the reigns at Essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa, he plans to maintain its local, organic and seasonal approach, while adding his personalized ‘New American fusion’ to the menu.
“My philosophy in the kitchen is definitely to have fun with food and express myself from the heart, to make good food you need great ingredients. Essensia will still be organic and healthy — but in a way that’s unique and unexpected.”
To expand upon Essensia’s farm-to-table concept, Chef Rogers has already created new partnerships with Florida farms that will enhance the menu with more locally sourced ingredients. In conjunction with Miami-based Rock Garden Farm, Chef Rogers has built a new program for Essensia’s on-site Chefs Garden, which has 750 square feet of herbs and fresh produce. He’s also working with J&C Tropicals to grow mangoes and other fruits, and with Florida Fresh Herbs to designate spaces in their organic greenhouses exclusively for Essensia and The Palms Hotel.
While on the West Coast, Chef Rogers participated in culinary competitions like the San Diego Bay Food & Wine Fest, as well as the Little Italy Festival, where he won “Best Taste” in 2014. In September 2013, Chef Rogers appeared in an episode of Food Network’s “Chef Wanted” with Anne Burrell, in which he beat out three other candidates to become the next chef de cuisine for the Las Vegas location of Dos Caminos. He also holds eight medals from the American Culinary Federation.
A San Diego native, Chef Rogers is a 2006 graduate of the Culinary Institute of Platt College in Oklahoma City.
samantha freiPastry Chef
Samantha Frei has been the Pastry Chef at The Palms since January 2014. She has worked in the resort’s pastry department since 2008, serving as assistant pastry chef to a number of very skilled and talented Executive Pastry Chefs. A graduate of Johnson and Wales University, North Miami, she worked at three other Florida properties before joining The Palms, where she now directs the pastry creations for Essensia Restaurant, other outlets as well as the hotel’s large catering operation.
Sam is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she grew up in a very food-centered family. She remembers cooking and baking with her mom, dad, and grandmother, and putting together elaborate feasts for holidays and family gatherings. Although she always took an interest in cooking, her passion always led her back to baking and pastry. She thinks of pastry as edible art, that combines science and art in one.
Sam is incredibly excited to take on the roll of Pastry Chef at The Palms and for Essensia Restaurant. She appreciates the availability of local, tropical fruit, and is inspired by the fresh, unique offerings of South Florida farms, making her a perfect fit for executing the Essensia concept of farm-to-table. Although Sam considers herself an “outside the box” kind of pastry chef, her very favorite dessert is a really good piece of traditional cherry pie. Essensia diners can look forward to some wedges of delicious, seasonally inspired pies coming out of Sam’s kitchen in the near future.
Sam is most excited about crafting more offerings throughout the hotel and restaurant that are tailored to guests with food sensitivities. As she, herself is lactose intolerant, she understands the challenges that our guests face when searching for gluten free, lactose free, or sugar free desserts and pastries. As The Palms strives to be more and more progressive in our offerings to guests with special dietary needs, Sam will take that mission another step in the pastry department. She is working on a few recipes that utilize almond milk in lieu of dairy, and alternative flours like coconut and rice flour to substitute for gluten.
Together with Chef Rogers III, Pastry Chef Samantha Frei will continue to provide an exceptional farm-to-table experience for Essensia’s guests with consistent focus on freshness and quality, while constantly striving to improve on our mission to provide healthy and delicious alternatives for guests with special dietary needs.