Julie Franssignature chef / culinary concepts

As the Signature Chef at The Palms Hotel & Spa, Frans oversees the culinary concept throughout the hotel, with a focus on the hotel’s signature restaurant Essensia Restaurant & Lounge. In her position Frans is responsible for the creation and execution of all restaurant menus, lounge and pool menus.

Truly dedicated to providing products that are both good for the body and the environment, Frans culinary philosophy is completely in line with The Palms “inspired by nature” philosophy, reflecting a passion for healthier and whole food living. Her cuisine is inventive, globally-inspired and flavorful. At Essensia, menus follow a farm-to-table approach, offering a varied seasonal selection of global dishes made with premium ingredients and locally sourced produce, meats and seafood. Quarterly seasonal wine dinners, in cooperation with some of South Florida’s finest purveyors of farm-fresh produce, are the highlight of Frans execution of Essensia’s culinary concept.

Originally from San Diego, California, Frans graduated from The University of California Santa Barbara in 2000 and then from the San Diego Culinary Institute in 2006. Frans culinary experience began working as a private chef while traveling the world aboard private and charter yachts. In 2005, she launched Dining Details, a personal chef service and catering company. Her gourmet culinary skills and knowledge catapulted Dining Details from a one-woman operation to a full-service catering company and chef agency servicing a variety of clients including corporate events, daily/weekly in-home cooking service, culinary demonstrations, educational seminars and private dinner parties. Frans completely immersed her efforts into Dining Details overseeing every aspect of the company including menu creation, cuisine preparation and production, sales/marketing and, most importantly, client relations.

In 2009, Frans founded Chickpeas School Lunch Program where she developed and managed school assemblies, enrichment programs and presentations to educate parents and school administrators on child nutrition and special needs diets. In addition, the company worked with several private schools to provide healthy lunches and family dinners for their students. In her new role with The Palms, Frans will continue to work with organizations dedicated to improving and developing healthy eating habits for children in South Florida.

Jaime MaganaOperations Executive Chef

As Operations Executive Chef of The Palms Hotel & Spa, Jaime Magana is responsible for the quality execution and profitability of all food production as it relates to the property’s signature restaurant, Essensia, and the remainder of the hotels’ food & beverage outlets, including banquets. He also oversees the Food Purchasing Office and hands-on training of the culinary staff.

In his position as Operations Executive Chef, Magana collaborates with Essensia’s Signature Chef, Julie Frans, to further develop and evolve the restaurant’s culinary philosophy of farm-to-table gourmet cuisine, and to continue to provide the freshest seasonal cuisine made with produce, meats and seafood primarily sourced from within the State of Florida. In addition, Magana manages all banquet and social catering events, working with the Banquet kitchen to facilitate planned banquet meals according to event orders, directing and administering the planning, preparation, ordering, production and control of event cold and hot food operations in the main kitchen and banquet facilities.

Prior to joining The Palms Hotel & Spa in 2010, Magana honed his 15+ years of culinary experience with the InterContinental Hotel Group starting with an extensive fine dining training program at Restaurant La Rive, located in the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam. Magana then held a variety of positions within the company’s food & beverage department including Preparation Cook, Demi-Chef, Line Cook, Chef de Partie, Chef Saucier and Sous Chef. In 2005, Magana’s extensive experience, knowledge and dedication secure him the position of Executive Chef at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Texas where he was responsible for all kitchen operations, profitability, staff training and creation of new menus for all of the property’s outlets and banquets. Then in 2009, Magana served as Executive Banquet Chef at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Houston Texas.

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 Julie Frans, 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.