Playing football is not the most common route to becoming a chef, but it's how Travis Watson found his way into the culinary world. At the age of 14, he moved from his native Watts, California, to Arizona, where he played football for a coach who happened to be an executive chef.
His coach hired him to wash dishes at his restaurant, and within a few days Travis told his mom he wanted to be a chef. He worked two jobs through high school to be able to attend Scottsdale Culinary Institute - displaying the hard work, drive and dedication that his friends and coworkers know so well.
Following his culinary studies, he did an externship under Michelin-starred Chef Jacques Paccard in Paris. When he returned home, he attended - and played football for - the University of Arizona.
Since then, his culinary career included a position at the AAA Five-Diamond Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain, and joining Fox Restaurant Concepts as Corporate Pastry Chef, where he was responsible for opening 27 restaurants across the country within eight years.
Prior to joining Rancho Bernardo Inn, Chef Travis was Executive Chef at Avalon in Scottsdale, the Executive Sous Chef at Phoenix's AAA Four-Diamond Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Chef de Cuisine at the AAA Five-Diamond Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, and Executive Chef at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
During his time at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, he has fallen in love with the abundance of local product, the warm weather and the warmer people. Chef Travis is excited to be part of a team that focuses on seasonal, sustainable, nutritious and delicious food.
AVANT Chef De Cuisine
A seasoned expert in a variety of cuisines and sustainable modern dining practices, Christopher Carriker is responsible for all culinary operations and development at AVANT. After receiving high regard and notoriety in a number of acclaimed Portland restaurants over the last two decades, the Puget Sound native relocated to California, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge in fine dining and promotional events. Inspired by the large-scale family dinners prepared by his mother during his childhood, Christopher found his passion for the kitchen at an early age and displays his unique style in the vibrant, innovative dishes he brings to the table everyday.
Margaret Nolan Carvallo
Executive Pastry Chef
Having come from a long line of sweet tooths, Margaret says in her large family, life thrived and revolved around the dining table. Her love for sweets was born during childhood, when tea parties and baking with Grandma were the norm. Today, after having trained at The California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and worked at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, The Ivy Hotel and Currant American Brasserie, this talented chef creates each dessert as though she were embarking on a fun new adventure.
Regional Sommelier & Cellar Master
Joe Baumgardner, our Sommelier & Cellar Master at JC Resorts, has been bringing new wines and exciting pairings to the table at AVANT since October 2015. Joe’s interest in wine was sparked by his father who collected wines in the 1960s and 70s (and lucky for Joe, he was able to learn about these wines by dipping into the family cellar when his father wasn’t looking). Working in restaurants since the age of 15, it became apparent that Joe’s passion was strong enough that he should pursue a career in wine. He achieved the Sommelier Diploma from the International Sommelier Guild in 2008.
AVANT General Manager
With more than 10 years of experience managing fine dining restaurants, Tyson Torres oversees all employee and customer relations, managing AVANT’s front of house operations. Torres established his career at a number of renowned locations, including Miro at Bacara Resort and Spa and The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto. In his past, Torres played semi-professional football and maintains a vigorous training regiment, competing as an amateur powerlifter. His drive and dedication, combined with his luxury food and beverage experience, make Torres an indispensable leader for the AVANT team.
AVANT Assistant General Manager
Tammy Hoops' extensive and varied experience as a corporate sales executive and bistro and bar owner merge together as she helps manage the team at AVANT. A degree in business administration & finance led her to a global career in product sales and solution for companies, such as DC Shoe Company and Shoeware.net, but it wasn’t until she conceptualized, designed and launched her own local wine bar & bistro that her love for the restaurant industry was solidified. Well-versed in wine and spirits, Tammy has a long-term interest in the art of wine and is an active member of the Guild of Sommeliers, Women’s Wine Alliance and Food & Beverage Association of San Diego.
AVANT Sales Manager
As AVANT Sales Manager, Carmen Fregulia is responsible for coordinating all private events and group dining sales. A master of a variety of marketing and sales strategies, Carmen works closely with the managerial and culinary teams, leading all event planning and execution efforts. Before joining the team at AVANT, Carmen acted as Special Events Manager for Ten22 Restaurant in Sacramento, managing special onsite and offsite events and surpassing previously held sales goals in the process. An avid skier and snowboarder, Carmen enjoys hitting the slopes during her spare time—whenever the California weather allows for it.