With a desire to showcase his commitment to seasonal, local and sustainable ingredients and utilize some of his favorite techniques including house-made mustards, pickling and fermentation, South Park resident Chef Ronnie Schwandt is thrilled to be at the helm of Verbena Kitchen. The native San Diegan, who attended The San Diego Culinary Institute, began his training at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and spent several years cooking in Coronado where he started as a sous chef at Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge. His decade of hard work with Blue Bridge Hospitality Group eventually led him to earn the title of Executive Chef of both Maretalia Restaurant and Leroy’s. Most recently, Schwandt worked with the Trust Restaurant Group. Schwandt draws inspiration from family and of course, his mentors, Tim Kolanko (Urban Restaurant Group’s Executive Chef) and Gregory Chavez (Wine Vault + Bistro.). Chef hopes Verbena will encourage more chef-focused projects to open in the North Park.
The beer + wine menu was developed by Verbena’s General Manager, Dallas Juanes. Juanes aims to bring an approachable, fun, and untouched bar program to Verbena Kitchen. As a San Diego native, Juanes started his early career working under Executive Chef Matt Gordon at his beloved Sea and Smoke in Del Mar. As a young bar craftsman, he worked with Evolution Hospitality (Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen, Verde Kitchen and Bar, Mary Janes) to open new concepts in their portfolio stretching from San Diego to Palm Spring and Los Angeles. Following his industry mentors, he worked at Blue Bridge Hospitality in Coronado, reopening Maretalia Ristorante, Leroys, and managing the beach tiki concept, Boardwalk Beach Club as Beverage Manager. He looks forward to bringing out-the-box recipes to the cocktail program, while working closely with Chef to ensure menu cohesion.
VENUE SALES DIRECTOR
With over a decade of events experience, Director of Events Katie Williams brings a refreshing and fun approach to the private event side of Verbena Kitchen. Beginning her path in the hospitality industry, Katie worked with Kimpton Hotels, a nationwide boutique brand. Hotel Solamar in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter then onto Washington DC to broaden her experience within the Kimpton brand. Returning back to San Diego with her husband, Katie chose to follow her love for all things food and events related. Starting with off-premise catering with a local company, Culinary Concepts, she sold and operated events ranging from 10 guests up to over 2,000. Simultaneously she partnered with local San Diego venues as their on-site operations event manager. Katie has sat on the board and is now acting Vice President with the San Diego chapter of NACE (National Association of Catering & Events). Throughout her career, Katie has dedicated her energy toward creating unique and exciting experiences. She looks forward to designing events focusing on local and seasonal food and drink alongside Chef Ronnie and GM Dallas, and can’t wait to introduce them to the neighborhood!