Justin Cogley was appointed chef of Aubergine restaurant in January 2011, where he oversees Aubergine and all of L’Auberge Carmel’s culinary programs.
Cogley comes to Carmel by way of Chicago, Illinois, where he was instrumental in opening the Elysian Hotel’s new kitchen as executive sous chef. He previously worked at Charlie Trotter’s critically acclaimed restaurant for four years, claiming the position of chef de cuisine for the last two. As such, he was responsible for menu creation, special events, and extensive instruction and management of the culinary staff.
With delicate interplay between creativity, tradition, and respect for his ingredients, Cogley’s food is deeply unique. His style is a sophisticated balance between innovation and unwavering deference for the finest ingredients he procures. “If I had to describe my food,” Cogley says, “I would say each plate has a purpose.” Cogley’s goal is to inspire guests to enjoy a broad combination of flavors and textures. He may present a diner with a vegetable prepared three ways on his plate but, Cogley says, “each of the flavors will be unique and pure.”
Prior to his career as a chef, Cogley was a professional international figure skater performing with “Disney on Ice.” Traveling and touring with the show for four years in Asia, Australia and Europe, Cogley was exposed to new flavors and cuisines, as well as a myriad of food markets and international techniques. These culinary experiences confirmed his passion for food, travel, and good wine, and when he returned to the United States, he enrolled at the Western Culinary Institute and began working in select restaurants in Portland, Oregon. After graduating with top honors in 2005, he launched his culinary career on the team at Charlie Trotter’s.
Most recently Cogley was awarded Food & Wine's Best New Chef 2013.
Executive Pastry Chef
Ron Mendoza is the Executive Pastry Chef for L’Auberge Carmel and its sister properties in Carmel, California, Cantinetta Luca and Salumeria Luca. Formerly of Patina, Sona, and Boule in Los Angeles and the prestigious The French Laundry in Yountville, Chef Mendoza brings years of training and experience to his position; this is his third position at a Relais & Chateaux property.
Mendoza began his culinary career at the age of 25 when he enrolled at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, CA. During his studies, he joined Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group, starting on the hot line of Nick and Stef’s steakhouse. Mendoza soon advanced to Patina Restaurant, where he began rigorous pastry training under Michelle Myers. He then went on to work for Chef David Myers at Restaurant Jaan in both savory and pastry areas. His successful relationship with both David and Michelle Myers continued when they asked him to help open their acclaimed restaurant, Sona. This fruitful relationship continued further when the couple asked Mendoza to help them open Boule Patisserie in Los Angeles as the director of operations, overseeing the launch of one of the city’s most highly regarded specialty pastry shops. It was at this time that Mendoza was recognized as a “Rising Star” by StarChefs.com.
In 2006, Thomas Keller offered him the position of Pastry Sous Chef at the famed French Laundry in Yountville, California. While there he immersed himself in the Thomas Keller culture, where he cultivated a quest for perfection and a passionate respect for ingredients.
Mendoza’s style, while creative and modern, is still based in classic technique and reverence for raw ingredients. “Everything starts with fruit,” he says. Mendoza strives for balance in flavors and textures. He firmly maintains, “the best desserts are made in the moment.”
Like his heroes, Pierre Herme, Albert Adria, and Oriol Balaguer, Mendoza is classically trained but thinks outside the box.
As far as his own creations, Mendoza feels there is still much room for exploration. He looks forward to using savory elements in his pastry, such as herbs, vegetables, and spices, as well as techniques like sautéing and braising. Yet true to his balance of tradition and innovation, when asked for his personal sweet favorites, he doesn’t hesitate: “Tahitian vanilla. And gooey chocolate chip cookies.”
Executive Sous Chef
Raised in rural Northern Michigan, Aaron Koseba grew up very much influenced by the flavors and abundance of the land and water that surrounded him.
At 20 years old Aaron left the U.S. for Brazil to pursue his passion for food and flavor and hone his skill. He enrolled in Anhembi Morumbi, one of the top culinary programs in Brazil. Learning not only the culture and the language of Brazil, Aaron graduated at the top of his class in their well-respected culinary program.
Following graduation he worked beside Chef Alex Attala at one of Brazil’s top restaurants, D.O.M., where he was exposed to a new world of taste, technique, and color. Following D.O.M., Aaron joined brothers Javier and Sergio Torres of restaurant Eñe. There he was instrumental in developing Eñe's Spanish menu using the lush ingredients and flavors of Brazil. He quickly climbed to the ranks of sous chef where he developed a sophisticated pallet that would prepare him for his return to the States.
Back in the U.S., Aaron joined the team at Chicago’s world-renowned Charlie Trotter's, where he became Sous Chef under the guidance of Matthias Merges and Justin Cogley. Following Charlie Trotter's, Aaron teamed up again with Cogley as well as Mathew Kirkley of L2O for the opening of Ria, earning two Michelin stars in the first year of opening.
After many successful years together, Aaron and Executive Chef Justin Cogley are again working as a dynamic team at the highly acclaimed and award-winning Aubergine in Carmel, CA, where they are interpreting and reinventing coastal cuisine.
Photo by Daniel Duran
Restaurant Director, Aubergine
Nathaniel grew into a management role and developed his palate for finer
restaurants along California's Central Coast.
In 2007, his passion for hospitality was sparked when he joined the team as a Captain at Seagrass Restaurant in Santa Barbara, owned and operated by Mitchel Sjervin. As an owner/operator of a small independent fine dining restaurant, Sjervin displayed incredible resolve to put the guest first. It was the mentorship of Sjervin that fostered the love of service within Nathaniel's approach to hospitality.
In 2009, he worked under the direction of John Locke, Wine Director at Soif Wine Bar & Restaurant in Santa Cruz. Nathaniel broadened his understanding of wine through the esoteric and small production library at Soif.
After a cross country adventure in 2011, Nathaniel came to work for Randall Grahm at Le Cigare Volant. As Restaurant Manager & Sommelier, he led an ambitious front of house staff and directed a unique, terroir-centric wine list. Working closely with Executive Chef Ryan Shelton, meant establishing a focused ethic of balancing the creative nature of pairing seasonal ingredients and contemporary techniques with wine. Nathaniel was integral in developing steps of service that transitioned Le Cigare Volant from a family style restaurant to a fine dining establishment.
Love for food and wine is shown in his unshakeable enthusiasm. Nathaniel loves being on the floor during service, interacting with his guests as he is always focused on the guests' needs.
"The spirit of dining is what draws me to this business. People can independently find great food and great wine, but it is not often that they can find remarkable experiences. I hope to capture that spirit."-Nathaniel on his passion for service.
In 2012, he earned his Introductory & Certified Sommelier certifications through the Court of Master Sommeliers. As the Restaurant Manager at Aubergine, he is excited about educating his staff and sharing his love for food and wine. His attention to detail has made him a wonderful candidate in creating the steps of service, accountability and overseeing day-to-day operations here at Aubergine. Ultimately, Nathaniel aligns his passion for creating memorable guest experiences with having "The Heart of a Servant", the core value of David Fink, owner Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group.