Our Judges


David Marchman is a devoted husband and father who is passionate about fine food, personal growth, fitness, travel and community.  He discovered his love for paella on a trip to Spain upon graduation from high school.  When he returned, he began a lifetime quest of recreating the fabulous pan of rice that he experienced in Costa Brava.  He cut his culinary teeth working in restaurants under tutelage of restauranteur, Norman Brinker, learning that attention to detail was the key to success.  While he chose a corporate career in human resources management, his interest in fine foods and the culinary arts have remained a passion. If he is not on a bike ride with his wife, Lina, you will likely find David at a local farmer’s market filling his bags with the freshest ingredients he can find.


Shawn McAdams is a two-time grand champion Paella Lovers United winner (2007, 2008) and three-time competitor (2009), working alongside team captain David Marchman, as Team Costa Brava.  Shawn grew up in a family of outdoor cooking enthusiasts and was joined by family and friends around a campfire feast most weekends of his youth.

Shawn moved to Austin in 1994 to attend UT Austin, and began collecting cookbooks while in college.  Many year’s later, Shawn’s husband encouraged him to [insisted that he] purge some of the collection, and today, Shawn has [is allowed] a carefully curated collection of just over 100 cookbooks.

In 2013, Shawn travelled to Barcelona with family, who then ate their way north along Spain’s Costa Brava.  The dinners were late, the paella was glorious, and the scenery was breathtaking.

When not cooking or traveling, Shawn works as a Global Benefits Manager and Photographer, and resides in Driftwood, TX with husband Josh and their two French Bulldogs.

Christine Fernandez Owen, PLU JUDGE 2018, Former PLU Winner

Christine learned to make paella spending the summers at her great Aunt’s house outside of Valencia, Spain. She is a three-time PLU competitor (2007-2009), and a one-time PLU award winner.  Now based in Chicago, when Christine is not making paella, she plays a lawyer for renewable energy companies.  She and her husband enjoy spending vacations eating at well regarded restaurants around the world, and at home they enjoy playing with their spunky toddler, Atlas.

DANIEL OLIVELLA, Paella Lovers United Judge, 2014, 2018

Daniel is Chef/Co-Owner of Austin’s Barlata Restaurant. “This is my only career,” says Olivella, who brings with him thirty-nine years of accolades and experience. “I’m secure with what I do, and I try to have fun with it.”

The original Barlata (now closed) was still in its nascent stages when Olivella first visited Austin 11 years ago. Along with running B44, the upscale Catalan eatery he opened in San Francisco in 1999, and overseeing the new restaurant’s development, he was teaching Catalan cooking around the country. Central Market signed him on for a Texas tour that stopped in Austin. Two years later, he and Jerez moved to Austin from San Francisco with their two children, Lola, 8, and Talize, 13. (They now have a 6year old son, Gael).

“The beautiful part of this project is that this is the first restaurant Vanessa and I have been able to create together. She was the main driving force behind this,” says Olivella, praising her business acumen and faith in the location on the ground floor of a sleek new South Austin condominium. The duo shares an endearing tendency to credit their spouse for the restaurant’s success. However, they are both there – Olivella in the kitchen, Jerez on the floor – six to seven nights a week.

Barlata’s menu, which is different to the original Bay Area counterpart, offers more than 50 kinds of tapas and 10 Paellas. However, one thing you won’t find anywhere but here is the Roasted Angus Beef Brisket Canalones, Olivella and Jerez’ original tribute to Austin.
His book Catalan Food (Clarckson-Potter) has just been released on September 5th. There you will find a whole chapter dedicated to the art of Paella cooking.

Claudia Alarcón was born and raised in Mexico City in the mostly happy home of a lower-middle class family. From her parents she inherited a passion for home cooking, fine food and wine, learning to cook from her mother -a fantastic and resourceful cook- as soon as she was old enough to reach the stove. After moving to Austin in 1984 she worked as a cook, baker, and server at various area restaurants, and later as a wine and spirits representative. She received her bachelor’s degree with honors in Anthropology with a minor in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and is an independent researcher on gastronomy and foodways of Mexico. She has presented workshops on ancient and modern Mexican cuisine at the University of Helsinki, as well as various lectures on Mexican food traditions. Her wanderlust has taken her to Alaska, Belize, Brazil, Cuba, Finland, Guatemala, South Africa, New Zealand, and most states within the beautiful Republic of Mexico, sharing her food and travel stories in articles for local and national publications, including a long-time stint with The Austin Chronicle. She is currently writing for Forbes.com, and a travel guide to her hometown was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown website.


Longtime Austin chef, co-owner of Asti Trattoria, a three-star Italian restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Fino (late), and the recently opened Cantine, an Italian/Mediterranean hybrid.

In 1985 Emmett moved to Boston, MA as chef of The Wild Goose in Fanueil Hall.During his following experience at BNU and Arturo’s Ristorante, he discovered his niche for Italian cooking.It is also where he met fellow chef and wife to be, Lisa. Emmett and Lisa moved to Austin in 1992.Emmett’s jobs included an Executive Chef job overseeing BitterEnd, Mezzaluna and Granite Cafe, and serving on the board for the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival. Opening ASTI Trattoria in 2000 was the sweet culmination of twenty years of culinary passion.  Emmett and Lisa continue their love of travel and frequent trattorias, vineyards, bistros and 4-star restaurants all over the Mediterranean.


I was a Chef in my past life – for about 15 years.  Now I am a Restaurateur and basically work for my staff and customers !

My husband Emmett and I have owned 3 restaurants here in Austin.  ASTI Trattoria – still going strong after 17 years.  FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar – closed in 2015 after 10 years ( RIP ). CANTINE Italian Café and Bar – closed in 2017 after 2 years ( RIP ).  

I love talking about food & wine – cooking & sharing f & w – traveling for f & w experiences – and writing an ‘on-again-off- again” blog-  foodisforsharing.com

Our homework in opening FINO had us in Spain and discovering our love of Paella. ( I think we may have even introduced Austin to Paella back in 2005 ) !  Maybe ? We continue to cook it at home and it is always a crowd pleaser.  Sometimes traditional – sometimes weird !  It’s a dish steeped in culture and history – and we carry on the love here in Austin.

Cheers !


Amy Culbertson’s career has included six years as food editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, three years as entertainment editor for the Detroit Free Press and 20 years as restaurant writer for the Cincinnati Post. These days, she lives in Austin and writes about food, travel and the arts.


ADAM AHRENS– PLU JUDGE 2009-2015, 2017

Adam Ahrens has been working in the Austin music scene since 1993 both as a performer and recording artist, songwriter and producer.  His primary music styles, which include acoustic finger style, Hawaiian slack key and original compositions are a result of studying under such guitar luminaries as Steve James & Junior Brown. Guitar hounds will be interested in Adam Ahren’s self-titled debut.  His expansive repertoire of acoustic finger style and Hawaiian slack key leads to down-home blues  – Jim Caligiuri. Austin Chronicle   Ahrens has performed in musical theatre in Alan Govnars (Documentary Arts) production of Blind Lemon: Prince of Country Blues as a featured guitar player, as well as touring Europe with notable singer-songwriters Tish Hinojosa and J.T. Van Zandt.  With Music as a full time focus, food and the enjoyment of the culinary experience lies just underneath the surface for Adam and his affinity for Catalan culture have always been a necessary stop while traveling Europe. “Paella has become a right of passage for Chefs and enthusiasts alike’ and Mr. Ahrens pulls no punches when cooking, designing or savoring this Spanish hallmark.

Dustin McCartneyPLU JUDGE 2008-2015, 2017

Dustin is an enthusiastic paellero with an insatiable appetite to learn about all things food, cooking, and beverage.  Since his first backyard paella experience well over a decade ago, he never tires of seeking the ever elusive perfect socarrat.

Memories of his grandfather BBQing chickens beneath an old pecan tree over a small cinder block fire pit resonant more now than ever before.  “It’s the only thing he ever cooked and when it was time to eat the whole family devoured them.  I never fully understood the peace, joy, and satisfaction of his ritual until I started cooking paella.”

When he’s not thinking about his next trip to Spain, Dustin works at Pecan Street’s Pike Powers Lab in Austin.


Originally from Charleston, SC, Jody has called Austin, TX home for more than 10 years.  Prior to refocusing on photography a few years ago he worked as a writer and editor and as a one-man documentary film production company that had no financial future whatsoever.  He studied English (BA) and Ethnology (MA) and would go back to school to study architecture if the human lifespan was longer. His interest in culture led him to travel extensively and to live in Southeast Asia and Costa Rica, but he is glad now to live in the middle of the most badass state in the country.


Tim Holloway is a 20-year veteran of the Austin food and wine scene. After stints at such Austin Stalwarts as The Bitter End, Mars, and Twin Liquors, he is now in sales with the D&E Fine wine team at Southern-Glazers Wine and Spirits. When he is not smoking Memphis-style ribs or studying for his next wine certification, he enjoys camping and giving his daughter wagon rides around the neighborhood.

PEGGY HANLEY – Paella Lovers United Judge, 2016

peggy-hanley-headshot-262x272Peggy Hanley is the Executive Director of The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, located in Austin with a chapter that serves the High Plains region.  She grew up in Waco, Texas, coming to Austin in 1999 to attend the University of Texas, graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism. With more than 13 years of experience in the nonprofit industry, Peggy previously served as director of development for St. Michael’s Catholic Academy, focused on cultivating major gifts and planning for a multi-year capital campaign. She has also worked with St. Francis School, United Way Capital Area, and Cathedral School of St. Mary. Peggy earned her Master of Art degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2011. Outside of work, Peggy enjoys spending her time with her dog, Charlotte, and her large extended family and friends — mainly enjoying the incredible wine and food in Austin.

COUPLE IN THE KITCHEN – Paella Lovers United Judges, 2016

Gavin Booth & Karen Reinsberg are Austin-based influencers, home cooks, and img_5780restaurant connoisseurs. Avid travelers, they enjoy taking trips to discover the best food this world has to offer. Follow their journey to learn about new restaurants, discover fantastic food and cooking products, & try their new recipes.

SANDI REINLIE, Paella Lovers United Judge, 2016

Sandi Reinlie currently is the pastry chef-partner for Paloma Austin, a culinary wellness company that provides organic Mediterranean meal delivery services.

Reinlie grew up in Florida working in her family’s restaurant business, where at age 12 her first tasks were making pizza dough and washing dishes. She spent countless hours in her grandmother Beverly’s kitchen enthusiastically watching as her grandmother transformed basic ingredients into delicious sweets. After relocating to Texas with her family, Reinlie graduated from pastry school in 2008 and worked her way up to become the Executive Pastry Chef at Walton’s Fancy and Staple, a gourmet bakery owned by Sandra Bullock.

Having a deep love of the Mediterranean, Reinlie finds traveling a powerful stimulus for creating. Since 2009 she has worked with Austin based culinary tours company Petite Peche, where she teaches hands-on pastry instruction for tour guests. The tours allow her to work in France and Italy’s most celebrated food and wine regions, exposing her to an international culinary art scene, while working with some of the finest seasonal ingredients. On the tour, Reinlie created a rosemary & Provencal goat cheese cake recipe which was published in the September 2013 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

Between culinary tours, Reinlie served as pastry chef at Chef David Bull’s Second Bar + Kitchen, creating their fall pastry menu in 2011. From the summer of 2012 through 2014 Reinlie was the pastry chef at Vespaio and Enoteca, located on eclectic South Congress Avenue, the restaurants are long-time favorites of locals and visitors alike.

Austin Chronicle Food Editor Virginia B. Wood gave Reinlie’s lemon panna cotta from Vespaio the number one spot on her Top 10 Sweet Bites of 2012, calling it an “elegant offering” and a “transcendent sweet bite.”  In 2013, Reinlie participated in Dinner Lab, a member-based social dining experiment that puts undiscovered chefs center stage, and gives the adventurous diner access to the “chef’s table.” Reinlie was part of the 2013 and 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival “Chef’s Showcase” and “Sips & Sweets.”

Brandon Watson, Food Editor | Best of Austin Editor, The Austin Chronicle, PLU Judge, 2016

JUAN CARLOS FLORES, Paella Lovers United Judge, 2016

Juan Carlos Flores studied Hotel Management in Mexico City, continued his studies in Monte Carlo and stayed to become a sommelier in Nice. Worked at the Hotel of Paris including “Le Louis XV” of Chef Alain Ducasse and one more year in Paris at the Hôtel de Crillon. Eight years as Corporate Sommelier for the group Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts & Spas in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, one more year as Wine Director for Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas. In 2004 he won best sommelier in Mexico and represented his country in world competitions in Greece 2004, Buenos Aires 2009, London 2013. Recognized by the AAHS with the five and six diamonds awards.  Today he is living in Austin Texas, love brought him to town, he is looking for new goals, new friends and just want to continue enjoying life by learning something new everyday. His favorites activities are traveling, meeting interesting people, sports, music, photography and obviously the world of food and beverages specially if it’s a classic dish or drink that reflects the origin, sense of Terroir.

VB headshotVALERIE BROUSSARD– Paella Lovers United Judge, 2015

A Louisiana native, Valerie Broussard spent 11 years in New York City as a chef, food stylist and writer. She then completed an MA in Food Culture and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences near Parma, Italy before moving to Austin.  Valerie joined Barr Mansion as Organic Food Coordinator, then W Austin as Starwood’s first Forager, sourcing local ingredients from nearby farms and ranches, along with cheeses, cured meats, grains, and even hot sauce from artisanal producers.  In December of 2013, she formed V. Broussard Consulting, offering F & B sourcing and purchasing support to restaurants, caterers, artisans, and retail concepts, along with sales and marketing strategies to farmers and value-added producers.  She volunteers as Slow Food Austin’s Biodiversity Chair and is a member of the Austin chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier

JOE ANGUIANO – Paella Lovers United Judge, 2015

Executive Chef Joe Anguiano comes from a long line of cooks, and his heritage, combined with his extensive travels, has helped hone his culinary craft and philosophy, one that emphasizes cultivating relationships with local farmers and purveyors in order to craft food that highlights sustainability, freshness and flavor. Originally from Los Angeles, where
his family’s revered tortilla factory gave him his earliest lessons in Mexican cooking, Anguiano received his formal culinary training at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif.Later, while working at Bistro 45 in Pasadena, Anguiano grew his passion for fresh ingredients as the food purchaser, often buying the freshest locally grown products from the local farmers market. Anguiano’s knowledge of preparing seafood grew under the tutelage of Chef Michael Cimarusti at the Water Grill in Los Angeles. A move to New York City landed him an enviable position at the acclaimed Le Cirque 2000, where Anguiano continued to refine his classical French culinary techniques. His later positions as sous chef under Chef Remi Lauvand at Montrachet, and at Miró, the flagship fine-dining restaurant at the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara that he helped open, further contributed to Anguiano’s well-rounded culinary experience.Anguiano’s next move, across the pond to Spain, allowed him to hone his expertise in traditional Basque cuisine at Zuberoa, an acclaimed two-Michelin-star restaurant. And his travels throughout Spain and France provided ample experiences with the regions’ lauded cuisine and wine. After returning to the U.S., Anguiano secured a position as sous chef at Los Angeles’ Patina, a well-regarded restaurant pioneered by Chef Joachim Splichal, and later as the executive chef for several area restaurants. He also worked as a top-notch caterer for the film industry in Los Angeles before working with celebrity chef José Andrés on the opening of the much-lauded SLS Hotel/Bazaar Restaurant in Beverly Hills, a boutique hotel that afforded Anguiano the opportunity to manage several food outlets.Upon moving to Austin, Anguiano served as the executive chef at Eleven Plates & Wine in Davenport Village, where his experience and passion for food received much recognition from local and national press outlets. As the executive chef of VOX Table, a New American-style restaurant focused on handcrafted small plates highlighting farm-to-table
ingredients, Anguiano is determined to surprise Austin diners with unique and flavorful dishes using the best ingredients Texas has to offer.

KAREN LEE, Paella Lovers United Judge, 2015

Owner, Cowgirl Brands, LLC; Partner, Texas Olive Ranch

PAULA DISBROWE– Paella Lovers United Judge, 2014

Paula Disbrowe is the editor-in-chief at Tribeza, Austin’s leading arts and culture magazine. Most of her career has been devoted to writing about food and travel. Her stories have taken her to vanilla plantations in French Polynesia,single malt distilleries in Scotland, olive groves in Spain, and salmon boats in Alaska. She is currently a contributing editor at Southern Living magazine, and her work has appeared in The New York Times (Dining Section and Sunday Magazine), Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Health, Delta Sky, and Texas Highways,among other major publications, and she previously served as the food editor of Restaurant Business magazine.

Disbrowe has written four cookbooks. Her first book, “Cowgirl Cuisine,”chronicles the adventure of leaving New York City to cook on a ranch in TheTexas Hill Country. She has co-written three other cookbooks, “Crescent CityCooking” with Susan Spicer, the chef at Bayona restaurant in New Orleans; The New York Times bestseller “Down Home with the Neelys” with Food Network stars Pat and Gina Neely; and “Real Cajun” with Donald Link, the acclaimed chef of Herbsaint and Cochon restaurants in New Orleans, which won the prestigious 2010 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook.

She also served as the General Manager of Feather Down Farm Days,and launched the Europe-based farm stay concept to the U.S. market, and worked at Cowgirl Chef at Hart & Hind Fitness Ranch. She lives in Austin, Texas,with her husband David Norman (head baker and partner at Easy Tiger Bakeshop and Beer Garden) and two young children.

MICK VANN– Paella Lovers United Judge, 2014
Food Writer Austin Chronicle, Food Blogger,  Cookbook Author, Restaurant Consultant, Food Dude, Horticulturist (UT School of Biological Sciences)

SCOTT KAPLAN – Paella Lovers United Judge, 2014Scott Kaplan
I’m a born and raised Austinite. Ive been working for the Fox Family for over 5 years.  In that time I’ve cooked thousands of paella. I am passionate about cooking and especially cooking the food of Spain.

Jim AlcinaJIM ALCINA – Paella Lovers United Judge, 2014
Former Paella Lovers United winner and amateur chef of all things Paella. As a first As a figrst generation Spaniard, I grew up with Sunday afternoon Paella’s.  Trips to Spain and the watchful eye of my mother, born and raised in Pego Spain, fed my passion for creating Paella’s that would draw my family and friends together for informal gatherings.  Twenty-five years later and hundreds of Paella’s, I’m always on the lookout for something new for the tradition I love…Paella!


ADDIE BROYLES – Paella Lovers United Judge, 2013
As the food writer for the Austin American-Statesman, Addie Broyles writes about everything from farmers and up-and-coming chefs to food trends in Austin and beyond in a weekly column and blog called Relish Austin. When she’s not chasing after her two young sons, the Ozarks native and University of Missouri graduate writes about women and food at TheFeministKitchen.com and is the advisory council chair of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. Addie is spearheading an Austin Food Blogger Alliance community cookbook that is slated to come out in April 2013.In 2011, Addie was named by Tribeza magazine as one of the top 10 Austinites to watch and was voted the top food writer in the city by the Austin Chronicle. She recently won the National Headliner Award for special or feature column on one subject by an individual, and her freelance work has appeared in Dwell and the Guardian.You can contact her at broylesa@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @broylesa.

SARA MCINTOSH – Paella Lovers United Judge,  2013Sarah McIntosh

Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, chef and owner of epicerie Sara McIntosh had always loved blues and soul music, LSU football, and particularly, the culture of food in the southern and Cajun cuisine-rich state. Her family was very much food-oriented and celebrations were often met with great food and wine. With the ability to express creativity in a culinary profession, McIntosh was inspired to take her passion to the next level.

McIntosh developed her culinary skills at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Austin, TX where she graduated first in her class. She worked at the renowned Bouchon and Ad Hoc in Napa Valley, served as the sous chef at Austin’s beloved Olivia restaurant, and a few other small restaurants during her ten-year tenure in kitchens. Eventually, she brought her own vision of an uncomplicated cafe and grocery in one, with epicerie, which roughly translates to “grocer’s shop” in French and is popular in various parts of Europe and Louisiana. With the restaurant, Sarah is able to bring the simplicity of delicious French Louisiana fare that she became so familiar with growing up in Louisiana while providing the perfect neighborhood spot for those living in the Rosedale areas. Patrons can always expect something new and fresh from McIntosh, from her mouth-watering boudin, to the housemade, seasonal pasta–one will never tire of her ever evolving menu.

When not in the kitchen, McIntosh can be fourn eating out, gardening and haning out with her husband Jackson and her dogs Kiki and Layla. She loves having parties, crawfish boils, or really, celebrations for any reason.

JOHN GEHRING-LIKER – Paella Lovers United Judge since 2009

John grew up helping out in the kitchen; his father, a Croatian immigrant, became a butcher’s apprentice at age 11 so he wouldn’t ever have to worry about having food to eat. Food was taken very seriously in John’s house.

John began cooking while in his early teens, then got really serious about it when his wife (now known as the most glorious spousal unit) purchased a decent set of cookware. John says, “Being a home-builder by trade at the time, I knew about the importance of good tools, but it never dawned on me that the same held for tools used in the kitchen.”

Although he owns more than 200 cookbooks, he reads them for inspiration rather than cooking by recipe. He’s outfitted an outdoor patio kitchen for the specific purpose of cooking and hosting. He says, “The bottom line is that I love to cook … and I really enjoy the smiling faces I often see when folks consume the food that I prepare.”

Recruited by Head Judge, Emmett Fox, this is John’s first year to judge for Paella Lovers United’s paella cookoff.

LUKE HURSEY – Paella Lovers United Judge since 2009

Six years of professional cooking, last year and a half paella chef at FINO Restaurant. He has cooked over 300 paella’s in the last year alone.


Our Original Judges who have moved on but to whom we are always grateful!

Lucia Osa-Merlo – Paella Lovers United Judge since 2002Lucia

Born in the heart of Paella country, Lucia Osa-Melero hails from Cullera, Spain in the   Valencian province.  Lucia is the latest incarnation in a long line of chefs and restaurateurs.  She began working along side her mother, father and brother in the family’s restaurant business when was she 16 years old.  The family restaurant provided Lucia with an excellent environment to perfect her cooking skills and gain a culinary education in traditional Valencian cuisine.  Currently residing in Austin, TX, she continues to hone a generations old traditional paella recipe.

Michael Krasnick – Paella Lovers United Judge since 2002

Mike has been with Paella Lovers United since its inception. He was enthusiastic right from the beginning and has contributed numerous ideas to help make our event even better. Unfortunately, Mike passed away mid 2008. He will be sadly missed.