Buttacavoli was the chef de cuisine at SideBern’s for eight years under Jeannie Pierola, and at her Ybor City restaurant, Boca, before joining Cena. More recently he’s spent time at the Seminole Hard Rock, ending as chef at Council Oak. He’s got chops, and perhaps more importantly from all that time spent with Pierola, he has the good sense not to try to be all things to all people, but rather to offer a short, idiosyncratic menu of items you won’t find everywhere other than at Cena.
Ava is Joshua’s first head chef gig and he was on the project for about a year before Ava opened. Prior to that, he was cooking in Los Angeles for five years. He was really lucky and got to cook for some really great chefs and concepts. Early on he got hooked up with the Sprout group, which at the time Bill Chait was in charge of, and he’s been described as the Danny Meyer of the West Coast. He actually got to open a bunch of restaurants in L.A. under that umbrella.
Johnson began his career in the modern Mediterranean kitchen of Layla under Chef Frank Proto. At Layla, Johnson was introduced to and influenced by the fresh ingredients and cooking styles of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. After a stint at Layla, Johnson worked in the popular kitchen of Montrachet where, as he assisted the pastry chefs and plated amuses nightly, he learned, from Chef Chris Gesualdi, how a high volume, fine dining kitchen could be organized for maximum efficiency. While at Savoy, under Chef Peter Hoffman, Johnson was exposed to premium products in their natural state. This was the essence and focus of Hoffman’s cuisine; great ingredients prepared simply, allowing their natural flavors to shine.