Nicholas Stefanelli is the chef and owner of Masseria in Washington, DC. Stefanelli grew up in suburban Maryland with a strong influence coming from his close relationship to his Greek and Italian grandparents whose culinary heritage was a fact of life. Visiting Puglia, the source of his Italian roots, Stefanelli became enchanted by the masseria, centuries-old agricultural estates whose residents worked the land, created their own food, and hosted visitors, neighbors, and friends with great warmth. Striking out on his own and building his culinary career in the Nation’s capital, Stefanelli was determined to recreate that sensibility in his first establishment. The result is Masseria.
Since his very first job gutting salmon at a fish cannery, Alaska native David Kurka has been more or less immersed in the food service industry. He gained his wine expertise working with top professionals in the area, including John Wabeck at Inox; Jaime Lang at Brasserie Beck; Matt Carroll at Brabo; Andy Myers and Jarad Slipp at Cityzen; and Kathy Morgan at Range.
A native of Hull, Quebec, Julien-Pierre Bourgon resorted to creating his own cocktails when he realized that the local bars were not producing drinks like Mama used to make. He got his professional start learning from Stefan Trummer, a veteran of the cocktail revival movement, and went on to America Eats Tavern, José Andrés’ project in partnership with the U.S. National Archives, where he was immersed in classic American cocktails.
Sous chef Sean Tener has had the advantage and the pleasure of spending most of his career in the kitchen alongside Nick Stefanelli. Their friendship and familiarity has been a boon to Masseria from the beginning, creating a welcoming atmosphere and ensuring that the kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine: one that’s amped up on creativity, adrenaline, and a shared love of the Italian classics and modern, inventive culinary riffs.
Turner Jenkins is, by his own definition, the ‘baby’ in the Masseria kitchen. A 2010 graduate of L’Académie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, he stayed on at Bibiana working with Nick Stefanelli after a six-month internship, and has been learning from him ever since. Jenkins hails from a Seattle-based family of world-travelers, and brings a global perspective to his cooking. The traditions and details of Italian cuisine appeal to him deeply; he especially enjoys making pastas, and seafood butchery and production. The intimate scale is what excites him about Masseria, and the level of refinement that scale allows on each plate.
When Ben Plyraharn was a child, his mother, a cook in a Thai restaurant in suburban Maryland, would bring him to work, where he’d watch all the activity from his seat atop a milk crate. That was likely the last time this energetic young chef sat still in a professional kitchen. After earning his Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts that the Art Institute of Washington, Plyraharn quickly joining the team at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca alongside Stefanelli. Now, as a sous chef under chef Stefanelli, Plyraharn is proud to be part of the team that earned one of the first Michelin stars in the nation’s capital.
Pastry chef Jemil Gadea is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan and a graduate of that city’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. He has worked at Wolfgang Puck’s establishment in Downtown Disney and, in Las Vegas, at Spago, at Jean-Louis Palladin’s Napa, and at Picasso at the Bellagio. For over three years prior to the opening of Masseria, his desserts complemented Nick Stefanelli’s Italian cuisine at Bibiana.