Meet the 2017 Chefs


Matthew O’Brien, Executive Chef

The Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill

Representing cuisine from the United States of America


Matthew has been involved in the food industry for 32 years, having been inspired by his Nana and the awesome smells that emanated from her busy kitchen.  He knew by age 14 that he wanted to be a chef.  Matthew attended Scottsdale Culinary in 2002, and has prepared fine cuisine at some of the best restaurants in the metro.  He has a love of southern comfort food, and his specialty is a Cajun shrimp and potato soup.  A personal desire t o help people encouraged him to participate in the Comfort Food Classic.

The Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill is as American as it gets.  The building has a historic past, being originally constructed in 1883 as a grocery store.  Through the years it has housed several saloons and grocery retail and wholesale entities (and a of course a mattress factory), and in 2007, true to elements of its food, drink and mattress history, it became The Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill.  The building, located at 501 N. 13th Street, is steeped in historic memorabilia, and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.


Shambhu Singh, Owner & Chief Cook

Amit Singh, Manager

Maharaja Indian Cuisine

Representing cuisine from India

Shambhu has been in the business of making people happy with his food for 20+ years.  He is self-taught, and his fabulous Indian cuisine is filled with love.  He began cooking in the United States on the west coast, and in 2011 came to Omaha to introduce the Midwest to his Indian fare.  Amit says his father, Shambhu, is his biggest influence, and has inspired him to get into the business.  They have many specialties, but don’t leave without trying the Tandoori Chicken and the Chicken Tikka Masala.

Maharaja Indian Cuisine is located at 617 N. 114th Street.  Don’t be fooled by the tiny space  –  it’s loaded with big flavor and tasty dishes, and is well worth your  time to dine in, although they do have take out and delivery as well.


Nicholas Katis, Chef                                             


Representing cuisine from Mexico



Omaha-bred Nick Katis learned to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen.  Hailing from Greece, his grandmother taught Nick her “old-world” way of slow cooking and he’s been in love with food ever since.  Nick has been in the food industry 16 years, working his way from busser up to kitchen manager for Julio’s.  After traveling the world, Nick enjoys incorporating his love of adventure into his passion for cooking.  When he’s not in the kitchen, Nick can be found watching baseball and soccer.

Julio’s is locally owned and was established in the Old Market in 1977.  The restaurant is located at 123rd and Center, and has one of the largest selections of premium tequilas (over 50) in the Midwest.  On their menu you can find the Cowboy Enchilada, which they won with in the 2012 Comfort Food Classic enchilada competition.  “Whatever you come here for, there’s no question about it.  When you leave Julio’s, you’ll be happy.”


Jaime Ortiz, Head Sushi Chef

Ponzu Sushi & Grill

Representing cuisine from Japan



Jaime Ortiz has been creating breathtaking sushi at Ponzu Sushi and Grill since its inception 5 1/2 years ago.  Prior to that, he spent 4 years at Jimi D’s and 3 years in Acapulco, where he learned and perfected the very technical knife skills required to properly prepare fish for sushi and other fine cuisine.  When he’s not at Ponzu, he’s a single parent raising a 12 year old daughter and 11 year old twin boys.

Ponzu Sushi & Grill is located in Aksarben Village, 2110 S. 67th Street, Suite 102.  They have been creating sushi and other tasty dishes for 5 1/2 years, and is locally owned and managed.  Owner Jimi D., who also owns Jackson Street Tavern and yes, Jimi D’s, says he enjoys doing these competitions because it gives his restaurant exposure, gives him a venue to give back to the community, and at the same  time allows him to support the good work that Grief’s Journey does.


Jared Clarke, Executive Chef & Owner

Timber Wood Fire Bistro

Representing Cuisine from Italy


After earning a bachelor’s in Culinology (food science) from UNL, Jared traveled to Chicago and became a chef with Lettuce Entertain You, in the upscale Wildfire division.  After almost 6 years in Chicago, Jared and his family moved back to their roots in Nebraska.  Jared has worked in the restaurant industry for 19 years with stops at Blue Sushi as an executive chef and Blue Agave Mexican restaurant before he developed Railcar Modern American Kitchen and recently Timber Wood Fire Bistro.

Timber Wood Fire Bistro is the latest brainchild of Jared Clarke.  It is located at 8702 Pacific Street in Countryside Village.  Timber boasts a 900-degree, wood-fired oven in which most of its entrees are prepared.  Stop in and try some of the awesome cuisine – lamb meatballs, prohibition chicken, swordfish steaks, and a macaroni and cheese that’s a little taste of heaven.