LAWRENCE KOCUREK, Chef De Cuisine
Chef Lawrence Kocurek is currently the chef de cuisine at TRACE, located at the W Austin in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Over the course of his culinary career, Kocurek has worked alongside famed chefs such as David Bull and Roy Yamaguchi, and apprenticed with such chefs as Rocco DiSpirito, David Bouley, and Pierre Schultz. He has held positions in the kitchens of Austin’s Stories, Roy’s, Driskill Hotel Grill Room, Gumbo’s Louisiana Style Café and Entrée Catering, as well as Roy’s New York and Compass in New York City.
As a personal passion project for the classically trained chef, Kocurek opened his own business, Kocurek Family Charcuterie, in 2009. He served as chef de cuisine at Stories Restaurant at Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa Austin before coming to TRACE. Kocurek comes on board at the helm of the TRACE kitchen bringing with him a unique arsenal of skills and relationships that weave seamlessly into restaurant’s concept.
Kocurek studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and began his introduction to culinary arts at Austin Community College. He and his wife Lee Ann met while attending culinary school. They currently live in Austin with their son Lawrence Kocurek III.
JANINA O'LEARY, Executive Pastry Chef
Janina O’Leary is no stranger to the world of fine pastry. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute with a Grand Diploma in Pastry Arts, O’Leary stepped out the classroom and into her training under Laurent Tourendel in 2004 at BLT Prime in New York City. Following her time at BLT Prime, O’Leary had the opportunity to work in some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens, including three Michelen star restaurants Daniel and Per Se. Working under culinary giants, Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller respectively, O’Leary mastered the art of pastry in fine dining establishments which primed her for her New York Times four-star rated restaurant, Del Posto.
Her talents were in demand outside of the restaurant as well. In 2009, she consulted on recipe development and photography for a Martha Stewart cookbook. O’Leary opened New York City’s Village Tart as Executive Chef before heading back to her native Texas to assume the position of Executive Pastry Chef at Trace at the W Austin. Having been mentored by greats like, Chef Sebastian Rouxel of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, O’Leary gained exceptional expertise that supports her passion for great desserts. She is an incredible talent offering incomparable sweets as part of the “conscious cuisine” concept of Trace. O’Leary was named a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist in 2013 for “Rising Star Chef of the Year”.
VALERIE BROUSSARD, Forager
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 in Parma, Italy before moving to Austin, where she most recently was the Organic Food Coordinator at Barr Mansion and volunteers as Slow Food Austin's Biodiversity Chair. Valerie joined W Austin as Forager, sourcing local ingredients from nearby farms, and cheeses, cured meats, jams and even hot sauce from artisanal producers.
CHRISTEN WERTH, Specialty Restaurant General Manager