Executive Chef & Partner
Texas-born Chef Wes Whitsell grew up on a rural farm just North of Dallas. Heavily influenced by his childhood spent fishing and hunting with his father, Chef Whitsell’s ability to perfectly capture the spirit of traditional Southern cooking leads to his mantra, “Things are going well as long as I never lose sight of where I came from.” His culinary career has seen him at Los Angeles’ Osteria La Buca, Blair’s, and Soho House New York, before becoming Partner and Executive Chef of Manuela.
At Manuela, Chef Wes channels his culinary roots and artisanal techniques of in-house smoking, fermenting, preserving and pickling and centers Manuela’s menu around locally grown produce, including herbs from the onsite garden, seafood and grass-fed livestock, thoughtfully sourcing each ingredient for flavor and seasonality.
Chef DE CUISINE
Christian was raised in both San Diego and Los Angeles. Throughout his career he worked for chefs Nyesha Arrington and Chris Crary. In 2013, Christian and Chef became friends after continually running into each other at local farmer’s markets, where they realized they shared a passion for locally grown organic produce. They've kept in contact over the years, and are now cooking together where Christian helps execute Wes’s vision.
PURCHASER & SOUS CHEF
Edwin, a native Californian, went to UCSD and the CIA. He began his culinary career in 2005 and has worked with Chefs Josiah Citrin, Dan Silverman, Mark Zeitouni, and Justin Smillie. Edwin was introduced to Chef while working in New York City. After a return to Southern California, Chef invited Edwin to join him at Manuela. He brings a vast knowledge of culinary skill & operations and has built great relationships with local farmers & purveyors. He is putting his economic degree to good use keeping the rest of the chefs in line.
Stephanie is excited to be opening Manuela as the pastry chef. Having worked with Christian Truong at Wilshire Restaurant and three other previous locations, Stephanie was introduced to Wes. The mix of classic and modern, the local ingredients, and the level of talent and excitement drew her in instantly. Her savory experience influences her desserts.
Amanda was born in Chicago to a Belizan father and a mother from Kansas. She grew up eating her father’s cooking from his homeland where Belizan culture celebrates food as an extension of life, love and family. After going to college to study business, she then relocated back to Chicago to attend the Art Institute for fashion marketing. Upon graduation, she realized she was destined to be in hospitality. Having been in the industry now for over 16 years and residing in CA for 10 years, she brings with her an experience in hotels, bars, fine dining and casual restaurant concepts. Amanda was introduced to Chef and was immediately inspired by his passion & talent. She shared in the ideal of inviting people into your “home” with extraordinary warmth and generosity.
ASST. GENERAL MANAGER
Opal's heritage is a huge part of who she is. Her mother is Thai and her father Cajun French. In both cultures, food is at the center of each family gathering. Her fondest childhood memories are of watching her grandmothers cook for the family. Opal attended Rollins College to pursue a degree in PR, but subsequently changed direction to attend Le Cordon Bleu and develop her love for all things food related.
Chef Wes and Opal were introduced through a mutual friend and instantly bonded over their shared views on hospitality. Her focus at Manuela is making sure both guests and staff feel like part of the family. Opal also loves discussing food trivia and keeping up on cultural food trends.
Niki has been working with cocktails for 12 years with two of those being spent with Chef Wes. Her cocktail philosophy is simple and ingredient-focused, which is an ethos shared with Manuela. Everything centers around the food, and it has been important to create a beverage list that enhances that.
Chef Wes and Niki share a passion for local farms and what they have to offer.
Photography: Jason Rowan