Meet Our Chefs - The masterminds behind SDSU's culinary delights

Chef Tiago - Executive Chef, Campus Operations

Chef Tiago

Chef Tiago Battastini came to the US from Porto Alegre, Brazil, in the early 2000s.  He started as a line cook in New Jersey at a fast-food restaurant, not knowing that this would lead to a lifetime career.

Moving to California, Tiago continued working in various upscale restaurants and casinos, learning all aspects of the kitchen.

He earned several certifications, including a culinary degree from Grossmont College and an ACF-certified Chef de cuisine. The Chef's Celebration Foundation nominated him as a San Diego rising star Chef in 2012.

Tiago worked as a Sous Chef, Chef de cuisine, and Executive Sous Chef before accepting the Executive Chef of Aztecs Shops position at SDSU. Chef Tiago oversees the restaurants’ day-to-day operations, is closely involved with providing personalized food options for students with dietary needs, and leads food- oriented outdoor workshops for students, faculty, and staff.

Tiago is married and has 3 kids, and he enjoys outdoor activities with his family and, of course, barbecuing on the weekends!

Chef Enrique - Executive Chef, Snapdragon Stadium

Chef Enrique

Growing up in a Hispanic family who often cooked, Chef Enrique inherited skills, knowledge, and passion for food at a young age. Proceeding a culinary career came automatic and he knew he had to attend further education so decided to enroll at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he received his degree in Culinary Arts.

He took on a position as a cook in Las Vegas, NV and met one of his many mentors “Chef Carlos Vargas.” Under his supervision he excelled through his externship and became a Specialty Line Cook in the world renowned “Top for World Restaurant” at The Stratosphere Resort & Casino where he learned the art of Fine Dining.

Years later he landed a Sous Chef Position at Petco Park San Diego Padres for Delaware North where he oversaw Suites, Concessions and traveled with the company assisting other accounts throughout the country, including cooking for the San Diego Chargers ownership for 2 seasons, this is where he learned the business of sport service dining. He took his skills and knowledge back to San Francisco to be a part of the Chase Center project (a state of the art arena).

As a Sous Chef he helped build and manage the infrastructure of over 40 different Concessions locations. Not long after, he was offered a promotion to become the Executive Sous Chef back at Petco Park where he helped oversee all Concessions, Suites, Clubs, Catering, Padres Ownerships, and other premium locations. After the pandemic, he was given an opportunity to be a part of another major opening at Snapdragon Stadium for Aztec Shops as the Executive Sous Chef where he would be responsible for building the infrastructure once again for all culinary areas. Enrique was soon promoted to the Executive Chef and now oversees all culinary operations throughout the stadium.

Chef Bill Gnam - Sous Chef, Faculty Staff Club

Chef Saul

Chef Bill Gnam has always had one maxim in his long and productive career. “Always create trends, never follow them.”

Chef Bill has been in the hospitality industry for over 28 years, working in some capacity in every conceivable position that the industry has to offer. From dishwasher and busboy and bar back in his early, formative years to corporate executive chef and food and beverage director in his current years, he has run the gamut and learned the business from pure experience and hands on work.

His culinary experience in San Diego certainly speaks for itself. Mr. Gnam has opened at least eleven restaurants in the San Diego area and a few more in Los Angeles and Long Beach. His experience in opening new properties has led to a very multi- faceted education in a very broad spectrum. Mr. Gnam has been involved in openings that started with the first shovel of dirt and seen them through to opening night. Obtaining permits, complete kitchen design, menu writing, staff hiring and training, daily operations and administrative duties are all just a small part of the broad knowledge of Chef Bill.

Chef Gnam has contributed to the success of many restaurants in San Diego. Some of the most notable being opening chef at The Prado at Balboa Park, Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, On Broadway Event Center, Belo Nightclub, Decos Nightclub, Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits, The Lafayette Hotel…the list goes on. Some of these San Diego Favorites are still running, for the most part, the original menus he wrote for them.

His culinary career began in Denver, Colorado at the esteemed Loews Giorgio Hotel where he won employee of the year in the first year that he was employed. Hard work, enthusiasm and tenacity certainly payed off for this talented chef who went from dishwasher to Corporate Executive Chef in a scant 13 year period. Chef Gnam attributes this fast track rise of success to his undivided attention to the Chefs that trained him and the owners and proprietors’ that put their trust in him to get restaurants up and running. He also attributes his success to studying his profession on his own time and keeping up with the industry through trade magazines, heavy research and development and an innate love of cooking.

Chef Gnam has proven experience in every facet of restaurant & hotel openings and operations. His experience brings a fresh vitality to the daily operations at Faculty Staff Club.

Fernando Abad - Chef De Cuisine

Chef Fernando

Chef Fernando Abad, was born and raised in Juneau Alaska, he started his culinary career at the age of 12 in his family’s restaurant called “Oriental Express”, which focused on authentic Filipino cuisine. Upon graduating High School in 2006, Fernando enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and continued his culinary adventure as a Food Service Specialist. Stationed in Twentynine Palms, CA. for 4 years and 2 deployments to Iraq. Fernando moved up the ranks as Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.

After his military career in 2010, Fernando started working in Morongo Casino Resort and Spa. Starting as a cook in the buffet, he then moved into Cook Chill production and lastly to Café Sous Chef. Fernando continued his education by attending The Art Institute of California- Inland Empire in San Bernardino, CA. After 3 years of college Fernando graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Food science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Management.

After having worked in This High-Level Casino for 5 years, Fernando relocates to Pechanga Resort located in Temecula, CA. Where he worked as a Sous Chef in the Café for 3 years then as a Sous Chef at the Lobby Bar & Grill for 1 year. Due to the Pandemic in 2021, Fernando Reopened the Kelsey’s Sports Bar as the Chef where he reconstructs, coordinated, and organized the kitchen from the bottom up. Lastly Fernando undertakes his culinary levels to the fine dining restaurant as Sous Chef of The Great Oak Steak House in 2022.

After 6 years at Pechanga Chef Fernando goes a different route in his career and Begins his Journey at San Diego State University as The Chef De Cuisine of The Garden Restaurant. Where he brings bold flavors, utilizing simple and fresh ingredients.

Miguel Mejia - Chef Manager, UTK

Chef Miguel

Miguel Mejia is the UTK Chef Manager. A 26-year food industry veteran, Miguel previously worked as a chef at the San Diego Country Club before arriving at Aztec Shops.

Chef Miguel comes from a culinary family. His mother owned her own restaurant in Tijuana and his uncle who brought him into the business is also a chef.

Continuing to create a better customer experience through culinary excellence and growing Faculty-Staff Club's harvest-to-table program is just part of Chef Miguel's vision. "I love making friendships through cooking," Chef Miguel says. "I hope to be doing that here for a long time to come."

Jessica Wylie - Senior Pastry Chef

Chef Jessica

Jessica Wylie is the Executive Pastry Chef of the SDSU Dining Bakeshop. Trained in the classical style by an Austrian Master Pastry Chef, Jessica started with SDSU Dining in 1997 as a scratch baker and quickly transformed the bakeshop with her innovative pastry recipes.

Jessica says the highlight of her job is student satisfaction. “I like to make people happy,” she says. “Hearing from someone that they really enjoyed our latest croissant? That’s all I need.”

A San Diego native, Jessica has been involved in the local culinary scene for over 25 years. Using all natural ingredients and classical methods, Jessica is committed to bringing the best quality products to SDSU.

Benjamin Castaneda- Catering Chef

Chef Ben

Chef Benjamin Castaneda is currently the Catering Chef for Aztec Shops SDSU.
He brings over 20 years of culinary expertise and experience from some of the
best resorts in San Diego, including five years as a Banquet chef at Paradise
Point Resort, two years as a Senior Banquet chef for the Intercontinental Hotel,
and over 13 years as a Sous Chef and Chef at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Chef Ben has two teenage daughters who support his passion for cooking.
When Chef Ben is not preparing delicious meals on our campus, he enjoys
cooking breakfast, especially pancakes, for his family and hanging out with his
dog Smokey.

“Choose a job you LOVE, and you will never have to work a day in your life”