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

Tiago Battastini - 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 is 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 position at SDSU Dining. Chef Tiago oversees the restaurants’ day-to-day operations, is closely involved with providing personalized food options for students with unique dietary needs, and leads food-oriented outdoor workshops for students, faculty, and staff.

Tiago is married with three kids and enjoys outdoor activities with his family, including barbecuing on the weekends!

Enrique Hernandez - Executive Chef, Snapdragon Stadium

Chef Enrique

Growing up in a culinary Hispanic family, Chef Enrique inherited skills, knowledge, and passion for food at a young age. He ultimately decided to enroll at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he received his degree in Culinary Arts.

Chef Enrique took on a position as a cook in Las Vegas, where he met one of his mentors, Chef Carlos Vargas. Under Chef Carlos' supervision, Chef Enrique excelled through his externship and became a Specialty Line Cook in the world renowned “Top of the 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 and the San Diego Padres where he oversaw Suites and Concessions. He later took his skills and knowledge to San Francisco to help open the state-of-the-art Chase Center for the Golden State Warriors.

Chef Enrique was soon offered a promotion to become the Executive Sous Chef back at Petco Park where he helped oversee all Concessions, Suites, Clubs, and Catering. After the pandemic, he was given an opportunity to be a part of another major opening at Snapdragon Stadium as the Executive Sous Chef where he would be responsible for building the infrastructure for all culinary areas. Enrique was soon promoted to the Executive Chef and now oversees all culinary operations throughout the stadium.

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, holding every position that the industry has to offer. From dishwasher and busboy and bar back in his early, formative years to his current role heading culinary for SDSU's Faculty-Staff Club, he has run the gamut and learned the business from pure experience and hands on work.

Chef Bill has opened at least eleven restaurants in the San Diego area and a few more in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Chef Bill has been involved in openings that included obtaining permits, completing kitchen designs, writing menus, and hiring and training staff in addition to daily operations and administrative duties. Notable San Diego venues where he was "opening" chef include: The Prado at Balboa Park, Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, On Broadway Event Center, Belo Nightclub, Decos Nightclub, Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits,  and The Lafayette Hotel.

His culinary career began in Denver, Colorado at the Loews Giorgio Hotel where he won employee of the year. Chef Bill attributes his success to the undivided attention froim the chefs that trained him and the owners and proprietors’ that put their trust in him to get restaurants up and running. Owing to his innate love of cooking. he enjoys keeping up with the industry through trade magazines as well as thorough research and development.


Fernando Abad - Chef De Cuisine

Chef Fernando

Chef Fernando Abad was born and raised in Juneau Alaska and he started his culinary career at the age of 12 in his family’s restaurant 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 through four years and two deployments to Iraq, moving up the ranks to Sergeant. 

After completing his military career, Fernando was first a cook and then Café Sous Chef at Morongo Casino Resort and Spa outside Palm Springs. Fernando continued his education at The Art Institute of California- Inland Empire where he graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Food science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Management.

 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 spending six years at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, Chef Fernando joined SDSU Dining as the Chef De Cuisine of The Garden Restaurant, where he brings bold flavors utilizing simple and fresh ingredients.

Ryan Tuskan - Executive Sous Chef

Chef Ryan

Chef Ryan has been with 386 Hospitality at Snapdragon Stadium since its first ticketed event in the Fall of 2022. He had previously worked with the team’s Executive Chef Enrique Hernandez at Petco Park and knew this was the role for him when he heard through a mutual friend that Chef Enrique was staffing up in the kitchen.

Starting at fifteen years old as a dishwasher. Chef Ryan has steadily moved up the ranks after attending the Art Institute Culinary School. In 2010 he was named best young chef in the U.S. by Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. He is trained in the classic French culinary tradition, starting with his grandmother who took him under her wing as a kid in the family kitchen.

Chef Ryan’s favorite menu item to prepare is lamb on an open rotisserie. The dish brings him back to his childhood and he cooks it for family to this day at every special occasion and celebration.

Born, raised, and continuing to reside locally in Pacific Beach, Chef Ryan still surfs as much as he can between raising his three children and coaching little league baseball.

Miguel Mejia - Chef Manager, UTK

Chef Miguel

Chef 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 SDSU Dining. Chef Miguel comes from a culinary family. His mother owned her own restaurant in Tijuana where his uncle was a chef.

Continuing to create a better guest experience through culinary excellence and growing UTK'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."

Benjamin Castaneda- Catering Chef

Chef Ben

Chef Benjamin Castaneda is currently the Catering Chef for SDSU Dining.
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," says Chef Ben, "and you will never have to work a day in your life!”