Faculty at The Culinary School of Fort Worth

All of our professionally trained faculty instructors are chefs with experience, food knowledge and the ability to teach and inspire. Students spend time with these chefs, learn their tips and “chef secrets” and receive mentoring to learn how they can become successful in the culinary world. Networking is of high-value when developing a culinary career and this is the perfect chance to meet local chefs and food leaders and develop relationships in the culinary world. All of our faculty have the heart of a teacher, have a high appreciation of excellence, and enjoy a passion for the culinary industry.

Brad Waier

Director of Education

Chef Brad Waier began his training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and later graduated from The Culinary School of Fort Worth. He has also traveled to Italy as an ambassador for the school to aid setting up the Italian Exchange program for The Culinary School of Fort Worth. Chef Waier specializes in bread and pastry arts, and is inspired by other culinarians such as Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and Thomas Keller.

Mark Hitri

Chef Instructor

Chef Mark Hitri has worked as a chef instructor for The Culinary School of Fort Worth and has worked as a Chef de Cuisine and Executive Chef at numerous high ranking restaurants including, Saint’-Emilion, Vidalia’s, and Renaissance Worthington Hotel. Having worked in the culinary industry for over 25 years, Chef Hitri specializes in classic French cuisine, and looks to the culinary masterminds such as Daniel Boulud and Jacques Pepin for inspiration.

Lauren Buffa

Chef Instructor

Chef Lauren Buffa attended Texas A&M University and received her Bachelor’s of Science in Health. She later attended The Culinary School of Fort Worth and completed the Professional Culinary Program.

Edward Gutierrez

Chef Instructor

After his early start working in restaurants and hotels in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, Edward fell in love with what the culinary world had to offer. After several years in the industry he found a mentor willing to teach him everything she knew and share her experiences. Edward then traveled to Paris to work under a M.O.F. to broaden his knowledge. After his time in Paris, he came back and started to work in high end restaurants and other like establishments. After several years of being back state side he decided to join the United States military. Edward joined the Navy as a Culinary Specialist and got to travel the world again. Japan had a huge influence on his life while being stationed there. When he returned from his call of duty, Edward began to refine his skills further by taking on more complicated roles as a consultant and mentor and executive chef. After taking in so much from the industry and growing and learning the craft, Edward is passionate about being able to give back to the same community that gave him his start!

Adjunct Faculty

Jeffrey Thompson

Chef Instructor

Maddie Sharp

Chef Instructor

Carl Phillips

Chef Instructor

Carl Phillips here, and I am the Pastry Chef at the Petroleum Club of Fort Worth. I have been there for over 19 years, have won a few awards, and have been featured in the Dallas Morning News as well as the Fort Worth newspapers. I love being able to teach The CSFTW students many of the advanced Baking and Pastry skills I do on a daily basis. My favorite thing about my career is being able to create what I have in my imagination.

D'Ann Spraggins

Chef Instructor

As a Texan who was born and raised in Fort Worth, I am happily married to my greatest fan, Keith Spraggins, who has supported me throughout my culinary journey. I enrolled in the Culinary School of Fort Worth in September 2013 at the age of 47 and graduated with honors in December 2014. I worked as a Chef Assistant at the school for a year and became an Adjunct Chef Instructor shortly after. Currently, I am the Executive Chef at Clearfork Academy and also have a catering business called D’s Cuisine, that I pursue as a side business. I love everything culinary and hope to continue in this field for a long time.

Ched Pagtakhan

Chef Instructor

Advisory Board

James Morris


The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel

A native Texan, James was born in Plainview and grew up in Del Rio and Corpus Christi. Attended college at Texas A & M University in College Station. He began cooking professionally in 1980, moving to the DFW metroplex in 1987 where he was Executive Chef at the Turtle Cove Restaurant, then at the Dallas Parkway Hilton and Metro Hotels Corp. James moved to Fort Worth and the Worthington Hotel in 1990. He is the recipient of numerous awards, both corporate and association related. An avid gardener, fisherman, and believer in sustainable methods of farming and ranching, James is a staunch supporter of the Slow Food Movement and of using and supporting local producers. An award winning home brew maker, he knows his way around a bottle of wine as well, and is always on the lookout for the “perfect margarita.”

Deb Cantrell


Protein Fit Kitchen

Chef Deb Cantrell is a #1 Amazon bestselling author of “So You’re a Chef Now What?” sought after speaker and dietary consultant who has worked with celebrities such as Glenn Beck, Vernon Wells and Prince Fielder, transforming their lives-along with 5,000 other families in the DFW area, through her food.

Deb has spoken and appeared across the country as a keynote and featured speaker at the United States Personal Chef Association, the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Texas Chef Association, the American Culinary Federation and the eWomen Network, to name a few.

She has made TV appearances on CBS, NBC and Good Morning Texas and her health-related articles have been published in prominent publications like Fort Worth Magazine, Indulge Magazine and Star-Telegram.

Chef Deb has been in the culinary industry for 15 years and has operated five different successful culinary businesses including her current personal chef business, Savor Culinary Services.

Aside from running her personal chef company, Chef Deb has been coaching chefs for 10 years and formally launched “Chef Deb” her culinary business coaching business in 2015, where she continues to help chefs grow their business and inspires them to think big in the world of culinary.

Eric O'Connor



Name: Eric Matthew O’Connor
Birthday: November 24, 1977
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York
Other Places Lived: Charlotte, NC; Cary, NC; St. Augustine, FL; Fort Worth, TX
Married to: Allison Bishoff O’Connor (10/1/05)
Children: Ethan Michael O’Connor (10), Chloe Elizabeth O’Connor (8)
High School: Northside Christian Academy, Charlotte, NC (1995)
College: Belk College of Business, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (2003) BSBA, In Business Management
Culinary School: The Culinary School of Fort Worth (2012), Culinary Arts Degree
Work Experience:

  • Multiple Line Cook Jobs (1995-2003) Longhorn Steakhouse, East Side Mario’s, Houlihan’s
  • Kitchen Manager to General Manager to Managing Partner, Chili’s (2003-2010)
  • Saltgrass Steakhouse, Kitchen Expo (2010-2012)
  • Executive Chef/General Manager, Winslow’s Wine Café (2012-2016)
  • Chef de Cuisine, HG SPLY CO (2016-Current)
  • Member of Advisory Board for The Culinary School of Fort Worth, (2015-Present)
  • Class Instructor, The Culinary School of Fort Worth (2015-Present)

Hobbies/Activities: Hunting, Sport Shooting, Travel (Been to 18 States, and 8 Foreign Countries)
Favorite Beverage: Macallan 15-year Single Malt Scotch
Favorite Dish: Pad Thai
Favorite Sport/Team: Football-Buffalo Bills