Executive Chef, South Congress Hotel
Originally from Olympia, Washington, Chef Sarah Mar-Chun started her culinary career in Austin, Texas in 2013. She began her journey when she joined 24 Diner as a Dishwasher, where she first realized her love for the culinary scene by playing a role and witnessing how a “real” kitchen operated. She knew then she wanted to learn, grow and eventually, become an Executive Chef herself.
Working her way up from Dishwasher to Lead Line Cook at 24 Diner, her passion for the industry began to build momentum. She took her culinary curiosities to Hopfields as a part-time Cook where she had the freedom to work in a creative environment and fell in love with fermentation + pickling. During her time at Hopfields she worked her way up to Chef De Cuisine and began to explore cuisines from all over the world. She then originally joined the South Congress Hotel culinary team as Banquet Chef for the hotel's main F&B program. In the beginning of 2019, Mar-Chun was promoted to Chef de Cuisine at Central Standard, the former bar & grill located at the hotel. Her seasonal comfort food driven menus and atmosphere fostered a place of community before and during the pandemic. Whilst taking a pause from restaurant life, this Mom of (soon to be) two strong daughters focused her crafts on curating nutrition driven postpartum meal programs. In late 2022, she rejoined her community at the South Congress Hotel as the Executive Chef.
At South Congress Hotel, Mar-Chun oversees culinary operations and direction for the hotel’s events and in-room dining programs; award-winning Lobby Bar; pool bar; onsite restaurant Café No Sé; and savory elements at Mañana, the hotel’s onsite coffee shop. Her direction for the culinary program is relaxed but polished, a place you can dress up or dress down, and comfortable for all. Through the various menus, Chef Mar-Chun seeks to showcase the melting pot & eclectic backgrounds of her team and the city in the food itself, backed by easy service and fare that feels like an Austin fusion — a little Tex-Mex, a little Southern, reflective of the city and the people who work and live here.
“One thing I love about food is no matter where you go, it creates a sense of community — whether you’re the one making the food and finding the community within your kitchen team, or going out to eat with your friends. It’s always nice to see the work you put in the kitchen being translated on the other side, seeing people dining and laughing and enjoying what you’re putting out. I always dreamt of being an Executive Chef when I was in the dish pit, but beyond that, along the way I learned that what’s most important is to elevate and showcase my team and their work, because that’s what’s going to keep us going, staying relevant and fostering our craft with others.”
Pastry Chef, South Congress Hotel
Raised in New Braunfels, Texas, Chelsea Smith’s upbringing and family was all about food and time spent around the table, with her parents often cooking at home and spending quality time together during family dinners. Smith developed a love of pastry from fond memories of baking with her grandmas — Nani, the queen of cookies, and Oma, who always had bread and sheet cakes to snack on or bake together.
Upon completing the Le Cordon Bleu pastry program, Smith worked in several bake shops around Austin including the University of Texas, Central Market Bakery and Quacks on 43rd. In 2015, Smith joined South Congress Hotel as part of its opening team, studying under New Waterloo Corporate Executive Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman and previous Pastry Chef, Lindsay Flagg.
Leveraging talent, discipline and leadership skills, Smith has worked her way up to now serve as Pastry Chef, overseeing the South Congress Hotel pastry program. As Pastry Chef, Smith loves leading with creativity in developing seasonal pastries and gives each member of the pastry team an opportunity to have a say in developing new delicious treats around the property.