Master Chef Paul Elbling

Chef Paul medalsPaul Elbling was born August 1940 in Alsace, France. In 1953 Paul started a three year apprenticeship, after which he began getting practical experience by working in several well known places including the Summer Season at the famous Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France. From September 1959 through August 1962, Elbling was in the French Army during the Algerian War. In 1962 he became Chef at the DAS ALTEN GOLDEN KREUTZ in the posh resort city of Baden-Baden, Germany. In 1964 Chef Paul received his European Master Chef Degree. Paul married in France and came to the United States in 1967 where he served as Chef in the Restaurant Chez Francois in Washington, D.C. Later he served as Executive Chef in the Washington Hotel until 1970 when Chef Paul moved to Richmond, Virginia, where he was owner and Executive Chef of La Petite France. Assisting Chef Paul in the kitchen is his culinary team from the Knights of Columbus, a group of dedicated volunteers he has trained throughout the years in his style of cooking authentic French cuisine. Chef Paul has been with the French Food Festival from the very beginning in 2009.



2018 Festival Chefs

***Master Chef Paul Elbling has been with the RVA French Food Festival since the beginning, and his dishes are a staple of the event, developing a loyal following that return year after year. As the festival continued to grow over the years, other Chefs from around the Richmond area have joined our French Food Festival family to serve up some fantastic dishes based in classical French cuisine.

Chef Michael McClure

Mike M photo

Chef Michael McClure began cooking in Baltimore in 1984, and learned classical technique at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC. Over the last three decades he has worked in many fine restaurants and hotels, including Bistro Bobette, Chez Max, La Grotta, and of course Balliceaux, where he was when he first joined our team last year. Chef Michael made the move to Shockoe Bottom where he is Executive Chef at Lulu’s, where you can see lines out the door on the weekends as eager masses make their way in for their famous brunch. Chef Michael has been with the RVA French Food Festival since 2015, and has graciously offered his services for the Little Sister’s booth at the International Food Festival in previous year’s as well. We are so glad to have him back for our 10th Anniversary!




Chef Mike Ledesma

Chef Mike L photoIn 2000, Mike Ledesma’s career shifted from desk to kitchen after securing a financial advisor position in Oahu, 5,000 miles away from his Baltimore home. He unexpectedly found his passion for cooking in Hawaii and enrolled in culinary school where he graduated class valedictorian. As the son of Filipino immigrants, Ledesma grew up around food. Now, as he masters New American cuisine, he plans to also showcase his cultural heritage through dishes such as pork barbecue with homemade marinades and the classic Filipino spring rolls called lumpia. Ledesma pulls inspiration from culinary travels from Hawaii back to the East Coast. After a stint as sous chef for “Iron Chef” Roy Yamaguchi, he moved to West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort. He returned to Maryland to work the kitchens of Roy’s, a Yamaguchi restaurant, and Woodberry Kitchen. Following a move to Richmond, Ledesma landed his first assignment opening The Hard Shell’s second location in 2011. Two years later, he opened the Belgian-inspired gastropub, Max’s on Broad. Next, after leading a menu relaunch at Patina, he earned the restaurant acclaim as one of the city’s top 10 dining establishments in Richmond Magazine. In 2015, he made a return to The Hard Shell’s parent company, Richmond Restaurant Group, as corporate chef. There, he led operations, managed menu development, and trained the culinary teams of each restaurant. His first restaurant, Perch, opens in May 2018. Chef Mike first volunteered his talents at the French Food Festival in 2015.


Chef Sean Murphy

Chef Sean Murphy, a native of Richmond and graduate of Benedictine, has spent the last decade fine tuning his culinary palate and creativity, leading to the successful opening of fan favorites F.W. Sullivan’s in 2009 and Lady N’awlins in 2011. Sean began his culinary career from the ground up at the prestigious four diamond AAA rated The Fox Head Inn in Manakin Sabot, with his fundamental Chef training in classic French cuisine. Sean has been recognized as one of Richmond’s top three Chefs by Style Weekly’s annual “Best & Worst” editions in 2011 and 2012. His restaurants were also recognized in several top three ranking categories, “Best Undiscovered Restaurant,” “Best Overall Bar,” and “Best Bar Food,” to name a few. Ranked as an “In Town Chef that belongs on Top Chef” in 2011, Sean has left his position as Executive Chef of The Savory Grain Restaurant & Drafthouse to pursue his own catering business with his wife Tanya, spending his time outside the kitchen with their young son Patrick. Sean has been with the French Food Festival since 2011.


Chef John Maxwell

Chef John Maxwell has been a fixture in the Richmond culinary scene for more than 40 years. Beginning with Maxwell’s on Patterson, his family’s restaurant, his career has included stints at some of the city’s most exceptional hotels and restaurants. In 2003 he returned to school to complete degree work in teaching and in hospitality management. He graduated from VCU  with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 2006 and earned his Masters Degree in Hospitality and Tourism from Strayer University in 2009. Chef Maxwell has worked closely with the Virginia Department of Agriculture to encourage the development and marketing of Virginia products throughout the United States and in more than a dozen foreign countries. He has cooked and demonstrated Virginia products in Asia and Europe, working with restaurant chefs in Moscow, Brussels,  Tegucigalpa Honduras, Tokyo, Busan and Seoul South Korea, and Hong Kong. The chef has taught Culinary Arts at the University level in Norfolk, Richmond, and Jacksonville, Florida. He currently is on the staff of Stratford University as an adjunct Professor. He has earned the titles of Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator from the American Culinary Federation and is a member of the American Academy of Chefs. Chef John Maxwell currently spends much of his time writing. He has written two novels related to the life of Christopher Columbus. The first, Susanna, Mother of Columbus was published in 2015 and the second, Phillippa, Wife of Columbus, is in final editing and will be available shortly.

Chef William Erlenbach

Chef William photoA native of Indiana, Chef Erlenbach developed a passion for the Culinary Arts at a young age while working at a true farm to table restaurant and a butcher shop.  He attended Johnson and Wales University where he studied Culinary Arts and Culinary Education.  He has manned the stoves in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Richmond.  Chef Erlenbach has served as Executive Chef for in Fine Dining Restaurants, Large scale Catering Operations, Exclusive Inn’s, Large and Small Hotels as well as Restaurant Groups. Chef Erlenbach has specialized in opening, re-launching and consulting during his tenure.  Chef Erlenbach has also served as Chef and Wine dinner Expert for numerous wineries throughout Maryland and Virginia.  Chef Erlenbach has served as Executive Chef for US Open and US Senior opens.  He has competed and earned medals in International Culinary Competitions including the Culinary Olympics and Hotel Olympia.  Chef Erlenbach is currently the Associate Director of School of Culinary and Hospitality for Stratford University’s Glen Allen Campus.  His other interests include food science, fostering local sustainable cuisine, bee keeping and heritage cuisine.