Meet the Bar Pastoral team:
Brooks Hart is chef at Bar Pastoral, and brings a cooking style that is product-driven, incredibly creative and approachable. With an appreciation for seasonal and handcrafted ingredients (including, of course, cheese), Brooks is passionate about creating dishes that encourage guests to explore their palates and the exquisite pairing potential of different foods--while also making guests feel relaxed and comfortable.
A graduate of The Art Institute of America and fresh face in Chicago, Brooks was most recently sous chef at Public Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and general manager at Sushi Zen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He brings a rare combination of both talented culinary and leadership perspective to Bar Pastoral.
After living and working in Milan, Italy for close to twelve years, Chicago native Valerie Thomas developed a passion for great food and wine. Leaving the modeling world behind; she studied and graduated from The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu). Her original intent was to become a chef but once she got some kitchen experience; she discovered it’s hot in there! Refocusing her attention to the front of the house, she found her true passion was to deliver an exceptional customer service experience.
Perfecting her skills as the Dining Room Manager at Charlie Trotter’s, Valerie came to understand the importance of taking care of and anticipating the needs of the customer. She has applied those principles at such diverse restaurants as RL, West Town Tavern, and Buca di Beppo. She comes to Bar Pastoral looking forward to making our customers feel at home.
Valerie likes to find and refinish furniture, interior decorating, and giving awesome dinner parties with her husband, Chef Kaminsky Thomas. Her motto is: Food is love, dessert is sex.
Beverage Buyer & Educator
A 10-year veteran of the wine industry, Mark Wrobel has worked as a wine distributor, in retail, and as a restaurant wine director. He is consistently on the lookout for exciting selections from classic and up and coming regions and brings this passion to his cultivation of the beverage program at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine. He looks to continue running a concise, yet accessible profile of beverage options focusing on small, family-run producers of distinct quality.
Mark’s industry experience began years ago when he took a job at Fox & Obel. On his third day on the job, after only minimal training, an Englishman came in and asked him a question about Condrieu — for which he had no answer. He had to go find the manager and missed out on a chance to chat with the actor Michael Caine.
He decided that day that he didn't care whether it was Michael Caine or a tourist looking for a bottle to take to a local BYOB; he didn't want anyone to ask him a question about wine that he couldn't answer.
Mark is still dedicated to finding and providing those answers and enjoys sharing what he has learned through the education of the staff at Pastoral.
Bryan is a career-changer that had a cheese epiphany after finding his way to Pastoral via the sandwiches. He took the Pastoral path, moving from sandwich bar to the cheese case where he bloomed as a cheesemonger. With a design background and deep passion for eating, a love for cheese and all things related grew naturally. He is constantly on the lookout for new cheese, interesting beverages, and the best potato chips money can buy.
Ken’s background spans from culinary to computers. He earned his BS from the College of William & Mary and is a graduate of New York’s Peter Kump Culinary School (currently known as ICE). He studied and worked under chef David Waltuck at the award winning Chanterelle restaurant in Manhattan’s Tribeca district. Additionally, Ken ran catering operations serving the entertainment industry and practiced restaurant consulting for several celebrity clients. He has always had a love of good eating and believes that the key to great food is simplicity and perfect preparation.
He used the other side of his brain to design high-level graphic systems on nuclear submarines, complex imaging systems in the world of real estate and title insurance and software for a large technology services company. He has a hunger for learning and is always trying and tasting new things! Ken serves as Pastoral’s CFO and CTO and is responsible for our physical plant and special projects.