A native of Chicago, Neal Swidler brings more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry to Berg Hospitality Group (BHG) as the Culinary Director, where he leads menu development for all existing and future restaurant concepts, oversees kitchen quality assurance and assists with hiring efforts of kitchen staff. Known for his bold flavor combinations that are unpretentious and approachable, Chef Neal specializes in building environments that utilize excellence and autonomy to enhance staff performance. With a proven track record of creative menu development and a vast portfolio of personally designed cuisine, his experience and numerous accolades make him a wonderful asset to the BHG team.
Prior to moving to Houston to join BHG, Chef Neal hailed primarily from New Orleans, working in executive-level positions at some of the most acclaimed kitchens in the area. Most recently, he served as the Culinary Director for Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, overseeing the culinary development of all five of their locations (New Orleans, Gulfport, Mandeville and Pensacola). From 2017-2020, Neal served as Executive Chef for the Nopsi Hotel in Nola, where he was responsible for all food and beverage for the luxury historic boutique hotel.
In 2014, he was brought on as the Executive Chef at Broussard’s to help modernize the menu and revitalize interest in one of the original New Orleans “grand dames” of creole dining. During his time there, Neal was a featured chef at the James Beard Foundation Dinner (French Creole, Modern Classic) in 2015 and named one of the 2016 Best Chefs of Louisiana for which he was honored with an invite to be a featured chef representing Gulf Coast Seafood at the National Department of Commerce Dinner for 2,000 guests in Washington, D.C.
In 2012, Neal founded his own concept, Lucky Rooster, an original casual Asian dinery in downtown New Orleans, where he served as the Executive Chef. During this time, Lucky Rooster was awarded “Best Asian Mash-Up” by New Orleans Magazine and Neal was the winner of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” Season 6.
During one of the most defining parts of his career, Neal spent nearly a decade at Emeril Lagasse’s iconic New Orleans restaurants, serving as chef de cuisine at both NOLA and Delmonico from 1995-2004. During his time with Emeril, he was featured in his cookbooks “Prime Time Emeril” and “From Emeril’s Kitchens” for his work on food styling and recipe development. In 2004, Neal founded and operated NHS Restaurant Consulting, which specialized in assisting unique start-ups and multi-unit concepts with menu planning, culinary cross-training and facility design.
A dean’s list graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Neal began his career with a six-month teaching fellowship, which further refined his culinary skills while gaining top-notch perspective under the direction of his instructors, including the acclaimed James Beard award-winner Janos Wilder, a chef-proprietor in Tucson, Arizona. Neal also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from The University of Arizona.