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Nick Geftos

Executive Chef

As a local family man, it is safe to say that Nick Geftos has finally returned home at BESA. His culinary adventures took him traveling and tasting across the country to Las Vegas where he expanded his knowledge on the fundamentals of Cuisine. Chef Nick is highly dedicated to the perfect plate.

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The focus of his creations is the perfection of presentation and the journey of the products that he sources giving the familiar and far-fetched flavors guests crave.Nick’s story starts in Detroit with the Tallulah family of Birmingham. Starting as Sous Chef he worked his way to Executive Chef because of his authenticity, technique, dedication, and approach in each dish. After dedicating five years to Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro, Nick worked as Chef De Cuisine at Iridescence of Motor City Casino for two years. Chef Nick’s homecoming at BESA will help him and the eatery accomplish their goals of giving guests the culinary experience that they crave and will continue to venture back for.




Born and raised in New Orleans, John Cooke worked for famed chef Emeril Lagasse at his NOLA Restaurant in the French Quarter for nearly 12 years, quickly rising through the restaurant’s ranks to become front of the house manager and assistant sommelier.

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He continued his study of both wine and fine dining under the tutelage of Wine Spectator grand award-winning sommelier Steve Russett, which earned him a promotion to sommelier at NOLA in 2017. Soon after, John relocated to Michigan where he met Mario Camaj and began working at Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro in Birmingham until he moved to BESA upon the restaurant’s opening. As sommelier, John coordinates with executive chef Kyle Schutte to create perfect wine pairings for guests dining at BESA.



Managing Partner

Gerti Begaj moved to Detroit at the age of 18 to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, and while attending Wayne State University, he was hired by Mario Camaj as a server assistant at Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro in Birmingham, where he discovered his love for fine dining.

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Mario saw innate talent in Gerti, and became a mentor to him, supporting and advancing his knowledge of food, wine and the hospitality industry. Within two years, Gerti had earned a promotion to floor manager of Tallulah, and in 2016, Mario approached him with the opportunity to partner in opening BESA. Gerti now strives to create an unforgettable dining experience for guests at BESA through his passion for service and unique approach to fine dining.



Managing Partner

Mario’s professional journey began as a server assistant under acclaimed Detroit restaurateur Joe Vicari, where he discovered his passion for service and hospitality.

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In 2009, his talent caught the eye of restaurateur and sommelier Mindy Lopus, who recruited him to work at Birmingham’s Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro. Mario was quickly promoted to manager and later helped Mindy open yet another local favorite, Bella Piatti. Mario purchased Tallulah from Mindy in 2013 and, under his leadership, turned it into one of the city’s most popular dining destinations. Mario now seeks to utilize his experience as a successful restaurateur and sommelier— honed on his family’s vineyard in Albania — to bring an exceptional and unique dining experience to guests at BESA.