From cutting his teeth at the award-winning Tuscarora Mill and Atlanta’s ONE Midtown Kitchen to carving out a place for himself in the competitive Los Angeles food scene, to an outright victory on Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen, Kyle Schutte’s rise to culinary prominence has been a wild ride.
He thrives on innovation, forging new trends that keep even the most seasoned diners guessing, and has garnered much praise and recognition for his refined, contemporary style. His perspective on what makes great food is a delicate balance of apparent contradictions: It should be fun, yet sophisticated... Innovative, yet familiar... Humane, yet accessible… But it is precisely this strange amalgamation that fosters the adventurous flavor combinations and artistic plating that defines his style and distinguishes him from his contemporaries. Praised by foodies and food critics alike, we are thrilled to let Kyle unleash his creativity at BESA. His menu will take cues from the history, art, culture, people, seasons and agriculture of Detroit, as well as the myriad of culinary influences he encountered during his journey across the United States. Time-honored cooking traditions, cutting edge techniques and artist plating will all play a role in delivering one of Detroit's most exciting menus.
Born and raised in the New Orleans, Louisiana area, John Cooke earned his stripes working for famed Chef, Emeril Lagasse. He spent nearly 12 years at Emeril’s Nola Restaurant in the French Quarter, which has been a community staple for more than 25 years.
There, John’s remarkable attention to detail and passion for the art of serving helped him move through the restaurant’s ranks quickly, and in December of 2014, he became the Front of House Manager and Assistant Sommelier. He continued his study of both wine and the art of 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. The next year, he relocated to Michigan to spend more time with his girlfriend, Jenny, and their dog Lucy. After working with Mario Camaj at Tallulah, he shifted his focus to BESA, where he is now working alongside Chef Kyle Schutte and managing partner Gerti Begaj to bring the restaurant to life. As Sommelier, he will work with Chef Kyle to create perfect wine pairings that will delight BESA guests time and time again.
Originally hailing from the Albanian Coast, Gerti Begaj moved to the Detroit-area at age eighteen to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering. While attending Wayne State University, he took a job as a Server Assistant, working under Mario Camaj at Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro.
Mario saw innate talent in Gerti, and soon became a mentor to him, supporting and advancing his interest in wine, food and hospitality business. Within a year, he promoted him to Server, and to Floor Manager the year after that. His steady progression up the management ladder of Tallulah gave him the opportunity to influence the wine list and build meaningful relationships with the Tallulah clientele. In December of 2016, Mario approached Gerti with the chance to become Managing Partner of BESA. In this role, Gerti will take his leadership to the next level to create an unforgettable dining experience through his passion for service, and refined approach to fine cuisine.
Nestled among mountains and medieval villages, the breathtaking Adriatic Coast has long enchanted visitors from around the world. But for Mario Camaj, it was simply home. He grew up in a warm household, surrounded by generations of family who share the northern Albanian heritage he still holds close to his heart.
That home welcomed family, friends and new guests alike, to share in the simple pleasure of a homemade meal crafted by his mother, complimented by wine made by his father and grandfather. In his early twenties, he moved to the United States and began his professional journey at Andiamo, where he worked as a server’s assistant under acclaimed Metro Detroit Restaurateur, Joe Vicari. There, he tapped into a passion for service and hospitality that had been with him since those warm evenings spent around the family table. In 2009, his talent caught the eye of Mindy Lopus, who recruited him to work at Birmingham’s Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro. He was quickly promoted to manager and even helped Lopus open yet another local favorite, Bella Piatti. Mario bought Tallulah from Lopus outright in 2013 and, under his leadership, it blossomed into one of the city’s most popular dining destinations. From utilizing his sommelier expertise — honed on the family vineyard — to uniting the flavors of his native home land with Chef Kyle Schutte's culinary creativity, to building on a reputation of exceptional service, BESA represents the culmination of Mario’s talent, passion and heritage in one unforgettable experience.