Vanessa & Atilio

Five years ago, I met Vanessa in a kitchen where I was the Executive Chef, and she was the Pastry Chef. After many hours working together in a big corporate hotel kitchen, we found love.
Today we are married!

COVID arrived with all its challenges, and we lost our job. We started to think about what we wanted to do. We went through many different concepts until we decided on the Mexican concept. Many of my friends encouraged us to pursue it, telling us we could add our spin to things. Although my wife and I were born in Venezuela, I briefly lived in Mexico when I was younger. I studied culinary in Mexico, and the culture always stayed with me.

We chose the name "Machine Gun" (Machine Gon), so it would sound good in English and Spanish, and the logo is our Bull Terrier.

Working on our own has been very different from the corporate restaurant world. Back in the old kitchen, we had around 25 cooks working with us. The good part is that we get to return to the kitchen and do everything with our hands, reconnecting differently with the kitchen.

In our new space, we had to learn to work together as a team since it's just us 24/7. In the kitchen, we leave the relationship at the door and become teammates.

Up to this point, the concept has worked well for us. Ideally, we'd love to continue growing and expand the business into a complete Mexican restaurant.


I’m 32 years old. I was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years.

I grew up in my father’s restaurant. One of 4 of my grandparents’ Chinese restaurants and the place where my love for cooking began. It was also my first kitchen job. I learned a lot about working with my family and the business side of the operation during my time there. I’ve worked every position you can in a restaurant. I started washing dishes and peeling carrots when I was young, serving in the dining room, delivering takeout, and working the line alongside my father and uncle. Eventually, I went to work at other professional kitchens and fine dining restaurants, taking with me the work ethic I learned in my father’s family restaurant—an essential factor to my success in the industry.

During those early days, I remember one time when I was 18 when I was being taught to make ice cream, and I had no idea how to make it. The Chef verbally walked me through the process and asked me to add the mixture to the Bain Marie. I didn’t know the term, and I poured the mixture directly into the simmering water. Thankfully, he was forgiving and understanding.

You have to love it to want to be in this profession. It’s a career choice that’s driven by determination and endless hard work, and perhaps, it’s less rewarding than other careers, but what it does offer is infinite creativity and the excitement of having people be excited to enjoy your food. Being able to invoke joy and emotion and tell an entire story with a well-constructed and designed menu is one of the things I love. The competitiveness, the chance to constantly evolve, gaining inspiration from other Chefs, and the creative freedom are the things that keep me here. Still, there's a lack of health care, real-life living wages, reasonable hours, actual holidays, and respect for mental health. All crucial things, I hope, won’t continue being overseen as it has up to now.

Thomas Graham

I started cooking after my parents got divorced when I was like 14. My mom became depressed and stopped cooking for my sister and me, so I kind of picked it up when she stopped and ended up really enjoying it.

I fell in love with the idea of nourishing other people.

A day I will never forget was when our hot water pipe burst into a wall and flooded the kitchen with hot water. We probably should have closed immediately, but we had some really important guests, so we kept going, boot deep in the water to finish service. There is a lesson about perseverance in there somewhere, but in hindsight, it does seem a little silly.

Remember, you are only as strong as you can make your team.

Interview and shot by Shabnam Ferdowsi official HOTK reporter in Paris.

Magda Gegenava

I started cooking when I got married. As I have a big family, I always had to cook a lot. When I moved to Paris, cooking became my profession because it was impossible to find work as a dentist. One day, I received a proposition from Refugee Food to work as an amateur chef in the restaurant "La Residence" for 6 months. I accepted the position with pleasure. There, I learned how to transform home dishes into real gastronomy.

After this experience, I was ready to start my own business, so my partner and I opened our small Georgian restaurant.

In France, the most difficult thing for foreigners is the French administration system in business. Switching careers wasn't a problem for us because we always cooked well. The only thing left was to divide our time between family and work. Working in the food industry, we had the chance to practice the French language, and our cuisine and culture became more popular among our customers. Our most important achievement was that we were able to propose Georgian gastronomy in the style of street food. Before us, that didn't exist.

Interview and shot by Shabnam Ferdowsi official HOTK reporter in Paris.


I started my culinary journey at 17 and graduated with a degree in hospitality and culinary. Afterwards, I worked in Michelin star restaurants and "bocateria's" to opening my first restaurant at 25.

My restaurant served traditional Mediterranean food in a traditional kitchen with formal service for the customers, presenting them with simple dishes as something very special, but in a quiet and casual setting. All of it changed when the Russian-Ukraine war started. Price inflations ignited the restaurant wars. Everything became too expensive and I decided to leave Europe because the situation worsened day by day.

A job offer to be an Executive Chef brought me to New York. Now I’ve been living in Miami since October, and honestly? I’m happy here.

Along my journey, I believe a good restaurants depends on how you sell it and the value and story that you give to the food that people are going to buy from you. Anchovies are the same here as they are in Spain. It’s the same product, but what matters is personal perspective and unique touch you give to it.


I started in the bakery world in Venezuela, where I worked, and own 2 bakeries. I have a total of 18 years of experience in the business.

Even though I moved to the United States and have been here for the last 2 years, I still own my bakeries in Venezuela. I left my personnel well trained and they work from here. At night, I do administrative work, but the remainder of the operation is done by my team in Venezuela.

The experience here has been incredible. It 's unique. Working artisanally to create different amounts of bread for large quantities is a work that requires coordination, rhythm, and time! Everyone is coordinated, and the personnel functions beautifully. Also, the recipes are genius!

The pastries here are different from Venezuela. They lean more towards a European style, while the ones in Venezuela are much sweeter. Even if you have a business and you think you have all figured it out, it is always good to gain new experiences and perspectives.



I found myself in the kitchen because I needed a part time job while I was in school studying creative writing. I applied for a front of the house position and told them I made Challah every week. I didn’t know anything about baking except what I did at home.

They asked me to come in and start baking and I never left. I quit school because I didn’t think it was going anywhere.

I’ve been here since around 2015. It’s my 4th time coming back. I fell in love with this place and I think it’s a great stepping stone for people wanting to learn the basics and fall in love with the process. The people here keep me coming back. No matter who’s here, this place just attracts a nice group of people. Whether it’s front of house packing, or pastry, there’s always a unique group of people who are always very friendly and nice. It has a good sense of community.

I’m currently in school for cosmetology. I don’t want to stop baking, but I do want to pursue other options. One of my main goals is to be able to work from home, or close to home, once I have kids. Working in a bakery just doesn’t allow for that. I think that by doing hair I might be able to work from my house and make my own schedule. It’s good to always have a plan B and think on your future.

Yana Lacusta

I was born in Ukraine in the city of Chernivtsi.

I’ve loved cooking since I was young, but it never crossed my mind growing up that I could do it professionally. It wasn’t until recently that cooking began to be viewed as a profession in Ukraine. While I was finishing school, I started seeing modern restaurants opening up, one of which was run by my aunt. Through her, I had the opportunity to see the other side of the kitchen: modern dishes, incredible food, the latest equipment, and chefs who were real artists and creators. Those images will forever stay with me.

One of my biggest achievements happened at 21 when I became the Chef of a large three story restaurant with a high turnaround. I had previous experience with high turnaround restaurants, so the decision to place me at the head wasn’t a mistake. I worked very hard, and in those 3 years, my life changed completely. I became stronger mentally and physically.

During that time, I also learned the importance of creating a proper team. A team that sticks by you when times are tough and who wants to work with you and learn from you. A team that can keep the kitchen running properly when you are not there, and when you come back after a day off, they’re eagerly waiting for you with sincere smiles and sparkles in their eyes.

As Ukrainian chefs, we are uniting and reviving our dishes and traditions. Everyday finding more value in who we are and what sets us apart. After the victory - very soon, we will be able to share with the whole world our knowledge and techniques of how we work with our products and prepare our authentic dishes. The war in our country divided our life into before and after. It has been a year since our country has been torn apart by a fratricidal senseless war, but the attack of a neighboring country on us makes us stronger and more united.


I’ve worked everywhere, from fast food restaurants to massive Stadium and Hotel operations. But you’ll find me here on my days off - serving food on the street from my tent. This is where I feel good, where I feel good about what I serve. This is better than all that processed shit we’re usually served.

This is real food that everyone can feel good about. Fast food restaurants are all popping up, and grocery stores are closing. It’s hard to compete with that. I know a lot of places where the food quality is poor, but they don’t care. These people call themselves chefs but refuse to cover a dishwasher or prep cook’s shift if they call out.
To be a good chef to be a good restaurant manager, you have to be willing to face the same pressure as the rest of your team. You have to be ready to get into the weeds.
When you’re looking for an experience, learn about the chef and his craft, and understand why you’re paying what you’re paying. But if you’re looking for a quick meal, don’t go to a chain; visit your local street vendors.


I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, but I’ve been living in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the past year.

I started in the kitchen as an escapist from my original role as a Doctor. I remember watching Chefs on TV and wanting to feel the rush and the emotions of the kitchen. The passion grew, and it soon became my lifestyle, so much so that I’ve been in the industry for ten years. What I love most about this is getting to express myself through food. I ended up studying culinary at the Dominican Culinary Institute and UNIBE University.

Seeing the satisfaction of the dinner guests and the way I’m able to continue creating is what keeps me going. For me, time stops once I step inside the kitchen. It becomes just me, my team, and the tickets. The power to create, transmit and have a rush at a particular time is fantastic.

My first job in the US marked me forever. I got to earn the respect of all the Americans that mocked me because I was the foreign guy who didn’t speak the best English and couldn’t express myself well. The day I became the Executive Chef, and everyone was happy and proud of me will forever be etched into my mind.

This goes with an important lesson: hard work pays off. Dream big. I always encourage people to try. “You don’t lose anything trying or asking about something.” One thing I would like to see less of, though, is perfectionism. It’s all about flavor, fun, and the idea of delivering something unique.

My final advice to cooks would be: Love and believe in what you do.