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Chef Virginia Dalbeck, one of the four highly skilled owners of the restaurant, was indeed a competitor on the show. In fact, she was the runner up on Season 2, quite an honor. The other three owners of Cork and Pig Tavern are Chef Felipe Armenta and Chef John Nestor, who have both been in the restaurant business for many years, as well as Ed Buenaventura who has extensive experience in managing restaurants.

Chef Dalbeck says the motivation to become a chef came from her sister. She didn’t know what she wanted to do, but her sister told her that she had always enjoyed cooking. So she decided to attend the culinary school in her home state, the Hotel Restaurant Culinary School in Santa Barbara, California. It was there that she had the special experience of cooking for Julia Childs, a world renowned chef. She was able to take a picture with her too.

About her school experience, Dalbeck says, “I really liked it and enjoyed it, and I knew I could get a job right away and wouldn’t have to struggle.”

Having finished school, Chef Dalbeck lived and worked in Los Angeles, New York and Florida, gaining more and more knowledge and experience, before she ended up in San Angelo, TX, where her friend and business partner, Felipe lived. During her time in Los Angeles, she visited a pizzeria named, Pizza Mozza, which was an Artesian-style restaurant. The owner, Mario Batali, introduced her to the artesian practice of brick oven pizza. This experience became the inspiration behind the food served at Cork and Pig Tavern.

When asked how she and her partners chose the location, Chef Dalbeck responds, “The opportunity to open this restaurant just kind of fell in our laps. A good friend made us an offer we couldn’t refuse on this building, which was once an old gas station. We thought it would provide a casual, gastro pub feel that we wanted, so we jumped on the chance.”

The restaurant does a great job of providing that exact feel, offering a very cozy and relaxed atmosphere. Along with amazing pizzas, the menu offers traditional cuisine with a personal flair to it. Cork and Pig Tavern also offers a full bar with special cocktails made from fresh ingredients and homemade juices. One popular drink is the Jalapeño Margarita. It has a lovely bite to it. The restaurant also serves a variety of local craft beers and has an extensive wine list. In fact, Dalbeck took classes to expand her knowledge of different wines.

When it comes to being a chef and restaurant owner, Chef Dalbeck says, “I try to follow this advice; be kind, be persistent and never work a day in your life by doing what you love. And I absolutely love what I do.”

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