Expert Panel

In 2006, Michael joined Mitch-Stuart, Inc. as SVP of Business Development, leading Mitch-Stuart’s charity and business partner division. Bringing more than 20 years of professional business development, leadership and management experience to the company, Michael spent the better part of his professional life in the mortgage banking industry in various sales and management positions. In particular, he was instrumental in helping his company open new territories in Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Louisiana and elsewhere throughout the West and South. Michael was responsible for new client acquisition and the management of many of Option One’s largest regional and national customers. During his tenure, national accounts grew in excess of 40% annually. Michael graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BBA in Finance in 1988. Michael is currently a member of Incentive Marketing Association, a charter member and current board member of IMA’S Incentive Travel Council, and former board member of Safe House Denver, where he helped develop their first Safe House Men Against Domestic Violence program.

Michael Upp

Christopher has been the Editor of the Newport Beach Independent newspaper since 2012, and co-writes the dining column called Off the Menu for the Newport Beach Independent with Catherine Del Casale. They have a website, facebook, Instagram and twitter under the name Off the Menu OC. Off the Menu OC won Third Place in the Best Food Blog category at the annual OC Press Club Journalism Awards. Christopher has written about food and wine for OC Metro, OC Wine, OC Menus, and other local publications. He is a member of the OC Press Club and the Southern California Restaurant Writers Assoc.  


Christopher Trela 

Leo Razo is co-founder and Executive Chef of Villa Roma Argentine & Italian Restaurant in Laguna Hills.   He came to the United States in the early 1990’s from birthplace in Jalisco, Mexico.  Before becoming the chef and owner of Villa Roma, Leo had shared his talents in well-known restaurants like Carmelo’s in Corona del Mar, Viva Italia in Laguna Beach and Sea Cliff Country Club in Huntington Beach. Leo enjoys delighting people with unique culinary adventures and has purposely traveled extensively throughout Argentina and Italy to study their culture, food and history.

Chef Leo Razo

Hotel Fullerton’s newest culinary addition, Citizen Kitchen is making waves within the local Orange County restaurant scene. Others in the hospitality field are certain to find many things to look up to when they visit this eatery and bar. Blending chic décor with an ambience of subtle sophistication, Citizen Kitchen provides an urban lounge atmosphere. In addition to this, they’re high-definition giant drop-down screen or one of the many LED flat screens encircling the bar provide visitors unbeatable game viewing opportunity.

Chef Zach Geerson