Chef de Cuisine
Assistant General Manager
Chef Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama in Boston has made a name for herself nationwide for her dynamic personality, fierce work ethic and distinct ability to create restaurants that are warm, creative, and instantly loveable.
Tiffani began her career working under such renowned chefs as Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Todd English and Tony Maws. In 2006, early into her career, she was cast on the very first season of Bravo’s Top Chef, and placed as runner-up. From there, she worked in prestigious kitchens in Nantucket, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco before returning to Boston in 2010 to become Executive Chef of Southern Italian restaurant, Rocca Kitchen & Bar. After transforming Rocca into a critically acclaimed dining destination with a three star review from The Boston Globe, Tiffani set her sights on creating her own restaurant.
She opened Sweet Cheeks Q in 2011 during the rebirth of Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Drawing inspiration from her love of Southern barbecue and extensive travels in Texas, Sweet Cheeks became an instant hit for its laidback Southern charm and addictive offerings: Berkshire Pulled Pork, Great Northern Brisket, Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Honey Butter. Shortly after opening, Sweet Cheeks garnered a three-star review from The Boston Globe and from 2012 – 2016 it has since been awarded “Boston’s Best Barbecue” for five straight years by Boston magazine. Its Biscuits were deemed “Best Biscuits in the World” by Forbes.
Most importantly though, Tiffani has created a restaurant that is both a neighborhood gem and a dining destination. Sweet Cheeks uniquely attracts the young professionals moving into the neighborhood’s new developments at lighting speed, the Red Sox fans who come to Fenway religiously, and guests from near and far who are simply seeking the city’s best ‘cue.
In December 2015, Tiffani expanded on her culinary skills, creativity and business savvy with a new restaurant: Tiger Mama, found on the same block as Sweet Cheeks in Fenway. The seeds of Tiger Mama formed during Tiffani’s travels to Southeast Asia. “When done well, this is the most dynamic food in the world,” she says with her trademark intensity and passion. Tiger Mama offers a chic, tropical meets urban atmosphere and a menu that journeys through Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, offering Tiffani’s unique stamps on timeless dishes like Papaya Salad, Crispy Duck, Bun Cha Hanoi and Cha Ca La Vong. The goal is not to aim for authenticity, but to playfully interpret traditional recipes while maintaining their intricate, crave-able flavors.
Opening the restaurant in Fenway, a neighborhood that is so rich in history yet so ripe with growth and an area that Tiffani has contributed to so greatly since opening Sweet Cheeks, gives Tiger Mama all the more meaning to Tiffani. From a chef who pours her heart and soul into each project, Tiger Mama sets a new benchmark, both for Tiffani’s career and Boston’s dining culture. In its April 19, 2016 review The Boston Globe agreed, calling Tiger Mama “a spectacular restaurant” with dishes that you’ll “take to the grave” and hospitality that “feels generous and natural.” For all of her culinary achievements, Boston magazine awarded Tiffani as “Best Chef: General Excellence” in its July 2016 “Best of Boston” issue. In November 2016, the Boston Business Journal named Tiffani to its 2016 Power 50 list, “The Game Changers,” celebrating individuals from Boston’s multiple industries and professions who are making a difference in their business communities.
Outside of the kitchen, in addition to placing runner-up in Top Chef Season One, Tiffani competed on Top Chef All-Stars Season Eight in 2010. She has made frequent appearances on NBC’s TODAY, PBS’s Simply Ming and was Host of “Tiffani’s Taste” and “Food Truck Friday” on NECN. She has been a contributing chef to numerous cookbooks and has been widely featured in such national outlets as SELF, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine and Food & Wine.
In early 2018, Tiffani will open her third venture in Boston, Fool’s Errand.
Tiffani lives in Jamaica Plain with her wife and business partner Kelly Walsh and furry kids. She is a tireless advocate of LGBT human rights.
Alex O’Connor is a natural talent in the kitchen. At just 23 years old, he is thrilled to be the Chef de Cuisine at Tiger Mama and is driven to help bring some of the most delicious and unique dishes to the menu.
Alex was first introduced to the culinary world at age 14 while working as a dishwasher and making appetizers at Yama Zakura in Northborough, MA. He briefly attended flight school to become a pilot, but quickly discovered his true passion was creating food. Having a knack for Asian cuisine, he moved on to be a line cook at Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA. Although Alex did not attend culinary school, he learned the fundamental skills and science of cooking at Blue Ginger where he worked alongside Dee Steffen Chinn, now Tiger Mama’s Pastry Chef. She was a great inspiration and role model for him and he was thrilled to reconnect with her at Tiger Mama just a few years later.
In 2017, Alex joined the opening staff at Eventide in Fenway as well as the Tiger Mama team. As a line cook, he worked the afternoon shift then switched over to Tiger Mama to work the wok station at night, just in time for the dinner crowd. Now exclusively at Tiger Mama, Alex has gone from lead line cook to Executive Sous Chef to Chef de Cuisine in just under two years. Alex is a valuable force in the kitchen and strives to master the latest techniques in Thai cooking while incorporating skills from French, Italian and Japanese cuisine. His favorite dishes from the menu include Pad Gra Pow, Lamb Roti and the Hamachi Crudo, and he relishes in cooking with fresh alliums.
Outside of the kitchen, Alex is a lover for the outdoors and enjoys hiking and playing sports. He also loves dining out and enjoying great dishes and flavors from around the world.
As a child growing up in Manchester, NH, Dee was always interested in cooking. She spent countless hours observing, learning, and working in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. At 13, she was fortunate to witness for the first time a 6-foot wedding cake being made. Dee marveled at the care and attention to detail that went into the cake and she knew right there and then that she wanted to work with desserts. Little did she know she was about to embark on a successful career in Pastry Arts.
After graduating from high school, Dee immediately sought out her childhood dream by attending Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). She quickly expanded her interests and obtained her Associates Degree from in Culinary Arts from SNHU in 2002 with a concentration in Pastry Arts. Dee’s extremely proud of her time and achievement at the school and often returns there as an adjunct professor, teaching a course on International Baking.
During her first two years out of culinary school, Dee worked as a pastry cook at The Bedford Village Inn in Bedford, NH. In the summer of 2004, she decided to spend a summer on Nantucket where she worked at the renowned Topper’s restaurant at the Wauwinet Inn. She would spend three summers at Topper’s, first as Assistant Pastry Chef and then as the restaurant’s Executive Pasty Chef. During the off-seasons, Dee decided to challenge herself by taking on jobs working for prominent chefs: Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud in Palm Beach, Florida and Barbara Lynch at No. 9 Park in Boston. Her third winter off-island would prove to be a career-changing and full time move for the young pastry chef.
In the fall of 2006, Dee accepted a job from James Beard award-winning chef, owner, and TV personality Ming Tsai to become the Assistant Pastry Chef at his acclaimed Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA. During her 11 years at Blue Ginger, she ultimately became the restaurant’s pastry chef and developed an incredible array of seasonal desserts to compliment Tsai’s dinner menus. It’s here where she met her future husband, Myron, who would later become the restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine.
At Blue Ginger, Dee also played a role within the local community by setting up pastry therapy programs at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute where she worked with children preparing fun desserts and cookies. During the holidays, Dee contributed to a local Gingerbread House Decorating Workshop at the nearby Holliston Public Schools.
In 2017, Dee joined chef and restaurateur Tiffani Faison as Pastry Chef of Faison’s award-winning restaurants, Tiger Mama and Sweet Cheeks Q. Since being a part of Faison’s team, she has developed such fun, seasonal desserts as Egg Nog Pie with Bourbon Cream, Malted Chocolate Mini Pies, Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, and Peppermint Red Velvet Whoopie Pie for Sweet Cheeks, while at Tiger Mama, she has created desserts such as Caramel Ginger Cake with Fresh Figs and a Brown Sugar Ginger sauce and Apple Cider Doughnuts with a Chinese Five Spice Sugar.
Dee lives in Medway, MA with her husband Myron and their French bulldog Tuckett.
Brian Callahan has worked tirelessly to generate one of the most interesting and inimitable bar programs in Boston. Split between signature cocktails and a bar devoted entirely to tiki drinks, Callahan is essentially overseeing two exciting bars under one roof at Tiger Mama.
Following time spent in San Diego, Rhode Island and NYC in between, the Stamford, CT born, West Virginia University grad made Boston his home in 2014. It’s here where he began his work in hospitality as a server at Grafton Street in Harvard Square and where he quickly became a bartender and discovered his passion and curiosity for being behind the stick. It’s an experience that helped him develop the foundation of his uniquely creative approach to developing and perfecting cocktails.
Brian joined Tiger Mama as a bartender in 2015 as part of the restaurant’s opening team. Two years later, the 29-year-old’s undeniable flair for mixology led him to be promoted to Beverage Manager and he’s since taken the bar program to new heights.
Brian oversees Tiger Mama’s dynamic cocktail menu which is divided into multiple categories, such as Streets of Hanoi, House Classics, Rums of the Moment, In Color, Strong and Spirited, and Zero Proof. Brian has concocted some of the menu’s most popular creations including the tropically refreshing Kung Fu Pandan, the whiskey-driven Hadouken, and Morada Colada, his deliriously satisfying take on the Piña Colada.
As for Tiger Mama’s tiki bar program, large format shareable cocktails such as the Shark Bite, Banana Smuggler and Dead Man’s Chest (served in a treasure chest) have become popular mainstays at the restaurant. Brian’s respected knowledge, passion and effortless skill have helped progress the tiki program which now incorporates over 50 rums and counting, many of which are rarely found in Boston, and features drinks that are entirely unique to Tiger Mama.
Tiger Mama’s beer list, which Brian also oversees, includes a wide range of offerings: from ales with peppery flavors to sours of the moment to complex IPAs from around the northeast. Some of Brian’s current favorite brews include Stillwater Cloud IPA and Tin Man’s Damascene Apricot Sour.
Of the beverage program at Tiger Mama, Brian says, “We aim to match our drinks with what we do in the kitchen. We use ingredients that people may not be familiar with and pair them with more familiar things. We like to think that what we’re doing with ingredients, presentation and garnishes is truly one of a kind. Between our signature cocktail menu and vibrant tiki menu, there is really something for everyone that comes into the restaurant.”
Emily McTiernan’s fierce work ethic and vibrant personality makes her a perfect fit as General Manager of Tiger Mama. Having a great passion for food and a talent for event planning, hospitality has always been her calling.
Emily enrolled in Boston University in 2010 where she studied Hospitality and Business Administration. While in school, she got her start in the restaurant industry as a hostess at Post 390 in Boston. It was there that she became so inspired to pursue her career path in restaurants, thanks in part to an incredibly influential and female manager at the restaurant who Emily looked up to. After three years of experience at Post 390 and obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Administration, Emily went on to become a manager at Legal Sea Foods in Burlington, Massachusetts. Within a year, she became the Assistant General Manager and Beverage Manager for the restaurant.
Emily joined Tiger Mama in 2015 as a Restaurant Manager and quickly began spearheading various aspects of the restaurant including event planning and human resources. At just 26 years old, she recently was promoted to General Manager of Tiger Mama. In her new role, she brings her business acumen and infectious personality to her day-to-day work at Tiger Mama. She loves welcoming back regulars and inviting in new faces to the restaurant. And, with Tiger Mama’s close proximity to Fenway Park, she’s already helped make the restaurant a game day ritual during Red Sox season.
Beyond her role as General Manager, Emily is wildly passionate about her tight knit Tiger Mama family and their collaborative team work ethic that is exemplified through and through. “Chef says it best, ‘we are serious about fun,’” says Emily. “We get the job done and have the greatest time doing it! Nothing compares to having a supportive and dedicated team that truly loves one another, and we want everyone that comes into the restaurant to feel like they are part of this big amazing family.”
With a passion for hospitality in her genes, Emilie Vermilyea brings a warm and welcoming spirit to Tiger Mama as Assistant General Manager.
A native of Germantown, New York in the Hudson Valley, Emilie grew up in a family of chefs and restaurant managers who nurtured her love for food and hospitality from a young age. Emilie began as a busser and from there, continued to grow her experience and passion for the industry with positions in high profile restaurants, hotels, epicurean specialty stores and pastry shops. Most recently, Emilie served as Beverage Manager for Boston’s Cinquecento. Always a student of culture, Emilie graduated from The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio with a degree in Anthropology.
Equal to Emilie’s love for hospitality is her love of travelling. Emilie has spent time in both Spain and South Africa and speaks Spanish, French and Zulu. It was in Spain that Emilie developed a love for wine, particularly natural wines.
Emilie wants to ensure that all guests leave Tiger Mama feeling that they enjoyed more than just an excellent meal. She takes to heart sage advice from a previous manager who shared that working for a restaurant is akin to “hosting a dinner party and all the guests are your friends.” Emilie graciously invites guests into the space with the intention to host an unforgettable experience.
Sarah McTiernan knows Tiger Mama inside and out. A team member since 2016 with a knack for finance and operations, Sarah supports both Front of the House and Back of the House operations through her role as Administrative Manager.
Sarah is a native of Milford, Massachusetts and a graduate of Emmanuel College where she studied Business Management and Mathematics. She developed her passion for hospitality through hands-on experience, having served at Tiger Mama as a Food Expeditor, Bar Back, Host, Busser and Food Runner. Sarah also credits her sister Emily McTiernan, General Manager of Tiger Mama with fostering her love of the business.
When not at Tiger Mama, Sarah enjoys exploring the Massachusetts craft beer scene and travelling.