Meet the Laurel Oak Culinary Team

Experience the exquisite creations from our acclaimed team of chefs



Jeff was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. His first venture in the restaurant business was at age 16. After four years of working his way up, he moved to Florida to start a Classical French apprenticeship. At the conclusion of his training, he started working as a chef in several restaurants before becoming a country club chef. This was perfect as he had a love for golf! He met the love of his life, Andrea, at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, FL and they have been married since 1998. His career has involved working in Colorado, Atlanta, Georgia for the Olympics and Las Vegas. He reached Sarasota in 1999. He says his career path led him to the best – Laurel Oak Country Club. He loves working in a club atmosphere because it’s different every day and he strives to use the highest quality ingredients. As Executive Chef at Laurel Oak Country Club, his goal is providing its members and guests with the best experience in food and beverage in Sarasota.



Michael grew up on a farm in Myakka, FL. He didn’t realize the huge influence his family’s years of raising and butchering their own livestock would play on his future career.  Chef Michael attended UCF and studied art and philosophy and spent his evenings cooking and entertaining friends. He then decided to pursue his greatest passion professionally. He then attended Le Cordon Bleu of Orlando. Upon graduation, he moved back to Sarasota and worked in restaurants ending up a Banquet Chef at Polo Grill/Fete Catering in Lakewood Ranch under Chef Andy Thompson. Chef Andy assisted Michael in obtaining his next position at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole in New York which was followed by a move to Jeff Buben’s Vidalia under Chef Hamilton Johnson in Washington DC. Life directed Michael back to Sarasota and to Laurel Oak where he started as a sauté cook and was shortly promoted to Executive Sous Chef.  Laurel Oak has provided Michael with a wonderful environment to hone the skills he learned over the years. He has been able to work with local farms and fish purveyors and the Laurel Oak kitchen has now developed a fully integrated butchery and charcuterie program. Michael’s greatest culinary passion is creating elevated comfort fare; familiar foods with but with a twist. To quote Michael, “I look forward to bringing the members of Laurel Oak an exceptional dining experience every time they come.”



Mara Cristiani has been featured on local and national television, such as ABC 7’s Suncoast View, and showcased in Linda Carson's “Amazing Woman of the Suncoast” which is also on WWSB Channel 7. Mara was invited to compete on the ”Food Network” most popular show “Chopped” and came home a “Chopped Champion.” 

Her cakes have been showcased on multiple occasions in the baking industry's top publication; Cake Central Magazine, and her annual creation of spectacular Gingerbread Houses have been auctioned off to raise money for “All Faiths Food Bank” “K9 for Warriors and The Shriners Hospital for Children. 

Mara is no stranger to the spotlight. A former professional ballet dancer/choreographer and daredevil trapeze artist, Mara is one of only 5 people in the world to perform on the dangerous heel catching trapeze and she has toured the world for over 30 years entertaining countless audiences. However, throughout her entire entertainment career, baking was never far behind and at every chance she studied and perfected techniques and recipes. She learned her cooking and baking craft by traveling the world. 

Today, Mara still considers herself a Ballet Dancer/Choreographer & Entertainer; she just choreographs with sugar, eggs and flour now. 


  • Laurel Oak Country Club
  • 2700 Gary Player Blvd.
  • Sarasota, FL 34240
  • (941) 378-3608
  • © 2018 Laurel Oak Country Club.
  • All Rights reserved.