Jim Pastor
Eastern Regional Chef

Born in the Big Apple and now making a splash in the Big Orange, Chef Jim Pastor was destined to be in the kitchen. Raised by Costa Rican parents, whose love of food and natural ingredients were instilled in Chef Jim at an early age. It was in the West Coast of Florida that Chef Pastor found his calling, the abundance of local produce and learning the recipes passed down through generations of his family, Jim began to indulge in what would become his life’s passion. Chef Jim enrolled in the University of Johnson & Wales in both Rhode Island and Miami so he could see the different seasonal produce and cultural diversity that makes up the very fabric of American Cuisine, after successfully completing his course and obtaining his degree, Jim embarked on his career in the auspicious Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne. Chef Jim was part of the team that was awarded the AAA 5 Diamond Award, one of only four hotels in Miami with that distinction, Jim then became part of the award winning team at ‘Atrio’ in the Conrad Miami, where the fusion of Latin and Asian flavors won distinction of being the ‘Best Fusion Restaurant’ and ’Best Pan Asian Restaurant’ in the Miami New Times for two consecutive years. To continue growing his career Jim switched coasts to become the Sous Chef at the Hyatt Regency, Newport Beach, California. There, Jim assisted in creating new menus, oversaw the hotels signature restaurant and became more involved with the catering aspects of a hotel. This experience would prove vital as Jim was asked to return to Florida to open up the W South Beach as it’s Banquet Chef. This $28m F&B operation earned the accolade of being in the top 5 banquet departments in the whole of the Starwood North American properties. Jim also branched out in overseeing the award winning Solea restaurant and covering the Executive Chef during his absence. Jim returned to Key Biscayne, the place where he began his career at the Ritz Carlton for him to embark on the most challenging position of his career to date. The Rusty Pelican, which after its renovations positioned him as Executive Chef for this iconic Miami restaurant. Through out the restaurant Jim is know as a strong leader and fun loving person, this in turn translates to his food. He wears his heart on his sleeve and it shows in his cuisine. When he describes the food he has created he calls it comfort food with a twist, and wants to make the restaurant into the best seafood spot in Miami.

Regional Managing Director

Pallava Goenka, Regional Managing Director for Specialty Restaurants Corporation, has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry as a leader with a proven track record in exceptional business operation.

Born Indian from Australia, Goenka obtained a Masters of Business in Hospitality Management from the Victoria University of Technology in 2003 and is a C.W.P (Certified Wine Professional) from the Culinary Institute of America. He has also done his W.S.E.T Level II (Wine Spirits Education Trust). Starting at Crown Casino as a Manager and then in 2005, he was the Food and Beverage Manager at Alice Springs Resort, later leaving Australia and relocating to Atlanta to manage Trader Vic’s Restaurant and Mai Tai Bar served as General Manager for the group, he was responsible for overseeing Trader Vic’s and opened locations in – Destin, Chicago, LA eventually relocating to California – hosting high profile events and successfully overseeing all operations.

From there, he served as General Manager at restaurants like the Salt Creek Grille, Stonehill Tavern by the Michelin Chef Michel Mina at the Forbes 5 star St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach; before landing a position as General Manager at Specialty Restaurants Corporation, where he oversaw the Orange Hill Restaurant and The Reef.

Goenka also worked on a some interesting projects for a period of time opening the Echo and Rig Butcher Steakhouse in Las Vegas for Chef Sam Marvin and restructuring brands at Urban Purveyor Group in Sydney, Australia – further demonstrating his ability to manage multi-unit business operations successfully. This led him to becoming Group Operations Director at Maximal Concepts in Hong Kong in 2014, where he was instrumental in restructuring the Food and Beverage operations and opening several unique cutting edge concepts including a partnership with Mercedes-Benz to open Mercedes Me Hong Kong. Under his leadership, Maximal Concepts became one of the most awarded groups in Asia – even garnering the distinction for one of their bars, Stockton, as Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2016 by Lifestyle Asia.

Goenka returned to Specialty Restaurants Corporation in 2016, overseeing the operations of several luxurious dining destinations including the iconic waterfront restaurant The Rusty Pelican in Key Biscayne. As Regional Managing Director, he continues to showcase his outstanding ability to manage multiple restaurant operations. He brings a level of creativity and a keen eye for detail, with a goal of providing world class service to enhance the dining experience.

Head Mixologist

Born and raised in El Savador, expert mixologist Oscar Amaya has always thrived behind the bar. Amaya began his career creating libations in 2006 after a close friend suggested he would enjoy, as well as excel at, bartending. He was introduced to the owner of landmark bar and lounge Local 16 in Washington D.C. and was instantly hooked.

Amaya worked at Local 16 for over six years as a bartender, becoming a household name on the D.C. nightlife scene and ultimately was promoted to Bar Manager. Thanks to his bourgeoning reputation, he then went on to serve as Bar Manager at several trendy spots throughout the nation’s capital, such as the Penthouse Pool Club, Tropicalla and the high-end club Rosebar, where he continued to improve and perfect his craft.

In 2015, hungry for new professional challenges and sunny beaches, Amaya moved to Miami, which has been proven to be one of the best decisions of his life. As a result, he has been fortunate to have the opportunity to work at some of the best bars and restaurants, such as Baby Jane and Ariete, before joining the Rusty Pelican team as Head Mixologist in the fall of 2016. Amaya now brings his creativity to the iconic Key Biscayne restaurant and lounge crafting artful and inventive libations that reflect the refined waterfront atmosphere. He is also continuing his education, having successfully completed the Level 1 certification course at the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers for the title of Master Sommelier.

Devin Perez
Beverage Manager

Born in New Jersey and raised in Madrid, Spain, Devin Perez has been involved in the restaurant industry for more than fifteen years, garnering experience in various front of house positions. With a degree in hospitality management from Florida International University, Perez began his career with Tony Roma’s Restaurants, where he rose through the ranks after starting as a host, managing every department for the national chain. From there, he went on to Ale House, a privately owned sports bar company with over 60 restaurants on the East Coast before moving to Crave, a Minnesota based company that opened their first South Florida location in Coral Gables, serving as general manager. In 2016, he joined the Specialty Restaurants family as beverage manager of Rusty Pelican. Witnessing first-hand the wine culture at the upscale waterfront restaurant, his passion for all things wine exploded. In tandem with a revamp of the restaurant’s wine list under the guidance of Master Sommelier Michael Jordan, Perez, along with twelve other Rusty Pelican staff received his Level I Sommelier Certification and is presently studying for Level II.

Jennie Franco
Director of Catering and Special Events

As the Director of Catering and Special Events of The Rusty Pelican, Jennie Franco brings 13 years of experience and expertise in special events management, catering, and sales to the landmark Miami waterfront dining destination.

Jennie is a graduate of Miami-Dade Community College with a degree in business administration and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Nova Southeastern University. From 2012 - 2017, she was Director of Sales & Events at Coral Gables Country Club, where she revamped and directed catering, special event and convention services, and helped increase sales from $400,000 to $4 million. Prior to that, from 2010 to 2012, she served as Director of Catering and Events for the Gansevoort Hotel on Miami Beach and held the same position at the Hilton in downtown Miami, from 2008–2010. Her first industry position, from 2004–2008, was Junior Catering Sales Manager at the Hilton Miami Airport Hotel, where she successfully completed the hotel’s management and development program.

Jennie is a perfect addition to the team at Rusty Pelican which received a $7 million renovation in 2011 and most recently introduced new upscale menu items, along with a curated wine program and craft cocktails. In her position, she will work with Executive Chef Jim Pastor to create menus for a variety of budgets, as well as oversee all special events, including weddings, private parties and business gatherings. She will also assist with branding and marketing the iconic restaurant and attend targeted wedding, wine, food and trade shows to stay on the cutting edge.