James Roberts was raised amidst Louisiana’s coastal shrimping and fishing community, and began cooking in restaurants at a young age. Over the course of his early career, he discovered a passion for the food, the kitchen brigade system, and great service. Roberts traveled the country, augmenting his training, honing his skill set, learning different regional cuisines, and developing a strong management style, ultimately earning a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University and graduating at the top of his class.
In 2007, the young chef relocated to Buffalo as executive chef for an esteemed country club. He fell in love with WNY, its people, and its farms. During his time here, Roberts has been recognized for his remarkable mentoring and leadership skills, with dozens of his young staff members finding achievement locally and worldwide.
After twenty successful years in the industry, Roberts looks forward to the opportunity to fully realize all that he has worked for by opening Toutant. Here, his cooking abilities, culinary vision, and commitment to excellent service can be utilized to their potential. His love of the region and the city of Buffalo makes Toutant the ideal place for his lifelong goal.
Connie Roberts, owner and creator of the Toutant brand identity and marketing collateral, was raised in Rochester, NY and has always had an eye for fine detail. A bachelor’s degree in fine arts and years of marketing coordination and graphic design experience has given her a varied cache of expertise with which to bring the Toutant vision to life. Her style is simple and modern, unassuming and clean. Connie’s concentration on fluid design with coherence is felt uniformly throughout the project’s many facets.
Connie’s mastery of color palettes has also aided in the assistance of the design plan for Toutant. Her style touches and colorful interjections can be found throughout the L2K based interior design. The lighting scheme and wall adornments of Toutant’s dining areas welcome guests with her comfortable yet thoughtful inspiration. Connie is also responsible for the restaurant’s online presence, menu layout design, and internal marketing.
Toutant would be nothing without the support and dedication of this extremely talented designer, loving mother, and devoted wife.
Jessica Railey is our General Manager and Wine Director for both Toutant and our sister restaurant, Dobutsu. She has worked in the restaurant industry for 8 years, with experience in every aspect of front of the house. On top of managing day-to-day operations and maintaining the practice of top-notch, humble service at Toutant, Jessica became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers in May 2017, and she continues to learn about wine everyday and share that knowledge with our staff and guests. She has a fondness for off-the-beaten-path white grape varietals and anything from the Rhone Valley. She hopes to show Buffalo that wine can be fun, accessible, and can pair with nearly every type of cuisine. Jessica has honed her leadership styles throughout her years of experience, and has made staff growth, education and the highest levels of service at the core of what she believes and practices. She is driven by a true passion for hospitality, education, a love of food and wine, and her goal is to make sure guests always leave with full bellies and big smiles.
Joseph Fenush was born, raised, and educated in Western New York. Having worked previously with chef James Roberts at The Park Country Club, Fenush went on to spend time in kitchens in Southwest Florida, Houston, Tulsa, and most recently, the award-winning Volt restaurant group in the Washington DC area. His goal as Toutant's Chef De Cuisine is to create an environment that engenders continued education for himself and the rest of the Toutant staff, and to continue to enjoy his lifestyle as a cook and student of the craft. Through success at Toutant and elsewhere in his career, Fenush hopes to find increased opportunities to utilize his philanthropic nature, as well as to contribute in a notable manner to the rise of his hometown.
A native Buffalonian, Jill spent much of her youth in various hospitality and restaurant service positions exploring her love of guest satisfaction. Her early work experience and formal education in Human Services identified her need for a career with relationships and communication. Leadership positions in the non-profit sector have enhanced her organization and team building, while honing her natural personability.
A quick study, Jill has wasted no time gaining experience in some of downtown’s busiest bars, developing and mastering a level of beverage industry skill and expertise that has drawn the praise of both patrons and peers. The adrenaline of a busy restaurant fuels her, excelling at high volume production with impeccable quality and consistency, while simultaneously cherishing the slower evenings of casual guest conversation and embracing the hospitable spirit of Toutant. Her technical aptitude and finesse, creative process, and her humble personal nature made the promotion to Beverage Manager an easy one for us.
In her new role, Jill hopes to build and mentor a signature beverage style and team of her own, present a polished cocktail program of both accurate classics and inventive original creations, and expand on her knowledge of restaurant service and administrative responsibilities.
A central Mississippi transplant, Donald "Russ" Whitfield, has called Buffalo home since 2009. His excitement and belief in the Toutant mission is complimented by his desire to constantly better himself as a culinary professional and team player, while driving his peers to do the same. As a young man, Russ discovered the professional kitchen and hasn't looked back. His early culinary career has provided him with many educational opportunities to experience different culinary styles and restaurants of all calibers, honing his craft and furthering his understanding of kitchen culture and teamwork. His personable demeanor, intense work ethic, attention to detail and his desire for excellence makes him an ideal model for his peer management and production role as Toutant’s sous chef.
Adam Smith is a Niagara Falls and Buffalo native with a flair for entertaining and a love of hospitality at its highest levels. His career in the food and beverage industry has taken him all over the country, honing his craft in beverage service and promotions in major markets before returning to his hometown and family in Buffalo. Through Adam’s years of experience in some of the area’s finest establishments, he has demonstrated a versatility in both supervisory roles and dedicated customer service.
The culmination of this hard knocks industry education has brought him to his new role as the Assistant Manager of both Toutant and Dobutsu. Joining Toutant in early 2018, his work ethic, humble professionalism, and team first attitude has earned him considerable respect amongst his peers. Additionally, a key component of the Dobutsu opening team, Adam has demonstrated the ability to effortlessly work between the two busy restaurants, maintaining the high standards of both simultaneously.
We are excited to have Adam as a new member of our management team, and look forward to adding his experience and visions to both programs, complementing the reputations we have built in and around the city for quality, high levels of service and casual welcoming hospitality.