Our Team

Mary Kay Waters, owner

Mary Kay Waters received her BS in Nutrition at the University of Maryland, and her AOS at the Culinary Institute of America.  She also holds a diploma from L’Academie de Cuisine under White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier.  Waters was a Chef de Partie at the Four Seasons and Chef d’ Entremetier at The Four Ways Restaurant, both in Washington, D.C, working under the acclaimed Chef Daniel Boulud.  She started her first company, Gourmet Lunch and Catering, in 1987 in New Jersey and later established Waters Fine Catering in San Diego in 1990.

Mary Kay went on to develop the Waters Fine Foods cafes in order to establish a closer connection with her clientele and to enable customers to enjoy wholesome, delicious food on a daily basis. She has since expanded Waters Fine Foods by adding locations in Solana Beach and downtown San Diego.  The shops have allowed for new recipe development and menu ideas.

Raising two young boys inspired Mary Kay to host culinary field trips in her catering kitchen. The children learned to taste oils, herbs and artisan cheeses, to bake, to “throw” pizza, to filet fish, to make ice cream and to differentiate between organic and processed foods.

“I am a food perfectionist with very high standards and refuse to accept less than the best. There is no greater reward than a thoroughly satisfied, blissfully happy client!”

Steve Ferguson, executive chef

Born in New York, Steve Ferguson studied under Executive Chef Ron Lunge and Pastry Chef Ann Keller. While attending their culinary school for over two years, Steve graduated top of his class. This accomplishment and great performance allowed him to compete against the best students from other culinary schools in New York. Steve competed at the VICA, for the United States Skill Olympics in 1986, where he placed third and led his school to their first victory. After leaving school, Steve joined the Marriott Corporation for six years. Three years were spent with the Westchester Marriott in New York and the other three years at the La Jolla Marriott in California. After many years of working in catering, Steve brought his wealth of knowledge and experience to Waters Fine Catering and has been our Executive Chef for more than 18 years.

Ernesto Arbanil, sous chef

Ernesto grew up in Long Island, New York surrounded by a family of excellent cooks. Their passion fostered his own love of food and the culinary arts while the television show Great Chefs on the Discovery Channel inspired him to make a career of it. He attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont right out of high school. After graduating with an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, he had the opportunity to work in several notable East Hampton and New York City restaurants including Gramercy Tavern and Amuse Restaurant. In 2008, good friend Jason Maitland invited Ernesto to join his team at Arterra Restaurant in Del Mar, California.  Ernesto went on to assist Jason with the opening of Flavor, also in Del Mar. In February of 2012, Ernesto joined the Waters team as a Sous Chef. Being a native of the east coast, he is inspired by San Diego’s breadth of local produce as well as the many farmers committed to a sustainable, humane and natural way of raising livestock and fishing.

Joe Burns, pastry chef

Creating elegant, imaginative and frankly scrumptious desserts and pastries is all in a day’s work for chef Joe Burns, who daily combines his culinary experience, talent and dedication to earn his reputation as one of San Diego’s most accomplished pastry chefs.  As head of pastries and desserts at Waters Fine Foods & Catering, Burns oversees all pastry, dessert and bread production for Waters’ catering division and two Fine Foods gourmet shops.  The sweet smell of success is quite familiar to the South Carolina native, who polished his talents by earning degrees in Baking & Pastry Arts at Charleston’s highly regarded Johnson & Wales University.  After working in his home state for several years at a farm-to-table restaurant that was an early member of the “Slow Food” movement, Burns brought his talents to San Diego, where he produced pastries, breads and other delights for George’s at the Cove and Pamplemousse Grille.  In 2012, we welcomed Joe as part of our elite team of talented chefs.


Leslie Morra, manager

Leslie has worked with Waters for over a decade. She currently oversees all aspects of Waters. She is passionate about gourmet food and cooking, which has helped her tremendously in her multi-faceted duties here at Waters.

Courtney Isaac, senior event design/sales

Born and raised locally, Courtney Gallagher graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Art History and Business Administration.  Working with a boundless ambition for learning, she refined her skills for detecting emerging food trends and menu development as the Food Editor for Nikki Style Magazine in South Beach, Miami.  Interested in making her mark in the culinary arts, she pursued her dream job in gourmet catering and high-end event design.  While at Waters Courtney has energetically coordinated many events, from casual, chic gatherings to over-the-top parties, each one putting her signature style and touch on.  As she continues building her event design portfolio with Waters, she also enjoys social and community service partnerships with many notable local San Diego networks.

Monica Andresen, senior event design/sales + staff coordinator

Monica Cadden is originally from Northern California, and she moved to San Diego in 1994.  She began working for Waters Fine Catering in 1995 as an entry-level server, and then progressed to a sales associate.  She is now a senior event manager, as well as the staffing coordinator.  Monica has managed some of the largest and most prestigious events that Waters has produced.  These include fundraisers for dignitaries such as President William Jefferson Clinton, Senator John Kerry and Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  She regularly manages events for local groups and galas.

Monica’s eye for detail and execution of Waters’ high standards keeps her in high demand by clients.  She is passionate about providing the best experience at each and every event.  In her leisure time, Monica enjoys cycling, traveling and spending time with her Cairn terriers.

Terri Wedell, beverage coordinator + marketing coordinator

Terri began her career in the hospitality business when she was just 16 years old while working with a local San Diego caterer and restaurant group. She was responsible for overseeing the company’s catering clients as well as managing events.  She later went on to be an Events Manager at Vineagogo and developed a passion for wine and mixology.  She joins Waters Catering as a Beverage Coordinator. Her strong organizational skills, calm demeanor, fabulous sense of style, charm, and wit have contributed greatly to the Waters team.

Leslie Dannemiller, regional manager, Waters Fine Foods To Go

Leslie was raised in Appleton, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse and received her BS in Business Management. Shortly after graduating, Leslie moved to San Francisco to see if California cheese really is better than Wisconsin Cheese! While living in San Francisco, she obtained an AOS in Culinary Arts from the California Culinary Academy. She comes to San Diego most recently from the Lake Tahoe area, where she spent a majority of her time cooking, catering, and enjoying the lovely scenery. Leslie came to San Diego to pursue her dream of opening her own deli, and thanks to Waters, she is one step closer. But she has yet to decide about the cheese…

Christina DuPont, manager, Waters Fine Foods To Go, Downtown

Christina DuPont was born and raised in San Diego, California. She then traveled to Seattle, Washington to study at the Art Institute of Seattle’s, School of Culinary Arts where she graduated with honors. After schooling she returned to the warmth of San Diego and began working for Waters as a sous chef and head pastry chef for the following 3 years. Her off time is spent sampling many of San Diego’s great restaurants and working on her very own organic garden.

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Liz Brown, manager, Waters Fine Foods To Go, Solana Beach

Liz is a native of San Diego, and worked at the world famous Old Globe Theatre honing her customer service skills before coming to work for Waters. Even without any formal training, Liz has shown her love for food and a willingness to learn, which has made her a valuable asset to the Waters team. Under the excellent tutelage of Leslie Dannemiller, she quickly learned the ropes as assistant manager before eventually taking over as Manager of our Solana Beach Location. In her free time, Liz still enjoys seeing plays at The Old Globe, and is now a subscriber.  When she isn’t working, Liz can often be found with her nose inside a book.