Our Team

Chef Mathew Wiltzius

Mathew Wiltzius from a young age could never pass up the chance to watch the programs “Cooking with Julia” and “Two Fat Ladies.” At the age of 12 years, he made his first gourmet meal, a tempura hotdog with liquid smoke and polenta cake, using no measurements and considerably too much liquid smoke. After his first culinary creation he knew what he wanted to do with his life.

The majority of his high school years were spent working at Blackwolf Run Golf Course in Kohler, WI under Chef Paul Smitalia. He continued his training and found a mentor while working with Chef Marcel Biro, a culinary master and former personal chef for the chancellor of Germany, at “Biro” restaurant in Sheboygan, WI, Wiltzius recalls, “From cooking shows to cookbooks and even a small culinary school, Biro dreamt big and I was more than happy to be there for the experience and knowledge he was willing to share with me.”

In Wiltzius’ free time he participated in ProStart; a culinary competition where he quickly advanced from winning state, to nationals, and then first place in the nation. The National Restaurant Association, Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Governor of Wisconsin commended his team for their creativity, dedication, and passion for all things culinary. His involvement in ProStart led him to Chicago in 2005 where he attended Kendall College. While earning his culinary degree, Wiltzius also interned at the James Hotel and David Burke’s Primehouse. Growing from cook and then into Chef, Wiltzius shared, “The time and support provided by Executive Chef Rick Gresh from the James Hotel truly shaped who I am today.”

After his tenure with the James Hotel, he accepted a position with Barney’s New York in Chicago at Fred’s Restaurant. Working under Jean Tippenhauer and Mark Strausmen at an Italian inspired American restaurant, he finally found the love of his life, pasta. “I love all things pasta, not so much eating it but creating it. Rolling the dough, shaping raviolis, extruding, pressing, and cutting, all of it! To this day, it is still truly a zen experience to roll out the perfect sheet of pasta,” he said.

Following Fred’s, he worked under Chef Herve Cuvee at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, a true playground and inspiration many chefs can only dream about. Formally, RIA, a two-star Michelin rated restaurant, the kitchens at the Waldorf Astoria were the perfect place for Wiltzius to hone his unique culinary style.

Maria El Bekai

Maria El Bekai managers the overall operation of Lockwood Restaurant & Bar.

Maria has been in the hospitality business for 20 years and has worked exclusively with Hilton properties since 2011. She returns to The Palmer House after working at The Drake and Hilton Chicago

Born in Brazil, she has degrees in Law, Economics and Hospitality as well as a Culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Maria has lived in a variety of locations around the world and speaks fluent Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic and English and can communicate in Italian and French.

She resides in the Old Irving Park neighborhood with her husband Georges El Bekai, The Drake’s director of banquets, and her two children, John, 15 and Nicole, 13.

Fun Fact – Maria was a professional prima ballerina for 19 years and performed on stages in Europe and the United States. Now she volunteers with Big Shoulders Fund, Feed My Starving Children and has been active at St. Bartholomew Church and School.