Chefs Hall of Fame Inductees
Chefs Hall of Fame
By: Ron Donoho
San Diego Home/Garden LifeStyles’
Chefs Hall of Fame
This year, the three inductees to our magazine’s
Chefs Hall of Fame
are a commitment to excellence,
all shaped in classic French kitchens.
They started their careers in places like Alsace, Questembert and Toulouse. A French origin is the apron string that binds the three San Diego kitchens where the boss is among the new arrivals to San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles’ Chefs Hall of Fame.
Congratulations to Stéphane Voitzwinkler (Bertrand at Mr. A’s), Bernard Guillas (Marine Room) and Patrick Ponsaty (Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort).
The magazine’s Chefs Hall of Fame is noteworthy in that voting is strictly peer-to-peer. Now in its third robust year, it’s the chefs who vote among themselves to pick the best of the best.
We appreciate the participation of the slew of local chefs who took the time to vote (not to mention showed up in work clothes for not one, but a pair of photo shoots).
SDH/GL’s future plans include continued and intensified coverage of the best of San Diego’s culinary lifestyle, and we proudly present this year’s hall-of-famers…
BERTRAND AT MR. A’S
SITTING AT A TABLE at Bertrand At Mr. A’s can be akin to floating in a cloud. That’s not just because the Bankers Hill restaurant is on the 14th floor, and higher in elevation than the airplanes descending nearby at Lindbergh Field.
The loftiness of the venerable eatery is in large part caused by the culinary work of chef de cuisine Stéphane Voitzwinkler.
He’s been at Bertrand At Mr. A’s since 2004, but his history is international and storied. Voitzwinkler grew up in Alsace (France) and his menus are to this day still Alsatian German inspired.
At 20, Voitzwinkler moved to London to work in the kitchen of Le Meridien, and made his way to San Diego by transferring to Le Meridien Coronado. Before Mister A’s owner Bertrand Hug snatched him up, Voitzwinkler was executive sous chef at Sally’s Seafood on the Water at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
“I’ve been fortunate to work at some well-known places and work with well-known chefs,” he says. “Each place has influenced me.”
Voitzwinkler’s menus change seasonally, and he gets all his produce from Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe and seafood from local purveyors.
Fans say Voitzwinkler puts great care into each menu item, even if the dish might be a simple burger, or something more involved, like spätzel or choucroute.
BEFORE CELEBRITY CHEFS became cable television show mainstays, there was Bernard Guillas. The man with the affable and outgoing personality has been a magnet for local and national media coverage for the better part of two decades.
Guillas was hired as executive chef for La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club Inc. in 1994. He oversees menus, the wine list and special events for the iconic Marine Room, as well the restaurants at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and La Jolla Shores Hotel.
His formal training began in 1978, at Le Bretagne Restaurant in Questembert, France, under famed chef Georges Paineau, and continued for several years under French masters.
By 1984, Guillas had made his way to the United States, and settled in San Diego in 1989, when he began a five-year stint as chef de cuisine at the Grant Grill in the U.S. Grant Hotel.
Guillas has said: “A good cook is a sorcerer who dispenses happiness on a plate.”
He’s in another Hall of Fame, too: the American Chefs division of the International Restaurant & Hospitality Rating Bureau.
In addition to a multitude of TV appearances, honors and awards, Guillas recently co-authored Flying Pans, his first cookbook.
MISTRAL (LOEWS CORONADO BAY RESORT)
A HALL-OF-FAME-WORTHY CHEF has a way of leaving a mark on the restaurant that fronts his kitchen. That’s been the case over the course of the culinary career of Patrick Ponsaty, currently chef de cuisine at Mistral, the signature eatery at the waterfront Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
Before Mistral, Ponsaty had been wowing San Diego diners for more than a decade as chef de cuisine at Bernard’O restaurant, and at The Rancho Bernardo Inn’s El Bizcocho (where he garnered the Mobil Five-Star rating).
It’s deceiving to note that Ponsaty has more than 30 years of cooking experience, because he started at the tender age of 10, working in his father’s restaurant (Cochon de Lait) in Cazeres, France, located near Toulouse.
The fifth-generation chef worked at an impressive array of eateries in Toulouse, and later trained at several two- and three-star Michelin restaurants in France and Spain, under the likes of premier chefs Didier Oudill and Alain Ducasse.
As his experience proves, Ponsaty believes that the road to success is gained by working with many different chefs for a few years. He advises any amateur chefs can gain a certain level of expertise by extensive practice (as well as trial-and-error).
The menu at Mistral — described as modern French with flavors inspired by the Southern Mediterranean, Northern Italy and Western Spain — is based on a respect for the food and the culture that defines it.
Ponsaty takes the concept of farm-to-table (Mistral has a 3,800-square-foot garden filled with artichokes, basil rosemary, etc.) and adds innovation, creativity and technique.