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Before opening Jardinière in San Francisco just over a decade ago, chef Traci Des Jardins worked in some of the finest kitchens in Los Angeles, France, and New York City. She was raised in a farming family in California’s San Joaquin Valley where she developed a deep love for the earth and its bounty at an early age. Though she never had a job in a restaurant before, through sheer determination she landed a tryout with Joachim Splichal, then at 7th Street Bistro in Los Angeles and within two weeks she was running a station in the kitchen.
“Cooking is the stuff of life. It is the
basis for everything that we do.”
- Chef Traci Des Jardins
In Splichal’s kitchen, Des Jardins was inspired to further her craft in France where she apprenticed with legendary chefs including Michel and Pierre Troisgros, Alain Senderens, Alain Ducasse, and Alain Passard.
Since Jardinière opened its doors, Des Jardins has made it one of San Francisco’s most popular destinations. She has earned a great number of accolades for her French-California cuisine. In 1995 she won the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year”, Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef,” in 1997 San Francisco Magazine’s “Chef of the Year” and the James Beard Foundation Award in 2007 for “Best Chef: Pacific.”
Jardinière won Esquire Magazine’s “Best New Restaurant,” a nomination by the James Beard foundation for “Best New Restaurant” in 1997 and the San Francisco Chronicle has listed it as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants” in the Bay Area each year since opening.
In December 2009, Des Jardins opened Manzanita in the new Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe California. In 2004, she opened Mijita Cocina Mexicana in the San Francisco Ferry Building and in 2010 the second location at AT&T Park. She also serves as chef/partner for Public House located at AT&T Park, which opened in March 2010.
Beyond the kitchen, she sits on the advisory board of Bocuse d’Or USA joining fellow chefs in the quest to elevate culinary excellence in the United States. Des Jardins is a deeply committed activist and philanthropist working with hunger-relief organizations such as Share Our Strength, Citymeals On-Wheels and other non-profits such as La Cocina and amfAR.
Chef or rather Cook Traci as she prefers to be referred is an inspiring woman to be around. Her recent particpation on Master Top Chefs on Bravo brought her new fans and new respect within the culinary community. She did not win the Master Top Chef crown, but she came darn close and in doing so raised $30 000 for San Francisco incubator kitchen LaCocina. Hooray for Traci – the entire Bay Area was rooting for her every step of the way.
5 Tasty Questions with Chef Traci Des Jardins
1. Define your cuisine.
It’s seasonally based wonderful Bay Area product and French technique. That’s the signature cuisine at Jardiniere.
2. It’s midnight and you want a snack, what will we always find in your fridge?
I would say cheese and maybe a little salami. Always milk for my coffee in the morning. That’s actually the most important thing.
3. What is your biggest pleasure outside of the kitchen?
I would say spending time with my son.
4. If not a chef, what might you be?
I probably would have been a veterinarian.
5. At your last supper, you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
It would probably have to be roast chicken. I just love chicken; barbequed, roasted, or whatever. And it would be my family.
LM: Five tasty answers. Traci Des Jardins, thank you.
Warm Bread and Baby Artichoke Salad with
1 loaf French bread, crust removed
1 tablespoon pure olive oil
12 baby artichokes
2 tablespoons pure olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig rosemary
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped Italian Parsley
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped basil
9 ounces Crescenza (Fresh Mozzarella may be substituted)
¼ pound of salad greens, washed and spun dry (the mixture should consist of hardy greens i.e. arugula, mizuna, treviso, or radicchio)
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon cut basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Tear the bread into small pieces and set aside.
Remove the tough outer leaves and the choke from the baby artichokes and place them into water with the juice of 1 lemon. Slice and immediately sauté over medium high heat in the pure olive oil. Add the garlic and rosemary to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Season well with salt and pepper. Place onto a cookie sheet to cool.
Mix together the extra virgin olive oil and the chopped herbs. Cover the cheese with the oil and herb mixture and season with salt and pepper. This step should be done the prior day if possible.
Place the greens into a mixing bowl along with the herbs. Make a vinaigrette by placing the two vinegars into a mixing bowl and slowly adding in the oil while whisking, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place a sauté pan over medium high heat, add the bread and cook until golden brown and crispy, about four minutes. Add the baby artichokes and cook for another minute or until they are hot. Place into the bowl of greens and toss with the vinaigrette; season to taste with salt and pepper. Place three small pieces of the crescenza down onto six individual plates and place a mound of salad into the center of each plate.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)