Traci Des Jardins
Raised on a farm in California's San Joaquin Valley, Traci Des Jardins developed a deep love for the earth and it's bounty at an early age. The Des Jardins dinner table featured produce from the garden and game from the land in dishes reflecting her heritage - Mexican on her mother's side, Louisianan-French Acadian on her father's. Traci began baking with her mother at age six. While she was a student in veterinary studies at the University of California, she realized her true calling was the kitchen. She left Santa Cruz to follow her heart.
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. Within two weeks she was running a station in the kitchen. In Splichal’s kitchen she worked in an environment with uncompromising standards of excellence and discipline that spurred her to further hone her craft in France where she apprenticed with legendary chefs including Michel and Pierre Troisgros, Alain Senderens, Alain Ducasse, and Alain Passard.
Back in the States, Des Jardins worked at Montrachet in Manhattan before returning to California as opening chef de cuisine of Splichal's Patina. She moved to San Francisco, where she had always wanted to live, and opened Aqua with George Morrone and Elka Gilmore. In 1997, she opened her own restaurant, Jardinière, which features French-California cuisine and has earned Des Jardins a great number of accolades including the James Beard Foundation Award in 2007 for "Best Chef: Pacific." Jardinière has been listed as one of the "Top 100 Restaurants" in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle each year since opening.
In December 2009, Des Jardins’ destination restaurant Manzanita opened in the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe at Northstar. The menu at Manzanita is a combination of her signature French inspired California cuisine, with a regional mountain resort influence, sourcing organic, sustainable and locally grown meat and produce when possible.
Des Jardins is chef/owner of Mijita Cocina Mexicana in the San Francisco Ferry Building and at AT&T Park, combining the best of Bay Area seasonal and local ingredients with the traditional Mexican ﬂavors of her youth.
Now one of the most acclaimed and respected chefs in the country, Des Jardins has been honored with numerous awards. She was a James Beard Foundation "Rising Star Chef of the Year", one of Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs", San Francisco Magazine's" Chef of the Year", and was listed as one of the top three chefs in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Beyond the kitchen, Traci is a deeply committed activist and philanthropist. She works with hunger-relief organizations such as Share Our Strength, Citymeals On-Wheels, and Wine. Dine. Donate, and is a former board member of La Cocina, a San Francisco Bay Area food service incubator. Traci joined the advisory board of the Bocuse d’Or USA to join fellow chefs in the quest to elevate culinary excellence in the United States.