Before opening Jardinière in San Francisco in 1997, Des Jardins worked in some of the highly acclaimed kitchens in Los Angeles, France and New York City. Classically trained in French cuisine by some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world, Des Jardins' style is also influenced by her Mexican and French-Acadian grandparents, who taught her how to cook. Throughout her more than two decades in San Francisco, Des Jardins has continued to focus and evolve her style of cooking as well as her restaurants. Over the course of her successful career she has trained and groomed many chefs and front-of-the-house personnel, many of whom now help operate her growing group of restaurants.
In 2004 Des Jardins opened Mijita Cocina Mexicana in the San Francisco Ferry Building and in 2010 the second location at AT&T Park, combining the best of Bay Area seasonal and local ingredients with the traditional Mexican flavors of her youth. Adjacent to Mijita and located at AT&T Park, home of the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, Traci's Public House is a sports bar serving California-influenced pub food.
Known as one of the top female chefs in the country, Des Jardins is a two-time James Beard award-winner, named Rising Star Chef of the Year in 1995 and Best Chef: Pacific in 2007. She was also a finalist on Bravo's Top Chef Masters 3 in 2011.
Des Jardins sits on the board of La Cocina, a San Francisco based nonprofit business incubator and on the advisory board of Bocuse d'Or USA, joining fellow chefs in the quest to elevate culinary excellence in the United States. She is a deeply committed activist and philanthropist working with hunger-relief organizations such as Share Our Strength, Citymeals-on-Wheels and other nonprofits such as amfAR.
Q: How did you become interested in cooking as a career?
A: I chose something I was really passionate about when I dropped out of college, and it has stuck with me for 30 years. I am still passionate about it.
Q: How would you describe your cooking style?
A: The style of my restaurants is greatly varied, from refined French/California food to Mexican street food to American pub food. At home I cook rustic seasonal fare and a lot of ethnic foods.
Q: What's the most rewarding part about training other chefs?
A: To see them develop into their full potential.
Q: Do you cook with your son, Eli? What are his favorite foods?
A: He is always around me when I am cooking. He loves to help me at events and knows exactly what to do. I think he really has learned to cook watching me – the other morning he surprised me by making his own scrambled eggs for breakfast.