Wine Country Personality: Chef Jakushak of Hilton Sonoma Wine Country

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hilton_chef.jpgRene Jakushak, a Northern California resident since 1995, has permanently joined the team at Nectar Restaurant as Executive Chef.  As a young boy Rene often helped his mother create authentic German dishes with a California twist in their family kitchen, and has followed that tradition by creating a fresh and delicious menu with a focus on local and sustainable foods at Nectar Restaurant. 

Rene grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and at 16 years old was working in the kitchens at the local university, cooking for faculty and students there.  He enrolled in the Hotel Management program at the local City College, famous for its classroom views of the Pacific, and in his spare time continued cooking professionally.  By 18 he was in charge of the kitchen at a popular local eatery, and cooking quickly became more important than academics.  He left both to complete his Culinary Arts training at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR., graduating in 1993.  He brought with him to Oregon his high school sweetheart, and they married in 1999.   
During his school years, Rene was attracted to the hospitality industry because of his history growing up in a resort town.  He was attracted to the Hilton brand because of Conrad Hilton's belief that it was Hilton's purpose to fill the world "with the light and warmth of hospitality."  While in Oregon Rene worked for the fine dining restaurant at the Portland Hilton, and was soon promoted to Sous Chef at the Hilton San Francisco.  He worked with large special events and for the several in-house restaurants, doing so well that he was asked to moonlight at Baron Hilton's Duck Club on Venice Island.  He was lucky enough to cook for and meet many celebrities; the most memorable include Tom Selleck, of Magnum PI, and George Seifert, the coach (at the time) of the 49ers.

hilton_shot.jpgRene remained in San Francisco for 6 years before taking a job as Executive Chef at the Hilton Oakland.  After three years there, a dream job in the heart of wine country opened up at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country.  Rene joined the team in 2008 with an eye on creating fresh and local menus for the Special Events, and for Nectar Restaurant and Lounge.   

Rene is happy to share his thoughts and ideas, and suggests for those people considering a culinary career to "be sure you work in a kitchen first, before going to school.  People might think it is a very glamorous job, but there is a lot of time spent measuring amounts and standing over a hot stove.  You have to love the work."   If you aren't considering a career, and just want a tip, Chef Rene recommends to food lovers, "try something new, go into the grocery store or to a restaurant and make or order something you never have before."

He has come full circle, settling in a place similar to where he was raised, with a relaxed resort feel, and works daily with fabulous views of the Santa Rosa Valley.  He participates actively in the community and attends many of the local food festivals.  He recently helped coach the Carrillo High School Culinary department into winning a gold medal for "Most Creative Appetizer".  (Ask him to make you one when you stop in at Nectar Restaurant!)  Although his moonlighting now includes cooking for his children, Sierra (just turned 4) and Dylan (15 months old),  instead of celebrities,  Rene feels at home.

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This is one of the first personality profiles I really enjoyed reading. Probably because I like to cook. Wondering if Chef Jakushak can share his favorite dish to cook - at the restaurant or at home? Also, if it was your last meal on earth, what would you request?

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