Chef Interview Bio Restaurants Recipes
Jody Denton

    After opening three California restaurants within four years of each other- LuLu and Azie in San Francisco and Zibibbo in Palo Alto, Chef Jody Denton has taken off for Bend, Oregon to begin his latest venture, Merenda Restaurant and Wine Bar. The new restaurant, named after a café he visited in northern Italy, features enticing rustic Italian and French dishes and makes extensive use of a wood-fired oven.

    Denton's success comes as no surprise. In twenty-five years of professional cooking and restaurant management experience, he has worked as a chef, restaurateur, and creator of specialty foods, and has demonstrated a clear track record for creating and running restaurants that keep foodies coming back. He says, "I've always loved bold, flavorful food and enjoyed lively restaurants that are crackling with energy. Today, people look for a magical combination of food, service, and ambiance. The very design of our restaurants - with open kitchens radiating glowing wood fire that make the food preparation part of the show -encourages a festive atmosphere."

    In addition to overseeing operations at Merenda Restaurant and Wine Bar, Denton personally tests and creates new preparations for his expansive and award winning line of Restaurant LuLu Gourmet Food Products. Fig Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese & Olive Vinaigrette and the acclaimed White Truffle Honey are among the 44 offerings that received the "Outstanding Product Line" award at the New York Fancy Food Show for two years running. Having traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, Denton sites his journeys as the preliminary influence on his creations in the kitchen, "Every time I travel, I'm inspired to create new dishes and new products for people to enjoy at home." Denton also takes his signature wood-fired cooking further afield in the Bay Area through his Restaurant LuLu Catering operation.

    Before taking over at LuLu, Denton honed his craft working at some of the nation's top dining spots along side some of the most highly regarded Chefs in the United States. Wolfgang Puck's Eureka and the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, Dean Fearing's The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and Mark Miller's Red Sage in Washington, DC are just a few. He has been invited to exhibit his talent an impressive three times at the James Beard House in New York and has made a myriad of guest-chef appearances in London, New Zealand, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and at dozens of venues across the United States. He has also appeared 6 out of the last 7 years at the Sagebrush Classic celebrity chef event in Bend, OR-the most visits of any chef to that particular event.

     Although he professes a love for the "chaos" of the restaurant world, it is Denton's passion for creating great food that keeps him close to his roots. "Bringing all of the elements together to run a restaurant is very much like creating a great dish-just on a grander scale; and, I love wearing all of these different hats. But I will never stop cooking. That is my first love and greatest passion. That is my inspiration."