OCEAN and VINE AT THE LOEWS SANTA MONICA HOTEL
| Los Angeles
Growing up in the small town of Brandon, Wisconsin, Chef
Gregg Wangard developed an appreciation for farm-fresh ingredients
and bountiful cuisine at an early age. Gregg realized his passion
for food while working with his grandmother in the kitchen at family
holidays. From the age of seven, Gregg helped his grandmother prepare
feasts using the freshest vegetables and eggs.
Gregg began his culinary career while washing dishes in a small
café in his hometown, where his older brother was behind
the stove in the kitchen. He enjoyed the fast pace of the kitchen
atmosphere and use of simple yet flavorful ingredients. During his
last year of high school, he shadowed a chef at The American Club
in Kohler, Wisconsin, and shortly thereafter accepted a three-year
American Culinary Federation (ACF) accredited apprenticeship and
began culinary arts classes at the Waukesha Technical College in
The following winter, Gregg was asked to join an elite group of
12 students in an internship program at the Rosewood Caneel Bay
Resort on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, an
internationally renowned Caribbean destination. Gregg spent the
next three years apprenticing at The American Club in the summer
and traveling to Caneel Bay to master the art of Caribbean cuisine
in the winter. It was here that he met his match in the kitchen
and in life, Kelly Wangard, who is now his wife and also an acclaimed
culinarian and currently serves as executive chef for Lot 1224
Restaurant and Director of Food and Beverage for Loews Beverly
After finishing his apprenticeship, Gregg obtained a position as
chef de cuisine of Cucina Restaurant in Kohler, Wisconsin
and then moved to The Immigrant Room & Winery Bar at
The American Club, the Midwest's only AAA Five Diamond property.
There, he introduced a creative menu featuring seasonal delicacies
such as seared foie gras with apple-raisin oatmeal cookie and signature
During his two years at The Immigrant Room, Gregg made
extensive use of the hotel's cheese locker, which housed more than
45 regional cheeses. Visits to local dairy farms and cheese makers
instilled in Gregg a fond appreciation for the meticulous technique
used in making cheeses.
In late 2004, Gregg and his wife Kelly moved west for the opportunity
to work with Loews Hotels. Taking the reigns in the kitchen in the
newly opened Ocean and Vine Restaurant, Gregg brings a fresh approach
to American cuisine to match the restaurant's casually elegant setting.
Gregg enjoys weekly visits to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market to
seek out the freshest ingredients and develop new menu items. Ocean
and Vine's famed Fondue and High Society Cheese flight reflect Gregg's
Wisconsin roots and his passion for cheese. Signature dishes include
Prince Edward Island Steamed Mussels, Hawaiian Big Eyed Tuna, and
an Angus Fillet with Black Truffle Vinaigrette.
Today, while leading the culinary operations at Loews Santa Monica
Beach Hotel's new restaurant, Ocean and Vine, Gregg taps into his
childhood memories by using local ingredients to create a unique
approach to American cuisine for the Los Angeles restaurant scene.
When he's not in the kitchen, Gregg, can be found riding his bike
on the Santa Monica Shore playing basketball, tennis and following
the Green Bay Packers. He is always searching for new ideas and
ingredients in the field. Gregg and his wife Kelly live in Santa
Monica with their dog, Champagne.
AB: Who are your mentors?
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned
GW: My grandmother was my biggest
mentor. She taught me the importance of basic ingredients and good
seasoning. I also learned a great deal from Rhys Lewis who I worked
with at the American Club. He taught me the importance of being
a people person as well as a good chef. Chef Hans Schalder, who
I worked with in the Caribbean, taught me great work ethic and consistency.
AB: What is your philosophy
on food and dining?
GW: My philosophy is to keep
it simple with fresh ingredients and proper technique.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients
that you especially like?
GW: Chinese long peppers because
of the taste and flavor.
AB: What is your most indispensable
GW: My knife from Global is
the one thing that I can’t live without.
AB: Is there a culinary technique
that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
GW: The way I make foie gras
mousse – in a plastic bag and boiled.
AB: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
My favorite question to ask is “Why should I hire you?”
Then I have them cook for me.
AB: What tips would you offer
young cooks just getting started?
GW: Get as much kitchen experience
as early as possible.
AB: What are your favorite
GW: Anything from Charlie Trotter.
AB: What cities do you like
for culinary travel?
GW: Las Vegas.
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants – off the beaten path – in LA?
GW: Lares, a great
Mexican place, and Neptune’s Net for fish.
AB: What trends do you see
emerging in the restaurant industry now?
GW: Progressive libraries of
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 to 10 years?
GW: Owning my own restaurant
on the central coast in five years, being a successful restaurant
owner in 10 years.