Chef Gary Danko of Gary Danko - Biography

San Francisco, CA

April 2012

Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, Gary Danko’s parents had a deep influence on his eventual choice in career. His mother, a Louisiana native, showed him the joys of simple spices and fresh ingredients from a young age. When his architect and builder father took on the remodeling of a local eatery, it sparked Danko’s interest in restaurants. He began working in the food industry at fourteen and enrolled in Culinary Institute of America in 1975.

After graduation, Danko lived in San Francisco for three years, working as a server and in the kitchen, before returning to the East Coast. He became the chef at Tucker Hill Inn in Waitsfield, Vermont, where local and seasonal produce was a central pillar of the restaurant's cuisine. Through enrolling in courses at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, Danko met long-time idol Madeleine Kamman and went on to collaborate with her for several years. Kamman appointed Danko to executive chef at Beringer Vineyards and then subsequently to executive chef at Chateau Soverain in Sonoma County. In 1989, Danko received recognition from both Food & Wine and Wine Spectator.

After leaving Chateau Soverain, Danko became chef of The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, earning the coveted four-star rating from San Francisco Chronicle and winning James Beard’s Best Chef: California award. After leaving The Dining Room in 1996, Danko took a two-year stint as consultant for Viognier, winning Esquire Magazine's Best New Restaurant award. With these successes under his belt, Danko was ready to take the plunge and start his own venture. Gary Danko opened in San Francisco in 1999 and went on to receive the James Beard Best Restaurant Award in 2000, and was later selected as a Relais & Chateau property. Danko was named Chef of the Year by San Francisco Magazine in 2000 and Outstanding Chef of the Year by James Beard in 2002.