Having discovered a persistent interest in food at an early age, Los Angeles native Juan Contreras jumped right into the industry after high school. He enrolled in The Art Institute in Los Angeles and simultaneously started his first culinary job at a local fine-dining steak house. Contreras worked his way from pastry manager to grill station before moving to L’ Orangerie, where he developed a foundation in French cooking techniques. On the constant hunt to learn, Contreras spent many days off staging for some of Los Angeles’s best chefs.
In order to snag a spot in the new kitchen at Abode, Contreras persistently called and emailed Chef Dominique Crenn. His determination paid off, and as part of the opening team Contreras was able to work every station. He quickly became sous chef, a position in which he nurtured his appreciation for modern cooking and pastry. When Crenn decided to move to San Francisco to head up Luce in the Intercontinental Hotel, she asked Contreras to come with her as executive sous chef. At Luce, Contreras played a pivotal role collaborating in menu development and execution.
After two years, Contreras decided to reboot his inspiration and left on a one year sabbatical, which encompassed stints at Alinea, De Librije, and Oud Sluis. He then returned to San Francisco and joined Crenn in opening her new project, Atelier Crenn. As chef pâtissier at Atelier Crenn, Contreras’s philosophy and inspiration comes from respecting the past, searching for the small intricacies within nature, and highlighting landscapes, flowers, and aromas.