Chef Traci Des Jardins of Jardinière - Biography

San Francisco, CA

October 2011

Raised on a farm in California's San Joaquin Valley, Traci Des Jardins developed a deep love for the Earth and its bounty early in life. At age 6, Des Jardins – Mexican on her mother's side, Louisianan-French Acadian on her father's – began baking with her mother, who prepared family meals with produce from the garden and local game. While a student in veterinary studies at the University of California, Des Jardins realized her true calling was in the kitchen. What she lacked in culinary experience she possessed in sheer determination, enabling her to convince Joachim Splichal, then at 7th Street Bistro in Los Angeles, to hire her. After just two weeks in the kitchen, Des Jardins was running a station. With Splichal's encouragement and recommendation, she apprenticed in France with many of the greats, including Michel and Pierre Troisgros, Lucas Carton, Alain Ducasse, and Alain Passard.
After she returned to the US, Des Jardins worked at Montrachet in New York before being invited by Splichal to work as chef de cuisine at his new restaurant, Patina, which opened in Los Angeles in 1989. Des Jardins then moved to San Francisco, where she had long wanted to live, to open Aqua with George Morrone and Elka Gilmore. In 1997, she opened her own restaurant, Jardinière, which continues to top the list of San Francisco’s best restaurants.

In recent years, Des Jardins has opened two other San Francisco restaurants, becoming one of the city’s most dynamic restaurateurs. Acme Chophouse is a seasonal restaurant and wine bar with a focus on quality meats, and Mijita, a restaurant featuring regional Mexican dishes in the Ferry Building.

Des Jardins has been honored with numerous awards – she received James Beard Foundation awards for “Best Chef, Pacific” in 2007 and "Rising Star Chef of the Year" in 1995, was one of Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" and San Francisco Magazine's" Chef of the Year.” Jardinière has been honored as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants” in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle each year since opening. Currently, Des Jardins is a guest blogger at Epicurious.