Chef shuffles are relatively common in the restaurant industry, but rarely does an establishment like Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Parallel 37 get an entirely new culinary team. Helmed by executive chef Michael Rotondo for the past six years, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco’s signature dining destination welcomed an influx of fresh talent at the end of 2019.
Among the new faces are chef de cuisine Gabriel Haaz Del Campo, who brings flair from his native Mexico, while executive sous chef Patrick O’Sullivan adds a British touch to the kitchen. Rounding out the exciting roster, Nebraska native Jeffry Kahle is the man behind the Four-Star hotel’s sensational sweets. To learn more about how the team will shape the fare at Parallel 37, Forbes Travel Guide sat down with the chefs. Pull up a chair for our chat with Haaz Del Campo and Kahle.
How are you changing the menu?
Haaz Del Campo: Seasonality plays an essential part here in San Francisco. The high side of it is that it becomes challenging, but at the same time, it keeps things interesting. You continuously need to adapt to whatever product is at its best.
My favorite day is Saturday, when I go to the farmers market. I firmly believe the best way to get the most delicious product is to create a relationship with the people who sell it.
What are the differences between working at a hotel like the Ritz versus a restaurant?
Haaz Del Campo: Philosophy. The Ritz-Carlton has the strongest foundation I’ve ever experienced. To be a successful leader here, you need to be able to adapt to every single need and always anticipate and exceed guests’ expectations not only from the culinary point of view but from every unique possible angle.
What are the must-try dishes on the menu?
Haaz Del Campo: My favorites, which I’ve just added to the menu, are the barely cooked scallop with smoked butter and the black garlic taglioline with Dungeness crab.
What are your biggest goals as a chef?
Haaz Del Campo: The one I care about the most is experience. I believe in constantly pushing yourself to be better every day and gaining experience that comes with stress and sweat, but at the same time, with good moments. Whenever you get too comfortable, you stop learning, and then you know it’s time to move on and learn something else.
Who are your mentors and what have you learned from them?
Haaz Del Campo: I’ve worked for many chefs, from regular service restaurants to Michelin star ones. If I had to choose, I would go with two chefs who left a mark on me.
The first one is Rick Laughlin from [The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island]. I identify his style a lot with mine. Something I always admired about him is the way he seeks perfection.
Then Frederic Morineau, from [The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman], a chef as experienced and organized as him. From the operational point of view and planning wise, he’s a monster.
What is the secret to maintaining a high level of service and food quality?
Haaz Del Campo: Attention to detail — real attention to every single detail — marks the difference in between average and greatness. Service and food always go by the hand. If you want to deliver an experience more than a service, you need to make sure everyone is aligned with the restaurant’s beliefs.
What do you love most about being a pastry chef?
Kahle: I made a career change from working in the I.T. sector to a pastry chef because I enjoy creating experiences and memories for people through food. Many of my strongest positive memories growing up revolve around food. Dessert and sweets do not sustain us. We do not need them to survive; they are luxury items. But I believe they can help feed your soul. I try to create little moments of perfect pleasure with my creations. I also love passing on knowledge and take great satisfaction in supporting aspiring and growing chefs to develop their craft.