Chatting With Executive Chef Joey Pesner
Chef, you’ve had a nearly 20 year culinary career at some highly regarded places, including Executive Chef at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown and South Seas Island, Florida — just to name a few. What inspired you to become a chef?
Sometimes, you just fall into the right thing. I was in Portland with family on a trip and saw Western Culinary Institute downtown.
The school’s operations are very visible from the street with a diner, bakery, café and dining room. There were chef students and instructors all over the street. I never really cooked anything before, but wanted to get involved and learn something new. Once enrolled and in the program, I got into it and just kept learning.
From a culinary point of view, what attracted you to Promontory?
Promontory is a big kid playground. Just as it is for our membership with a variety of amenities for every season, we also have outlets for everything culinary. We have the most supportive members who appreciate the good things in life.
As a chef, you have been coast to coast from Laguna Beach to D.C., creating California cuisine to classics for Washingtonian palates. How has being in different regions influenced your culinary creativity for Promontory?
My most valuable experience from all my travel is the culture of the region. We can all learn how to make dishes from books, TV and the Internet. The culinary experience is always much more meaningful when the food is a partner along with drink, music and good company. I’m excited to bring the cultures I’ve experienced to Promontory so we can all celebrate good times together.
As the Executive Chef, you oversee multiple Promontory restaurants including, The Hearth Grille, The Shed and more. How are you able to create such distinctive themes for each menu?
I really just focus on my experience. Our barbecues at The Shed this summer have been fun and family oriented, just like the everyday fare at our restaurant. At The Hearth, it’s refined, yet always rustic and charming. Our golf tournaments and special occasion events are also a lot of fun and inspire creativity.
In 1999, you placed second against the “Ten Best Chefs Under 26 in the United States” by the Chaine Des Rôtisseurs Junne Commis National Competition. The Chaine is considered the world’s most prestigious gastromonic society, founded in Paris in 1950. What did you prepare that wowed the judges to earn such an honor?
One judge explained how it simply wasn’t possible to prepare Duck Confit in the time I was given, yet he said it was the best he’d ever had. For six months prior to the competition, I went in to work on my day off and cooked ingredients from a mystery basket prepared by my chef. He and the owner of the hotel judged my food and challenged me. I learned product knowledge, diversity in menu writing and timing. After all of that practice, the benefit is still with me and very rewarding.
The new Hearth Grille Menu is simply wonderful. Was there anything in particular that inspired you while creating it?
The Hearth Grille is SO much fun. It is all about superior product, simply prepared. We buy locally whenever possible. Our steaks and seafood are the best you can buy. Not many restaurants have the ability to cook in a fireplace over cherry coals. All we have to do is season the food correctly and execute it correctly. At The Hearth Grille, clean and honest food is all we do.