Introducing The Chefs At Our San Francisco Fine Dining Restaurants
Meet the talented chefs who ensure that each of the Union Square fine dining restaurants at The Westin St. Francis remains a legendary experience day in and day out.
BERND LIEBERGESELL, Executive Chef, C.E.C., and Food and Beverage Director
Wouldn't you like your next event to be created by a chef who's cooked for United States Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and most recently Obama, the Empress and Emperor of Japan, the Dalai Lama, and a host of Hollywood celebrities?
Chef Liebergesell began his career in Johannesburg, South Africa, after attending Hotel School in Frankfurt at the age of 14. 2012 marked his 20th year with the Westin St Francis. In his 30 plus years with Westin Hotels and Resorts he has worked in Hawaii, Houston, Denver, Pittsburgh and the Bay Area. He has won six prestigious medals in culinary competitions and has been voted Chef of the Year of the Pacific Coast by the American Culinary Federation. He has also won the Inspirational Award from Westin, and the "Antonine Careme" Medal from the Chef's Association of the Pacific Coast. He recently won the California Hotel’s & Lodging Association’s Stars of the Industry Award for Outstanding Manager of the Year 2012.
What does he love most about cooking at the Westin St. Francis? His 60 plus culinary team that always "makes it happen" for him, the history and lore of this legendary hotel... and the challenge of cooking so many different kinds of foods for a very diverse clientele.
THOMAS H. RIMPEL, Chef de Cuisine
Being born in the U.S. and raised in Germany has enabled Chef Rimpel to appreciate cultural differences and incorporate them in his creations. He attended culinary school in Hamburg, where he perfected his knowledge of classical European cuisine. Chef Rimpel has been with the St Francis culinary team since 1979.
He describes going from that beginning to preparing a much-praised dinner for 1,200 in honor of George W. Bush as a "miracle", which he now considers just another part of his job. Over the years, Chef Rimpel has created such miracles for Bob Hope, Don Johnson, the Queen of England, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
JEAN-FRANÇOIS HOUDRÉ, Executive Pastry Chef
Born in the Southwest region of France into a family business of Boulanger-Pâtissier, Jean François was inspired to become a Pâtissier by his father. He has fond memories working with his father in the family owned pastry shop where everything was created from scratch.
At the tender age of 21, Jean François began working in Southern California for the Vie de France Corporation. He has also worked for the Ritz Carlton, Le Meridien and the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach, where he participated in many Chaines des Rôtisseurs and Tôque Blanche events.
Jean François always had a close connection with French Pâtisserie and he continues to educate himself by studying at l'Ecole de la Pâtisserie Lenôtre. He is always searching for the latest flavor combination but always respecting the French tradition of creating pastries.
Working at the St. Francis is being a part of history. He says this hotel holds a tremendous amount of San Francisco nostalgia. The culinary team at the St. Francis is diverse, creative and professional, my position as Executive Pastry Chef extents itself throughout the hotel.
MEL FOGATA, Executive Sous Chef
"Keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves," is the cooking philosophy of The Westin St. Francis Executive Sous Chef, Mel Fogata, who joined the culinary team in the summer of 2012.
Born and raised in Honolulu until the age of 15 when his family moved to Philadelphia, Fogata brings a wealth of culinary experience garnered from working with some of the country's top Chefs. He attended culinary school at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia. He began his culinary career in 1996 as an extern under James Beard award winning Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix at the Fountain Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, and then was chosen to be part of the Sous Chef team to open Lacroix at the Rittenhouse in the Rittenhouse Hotel, which garnered “Best New Restaurant” by Esquire Magazine in 2003.
Fogata gained extensive experience incorporating Vietnamese and Chinese flavors with French plating techniques as the Sous Chef to James Beard nominated Chef Kiong Bahn at Philadelphia's 20 Manning Grill. He has also worked for several premier hotels in Philadelphia including Loews, Sofitel and Park Hyatt. Most recently, he was the Executive Sous Chef at The Westin La Paloma in Tucson.