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
“ You book it - we’ll cook it,” are the enthusiastic words of The Westin St. Francis Executive Chef Bernd Liebergesell, a 40-year veteran ofWestin Hotels & Resorts, who is currently celebrating his 23th anniversary at the historic landmark hotel in San Francisco.
A native of Kassel, West Germany, Liebergesell is a graduate of the Berufsfachschule of Hotel, Gaststattengewerbe and the Walter Hecker Institute. He was introduced to the culinary profession at age 16 when he started his 3 year apprenticeship program in Kornberg, Germany.
Chef began his career with Westin Hotels & Resorts in 1974 at the Carlton hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has since held positions at the Ilikai Hotel in Honolulu Hawaii, the Houston Oaks Hotel in Houston, and The Cherry Creek in Denver and the Westin William Penn in Pittsburgh. He opened the Westin SFO in 1987 and that’s when he fell in love with the California lifestyle.
In 1991 Liebergesell was named the Executive Chef at the Westin St. Francis and since 1995 has held the duel position of Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage. He enjoys working with his sixty plus culinary team that always “makes it happen” for him. He likes the history and lore of the historic hotel and the challenges of cooking diverse foods for a very diverse clientele.
He is a certified Executive Chef and has been voted Chef of the Year of the Pacific Coast by the American Culinary Federation. He has 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.
Bernd is an avid soccer fan and enjoys sailing on the San Francisco Bay. He resides in San Mateo, California with his wife Annette. His two sons are currently experiencing the college lifestyle at the University of Hawaii, and Chico State.
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.