EXECUTIVE CHEF DIRK TOLSMA
Dirk's interest in food started as a passion for travel and the outdoors. While growing up, he spent time in some of the west coast's most beautiful resorts, but he always found himself gravitating towards the kitchen. The opportunity to work with food and his hands led him to pursue a career in the restaurant industry.
He entered a culinary program at Napa Valley Cooking School, getting the opportunity to work alongside some of the greatest chefs in wine country, all while gaining a foundation and passion for food. Dirk spent time working as a line cook at Auberge Du Soleil, as well as Cyrus Restaurant before moving up as the lead line cook at Eloise Restaurant.
At that point, Dirk decided it was time for a move. He joined Baker & Banker as a sous chef, and spent two years there overseeing day to day operations of the restaurant and learning about the San Francisco food scene.
He eventually joined the team at the Grand Cafe as the executive sous chef, and was recently promoted to Executive Chef. Dirk will continue to feature California inspired French brasserie cuisine at the Grand Cafe.
In his spare time, he likes to spend time with his wife, checking out the newest restaurant in town.
Q&A with Executive Chef Dirk Tolsma
I was valedictorian when I graduated Napa Valley Cooking School
Who is your culinary mentor?
I don't have a single culinary mentor, but have had the opportunity to work for a lot a great people who have all influenced and mentored me. I am truly grateful and inspired to be part of the lineage of being a chef and having had the opportunity to work in some many incredible restaurants.
What is your single favorite ingredient?
Working throughout the Bay Area, I have always had the opportunity to follow the seasons and to work with ingredients during their peak seasons. While a tomato in September is great and a carrot is so good in the winter, the one thing that I love throughout the seasons has to be the egg. It goes well any season and for any meal, it has so many possibilities and is so damn good.
Who would you most like to cook for?
Because I find myself attached to tradition, having the opportunity to roast a lamb and to prepare some simple side dishes with Alain Ducasse or Alain Passard would be amazingly awesome and scary.
What is your favorite cookbook?
I don't really have one favorite cookbook, I continuously go back to classics for fun. Any of Julia Childs books are fun to recycle through. My mom and I always have our eyes out at used book stores for old cookbooks to grab. Some for inspiration and most are just for fun. I never knew there were so many uses for Jello.
Name a career highlight
I have had the opportunity to be part of some great restaurants, many that have received accolades from the San Francisco Chronicle and Michelin. Having the opportunity now to take that and to represent all of those kitchens through my own food is a great highlight for me. It's quite an honor.