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SYDNEY C. HUNTER III
Executive Chef - Café Pinot
After working in some of the most highly regarded restaurants in Los Angeles, Sydney Hunter arrives at Café Pinot with an enthusiasm for classical technique and an ability to push the envelope through his creation of French cuisine with a strong focus on enhancing natural flavors.
A Southern California native, Hunter has followed an unconventional route to the kitchen. After working as a barber, he was persuaded to attend culinary school by friends who were amazed at his backyard barbecuing skills. Although it was a dramatic career change, Hunter applied to his new endeavor the same principles of thinking creatively and always keeping the customer in mind.
Following his new passion, Hunter enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, completing an externship at L’Orangerie, one of the most prestigious restaurants in L.A. After graduating in 2002, the young chef stayed at L’Orangerie, working the line under acclaimed Chef Ludovic Lefebvre, and was eventually promoted to chef de partie.
Hunter continued to perfect his skills with renowned Chef Alain Giraud at Bastide, one of the city’s pre-eminent French restaurants. Beginning as chef de partie, he became chef tournant in 2003 and assumed a leadership role in the kitchen. When Giraud departed in 2004, Lefebvre arrived to reinvent the restaurant and Hunter stayed on to work for his former mentor in the role of sous chef. Before leaving several years later, Hunter also had the opportunity to work with Walter Manzke, who had taken over the kitchen from Lefebvre.
In 2008, Hunter took the role of sous chef at Santa Monica’s Riva (which became Fraîche), owned by Chef Jason Travi. There he executed the restaurant’s new concept, creating a menu of stuzzichini. “In fine dining restaurants, you tend to forget how people eat every day, but Jason reintroduced me to a more rustic, simple cuisine,” Hunter notes.
After two years working with Travi, Hunter reunited with Lefebvre for series 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0 of Lefebvre’s renowned LudoBites, the innovative pop-up restaurant concept. As sous chef, Hunter executed Lefebvre’s signature molecular gastronomy recipes. While he learned how to work with liquid nitrogen and sodium alginate, in his own cuisine approach Hunter generally favors classical over avant-garde techniques, incorporating diverse international influences. “The food I’m cooking now is more accessible,” he says. “I try to be honest with the ingredients, and you don’t have to guess what’s on the plate.”
In 2011, Hunter returned to Bastide as executive chef. After the restaurant closed later that year he joined the Patina Restaurant Group’s catering division, participating in high-profile galas such as the Emmy Awards, before becoming executive chef at Café Pinot. The restaurant’s history and location—it was one of the first concepts that Patina Restaurant Group Founder Joachim Splichal opened after his flagship restaurant, and is located adjacent to downtown L.A.’s landmark public library—inspires Hunter as a chef and reaffirms his belief that no matter what food is on the menu, his role is to please and inspire. “I want to accommodate all our guests, so my menu makes sense for everyone,” he says.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Hunter, 35, enjoys riding motorcycles and spending as much time as possible with his two young sons.