Didier Lenders, Resort Chef
As Resort Chef for the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Didier Lenders provides guests with memorable dining experiences throughout the property by drawing on more than 30 years of experience at luxury properties, all around the globe. Born in French Alps region of Haute Savoie, France, Didier left the shadow of the Mont Blanc while still a teen, to study cooking at L'Ecole Hotelliere de Paris. His apprenticeship included stages at Michelin starred restaurants like Dodin Bouffant and Le Tour d'Argent. Upon graduating, Didier moved to New York City where he spent his formative years working at Le Cirque, La Cote Basque, La Caravelle and La Gauloise.
The 1980's brought Didier to California where he quickly ascended to the Executive Chef position at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Moving north to the Bay Area Didier became an instructor at the California Culinary Academy and held chef positions at the world renowned Ernie's Restaurant in San Francisco, a city he came to love and also, where he fell in love with his wife Pilar Sanchez, also a chef. The newlywed couple soon moved back to Paris to run his family's restaurant to much critical acclaim. By the mid 1990's they slowly made their way back to California, making a stop in the Caribbean, where Didier held the chef position at the very exclusive La Samanna Resort on the island of St. Martaan. The Napa Valley was the next stop. Didier held the Executive Chef post at the picture perfect Meadowood Resort for 9 years. Then the culinary duo of Didier and Pilar opened their own restaurant again, this time in downtown Napa, receiving a great deal of attention and praise from food critics and foodies alike.
Now living in Santa Barbara, close to family, the past seven years at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa has been "home" to Didier's considerable talents and passion for fine cuisine, team leadership and guest service.
John Lacroix, Executive Pastry Chef
John Lacroix started his culinary career as a graduate of J.J. Belouet in France, and proceeded to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, and completed a Master's degree in Culinary Pastry Arts and another Advanced Master's degree in Sugar and Chocolate from Edward Notter International School of Confectionary in Switzerland. His most recent training and pastry education is from the French Culinary Institute in New York, where he accomplished New Edition classes for Sugar Pieces, Chocolate Pieces and Pastillage.
John has worked in several respected kitchens over his 24 year career. Beginning at The Pierre Hotel in New York as Assistant Pastry Chef, he ultimately accepted the position as Assistant Executive Pastry Chef at The Plaza Hotel in New York, where he worked for 12 years refining his artistries. After many years in New York he moved on to the Beau Rivage MGM Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, and then onto to Kansas City before heading out West to sunny California and joining the team at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
When not whipping up confections in the pastry kitchen at the Inn, John enjoys participating in cooking competitions and shows. He is a winner of six gold medals, two silver medals, and 1 bronze medal as a completing member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
Jaison Burke, Chef de Cuisine
Jaison Burke, a native of Long Island, New York, arrived in Ojai from San Diego where he worked as the Executive Chef of the Pearl Hotel. His combination of talent and creativity landed him first at the Omni Hotel San Diego, and then The Pearl Hotel, which just four years earlier, helped usher in a culinary renaissance in the San Diego's historic Point Loma neighborhood.
Burke's style thrives on the easy availability of Southern California's amazing local and seasonal ingredients, as well as the "farm-to-table" ethos he adopted early in his career. Through his close relationship with local farms and fisheries, he is committed to product integrity, and importantly, his guests can expect well-executed, soulful cooking on their plates. He aims to please through honest and vibrant culinary expression that promises a uniquely urbane and accessible experience for all guests.
Burke's exposure to the kitchen and other food environs came early in life. At fourteen, he often helped his mother at a restaurant where she was F&B Director, which brought the excitement of cooking nearby and further stoked his inner flame for culinary adventure. With a career in mind, he attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. After graduation, he moved away and polished his skills at numerous restaurants, eventually becoming chef/owner of The Upstairs, a fine dining steakhouse in Charlottesville that he sold in early 2010.
Dana Francisco, Chef Tournant
Taking an interest in expanding his culinary techniques, Dana recently spent a month in different parts of Thailand studying the flavors of the regions.
As Chef Tournant at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Dana enjoys sharpening his skills and improving operations in each of the property's culinary destinations.
Bobby Angelito, Executive Banquet Chef
The majority of Bobby's professional career has been at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa as the Executive Banquet Chef.
In his time at home he likes to be with his family and two grandsons as well as tending to his extensive rose and vegetable gardens.
David Arambula, Assistant Executive Banquet Chef
In his free time, David loves spending time with his wife and two sons, ages 13 and 18.