Back to Basics with Chef Ron Siegel

Chef Ron Siegel has worked alongside Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Michael Mina at world-renowned eateries like Aqua, Restaurant Daniel and French Laundry. Since then, he’s firmly established himself as one of the Bay Area’s rising culinary stars, even defeating Iron Chef champion Hiroyuki Sakai in 1998. Siegel sat at the helm of The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco until it closed this month. Now, he’s working in conjunction with The Ritz-Carlton on a new restaurant with a prominent bar and a far less formal approach, with a Siegel-created menu of simpler fare. The new eatery will replace The Dining Room.

 I am inspired by the freshest seasonal ingredients available year-round at the farmer’s markets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. 

How did you begin your career in the culinary world?

I began my career as a butcher in a grocery store in Palo Alto, California where my family moved from New York when I was seven.  A few years and many jobs later, I enrolled in San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy.

At what restaurants have you been previously employed?

I first met Michael Mina, who hired me as a line cook at San Francisco’s Aqua in 1991.  In 1993, I returned to New York to work with Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel. A year later, Thomas Keller brought me back to the Bay Area as his opening sous-chef at The French Laundry in Yountville, California.  I left the French Laundry to become Chef at Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco. Five years later, I was offered the position of Executive Chef at Masa’s, where I stayed until joining The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco as Chef of The Dining Room. And now, I am developing an entirely new restaurant concept at The Ritz-Carlton which will replace the Dining Room.  It is going to be a very exciting and innovative restaurant, less formal and more approachable than The Dining Room.

What appetizer, entrée and dessert dishes is The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel best known for?

Since announcing that I was developing a new restaurant concept in The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, I have recreated one of the highlights from The Dining Room’s archives, the Salt & Pepper Menu.  It is a nine course tasting menu with each course featuring a different type of salt and pepper. It has been very popular.

Are you a world traveler? If so, how has that inspired your dishes?

I have been fortunate to travel extensively and have spent a lot of time in Japan. The simplicity and perfection of Japanese cuisine has had a strong influence on my approach to food.

What else inspires your cooking?

I am inspired by the freshest seasonal ingredients available year-round at the farmer’s markets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

When you’re not cooking at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where can we find you dining?

I don’t necessarily have a favorite, as I am constantly exploring San Francisco’s amazing restaurants.  There are so many unique and innovative chefs and restaurants here, it is hard to visit them all.

What do you do in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with my family and working in my garden.