Executive Chef, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards
Growing up in a large family, Mike Ward fondly remembers family dinners hosted by his Nana and Grandpa with tables full of the best home cooked foods including Prime Rib, fresh baked rolls, and all of the fixings. After moving out to live on his own, he began cooking by necessity, but soon found himself researching recipes and reading cookbooks. Shortly after he discovered his passion for cooking, his mother surprised him with a semester of culinary classes at the local community college, where he was awestruck by the methods and processes of working in a “real” kitchen.
After the one semester, Ward dedicated himself to learning as much as possible in a slew of kitchens. Aside from practicing cooking techniques, he educated his palate to differentiate flavors and his nose to recognize the aromas of good food. Working under Tony Maws at Craigie Street Bistro, Frank McClelland of the New France Corporation, and a number of the top restaurants in New York City, including Michelin-star restaurant, Picholine, Ward embraced his opportunities to work with some of the best chefs in the country. Upon returning to California, he took a position as Executive Chef at Slocum House in Sacramento. Because he has committed himself to perpetually studying culinary arts, Ward accepted the opportunity to lead the kitchen as Executive Chef at Tyler Florence’s El Paseo in Mill Valley.
Now as Executive Chef at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Chef Ward combines the knowledge of his past experiences with his desire to continually improve. His new menu will utilize Wente Family Estate’s multiple on-property programs and emphasizes the cultural blend of the Northern California lifestyle. From the abundance of fresh produce provided by the Estate Garden to access to the unique Estate Beef program, Estate olive oil and Estate-grown wines, Chef Ward’s new menu will continue to balance flavors and complement the many components of Wente Family Estates.
A longtime Bay Area resident, Chef Ward believes in embracing the history and tradition of food by using fresh ingredients from local sources. Aside from The Restaurant’s own on-site organic herb and vegetable garden, Ward continues to supports regional purveyors. A self-proclaimed “meat geek,” he is excited to bring new meat options to the menu while maintaining the light, refreshing personality that The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards has come to embody. His approach to food is ingredient-driven with subtle cultural influences that reflect the local offerings while challenging the palate.
Executive Chef Mike Ward’s comprehensive and cohesive menu, created with wine in mind, features dishes that pair well Wente Vineyard’s signature varietals. With genuine hospitality and a desire to create satisfying and delicious meals for each of the restaurant’s varied guests, diners will enjoy a mix of understated elegance, warm familiarity, and comforting flavors.
A family man at heart, Ward enjoys cooking with his 5 year old son, Jayden, who loves trying new foods from chicken feet dim sum to tripe in his bowl of pho. Ward jokes, “He loves sushi, but if you try to pack him a PB&J in his lunchbox, you better believe it will come back untouched.” A true lover of good food – like father, like son.