Acclaimed Executive Chef Ken Frank is entirely self-taught and brings a distinctive, personalized touch to his contemporary French cuisine at the Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant, located in The Westin Verasa Napa, California.

What influenced you to become a chef?
I’ve always loved to eat and loved to cook. My Grandfather was a strong early influence but I didn’t consider it as a career until I got to college and was working in restaurants to support myself. I found cooking so much more compelling than pre-med that I never looked back once I left UC Irvine.

What was your first big break in the restaurant industry?
Definitely being in the right place at the right time. I got a summer job at 16 as a dishwasher in France when my Dad was on sabbatical. Once in the kitchen, it was a slippery slope for me.

You called yourself a “French Chef in a California body” – what inspires you about French cuisine?
French technique has always been the core of most great Western cooking and for me it’s also personal, having started my career in France as a teen. So that French soul manifests itself with the bounty of ingredients and cultural influences that we have here in California.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Easy, earning a Michelin Star.

Napa is a food lover’s paradise with local produce that is second-to-none. What have you enjoyed working with recently?
Napa is home to Rancho Gordo, and we are huge fans. Some of their beans are just off the chart tasty and different.

How has the restaurant scene evolved in Napa since you moved there?
The quality of the restaurant scene was what drew me here in 1998. The continued improvement is absolutely remarkable. There are few places in the world that match our per capita density of great restaurant choices.

What is a favorite dish you like to prepare for yourself, and what wine do you pair with it?
I love making pizza in the backyard. The specific wine pairing is less important than the company, though we never ever drink bad wine.

What’s your favorite place to eat in the world and why?
Sushi in Tokyo. Because it can blow your f***ing mind it’s so good.

If you could cook for anyone (that you haven’t already) who would it be?
Fredy Girardet, because his restaurant in Crissier was such a powerful early inspiration for me to try and chart my own path. I’ve done OK.

Chef Ken was also kind enough to share some of his favorite seasonal La Toque recipes with us at, including Angus Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio, Fabada Catalan and Beer Battered Norwegian Skrei.
Photographed by Josue Castro.
Beer Battered Norwegian Skrei
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