Madera

“Cooking chose me,” declares Reylon Agustin, the Executive Chef at Michelin-starred Madera restaurant located within the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park.

“My parents wanted me to go to law school or be a doctor. But when I was 15 1/2 years old, I got a workers permit which led to a job peeling potatoes at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco.

“I stuck with it and got better and became a line cook. Then I got serious and went to the California Culinary Academy. My parents didn’t speak to me for awhile.”

His passion for food is palpable, whether it is designing a nine-course tasting menu or developing a summer-themed menu to be enjoyed at the hotel’s Garden Terrace or poolside during the day. He haunts farmers markets, embraces what he calls “food nostalgia,” and tastes everything again and again.

“When I’m at a market I spend a lot of time walking, observing how the fruits and vegetables are maturing and behaving” he says.

His approach to developing a new dish is unconventional, by his account. “Instead of identifying the protein first, we taste through the produce. When you start with the protein, you back yourself into a corner. Plus working backwards is fun!”

Accolades have followed. For example, in most cases when an Executive Chef leaves — as Peter Rudolph did in 2017 — the restaurant is stripped of its Michelin star, but thanks to Reylon’s efforts the star was retained in his first year at the helm. “That they recognized the merits of our efforts was a great honor,” he says.

California-born Reylon counts his Filipino grandmothers, who he recalls as “always cooking,” as early influencers.

“I wanted to excel because I wanted to impress my grandmothers. With my elders getting older, cooking is a way to preserve the memories of big family style dinners with as many as 30 of us in the house.”

As an Executive Chef, Reylon recognizes that his job requires managerial as well as culinary skills.

“I don’t hire a bunch of yes men and women,” he says. “I want people who come from different backgrounds, people who can add depth to the team. I get excited about the creative process and embrace having eight different creative minds in addition to my own.

“To be a complete chef means knowing how to conduct business and maintain relationships. And most important, how to keep growing myself.”

And about those parents of his, label them very proud parents now!

Photo by Irene Searles (c) 2019

{ Be the first to comment }

Rosewood Sand Hill celebrates 10th anniversary

Yesterday, Rosewood Sand Hill celebrated its 10th anniversary with a party on the pool deck. The Stanford-owned resort opened on April 2, 2009. Executive Chef Reylon Agustin was on hand preparing the the hot hors d’oeuvres. And we chatted with wine director and advanced sommelier Paul Mekis, who has been with the restaurant since it […]

Click to read more →

Madera wins Wine Spectator Award under the stewardship of Paul Mekis

“The cellar has grown a bit,” Madera restaurant director of wine Paul Mekis told us when we caught up with him recently after first profiling him in 2014. The reason for our return visit: Madera, located in the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park, received the Grand Award from Wine Spectator this year, one […]

Click to read more →

Spotted: Pokémon Go bonbons at Madera

Madera, the restaurant at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, has added a new trendy dessert — Pokémon Go-themed bonbons. The flavors, pictured top to bottom, are: Gotta Catch ‘Em All (Pokémon collage: vanilla bean ganache); Articuno (blue bird: dark chocolate infused with icy mint): Pokéball #1: (strawberries, crème and a touch of pop rocks); Moltres (red bird: a blend of chili […]

Click to read more →

Director of Wine Paul Mekis oversees close to 2,000 bottles of wine at Madera restaurant in Menlo Park

Madera restaurant’s Director of Wine Paul Mekis was not always a “wine guy”. But he did have early influencers. Raised in Santa Cruz, his father and grandfather made wine. He also remembers a trip to the Napa Valley when he was in his early 20s with his Missouri grandparents. “I’d done some research before and took […]

Click to read more →

Rosewood Sand Hill Pastry Chef Mellisa Root talks about her passion for her craft

Mellisa Root, who grew up in Idaho, joined the staff at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park as Executive Pastry Chef last fall. She oversees baked goods and confectionaries for the hotel’s restaurant Madera as well as banquet services. Before coming to California, she was most recently at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York […]

Click to read more →

Madera: Where grown ups eat on Thanksgiving

Make an Online Reservation (via OpenTable.com)! Reserve this as a tip for next year – at least as long as Executive Chef Peter Randolph (pictured overseeing the kitchen and service) is at the helm. Madera – the restaurant at Rosewood Sand Hill, which opened in Menlo in April – is the place to have Thanksgiving dinner with a a […]

Click to read more →