restaurants in Menlo Park

“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 }

Patio at Menlo Grill Bistro & Bar is an inviting place for a summer meal

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series spotlighting the special features of local restaurants that may not be widely known. If you think one of your favorite Menlo Park restaurants qualifies, please email us at tips[a]inmenlo.com. The Menlo Grill Bistro & Bar is tucked inside the Stanford Park Hotel on El Camino right at […]

Click to read more →

Spotted: Activity at Borrone MarketBar and British Bankers Club

Lots going on today at what’s been a quiet corner of the Menlo Center. Marina Borrone, who owns MarketBar, was having a pop-up featuring all the MarketBar favorites, many of which were displayed in pretty jars in the front counter. She promises more activity there in the months to come. Nextdoor, the British Bankers Club has […]

Click to read more →

LB Steak in downtown Menlo Park now serving burger-centric lunch

There’s a new spot for burgers in downtown Menlo Park where the meat is tasty and the atmosphere refined. LB Steak is now offering a burger-centric lunch menu Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 2:30 pm. The burgers are made with a proprietary blend of house-aged New York, rib eye and tenderloin cuts of beef. There are shakes and […]

Click to read more →

Chef and restauranteur Bradley Ogden comes to Menlo Park with opening of Bradley’s Fine Diner

The knives that grace one wall of Bradley’s Fine Diner (BFD) “just showed up one day,” according to the restaurant’s namesake, Bradley Ogden. “Same thing with the chandeliers,” he continued, referencing the distinctive lighting fixtures made of cutlery in a room that can be used for private dining. Chef and restaurteur Bradley Ogden may have […]

Click to read more →

Chef John Gurnee takes the helm at LB Steak in downtown Menlo Park

It’s probably a stretch to say that if John Gurnee’s mother hadn’t been an endurance rider, spending long hours training on horseback, he might not have become a chef. In high school, he often fended for himself at meal time, at times drawing inspiration from the big family dinners he’d enjoyed at his father’s family […]

Click to read more →

From Menlo Park’s JobTrain to The Refuge executive chef, Michael Greuel comes full circle

Back in 2001, Michael Greuel had dropped out of Cañada College and was working three part-time jobs to pay the rent. Concerned that Michael was adrift and knowing that he “liked to tinker around in the kitchen,” a family friend who worked at JobTrain (then OICW) suggested he try JobTrain’s Culinary Arts program in Menlo […]

Click to read more →

Chef Brendy Monsada brings his Filipino heritage to the table at LB Steak in Menlo Park

Brendy Monsada has been Chef de Cuisine at LB Steak in Menlo Park since last September, following a three- and-a-half-year stint at Left Bank Brasserie just down the street on Santa Cruz Avenue. We talked with him about his journey to becoming a chef and how his Filipino heritage has influenced his craft. InMenlo: Why did […]

Click to read more →