Traci Des Jardins, Chef, Owner, San Francisco, CA, California, Jardiniere, Mijita, Cocina Mexicana, Public House, Lake Tahoe, Manzanita, French, Ball Park, Recipes, Californian, Recommendations, Where to eat in California, Where to eat in San Francisco, What to cook ,where to shop, Tequila, What to drink, Warm Artichoke and Bread Salad with Marinated Crescenza, Seared Sea Scallops with Truffle Mashed Potatoes, Jalapeno Poppers, Pigs-In-Blankets, Cole Slaw



Chef Traci Des Jardins opened up her signature restaurant Jardiniere in 1997 in a landmark building in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley. That same year, Jardiniere was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Best New Restaurant of the Year. Two years earlier, Des Jardins was named by the James Beard Foundation as Rising Star Chef of the Year. A native Californian, Des Jardins trained in France with in an impressive list of top named chefs like the Troisgros family of Troisgros, Alain Sendersens at Lucas Carton, Alain Ducasse at the Louis XV, and Alain Passard at L'Arpege. Using French technique and California flavors, Des Jardins has had a very successful career.

In 2004, Des Jardins opened up her first Mexican restaurant Mijita, serving dishes inspired by her maternal grandparents, who are from Mexico.

In the last year, Des Jardins opened up her second fine dining restaurant Manzanita in Lake Tahoe, a second location of Mijita, and Public House, a sports bar located in at AT&T Park. Public House’s menu incorporates local food artisans and craft beer.


Q. Please tell us about your restaurants:

A. Jardiniere is my signature restaurant, it’s my home, it’s the benchmark of everything I do. It’s the culmination of all of my French training that I had for 25 years and it’s my baby!

For Mijita, it was always kind of a dream of mine to do a taqueria and I like keeping it simple, inexpensive, and not fancy. I’m half-Mexican, my grandparents were born in Mexico and I grew up in California, so Mexican food has always been my soul food.

Manzanita is the first fine dining restaurant that I’ve opened since I opened Jardiniere, which was 13 years ago. It’s my second kind of higher end place and I like to call it ‘Traci’s Mountain Food.’ I spend a lot of time in the mountains, since I’m a skier and doing a restaurant in a mountain ski resort area has always been another one of my dreams. It’s a beautiful restaurant and the food is hearty and it’s stuff that you want to eat when you’re exercising, skiing, out on a lake, hiking, and that kind of stuff.

Q. Which is what kind of food?

A. Well, we do a lot of  pastas and carbs, because I think that’s what a lot of people want to eat when they’ve been out exercising. The food is more similar to Jardiniere in style, however a little bit more casual. It’s not an ultra-fine dining place, no table cloths and a very casual feel. People are comfortable coming in wearing jeans and it doesn’t require really dressing up. It’s comfortable yummy food.

Q. And you now have something at the ball park.

A. I did a sports bar this year!

Q. How did that come about?

A. It had been a really fine dining restaurant before and I took it down to the steak house level. It worked on some levels, but it was really a pretty small fraction of the demographic going to baseball games that wanted to eat in a fairly expensive steak house environment. So we turned that into a sports bar. I could never really imagine doing something like this, but we’ve had a good time with it.

Q. What is the menu like?

A. It’s San Francisco flavors in a sports bar. We have so many great producers in the Bay Area that are making really yummy stuff, like 4505 Meats’ hot dogs, and Chris Cosentino at Boccalone for Italian Sausage. Everyone loves a great burger, so we have a great burger using Niman Ranch beef. It’s all American stuff, but done with really great ingredients.

Q. So, you’ve had a busy year.

A. I opened three restaurants in four months all within the last year and I’m still trying to recover from it!

Q. It must feel satisfying though.

A. It was a bit of a wild ride. I don’t recommend it! I don’t know how these guys who open six restaurants a year do it. My guess is that they have an infrastructure and I’m not sure I excelled in that area, but I manage to do it.

Q. How do you divide your time when you have so many restaurants?

A. I bounce around a lot, and it’s on an as-needed basis. Jardiniere is my home, that is where I spend the most amount of time. The other ones I try to visit on a consistent basis and spot check quality and work with my managers. I have amazing people working with me and they are the ones who have to do it every day.

Q. What is a great night for you? What is it about the business that makes you say “this is why I do it?”

A. It’s always the people. Those people can be your guests or those people can be your staff. It’s a people business and when everything is singing, you have happy people around you.

Q. With all the time spent in kitchens and working with different people, what is the one thing you would say you’ve learned about yourself?

A. To be a good manager, you have to learn all the time and you have to be introspective, and you have to understand what you do well and what you don’t do well. Building your team around you is about complementing your strengths and weaknesses and that is what I’ve learned over time. If you’re looking for people who are just like you, you’re not going to have a good balanced team.

Q. How has the television aspect of being a chef changed the business?

A. It’s strange. It’s made us into kind of like celebrities, which always throws me off guard because I’m a pretty down to earth person and I certainly don’t think of myself that way. But now wandering around out there in the world, people treat you sometimes like you’re a movie star and it’s just totally bizarre.

Q. Did you enjoy being on Iron Chef?

A. Yeah, I loved it. It was a lot of fun and I became really good friends with Mario [Batali]. He is just one of the most fun people on the planet. He’s an incredible person and an incredible chef.

I never thought I could actually win. I went in thinking I just want to make my food and I want to finish the hour without a single tragedy. It’s the fastest hour of your life and then I won and that was just kind of the silver lining.

Q. Are there fellow chefs whom you admire, look for advice, or think they are doing a great job?

A. I’ve worked for some incredible chefs in my career, and have been incredibly privileged to have started with Joachim Splichal, who was my mentor and amazing. I worked with Alain Senderens, Alain Passard, Alain Ducasse, and Jean Troisgros. I got to work with Drew Nieporent, who is a great restauranteur. They were all incredible and taught me so so much.

There are two people that I wish that I had worked for when I was younger. One is Alice Waters. I would have loved to work at Chez Panisse to have that historical reference point.  What she’s done changed the way that we buy food, look at food, and produce food in this country.

The second is Daniel Boulud. I think he is amazing and a brilliant restauranteur. I interviewed with Daniel in 1987, when I was in New York and he offered me a job. But he wanted a two year commitment and I had already committed to opening Patina with Joachim Splichal in Los Angeles.  So I missed that opportunity and I really wish that I’d had the chance to work with Daniel.

Advice / Tips

Q. What are some good “ballpark bites” that someone can make at home?

A. Deviled Eggs are always great. Use homemade aioli and great farm fresh eggs.

I really like Jalapeno Poppers (see recipe). They are really good. A little bit of a labor of love, but people go crazy over them.

I love to make my own French Onion Dip. Use French onion soup mix,  make your own caramelized onions, use sour cream and a little bit of sherry. Totally delicious.

For guacamole, I keep it really simple. My guacamole has avocado, lime juice, finely diced white onion, chopped cilantro, a serrano chili for some spice, salt, and that’s it.

(Also see recipes for Pigs-In-Blankets and Cole Slaw.)

Q. Any particular beer that you love?

A. I actually prefer margaritas. Use a really good quality pure agave tequila, my favorite is 7 Leguas. It’s really clean and crisp. I really only drink silvers. Add agave syrup, lime juice and that’s it.



Q. Are there any markets that you love?

A. I think Bi-Rite is one of the best markets in the whole world. It has everything! Different meat producers like Five Dot Ranch. They make their own sausages, they have great different types of chicken, local fish, and an incredible selection of cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery to Andante Dairy.

[See details.]

Q. Who are some of the purveyors you’re using?

A. We use 4505 Meats for our hot dogs at the ballpark, they’re made with great ingredients. They also have these chicharrones that are absolutely addictive and their pork rinds, which they sell as a retail item.

Fatted Calf does really great charcuterie. You can order from their website.

Marin Sun Farms for really great meats and hot dogs.

[See details.]


Q. Where do you love to eat off the beaten track?

A. Saison in the Mission. It’s in a very off-beat location, it’s a stunning restaurant and you can sit in the kitchen. They have the chef’s counter that has like four seats. It’s really, really, really good.

[See details.]

Q. How about iconic San Francisco restaurants?

A. Zuni is probably my favorite restaurant in the whole world and the one that I have gone to more than any other restaurant ever. It’s my go-to place. It’s the place I’ll take people over and over again. It’s something you don’t want to over-anticipate, because it is a very simple restaurant. But the space itself is so beautiful and it’s just a very special, quintessential San Francisco place.

[See details.]

Q. What should people order when they go there?

A. Well the Zuni classics are the hamburger, the roast chicken, the caesar salad, the cured anchovies. They are always on the menu and really great. They also have an incredible selection of oysters, mainly Pacific Coast, but they have East Coast as well. The always have a great selection and they’re impossibly fresh.

The Slanted Door is another San Francisco classic, a must go-to. It’s located in the Ferry Building with a beautiful view and they have really great stuff there.

[See details.]

Q. Others of your personal favorites?
A. In the Hayes Valley neighborhood, Sebo. It’s an incredible sushi place, not necessarily traditional. Michael Black is half-Japanese and he is amazing. He built the restaurant pretty much on his own, the sushi bar is just gorgeous, and it’s just really good. Get a seat at the sushi bar and let them do their thing. It’s fantastic.

Bar Jules, which is also in Hayes Valley. It’s market California Mediterranean cuisine, with a small hand-written menu. Jessica Boncutter is the chef/proprietor and she is there most of the time behind the line. It’s a cute little place.

[See details.]

Q. How about in New York?

A. I love Prune. I try to hit it every time I’m there.

Casa Mono - I love Mario’s restaurants, and this one in particular.

Babbo is always a great place to grab something to eat. 

And then there is Yakitori Totto, it’s so good. I eat everything.

[See details.]

Q. Any other places from your travels?

A. Mexico City is a great food city. I’ve spent a little bit of time there recently and it’s a great food destination. I eat a lot of street food, which not everyone is going to do since they’re afraid of getting sick.

But for a restaurant, Contramar is amazing. Really fresh seafood, simply prepared, and totally delicious. As far as sit down restaurants that are a bit more formal, that was definitely the standout.

[See details.]


Q. Any great places in San Francisco for cocktails?

A. Bar Agricole - it’s a new bar, just opened by Thad Vogler. I think he’s an amazing barman and cocktail guy. He worked for me for awhile, he worked for Loretta Keller (Coco500), and he worked at The Slanted Door. This is absolutely going to be the hot spot.

[See details.]

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Recommended By

- Chef Eric Skokan, Black Cat: Farm-Table-Bistro

- Chef Nathan Foot, Northern Spy Food Co.


Traci Des Jardin’s recommendations for where to eat, drink, and shop in San Francisco, New York, and Mexico City.

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Details of Traci Des Jardin’s recommendations for where to eat, drink, and shop in San Francisco, New York, and Mexico City.




Civic Center / Van Ness

French / California

300 Grove Street

San Francisco, CA 94102 (view map)

T: 415.861.5555  (make a reservation)



Sun - Mon: 5pm - 10pm

Tue - Sat: 5pm - 10:30pm




One Ferry Building, Number 44

San Francisco, CA 94111 (view map)

T: 415.399.0814



Mon -Thu: 10am - 7pm

Fri: 10am - 8pm

Sat: 9am - 8pm

Sun: 10am - 4pm


AT&T Park


24 Willie Mays Plaza

San Francisco, CA 94107 (view map)

T: 415.644.0240



Daily: 11am - 9pm


AT&T Park

Craft Beer / Artisan Food Sports Bar

24 Willie Mays Plaza

San Francisco, CA 94107 (view map)

T: 415.644.0240



Sun - Thur 4pm- 10pm

Fri - Sat: 4pm - 11pm


Lake Tahoe

California / Contemporary French

The Ritz Carlton

13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court

Truckee, CA 96161

T: 530.562.3050 (make a reservation)



Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 2:30pm

Sun - Thu: 5pm - 9pm

Fri - Sat: 5pm - 10pm



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