Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
- 757 Market Street, San Francisco, California, 94103, U.S.A.
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1994
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Junior Sous Chef, Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane
- Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills; Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire; Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies; Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas; Four Seasons Hotel Austin; Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach; Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane; personal chef to Mohammad Al Fayed; Diplomat Hotel Manama, Bahrain; Hyde Park Hotel Knightsbridge, London; Hotel Le Pigonet, Provence, France; Hotel Florida, Biarritz, France
- Le Mans, France
- Culinary Diploma, Lycee Helene Boucher, Le Mans
- French, English
With his turn as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, Cyrille Pannier can look back at eight assignments since joining the company in 1994. “All of them have been very different, with distinct challenges and opportunities to learn from local culture, food and produce. It’s exciting and refreshing at the same time.”
As Executive Chef, Pannier guides guides MKT Restaurant - Bar and its three private dining rooms, and the in-room dining operation. He also oversees the Hotel’s “massive” banquet operation, creating social lunches, business dinners, wedding receptions and everything in between for “very demanding” clientele. “Food knowledge has increased so much over the past decade. Now every guest wants something different and they all want to outdo each other.”
Born in Le Mans, France, Pannier grew up on a farmstead in Arnage where he foraged for porcini and golden chanterelle mushrooms. His mother was first to recognise his passion for the kitchen, and she secured him an apprenticeship at a Michelin-starred restaurant when he was 16. “Back in those days, you had three months to prove yourself. I started out working 16-hour days. If someone ordered a salad, I had to pick it fresh from the garden. The search for perfection was an absolute rush: I thought it was unreal.”
Pannier’s mother wasn’t finished. When her son turned 18, she gave him an old cookery book – dated from 1782 – the first of what is now an extensive collection from the 18th and 19th centuries. He quickly became “obsessed” with the history and oddities of his craft. “A lot of cookbooks were designed for big estates back then, so you find recipes for the staff such as flour made from ground oyster shells.” Many modern dishes are not-so-modern after all, he has found: cooks were mixing sugar and vinegar 200 years before balsamic syrup became popular in the 1990s, and crispy salmon skin nearly identical to what Nobu makes can be found as a garnish as well. Take away? “Everything old is new again.”
Pannier began to appreciate farm fresh ingredients during his time in Hampshire, where his “Field to Fork” concept saw him working closely with local farmers and suppliers and leading foraging trips for Hotel guests and cooks. Now, as one of three Wellness Chef Leaders within Four Seasons, he guides hotel chefs on creating balanced dishes through use of healthy oils and sensible portion sizes. “Ten or 15 years ago, ‘wellness’ meant low-fat or steamed. We are revisiting wellness with an eye toward creating healthful dishes that are full of flavour – alongside the usual indulgences, of course.”
Pannier's commitment to ensuring everyone eats well extends outside the kitchen as he actively participated in Chefs Cycle, the P2P fundraising endurance event featuring award-winning chefs fighting hunger.
Travel has long been Pannier’s other fascination, inspired by his frequent transfers between Four Seasons properties. “New jobs are an ideal way for me to marry my two passions,” he says, recalling, in particular, time spent scuba diving, spearfishing and trapping lobsters in Nevis, where he dreamed up the Resort’s popular “Dive and Dine” program.
Might he soon be found plunging for abalone somewhere along the coast of California? “No – I’m too busy to spend time on the water these days,” he says with a laugh. “I’d rather explore the hills with my family searching for treasures at farmers markets.”