Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
- 300 South Doheny Drive, Los Angeles, California, 90048, USA
Executive Chef, Culina Ristorante
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2023
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- BOA Steakhouse, Los Angeles; Balthazar Restaurant, New York; Cellaio Steak by Scott Conant, Resorts World Catskills, New York; Plan Do See/Neuehouse, Los Angeles; Think Food Group, Washington, DC; The Next Idea, Los Angeles; Epic Restaurant, Chicago; Hotels AB – The Standard & Sunset Beach Hotels, Los Angeles & The Hamptons
- Studied Political Science and Geography, East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania; Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
- Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
- English, working knowledge of Spanish
“I first came to California for the ingredients, but with Culina Ristorante it’s for the whole thing,” says Executive Chef Mark Pollard, on how the signature dining experience he oversees at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, fits into the scene around it. Time was when LA played second fiddle to the Bay Area ingredient-wise. Not anymore. “The city has come a long way in a short time, with some of the best takes on different cuisines in the country and even micro-cuisines within them. Culina stands out as an elevated LA experience that’s Mediterranean at its core but Californian at heart.”
Whichever of the Mediterranean’s many culinary influences inspire him, Pollard plays them from strength. He likes to create dishes that are “clean, simple and lighter in style,” he says, in keeping with the cosmopolitan appetites of clientele and the restaurant’s lively, sun-drenched, indoor/outdoor vibe. He emphasizes seafood, avoids heavy sauces, and aims for wine friendliness, too. “It’s really important not to intimidate our diners, but to create things in ways that let the principle ingredients shine through.”
Pollard is quick to acknowledge that many of the ideas he dishes up at Culina are not his alone. He sees the back of the house as a place of camaraderie, understanding, and disparate cultures where everyone understands the language of the kitchen and is encouraged to contribute. “I’ve gotten a lot of incredible recipes from people from different countries over the years, which informs me and reveals new things.”
Whatever ideas he takes, he gives plenty back, placing a strong emphasis on training and culinary education, as well as on creating lasting relationships. It’s about so much more than being a cool boss, he explains. “Getting in on the line and working closely opens my eyes to the challenges my people face every service. Maybe their set up needs to be more ergonomic, or they need different tools for the job.” The resulting touches keep the talent content while ensuring success on the plate.
Pollard has also learned that when he creates a new dish, part of the training he gives is his own. “When someone struggles to get the hang of something, it may be because I misread things and need to consider a new approach. That’s why I like to spend time on the line.” He’s a teacher, not a yeller, he adds. “When I research and develop new recipes, I always have our chefs and cooks and even the front of the house in mind.”
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Pollard studied political science and geography less than an hour north in East Stroudsburg, with hopes of becoming an urban planner. He ended up earning a degree in poli sci from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, while earning money working and learning on the job at restaurants.
A sous chef by the time he graduated, Pollard contemplated graduate school, but instead chose a culinary career. “My blue-collar family was impressed with my degree, but they also wanted me to do what I was passionate about. In the end, being a chef was a lot easier for them to wrap their heads around than urban planning.”
His first stop after college was San Francisco with his first turn as executive chef at a restaurant located along the cable car line to Russian Hill. He later held the same position at hotel restaurants in Los Angeles and The Hamptons, at a fine dining American restaurant in Chicago, and while consulting on multi-million-dollar hospitality concepts in the U.S. and abroad. He also led one of New York City’s most iconic restaurants and launched an ultra-high-end steakhouse in West Hollywood.
Taken together, quite a career. But looking back, Pollard sees his successes as paving a long runway to his ultimate goal: being part of Four Seasons. “This is a job I’ve wanted for period of time,” he says, recalling past attempts to join a number of properties that went nowhere. “To finally get a chance at Culina at such an amazing Hotel is super-exciting for me. I have a stable base with a lot support to execute menus at a high level for people that really appreciate it.”
Pollard is similarly appreciative to be back in California again. He quickly got into the groove of “touching tables” to get to know diners at Culina, and he makes a point to treat celebrities just like anyone else. “I’m always careful not to diminish their experience.”
Meantime, away from the ristorante, Pollard thrills to the wonders of the region, enjoying “heavy duty hiking” with his son a few times each month at Joshua Tree National Park and others that they access with his well-used America the Beautiful pass. “We have a small orchard of fruit trees for fresh goodness in our backyard and natural beauty all around us. That’s California for you.”