Farm-to-Table, Reinvented: How One Chef Expands the Palate for Local Cuisine


By Kelley Lefmann

Executive Chef Bruno Tison, of Michelin-rated restaurant Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, delights guests with a fresh take on a culinary trend. His unique style is inspired by the seasonality of the Valley’s local produce. The youngest executive chef of the Plaza Hotel in New York (the Fairmont’s sister property), Tison brings 15 years of accolades, including two FOOD ARTS’ Silver Spoon awards, a gold medal at the NY International Food Show Exposition, and first prize at the NYC Hotel & Motel Culinary Olympics.

Chef Tison’s mastery of innovative cuisine starts with local ingredients sourced for their fresh flavor and vibrant color. Visiting with farmers who curate a garden of the highest quality, Tison hand-selects what he will incorporate into his daily menu. A simple salad is transformed into a feast for both the eyes and the palate. As Chef Tison and his team gingerly handle ingredients such as organic fennel, micro greens, radishes, and edible flowers, the result is a creation that is both delectable and beautiful. A sojourn to the farmer’s market yields mouth-watering raspberries and sweet Meyer lemons, to delight and dance on the tongue. These are not bulk-ordered and shipped in from other regions—only the best of Northern California’s farmlands will do. Tison prides himself on knowing not only where his ingredients originate, but personally ensuring the highest quality—from biodynamic, pesticide-free crops, to ones harvested at the height of their ripening. This is the essence of the “farm-to-table” movement.

“As a Chef in Northern California, it is impossible not to be influenced by the local produce, products, and culture of this area,” notes Tison. “The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa has an incredible reputation for the style of food and presentation it has served over the years,” he continues. “. . . the chance to again work in this area is an unbelievable creative opportunity for me.”

Chef Tison practiced under some of France’s most legendary master chefs, such as Alain Chapel, Michel Guerard, Roger Verge, and Bernard Waterlot. He asserts that his unique culinary flair is heavily influenced by his strong classical background and the use of fresh American products.

A native of northern France, Tison’s culinary education began at the Institut Des Metiers De L’Alimentation in Belgium, where he graduated with highest honors. From there, his experience grew to include overseeing all facets of Alain Chapel’s first venture in the U.S., Pierre at Le Meridien, San Francisco, as well as serving as Executive Chef of San Francisco’s fabled Ernie’s Restaurant (one of a handful of establishments in the States to receive five stars by the Mobil Guide for 29 consecutive years). Chef Tison also served as Executive Chef at Beau Geste in New York, where a food critic admired his “firm grasp of color, taste, and texture that produces a wide range of interestingly flavorful tastes.”

At the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Chef Tison oversees a team of 50, including the restaurant Santé, the Inn’s banquet activities, and private dining. Located 40 miles north of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in Sonoma Valley, and acclaimed for its natural mineral waters, charming grounds, and gracious service, the resort is also home to the country’s finest European spa experience. At the restaurant Santé, which is French for “health,” it’s no surprise that AAA’s Four Diamond Award has been granted, with Michelin reviews proclaiming: “. . . sophistication, as haute techniques meet high-end ingredients . . . descriptions are exacting in their ability to convey the many harmonious components of each plate.”

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