San Marino Resident and Celebrity Chef Joachim Splichal Branches Out With ‘Maple’ at Descanso Gardens
A great newsman once said his favorite interview subjects are those who are comfortable in their own skin, and that thought immediately comes to mind sitting across from chef extraordinaire Joachim Splichal.
Seated atop a culinary empire that includes more than 75 restaurants, Splichal sips coffee and seems in no hurry to do anything but be interviewed as the Thursday morning dawn turns into daylight.
Patina, his restaurant group, is spread from Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York to Orlando and employs 6,500. There are 20 properties in the Big Apple alone.
“And a Little League stadium in Arkansas,” he adds with a wry grin.
Disney Resorts, the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angles and every concession at LACMA just begins the list.
Splichal sold the company 2-1/2 years ago but still maintains a strong interest in his new role as Chef and Founder.
“A lot of different stuff,” he responds when asked, “What do you do all day?”
“New concepts, VIP parties, fundraisers. There is always something going on. Tonight, we have 10 parties.”
In the previous week, Splichal had overseen events for the king of an oil-rich nation and one of the richest men in the world (“He spent $2 million on parties while he was just in Los Angeles”).
Splichal is about to fly to Tokyo for a tasting session – the Patina Group has been contracted to supply all of the food for business class travelers on ANA Airlines. Then, on to Europe.
Yep. There’s always something going on.
“I never dreamed,” he says, his voice trailing off. “I came here with nothing. I opened one restaurant and things went quickly.”
The business was, however, in his blood. Splichal was raised in Germany where his family operated a gasthaus – an inn of sorts, with a bar, restaurant and banquet facilities.
“We had 10-15 rooms on top. My family has had it for 150 years. I grew up amidst all that craziness.”
Splichal was working at a restaurant in the South of France when he was approached by American businessman and philanthropist David Murdoch, who was opening a private club in Westwood and wanted Joachim as head chef.
“That was more than 30 years ago,” Splichal says wistfully, as he gazes out a sliding glass door and into the park-like setting of his home’s yard.
Splichal opened Patina in downtown Los Angeles as his first venture. The highly-acclaimed eaterie has since moved into Disney Hall.
“Patina was a culinary-driven restaurant,” he reflects. “We were rated by Zagat and then earned a national and international reputation. Then we just kept opening restaurants with employees who were part of the family.”
Splichal said the group began to grow immediately and quickly branched into what he calls “cultural institutions.”
“They have an experience at Patina and they want to duplicate the quality at their property,” he says. “That’s how we grew, one by one.”
He also gets a kick out of mentoring chefs in their own solo ventures.
“Many of the chefs work for us 10, 15 years,” he says. “I enjoy helping them. Now, they all do their own menus.”
That sentence is said with a strong sense of pride.
Splichal moved to San Marino 21 years ago with his former wife and twin sons, Stephane and Nicholas, who attend St. Mary’s and Santa Clara Universities, respectively. Nicholas was a member of San Marino High School’s CIF championship tennis teams in 2012 and 2014. Stephane graduated from Maranatha High School. Both know their way around a kitchen according to their famous, award-winning dad.
“They know how to cook,” he says with pride. “We often have 10, 15, 20 people over for dinner and we all do a dish.”
Though many of his interests were located downtown and on the city’s westside, Splichal settled in San Marino “to get away from all of the hullaballoo.”
“When my wife became pregnant, we felt we needed to go to an area where there were good schools,” Splichal says. “We knew quite a few people in San Marino and Pasadena and – here we are.”
A lot of his time is devoted to Maple, a new venture located on the grounds of Descanso Gardens that has become an instant hit, especially when it comes to a sensational weekend brunch offering (make a reservation!).
“It’s basically the evolution of Patina,” Splichal says.
Maple will be open for Thanksgiving and Splichal has planned a special dinner menu to accompany the ‘Enchanted: Forest of Light’ show that runs from Nov. 25 through Jan. 8.
Until then, you can see the man who has access to the finest food suppliers in the world at…a local farmer’s market.
“I go every Thursday and Sunday,” he says. “We also buy from farmer’s markets for the restaurants. It’s the best place to get organic vegetables.”
Splichal has one last trick up his sleeve when asked to name his favorite meal.
Could it be one of the items that appear on his Wikipedia page? Perhaps the grilled hamachi belly, “minute poached” live spot prawn, rosemary marinated quail, Arctic char with braised celery root or Piemontese tortelloni?
“A steak, some salt,” he says, with a quick sideways movement of his left hand that seems to say “that’s it!”
“A ribeye steak aged for 28 days, organic vegetables roasted with virgin olive oil and kosher salt. I am very happy with that.”
Joachim Splichal will be providing recipes for special Thanksgiving dishes in a future edition of The Tribune.