New York City-raised chef aims to enrich Tahoe’s palette
For years, John Tesar fibbed to his boss to come to the Tahoe area.
For Christmas vacation, he’d leave his job as a chef in New York City and fly out to Las Vegas to visit family. Then, unbeknownst to his boss, Tesar would spend the rest of his holiday on the slopes, snowboarding in Tahoe.
Now, after years of living and working in the Big Apple, Tesar, who landed the executive chef position at the newly opened Wild Goose in Tahoe Vista, can play in the snow all he wants.
“Working in the restaurant business in New York City is the same adrenaline rush as rock climbing or snowboarding,” said Tesar, who opened his first restaurant at age 24 in West Hampton.
Tesar, 44, brings a resume with extensive experience, a rare find in the North Lake Tahoe area. He studied at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, where he not only learned the technique, but the history behind the preparation of food.
He’s worked at several critically acclaimed restaurants in New York City, like Lespinasse, Bouley, Vine and 13 Barrow Street. He’s catered for clients like Mariah Carey, Sony Entertainment and Giorgio Armani. He’s also made television appearances on the Food Network, “Rosie O’Donnell,” and “Regis and Kathy Lee.”
“I know every facet of the restaurant business,” said Tesar, who’s owned four restaurants himself. “It’s really a pleasure to come to Lake Tahoe and focus on cooking and the kitchen.”
For the past 23 years, Tesar and his career have been in constant motion, a pace he became accustomed to. So when he was hired on April 1, 2002, for what was supposed to be Wild Goose’s opening in June 2002, it was difficult for him to sit tight until all the permits cleared and the construction was complete almost a year later.
“It was really tough for me,” he said. “There were definitely moments of frustration. But I think I’m better for it. It was actually a blessing in disguise. I’ve gotten to acclimate and get to know people.”
For Tesar, another draw to Tahoe was the availability of ingredients in California, right down to the micro greens – which are delivered to his kitchen while they’re still alive – used to garnish his dishes.
“There’s no doubt that there is more high-quality, fresh and organic produce available in California than anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Tesar’s main culinary convictions come from his training in simplicity, tradition and integrity of food, he said. This philosophy is apparent on the menu at Wild Goose, with selections like “Mac and Cheese” or sirloin steak, served with french fries and tomato salad. On the other end of the spectrum, the menu features “Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops” and “Poached Lobster and Braised Fennel.”
Oftentimes, a struggle of big city chef coming to a small town is finding an appreciative audience. However, with a large Bay Area crowd vacationing in the Tahoe area and a positive outlook, Tesar doesn’t foresee it being an issue.
“If you put the focus in the food, people here will appreciate it, whether its mac and cheese and meatloaf or caviar and scallops.”
Wild Goose, owned and operated by Tahoe Mountain Resorts, is located on 7320 North Lake Blvd. in Tahoe Vista. Call 546-3640 for reservations.