Chef’s Competition

2015 Winner: Greg Wagnard

The Festival features a Head-To-Head Chef Cook-Off in the outdoor kitchen stadium that will begin at 11:00. The Chefs this year are Kelly Wangard and Greg Wangard. Always fun to watch while the MC watches the clock, the Chefs may use two secret ingredients for three dishes in one hour. The five Judges for the Competition are local dignitaries. For more cooking tips check out the delicious olive inspired food sold in the Olive Festival Culinary Row.

Kelly  Wangard

Growing up in wine country, Kelly Wangard developed a profound appreciation for fine food and fresh ingredients at an early age. When her family moved to Paso Robles at the age of 11, Kelly was not only surrounded by bountiful fields and fresh harvests, she was immersed in all things agricultural. Kelly learned from her mom how to grow her own herbs and vegetables while raising her own lambs and caring for horses. Her family home was bordered by almond trees, herb gardens, loads of pigeons, pheasants, ducks, and chickens running around. This proved to be the source for her career in the culinary arts.
Upon graduating from high school, Kelly worked at Cahoots Catering in Paso Robles. It was there that she began to realize that her passion for food could soon translate into a successful career. She began working as a server then moved her way into the kitchen. Kelly would volunteer to work extra hours at the various wine events and banquets at the local wineries.
Kelly followed her passion and enrolled in the famed California Culinary Academy. She began honing her culinary skills under the close mentorship of legendary Bay area Chef Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys restaurant. Kelly’s first responsibility at the restaurant was to seat guests and take reservations. After much persistence and proving her ambition, she convinced Keller to put her to work on the kitchen line. While at Fleur de Lys, Kelly closely studied Keller’s technique. It was here that Kelly developed a true understanding of what it takes to run a successful restaurant. Traces of her early beginnings in Keller’s kitchen can be found today on her menu at Lot 1224.
While completing her culinary training, Kelly also worked in the Admissions department at the California Culinary Academy. Also, she worked for Kimpton Hotels at the Grand Cafe restaurant at Hotel Monaco and the Monticello Inn at Puccini and Pinetti. Kelly graduated with High Honors from the Culinary Academy, and received the prestigious Daniel Carlisle Walker Award. She was offered a position as the Chef Garde Manger at the Turtle Bay Restaurant at Caneel Bay Resort on the Island of St. John in the Virgin Islands. It was there that she met her husband, Gregg Wangard, who is Chef De Cuisine at Marisol at The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach.
When Kelly married Chef Gregg Wangard in 2002, she packed her bags and moved with him to his home state of Wisconsin. Kelly soon obtained a position as Executive Chef at Cucina Restaurant; one of Kohler’s finest restaurants. While at Cucina Restaurant, Kelly took the kitchen by storm using farm fresh ingredients and retooling the menu to reflect her unique style. Later, Kelly was recruited to serve as Executive Chef at Riverbend, a private membership club that lies on 40 acres at the horseshoe bend of the Sheboygan River. Soon thereafter, Kelly returned to Cucina to serve as Director of Food and Beverage. Under her direction, the restaurant became one of the most successful restaurants in the Mid-west.
In 2004, Kelly took the reigns in the kitchen at the newly renovated Lot 1224 Restaurant at Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. Kelly oversaw the daily operations of the kitchen, menu development, and inventory, while also serving as Director of Food and Beverage for the hotel. The menu at Lot 1224 features Kelly’s take on California cuisine with farm fresh ingredients.
Gregg and Kelly began a family and had a little girl named Elle. It was at this point when Paso Robles called her to come home. She was offered the Executive Chef position at the Paso Robles Inn where she took the Steakhouse to a whole new level. She introduced the concept of farm to table cuisine, as well as offering more than just steaks. Since this time, the Steakhouse has been recognized by Food & Wine media and served as Ultimate Chef Central Coast, 2009, top 5.
She was then offered a position as Executive Chef of Summerwood Winery and Inn.
Kelly as Executive Chef was promoted to oversee the operations as Inn manager. With the support of the owners, Kelly tackled the challenging 2 million dollar renovation of all 9 guest rooms and common areas and did all of the interior design.
Kelly was the champion of popular Cutthroat Kitchen television show on the Food Network “The Undertater”, which aired on the Food Network on Sunday, October 26, 2014.
Kelly and her husband and co conspirator in the culinary arts, Gregg Wangard live in Paso Robles, with their daughter Elle 8, their 5 year old son Mason, and dog Libby.


Greg  Wangard

A mid-westerner born and bred, Gregg Wangard was inspired to cook by endless hours in the kitchen with his Ukrainian Grandmother. Imbued with his grandmother’s passion for cooking, Gregg decided to pursue a career in cooking and hospitality. From her, he learned the basic fundamentals of layering flavors and understanding balance. He continues with the mantra to keep food simple, straight forward and cook with products that are grown or made close to where you live.
He began to cook professionally at the age of 15 in a small town diner and then was accepted into the prestigious American Culinary Federation accredited apprenticeship program at the AAA 5 diamond and Mobil 4 star resort called The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. It was here that he mastered the foundation of French cooking technique with hands on approach. He spent endless hours working overtime at all of the outlets in the resort such as the renowned PGA Golf Course Whistling Straits restaurant, Black Wolf Run, high volume banquet preparation and execution and fine dining at The Immigrant Room. During the winter, he would travel to the Island of St. John in the Caribbean to continue is education at the prestigious Caneel Bay Resort. As a Chef de Partie he had opportunity to create and cook cuisines highlighting Asian, Caribbean, Mediterranean and European cuisine. He was mentored by Chef Hans Schadler an American Culinary Federation Certified Executive Chef and American Academy of Chefs.
As Gregg continued his education the door opened with opportunities. He became the Chef de Cuisine at Cucina Bistro one of the American Club Restaurants and then was asked to be the Chef de Cuisine at the award winning 4 star, 4 diamond American Club Restaurant The Immigrant Room. He quickly inspired his staff to assist him to execute menus that were inspired by the local produce and products he could find like morel mushrooms, wild onions and artisan cheeses. He created a serviced cheese locker with interactive menu housing over 30 local cheeses. He would share stories with the staff and guests the cheese makers, their farm and the milk it was made from. Gregg is also an Ambassador for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Santa Monica, California was his next big move and his wife, Kelly a co-conspirator of the culinary arts helped make the transition seamless since California is her home state. He took lead of the Ocean and Vine Restaurant at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. He was then promoted to the Executive Chef managing a 12 million dollar food and beverage operation. He quickly gained national attention for his farm to table inspired cuisine and was Award Rising Star Los Angeles by Star Chefs International. He worked with high end publications such as Elle and Gourmet Magazine. He also filmed a cooking show on Canada’s Fine Living Network. Gregg and his wife began their family and had their heart set on a slower pace of life.
Gregg was offered the Chef de Cuisine at the Cliff’s Resort in Shell Beach, California. He again explored the central coast for artisan products and produce. He has developed relationships with over 30 resources on the central coast. He continues to promote these vendors on his menus and has done weekly television appearances on the local news KCOY to help with awareness of the great product that is grown locally. He was then promoted to Corporate Chef of Boutique Hotel Collection overseeing 4 Executive Chefs and managing the restaurants garden that supplies all the restaurants with their own produce. He has daily visits of local fisherman and ranchers that show him the freshest product.
Gregg’s other passion is to share what he has learned throughout his culinary career. His children attend Georgia Brown Elementary School in Paso Robles, a dual-language immersion magnet school. He leads a team of parent volunteers weekly. He reaches out for donations from the local community and teaches the children how to grow produce, how to harvest and how to prepare. He also commits to the annual Nutrition Month and cooks a nutritious lunch for the 550 students. In addition, he leads a cooking demonstration and all the students receive a take home gift of ingredients with a recipe to cook with their families. He hopes to expand this program and help develop it throughout the community.
Gregg and Kelly live in Paso Robles, with their daughter Elle 8, their 5 year old son Mason, and dog Libby.