I caught up with The Madrona’s new executive chef recently as he finished his first month at the revamped space. Chef Patrick Tafoya took over the kitchen of the venerated restaurant after chef Jesse Mallgren jumped to Jordan Winery in May as their new executive chef.
Tafoya has a diverse resume, having worked at the coastal Duck Club (now called Drake’s) and owning his restaurant, P/30 (closed in 2011). After the 2017 wildfires, he and his family spent several years living in Kansas City, where he headed the dining program at a local casino serving 1,000 people a night. Most recently, he was executive estate chef at Round Pound Estate in Rutherford.
As The Madrona’s new kitchen boss, he’s got big shoes to fill.
“Jesse has a reputation as one of the most celebrated chefs. You can’t walk into this building and not see what he did here,” Tafoya said. The restaurant gained a Michelin star in 2008 and held the honor for over a decade.
But Tafoya isn’t driving at those kinds of kudos.
“There’s a lot of pressure in that,” he said.
“My goal is to make the food approachable, comfortable and like someone’s home. We want people to feel comfortable from the moment they enter,” he said. That means leaning heavily on the estate’s sizable culinary garden for the 21 meal services (brunch, lunch and dinner) each week. For example, the team has planted 20 varieties of tomatoes on the property, and Tafoya is excited about showcasing them on the menu this summer.
The current dinner menu mixes some of Mallgren’s classic dishes and new items from Tafoya. Caviar and Onion Dip, warm bread with chicken schmaltz, Dayboat Scallops Crudo, Chicken Paillard, Dry-Aged Liberty Farm Duck and the Madrona Burger have remained. Tafoya has added an Estate Crudite with herbed creme fraiche, a Little Gem Salad, Grilled Local Peach with burrata and prosciutto and Corned “Beet” Tartare.
“My ideals and goals fit really well with the new ethos of The Madrona,” he said. “I am committed to curating a dining experience that encapsulates the distinctive style and spirit of The Madrona, honoring its illustrious past while offering our guests a diverse range of approachable dishes.”
The restaurant is open to the public for lunch and dinner. 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-395-6700, themadronahotel.com.