In the kitchen with Chef Conner of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
In conversation with

Get to know executive chef Connor McVay

October 12, 2021

Rising culinary star, chef Connor McVay has perfected his skills with the Wolfgang Puck team and now oversees our Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air restaurant. Hear about his food passions and must-try dishes.

Tell us about your role

I’ve been at Hotel Bel-Air since 2016, working my way up from sous chef and chef de cuisine, to my current role as executive chef for the entire property. Together as a team, we pride ourselves on our creativity and dedication to innovation. I love learning so I’m constantly looking for new ways to do things.

Porch terrace of a restaurant with tables dressed for dinner
White plate of colorful crudites

What inspires you?

Working with fresh ingredients at the peak of their season and telling a story on a plate. I’m in awe of their vibrant colours and textures, which spark my creativity. I love getting a call from my fish suppliers and hearing about their best catch of the day, or taking a simple ingredient like a carrot and transforming it into something else.

How does your upbringing influence your food?

My father has always been huge foodie, be it making meals at home or going out to dinner. As a child growing up in San Diego, I didn’t realise that I was building a broad palate from a very young age.  We were lucky to have easy access to some of the best produce in the world.

What’s your favourite dish at the moment?

Our ‘peaches & cream’ dish at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. It highlights the beautiful flavour of grilled peaches from Andy’s Orchard. We serve them with avocado, pickled sweet chillies and fresh coriander, topped with whipped black pepper crème fraiche and salsa macha.

Photograph of a crudités plate
Mini pizzas with smoked salmon and caviar

What advice do you have for home chefs?

Be patient and remember that recipes are just there as a guideline. Learn from them, learn from your mistakes and then create your own version just the way you like it. I also recommend not being afraid to add a little salt and acid to bring your dishes to life.

Can you suggest an easy yet impressive dinner party dish to cook at home?

Yes, how about a comforting potato gratin. It’s easier to make than you might think and a true showstopper once you cut through all the delicate layers. It’s a real favourite my mine.

My tip for home cooking is to buy some essential quality equipment that you’ll use regularly and will last you a lifetime. For me, these include a good solid cast iron pan, a proper chef’s knife and a sturdy chopping board.

Connor McVay Executive chef, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air

What’s your signature dish or ingredient?

Our imported Italian burrata dish, served with sourdough bread toasted over our oak wood grill. I put this on the menu back in early 2018 and it’s been a crowd pleaser ever since. In autumn and winter, we serve it with roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, wild rocket and aged balsamic vinegar.  In summer, we pair it with cherry mostarda or fresh Adriatic figs.

In the kitchen with Chef Conner of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
malibu coastline beach, california

Chefs work long hours, how do you like to spend your time off?

When I’m not in the kitchen, I enjoy spending time on the beach and cooking at home for friends and family. My wife and I also like going on road trips, hiking and camping. In the past 18 months, we’ve visited five states and explored 15 national parks. The more we see, the more we want to see.

What are your favourite local food shops?

I’m a big fan of Bay Cities Italian Deli and Bakery, which doesn’t need any introduction if you live in LA.  When I moved here 2015, Bay Cities was a little slice of home. I also love going to the deli in Little Italy in San Diego and Brentwood Farmers’ Market on a Sunday. It’s not as big as Santa Monica’s Farmers’ Market but if you like the idea of exceptional fish tacos, this is the place to go.

Basket of produce at The Original Farmers Market
Salad, fries, bread, table overview

What do you cook when you invite friends around for dinner?

I like to host relaxed get-togethers for friends and family. These usually revolve around a large piece of meat such as ribeye or a whole fish cooked on the grill. I serve these with plenty of salad, a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a good bottle of wine.

Come and experience more of Connor McVay’s culinary delights at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. We look forward to welcoming you.

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