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California Grill gets new chef; Jiko goes looking for one

Written By Administrator On January 13, 2009

Brian Piasecki, who took over the top cooking spot at Jiko The Cooking Place only a little more than a California Grille year ago, has abandoned Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for the top floor of the Contemporary Resort and the grand open kitchen of California Grill.

Piasecki replaces Jens Dahlmann, who left CG to become executive chef for Epcot. California Grill is arguably the second-best restaurant job for an executive chef at Walt Disney World (the best is Victoria & Albert’s, and Scott Hunnel isn’t giving that one up for anything). Piasecki is only the fourth executive chef to lead the California Grill team. The restaurant was opened by Clifford Pleau who was replaced by John State.

Piasecki joined Disney as a culinary intern in 1991 at the age of 20. He worked at Coral Reef, The Land Grill, Odyssey, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, and Le Cellier, among others. When he took the top job at Jiko in late 2007, Piasecki told me he had never been to Africa and didn’t know much about that continent’s cuisines.

Still, he did a fine job with the restaurant. I reviewed it in May of last year just before leaving the Sentinel and gave it a decidedly positive review.

While California Grill is considered a plum assignment, it is possible it is becoming less desirable to talented chefs. That’s because the Grill’s menu has become all but set in stone — guests expect to find their favorites each time they return. So it will remain to be seen if Piasecki is able to put a personal touch on the cuisine.

Piasecki’s departure from Jiko means there’s an opening there. No prior experience with African cuisine required. A spokeswoman for Disney said there are no candidates at this time.

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