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.