Hotel California Announces Notable Culinary Hires

Santa Barbara's Newest Luxury Lifestyle Hotel Welcomes Paul Tilson, Benjamin Kunert and Mark Bernardo

SANTA BARBARA, CA. August 29, 2017 – Santa Barbara’s most anticipated new luxury property, the Hotel Californian, is proud to announce the appointment of Paul Tilson as food and beverage director, Benjamin Kunert as pastry chef and Mark Bernardo as director of venues for the new 121-room coastal retreat. Tilson, Kunert, Bernardo, and Executive Chef Alexander La Motte will oversee all aspects of the hotel’s food and beverage offerings.

As Food and Beverage Director, Paul Tilson is responsible for overseeing all food and beverage venues at Hotel Californian, including the hotel’s Mediterranean-influenced signature restaurant, Blackbird and Goat Tree gourmet café. He brings over 15 years of passion and food and wine industry experience from across California to the role. Tilson’s past roles include a variety of management and wine leadership positions at prestigious establishments. In his most recent role as wine director at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, he successfully relaunched the food and beverage program at the property’s flagship restaurant, Olivella. Tilson has held several other high-profile positions, including the general manager and wine director at the Patina Group in Los Angeles; manager of wine and cuisine at the esteemed Meadowood Napa Valley, where he was regularly honored for his management achievements; and hospitality director at the leading-edge Alpha Omega Winery, located in legendary Rutherford in the heart of Napa Valley.

As Pastry Chef of Hotel Californian, the talented Benjamin Kunert will be responsible for the creation and development of all the hotel’s confections, including pastries and baked goods. For more than 15 years, Kunert has worked in some of the most renowned and impressive restaurants in Europe, including Michelin three-star recipients. Most recently, Kunert was the executive pastry chef at Hotel Atlantis and Giardino Group in Switzerland. Born in California, Kunert’s exceptional career began in 2001, when he earned his certificate at Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg. After completing a three-year apprenticeship at the Reindls Partenkirchner Hof in Garmisch, Germany, Kunert went on to earn his title as sous pastry chef for the Schwarzwaldstube at Hotel Traube Tonbach. While working for the Michelin three-star restaurant, Kunert helped manage a team of 15 employees in the Pastry Department and catered events for up to 600 people. Following Schwarzwaldstube, Kunert held roles as head pastry chef for a selection of Frankfurt restaurants including Silk (Michelin one-star), Micro, Lohninger and Holbein’s Restaurant; and was the head pastry chef at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (Michelin two-star) in France. His European expertise led him to receive multiple awards and accolades including Pastry Chef of the Year by Sternefresser Online Magazine in 2013.

Mark Bernardo, director of venues, will be responsible for developing and overseeing Hotel Californian’s food and beverage venues including Blackbird, Goat Tree gourmet café, in-room dining, as well as special events and private celebrations alongside the catering team. Prior to joining Hotel Californian, Bernardo worked for top luxury restaurants and entertainment groups in Los Angeles and New York. Most recently, as general manager of SBE Entertainment Group, Bernardo successfully launched Doheny Room, the flagship upscale restaurant and lounge in West Hollywood. In 2010, he began his career as the food and beverage manager at the W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills. Following his time at W Los Angeles, Bernardo served as the senior food and beverage manager at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills; general manager at Houston Hospitality in Los Angeles; general manager at Major Food Group in New York; and senior operations manager at Tao Group, where he also served as the opening operations manager for VANDAL Restaurant and Lounge in New York.

About Hotel Californian

One of the most anticipated hotel openings in 2017 will be Santa Barbara’s Hotel Californian. Featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and a modern Moorish vibe, this unique coastal retreat will cater to the Hollywood elite, locals and international visitors alike. On the site of the original Hotel Californian, this State Street seaside destination has been meticulously crafted by developer Michael Rosenfeld and is highlighted by paseos, gardens, fountains and open plazas. A unique rooftop pool and event deck will provide unobstructed views of both the coastline and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Featuring a luxury Moroccan-inspired spa, fashion boutique and casual dining options, the 121-room Hotel Californian is located adjacent to Santa Barbara’s vibrant Funk Zone and one block from Union Station. Its ballroom, event lawns and meeting spaces will provide memorable venues for weddings and group events. Interiors from celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, will enhance the quintessential California Spanish Colonial architecture with Bullard’s unique Moorish inspired details.

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