Take 5 with Chef Stephane Tonnelier

Executive Chef Stephane Tonnelier

By Liz Garbes Bernardo
Images by Nash Bernardo 

Five Restaurant, at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley, recently held a party to welcome their new culinary genius, Executive Chef Stephane Tonnelier. Chef Stephane was born and raised in Paris, and considers his grandfather, who used to be a maître d’ for the luxury train Orient Express, as his major influence in pursuing a career in the cooking field. He started cooking at the age of 14 and has trained at L’Ecole des Métiers de la Table, where he spent 3 years juggling school and working as an apprentice.

He brings to Five 26 years of culinary expertise, half of this spent working in France and the next 13 years in prestigious restaurants here in the U.S. In 2000, while working as a chef in Saint-Germain-de-Pres, Chef Stephane received an offer for a position at Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City. Because of his love for travel, he grabbed the opportunity right away and came to the U.S. with a new adventure ahead of him.

Chef Stephane has worked and moved around in the US. A few of his more notable venues are Hotel Sofitel in Minneapolis and Chicago. He has also worked in San Diego and Idaho and here in the Bay Area, he worked as Executive Sous Chef at Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco just before joining the team at Five.

Chef Stephane’s philosophy in cooking emphasizes the importance of having the right balance of textures and flavors in every dish. He enjoys working with a variety of ingredients to get the right harmony of acidity, saltiness, sweetness, and sometimes even just a hint of spiciness to the plate.

In his kitchen at Five, Chef Stephane likes to work with modern cooking techniques such as “Sous-Vide”, where food items are vacuum-sealed and then cooked in a temperature controlled water bath to guarantee proper cooking. This technique keeps the flavors of vegetables and meats sealed, and this produces consistent and excellent textures and flavors. This enables his team to put more components on each plate and have better interaction of the sophisticated textures while keeping the pace fast, always with their guests needs in mind.

Chef Stephane in a conversation about sous-vide with food correspondent Liz Garbes Bernardo

Some of the items he’s most excited about on the new menu are the beef tartare with crispy potatoes and creamy truffle mushroom aioli, chilled poached prawns in coconut milk broth studded with mango peach salsa and papaya salad, as well as the California duck breast served with a perfectly balanced citrus pomegranate sauce. Five also features new must-try cocktails on their brand new bar menu such as the bailey, seelbach, moulin rouge, and aberdeen.

Chef Stephane is very excited to be working at Five and to contribute to this up-and-coming restaurant in the East Bay. He says he loves that you can find almost everything in Berkeley and that the scene is slowly becoming more like San Francisco with a lot of new restaurants opening often. Being surrounded by different universities, Chef Stephane hopes to attract more of the younger crowd to try the modern hip menu that he and his team have worked so hard to develop, while enjoying the chic and stylish ambience of the bistro.

When asked about what he enjoys most about being a chef, Chef Stephane says, “I enjoy making people happy, having people around me enjoying the food and having a good time. Having guests cheering for the kitchen brings love and fills up my heart. When you see people enjoy what you do, applauding and thanking the team who’s worked so hard, that is my ultimate satisfaction in life.”

Visit FIVE at Shattuck Hotel Plaza
2086 Allston Way #5 Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 225-6055

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