Spend any time with Brandon Testi—chef de cuisine at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa’s signature restaurant, bluEmber—and you’ll see how seriously this gastronomic wunderkind takes food. The handsome, 28-year-old Orange County native invariably stops by my table whenever I’m dining at bluEmber, regaling me and my guests with stories from the kitchen—not to mention the genesis of his culinary creations.
After graduating with honors at the top of his class a little more than a decade ago from the Riverside Culinary Academy (just a stone’s throw from the Palm Springs Valley), sports-loving Brandon headed to Angels Stadium in Anaheim. But his ambition—and his affinity for the desert—soon had him cooking at such local haunts as the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Casino Morongo in Cabazon, the IW Club in Indian Wells, and The Creek House in Idyllwild. In October 2012, he landed at bluEmber as sous-chef, rising to the position of chef de cuisine just a year later.
I recently had the joyous opportunity to talk to Brandon about the five things he loves most about his job now that he’s almost 12 months into it. Number one was his ability to thrive in an atmosphere of playful creativity at work, be it with food and ingredients or with the guests he encounters at the restaurant and throughout the resort. Second is “knowing I have the ability to put smiles on strangers’ faces because of my hard work and passion.” Number three is his understanding that, for him, time spent cooking isn’t just a job but his fulfilling career of choice. Fourth is the satisfaction that comes from coming to work with a team of expert culinary colleagues who share common goals. And finally, Brandon says he’s thankful that the Omni brand and Rancho Las Palmas permit him to attack each day as a chance to lead by example in achieving greatness and perfection.
If—as I have—you’ve ever sampled Brandon’s Molasses-braised Shortrib with Monterey Jack grits, tobacco onions, bourbon-glazed carrots, and horseradish slaw…or his Crispy Sea Bass with beluga lentils, tinkerbell peppers, asparagus, grapefruit, ginger, and cilantro, you know that perfection is a target he hits repeatedly. Oh, dear. That last line just gave me a Brandon bluEmber craving. Better quit the keyboard, pick up the phone, and make a dinner reservation. Won’t you please join me?