Lisa’s Story

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Lisa Hemenway

(Short version, see below for long version)
Lisa Hemenway has been delighting Sonoma County diners with her gourmet flair for almost 30 years. Widely known for her award-winning Lisa Hemenway’s Restaurant in Montgomery Village for almost 20 years and Lisa Henemway’s Bistro in Town & Country Center, she also founded Polka Dots restaurant, and was the original Sous Chef and Pastry Chef for John Ash & Co. In addition to her Sonoma county fame, Lisa launched private dining rooms and restaurants in Vietnam and Singapore for an international organization. Her food-related travels have taken her through France, around the Mediterranean, to Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, and New Orleans. She brings inspiration and ingredients from her travels to her original recipes and well-loved favorites.

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A timeline of Lisa Hemenway's achievements and activities

Lisa Hemenway’s
Wine Country Cuisine
Past and Future

Wine Country is known worldwide for our gourmet lifestyle which includes freshly harvested foods paired with great wines enjoyed overlooking beautiful vistas of rolling hills covered by vineyards and oak woodlands. While it seems like people around here have always been appreciative of the delicious things in life, it wasn’t that long ago that this area was rural farmland with few “fancy” restaurants.

In the Sonoma wine country the big change in tastes and sophistication came when John Ash opened the John Ash and Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa circa 1978. This was just after Alice Waters founded the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, where she introduced the idea of playfully using locally grown, seasonal ingredients. At that time a young woman, fresh from college and enamored with delicious ingredients she found on a trip to France, become John Ash’s protégé, and also pastry chef, sous chef and catering manager at his restaurant. This was Lisa Hemenway.

After four years tutelage and developing relationships with local farmers and growers, in 1982 Lisa decided to launch her own restaurant, her namesake Lisa Hemenway’s Restaurant. Almost immediately, Lisa Hemenway’s became synonymous with celebration and earned a 4-star rating. For over 20 years people traveled from around the country to celebrate special events complete with original recipes inspired by seasonal, local ingredients, the award-winning wine list, amazing desserts, great service and friendly atmosphere. In addition to the well-appointed dining room, the adjacent café known as Tote Cuisine, offered a less expensive, take-away menu for picnics. Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Henry Kissinger, Robin Williams, Francis Ford Coppola, and trekky Leonard Nimmoy have all enjoyed Hemenway’s cuisine

The standard set by Lisa Hemenway in Sonoma wine country, and others around the same time throughout the state became the basis of the style of cooking now called “California Cuisine.” Hemenway became the celebrity spokesperson for this style as guest chef on many TV programs, making appearances on Celebrity Cruise Lines, Marco Polo, Royal Caribbean, Radisson Hotels, for United Airlines, and training chefs as far away as Jakarta and Singapore.

In the late 1990’s Lisa Hemenway traveled throughout Asia and South-east Asia learning new cooking techniques and about new ingredients, while working as manager and executive chef, training chefs, launching private dining rooms, and restaurants for a large multi-national corp. Combined with her previous training at Le Cordon Rouge Cooking School, touring in France, and New Orleans Cooking School, her recipes seduce the senses and marry a variety of inspired ingredients, creating new, unexpected combinations of flavors.

Today, she just launched a new restaurant “Fresh by Lisa Hemenway,” in Santa Rosa. Fresh is a place where everyone in the family can find delights lovingly prepared with fresh local ingredients in a comfortable setting. Fresh creates wine country cuisine using ingredients from local sources such as Sonoma lamb, goat cheese, and baby vegetables, all nurtured within miles of the restaurant. Brushing elbows as she walks through farmers’ markets, her food is prepared to pair with the local wines that translate our sunshine into God’s nectar.

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