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Dean Thomas  

Executive Chef Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in San Diego, California

A native of the Midwest and the Chicago-land area, Dean began his career in the hospitality industry as a young dishwasher for an Italian Chef who took Dean under his arm. Dean went to Joliet Junior College to study Culinary Arts and soon moved on to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to gain experience at opening many of the plantation developments. Dean took a sabbatical in pastries working for Chef Kurt Buchi at the Intercontinental Resort and soon became the outlet chef for the Carolina Café at the Westin Hilton Head 5-Diamond Resort. Chef Dean met his wife Nicole and adopted family of Olivier and Frederic. 

After Hilton Head the Thomas family departed to Tucson, Arizona were Chef Dean took the realm at the Westin La Paloma Resort’s Country Club. After 2 years, Chef Dean took another sabbatical to Caneel Bay Rock Resort on St. John, United States Virgin Islands were Yanik, son number 3 was born. A return to the La Paloma Resort soon followed. Chef Dean’s professional career exploded on the competition scene on a number of avenues including winning the 1993 Pork Recipe Grand Prize and champion of the “Arizona Taste of Elegance-1994” and competing at the National Taste of Elegance held in Chicago that year. Chef Dean is truly a seasoned veteran to competition with numerous A.C.F. medallions to his portfolio accomplishments.

New England Culinary Institute recruited Chef Dean in 1995, accepting the position of Executive Sous Chef-Essex Campus. This hands-on challenge of developing new generations of young talent lasted for 8 ½ years. The experience taught Chef Thomas that one must be a lifetime learner.

In 2004, Chef Thomas became the Executive Chef at the aspiring Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in San Diego, California. Chef Dean oversees twelve food venue concepts and a culinary staff of 320. Chef Dean has established a Barona Culinary Institute on property that trains associates on three various levels: Management, Houlry and an A.C.F. Apprenticeship Program of 16. In 2005, one of Barona’s apprentices received first place in the F.E.N.I Cooking with Pork Recipe Contest. Chef Dean is a board member of the San Diego Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.


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