A few words
Enter the culinary world of Executive Chef Jimmy Stafford. Where tradition meets imagination & seasonality.
Executivde Chef Jimmy Stafford
Jimmy Stafford found his passion for cooking after the sudden passing of his mother, Patty, at the age of thirteen. He began cooking for his father and two sisters as his contribution to the household. It was important to me that I did a good job for them and tried my best at recreating my Mom’s recipes which helped in some way.”
At age fifteen, he began washing dishes in a local mom and pop restaurant with an in house bakery as well. Jimmy climbed through the ranks over the next few years and became great line cook and baker.
At seventeen, Jimmy began his culinary education at Le Cordon Blue in Scottsdale, Arizona. While attending culinary school he also worked at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, working the night prep shift in Garde Manger on the weekdays & prep cook for Marquesa (a four star five diamond restaurant) on the weekends.
At 19 Jimmy completed his internship with Hyatt hotels at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. After working in both restaurants (Sally’s and Lael’s) he was chosen to participate in Hyatt’s Corporate Management Training Program which encompasses every aspect of hospitality in a hotel. From purchasing to the front desk and everything in between.
Jimmy moved from San Diego to Kauai, HI and became the chef de cuisine at the Grand Hyatt Kauai at their fine dining Italian restaurant concept, Donderos. “After about a year, we really got the food and consistency dialed in, but I noticed that dishes were coming back into the kitchen with food still on them. While conversing with one of our guests, they mentioned that our quality was there, but the portions were too big. They said to focus on the quality AND quantity. Even though this is such a basic concept, as a young chef, once she said this to me out loud it really resonated with me.” Soon after I redefined the restaurant to a pre-fixe menu format with either five or six course options. “It was a disaster! Most of the serving staff had been working there for 18 years and were unfamiliar with the concept and couldn’t sell it. Tickets for the line cooks were 3 or 4 times as long. Our revenue went down. Everyone was frustrated. The food and beverage director gave me 3 months to figure it out or we would have to go back to the old concept. This was the biggest challenge I faced in my young career this far. I kept at it, and with the support of the entire team and my mentor Chef Larry, we pulled it off. After about a month everything clicked. This was a huge turning point for that restaurant and we were awarded the AAA four star recognition and named one of the top five restaurants all islands in 2008.
In December 2009 Jimmy moved from Kauai HI, to Manhattan, NY to open the Andaz Wall Street under the leadership of Chef Maximo Lopez May. “Chef Maximo was from Argentina and had a very rustic approach to food. He told me that it is a mistake to be insecure about food. something that has influenced my style to this day.”
Jimmy met Sandro Piliego who was building a Spanish Tapas bar on Court Street in Brooklyn. “Sandro was exactly the person I was hoping to meet when I moved to New York. He had such passion for food and wine, and had so much more exposure than me. We ate and drank together, partied, and worked together. I learned so much about my palette hanging out with him, he taught me how to use it.” After opening and building Palo Cortado, Jimmy moved back to Kauai, HI hoping to reconnect with nature and gain that work-life balance we all hope to achieve.
Upon arrival, he was approached to lead a new, expandable restaurant concept, Tortilla Republic. It was a two-level restaurant featuring an upscale taqueria and margarita bar downstairs, and a dinner only restaurant above. He also opened their second location in West Hollywood, CA that same year. After a much-anticipated vacation from opening the two locations he headed back to southern California and was inspired by the local resources for heritage raised pigs, pasture raised sheep & chickens. He decided to move back to California and developed a business plan for a locally sourced butcher shop in Old Town Temecula, CA. It was to be called Stafford Prime Meats.
While working on his business plan, processing chickens & lamb for Primal Pastures (now known as Pasture Birds) and fabricating heritage pigs from Cook Pigs Ranch, he got a call from a mutual friend to help throw a dinner party in Corona Del Mar, CA. That one dinner party was all it took, and he continued booking intimate dinner parties in orange county, then became a personal chef in the area. This is where the original idea of Stafford Prime began.
He had an opportunity to work with Chef Larry Eells, his mentor, again when Hyatt purchased the Peabody hotel in Orlando Florida as his restaurant Chef and took it. During that project, Jimmy implemented a hotel wide butcher shop program and re-concepted a 250 seat Italian Steakhouse.
After returning to California, Jimmy focused his attention on creating Stafford Prime. While working as the executive chef at Dodgers Stadium and Staples Center, he worked on his days off catering local events and cooking for families in Newport Beach. After almost two years of getting his name out in the community, Jimmy resigned at the Staples Center and started Stafford Prime full time.
After growing Stafford Prime into a successful catering and meal delivery company the pandemic struck. Within a week they lost their corporate lunch account and all catering events were cancelled. “We didn’t know what to do but felt an obligation to help feed the community when the world was shutting down.” With the help of Ashley Hathaway (Stafford Prime’s Admin) , they reacted quickly and wrote a quarantine menu, posted it on instagram and that was an instant success. “We had already been doing meal prep and delivery for a while now so all of the foundational pieces were in place. We just changed the menu format and scaled it. This experience, for me and my team, has created a sense of place in this community and drives us to always do a good job for our clients since we now know most of them personally.”
Now that all aspects of catering are back, Jimmy had the opportunity to expand his catering operation into his own space that will also feature The Parlor – a classic Italian take-out café. He has formed his second company, The Parlor at Stafford Prime and is set to open January 2023.