Chef Wierzelewski cultivated his passion for food early
in life. He was raised in Chicago by a family where mealtime
was a treasured experience that included beautiful china
and silver. He absorbed the concept that food is not merely
sustenance but a venue for art, creativity and tradition.
parents owned a restaurant and my grandmother was an amazing
baker," he says. As a child, some of Chef Wierzelewski's
best memories are of baking exquisite pastries with his
grandmother. "The more I learned from my grandmother, the
more I found cooking was a great avenue to express myself
As a 16-year-old, young James began a
two-year internship at the historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
From there, he spent a decade with a hotel restaurant innovator,
Hyatt Hotels, working his way up the food chain to executive
chef. During these years, Chef Wierzelewski opened several
new restaurant concepts for the rapidly expanding Park Hyatt
brand at locations across the United States.
Chef Wierzelewski began working abroad and apprenticing with
some of the most-renowned chefs in the world, including Chef
Roland Durand at the two-star Michelin-rated Le Pre Catalan
in Paris and Chef Michel Husser at the two-star Michelin-rated
Le Cerf in Alsace, France.
These experiences deeply impacted his culinary worldview.
"What I learned from European chefs is a great respect for
raw products," he says. "They let flavors act themselves
rather than creating something that doesn't blend." But,
Chef Wierzelewski notes, many European chefs have a hard
time breaking from tradition. "All of the food I cook has
its roots in proven culinary traditions, with my creative
twist on cooking methods and flavor combinations," he says.
This 'signature' is part of Chef Wierzelewski's cooking
philosophy. "Food should be simple enough to be understood,
yet unique enough to be compelling," he says. "My dishes
excite all of the senses with uncomplicated layers of flavor.
I use herbs, spices and sauces to enhance fresh vegetables,
meats and fish, not to mask flavors."