October 13, 2021 | by Lisa Mattson
The Jordan kitchen has been cooking up much more than hors d’oeuvres du jour since the winery’s grand reopening last spring. Executive Chef Todd Knoll also hired a sous chef to join the Jordan team: Jonathan Musto. After more than a year of searching for the perfect candidate, Todd found his culinary muse in Jonathan, who also honed his skills at the Ritz-Carlton. Though they sharpened their knives—and their techniques—at two different Bay Area Ritz’s (Todd at San Francisco and Jonathan at Half Moon Bay), they share similar philosophies about cooking, food and wine pairing, artful presentation and constant experimentation.
We caught up with Jonathan, a New Jersey native who grew up in York, Pennsylvania, between Harvest Lunches preparation to ask him a few questions about his journey to becoming a chef and joining the Jordan culinary team.
Why did you become a chef?
Honestly, I don’t really know. For myself, being a chef was all I ever dreamed about. No other profession piqued my interest. Looking back, there’s no moment where I suddenly realized or carefully plotted my path. I think the better question is this: Why would I remain a chef? Putting aside the difficulty of working in food service during the pandemic, restaurant work is, in general, quite grueling. It’s hot, there’s always an emergency, your feet are perpetually sore and there’s just never enough time—even though we work long hours. Despite these things, I love it. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than the elation of a perfectly cooked dish. The intrinsic satisfaction of assembling a new dish or achieving the seemingly impossible—it’s just so magnificent.
What was your path to becoming a professional chef?
I’ve been in food work since I was sixteen washing dishes at a local diner in my hometown. My education in culinary arts started in high school at the York County School of Technology in York, Pennsylvania—this gave me the opportunity to explore a career in food and hospitality while I finished my high school degree. Following graduation in 2011, I enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and earned an associate’s in culinary arts and eventually a bachelor’s in culinary science. Throughout my formal education, I always found myself working various restaurant gigs. I spent time as a server, bartender, prep/line cook and even worked in cocktail service. All these jobs served as a prequel to my first serious job as The Spotted Pig in Manhattan’s West Village. After a year at this Michelin-starred restaurant and a summer of freelance cooking in Brooklyn, I took a job (only a short 3,000 miles away) as a cook at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, 30 miles south of San Francisco. After three years with the company, I became the sous chef of Navio, the resort’s premier fine dining restaurant with Forbes Travel Guide award status. After two years of steady leadership and almost five years with the Ritz, I was ready for a change. I initially expected that I would relocate to southern California to continue working with the Ritz-Carlton, but when I met Chef Todd and toured the Jordan Estate, it became obvious to me that this was the place to be. Last June, I excitedly accepted the position of sous chef at Jordan Winery.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
My specialty is in farm-to-table with a colorful dash of modernist technique. I’ve spent the past half-decade forging relationships with local farms and striving to always assemble the best-quality products by buying directly from the source or through small-scale retailers. That being said, my style of presentation would never be described as rustic. I enjoy using modern cooking techniques like sous vide, precision temperature and texture modifications via hydrocolloids—all to create stylistic plates with a sense of new and sharpness. Honestly, it’s a fun time to be in food. There are so many resources and information available that were unthinkable a generation ago, and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to utilize them all.
So far, what do you like most about cooking at Jordan?
The garden. The ability to come to work during a cool Sonoma morning and literally pick the fruits and vegetables I intend to serve that day—that’s any chef’s dream. You feel so much more connected to the dish this way. I enjoy watching the produce grow, eagerly waiting for peak ripeness. I also thoroughly enjoy cooking at Jordan because of the versatility of the wines—it allows for an array of pairings that I can experiment with in the kitchen.
What do you like to do when you’re not cooking?
When I’m not in the kitchen, I enjoy the outdoors. A hike in the woods, a day at the beach—it’s all on the table. Beyond that, I’m a rabid sci-fi fan. If you look at my desk at home, you’re bound to find some Asimov-esque novel, geeky comic or myself engaged in the newest video game on my self-built PC.
Please join us in welcoming Jonathan to the Jordan family. He looks forward to meeting Jordan Winery guests at future culinary events. Jonathan also finds time to pop out of the kitchen and say hello to guests enjoying alfresco winery lunches, hosted from May through October, so be sure to book your tables next year. All culinary events will be announced in January. Sign up for Jordan Estate Rewards to receive the email announcement.