by Amy Brown
Executive Chef William Traynor discovered an affinity and ability for cooking early in life during Home Economics classes during high school. In fact, by his senior year, the school had him help teach some of the classes. After high school he enrolled in the Santa Barbara City College hotel restaurant culinary program, and in the subsequent years worked his way up the ladder in this demanding and competitive profession. Once he graduated from the program in Santa Barbara, he held an apprenticeship at the American Culinary Federation, which included a role at what was then Fess Parker’s Red Lion. He later moved to San Francisco, where he further honed his craft in opening restaurants like Restaurant Lulu.
He returned to Santa Barbara in 1996 and has worked in prestigious locations in Los Angeles and Ventura County area ever since. His most recent appointment as Executive Chef at the Crowne Plaza is opening the Ocean Friendly-certified Moofish Cafe. This accreditation from the Surfrider Foundation demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and environmental best practices, including stringent criteria for reducing items like single use utensils, plastics, polystyrene and paper. The new surf-themed restaurant located on the boardwalk near the pier also embraces a commitment to locally sourced and grown ingredients and a “Farm-and-Sea-to-Fork” philosophy, and includes its own herb garden used for the menu on its back deck.
During his long and successful career, Traynor’s been influenced by a range of successful thought leaders in the restaurant world. “My first chef was Larry Ross in Santa Barbara, he basically threw me into roles in every single kitchen in the apprentice program at that multimillion-dollar food and beverage outfit,” said Traynor. “Bakery, fine dining, banquet—it was really valuable.” He also worked for James Beard winner Reed Hearon, and later was hired as the second American chef every hired at Padres Martini Bar in Agoura Hills. “Another major influence on my career was working with Tim Kilcoyne, at the Sidecar restaurant in Ventura,” he said. “He was focused on using local ingredients 12 years ago, before anyone else was really doing it.”
Traynor shared that he stays innovative by exploring new styles and trends and reading many cookbooks. “I experiment a lot in the kitchen and see what works and what doesn’t. Whatever is looking good at the famers market I’ll pick up and play around with it,” he shared. “Being in California it’s hard to get bored—we’re so lucky to have all of these wonderful ingredients available.”
He said he appreciates the freedom he is given by the company to be creative, and in helping create the new restaurant and its menu. Its beachfront location makes following another passion easy–he also keeps some of his surfboards stored on the wall of the restaurant, along with signed boards from surfing superstars like Rob Machado and Kelly Slater, and a video screen with a feed from the surf camera on the roof of the Crowne Plaza. Chef Traynor regularly paddles out early in the morning right out front at C Street. When asked for advice for anyone considering a career as a chef, he said, “Choose the chefs that make the types of food you like to eat, and learn from them. Don’t worry about the money—if you have the passion, the money will follow.”