Culinary Team


Chris Fernandez

We believe that an event is more than the sum of its parts; it is a holistic experience informed by total attention to detail and strict standards of excellence. That’s why we have eschewed the traditional catering model for events in our premier spaces, choosing instead to bring in major culinary talent to develop a food and beverage program that matches the quality of our venues.

Overseeing our food and beverage program is our Director of Operations, Chris Fernandez.

Fernandez began his career as a chef over 25 years ago and has made his mark in the Bay Area with a “purist” approach to cooking. His cuisine represents a unique blend of seasonal Italian, Mediterranean, local seafood and a Northern California style.  All culinary traditions are founded on the same fundamentals: an undying commitment to freshness and a continual sourcing of local ingredients that result in “best-of-market” approach to cooking. Add to this an appreciation and anticipation of seasonal rhythms of the harvest. Chris relies on a number of local organic farmers and fine purveyors of seasonal game, fish and meats for their superior products.

Over the course of his career, Chris has garnered major accolades and three star reviews at some of the Bay Area’s most notable restaurants, including the iconic Cypress Club, Oliveto, Crescent Park Grill, Stars, Poggio and most recently, Terrapin Crossroads, where he teamed with Phil Lesh of Grateful Dead fame to develop the menu, beverage program and concept for Lesh’s restaurant and music venue.

In addition to being named one of the Bay Area’s “Rising Young Stars” by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1997, in 2004 Esquire Magazine recognized Poggio as one of the Best New Restaurants in the country and Chris received the National Rising Star Chef award by Restaurant Hospitality. Over the course of his career, Chris has earned six 3-star reviews from celebrated restaurant critic, Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Today, Chris oversees all aspects of the Merchants Exchange Productions food and beverage program, as well as our event production team. Chris works with Executive Chef David Feldman to execute best-in-class menus for your event, ensuring that “great taste” extends throughout your experience at the Julia Morgan Ballroom.