Nominated for a “Rising Star of the Year” award from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, Van Staden began his career in Washington, D.C., working under the late chef Jean-Louis Palladin at Jean-Louis, adjacent to the White House. He followed that invaluable experience serving as chef de cuisine at Alizé, rated one of the top five restaurants in Las Vegas; executive chef at Vegas’ Aladdin Hotel’s high-end London Club; and executive chef at the California-French restaurant Citronelle in Georgetown, just outside Washington, D.C. He also operated his own casual, Mediterranean restaurant, “Café Olé”, specializing in tapas, before serving as executive chef for Washington’s renowned Watergate Hotel, where he managed 250 employees and a $10-million food and beverage budget.
Van Staden was born in Pretoria, South Africa, where his passion for cooking was awakened while assisting his Italian grandmother in the kitchen at age seven. By the time he was 11, he was cooking the family’s big Sunday meals and knew he wanted to be a chef. At 14, Van Staden was learning the craft at a local French restaurant while his father thought he was out playing rugby. After graduating high school, he sold his car to afford airfare to America, where being a chef was considered a more acceptable career goal. In 1990, he arrived in Washington, D.C., and the rest is history.