Meet Chef Donaciano Valdovinos
As a child, Donaciano Valdovinos dreamed of being a chef. He wove beautiful fantasies in his mind about crafting culinary masterpieces, and seeing the delight on customers’ faces as they took that definitive first bite.
Today Chef Dona’s childhood dream is a reality. He’s been in the game over thirty years, and has worked at some of California’s most celebrated restaurants. From his humble beginnings at Rancho Bernardo Inn, to his fabled days at Humphreys By The Bay, Donacino has displayed a passion for culinary innovation shared by only a handful of colleagues.
Born and raised in Southern Mexico, Donaciano Valdovinos came to San Diego at just fourteen years old. His first industry job came at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, when he was sixteen. Here Dona tended the inn’s garden shed, which produced the kitchen’s freshest local ingredients. The future Chef discovered at a very early age that quality ingredients were at the heart of great cooking. Dona would eventually make his way into Rancho Bernardo’s kitchen, where he worked for years alongside fellow RB alumnus, and current head chef at Bellamy’s Restaurant, Lucio Valle.
Over the years Chef Dona has honed his skills preparing the finest coastal and seasonal dishes. After exiting the Rancho Bernardo Inn, Dona attended culinary school, before becoming the evening chef for the legendary Humphrey’s by the Bay, where he worked for nearly two decades.
Today, Chef Dona is a celebrated member of the GRG family, where he crafts elegantly designed Italian dishes, with a California-modern flair. As the head chef for beautiful Nick & G’s, Dona relishes in his freedom to craft unique seasonal menus and pursue his own insights.
Chef Dona’s creations can be best described as temples to his ingredients, built to venerate their august flavors. To him, the materials used to construct his masterpieces aren’t simply decorative accents, but rather the heart and soul of his extraordinary cuisine. When Donacino’s guests bite into one of his meticulously prepared dishes, he wants them to taste the freshness of its ingredients, and witness the seasonal beauty showcased by their vibrant colors.
Donacino’s philosophy toward cooking is simple: always think ahead. Culinary leaders have to continually innovate if they wish to stay relevant in such a competitive industry. Complacency quickly leads to stagnation, which constitutes the death throes of any once thriving kitchen. In his industry, the bold are rewarded and the timid are devoured. Chef Donacino counts himself among the former.
When asked about his greatest achievements, Chef Dona places maintaining a thriving restaurant through a global pandemic at the top of the list. COVID-19 has changed everything about the industry, from how teams work in the kitchen to the fundamental dynamics of how restaurants operate. Scores of world-class restaurants have been forced to close their doors for good. To not only survive, but thrive in such a turbulent atmosphere speaks volumes to the capabilities of GRG, the loyalty of their patrons, and the caliber of Chef Dona’s cooking. It would be an understatement to say that Nick & G’s rose to the challenge.