United States Chef
Robert Helstrom Chef Profile
My passion for the culinary arts began at an early age with my mother’s creative and experimental approach to home cooked meals. Born and raised in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, I was always intrigued by the high-energy atmosphere of restaurant kitchens and began working in restaurants washing dishes while still a teenager. Between the ages of 17 and 22, I received on-the-job training, working a variety of positions in over thirty restaurants, country clubs and hotels, mastering each kitchen before moving on to the next. During this time, I worked with Chef/Restaurateur Jerry Wilson to open four fine dining destinations in South Bend, Indiana.
At the age of 23, I decided it was time to leave Indiana and moved to Southern California, where I spent roughly four years working at Hemmingway’s, a small mom-and-pop restaurant in Newport Beach. I was blown away by the diversity of West Coast ingredients that I'd never seen in the Midwest.
In 1987, I moved to Northern California accepting a position as Executive Chef at Corona Bar & Grill in San Francisco. After nearly a year at Corona Bar & Grill, I was asked to fill in at Kuleto’s Italian Restaurant and shortly thereafter assumed the position of Executive Chef. New to Italian cuisine, I took several educational trips to Italy and immediately fell in love with the country’s simple, rustic approach to cooking and commitment to fresh, handmade ingredients. Back in California, I took inspiration from my culinary roots and recent travels to create fresh, simple and flavorful Italian-inspired cuisine with a seasonal Californian flair.
After 13 years in the kitchen at Kuleto’s, I was given the opportunity to open several high-profile, fine-dining restaurants across the country including Jsix and Jbar in San Diego, Ponzu in San Francisco and Poste in Washington D.C. I returned to the kitchen at Kuleto’s with great enthusiasm in 2006, where my contemporary Italian cuisine continues to attract both locals and visitors alike.
While not in the kitchen, I spend time with my wife and son at our home in Fairfax, just north of San Francisco, where I also spend time outside gardening, hiking, fishing and grilling delicious meals for my family.
Awards, Honors and Societies
I contribute to local charitable organizations with his “Chef for a Day Program” which benefits the San Francisco food bank, as well as lending my culinary expertise as a teacher at the Tenderloin Community Center’s “CHEFS” program, giving San Francisco’s homeless an opportunity to get off the streets with valuable restaurant skills.