PALM DESERT, CALIF.—JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa announces the newest member of its team, Chef Eric Theiss, who recently came on board as Executive Chef of the iconic resort. Set on 450 acres, Palm Desert’s largest resort recently unveiled a multi-million-dollar renovation, inspiring a new level of luxury with updated guestrooms and suites, public areas, and event spaces. Eric will oversee all culinary operations at the numerous restaurant and bar offerings onsite as well as extensive banquet operations, leading the resort’s food and beverage teams in delivering an unparalleled level of excellence in both dining and service. Theiss will bring an innovative approach to the culinary program while utilizing locally and organically sourced produce.
A true hospitality veteran with over two decades of industry experience, Theiss returns to JW Marriott Desert Springs after holding prior positions at the resort from 2004 to 2008, including Chef at fine dining Italian restaurant Tuscany and as the Executive Sous Chef for the property.
As a resident of Coachella Valley for 20 years, and inspired by the melting pot of Californian cuisine, Theiss is passionate about bringing the best culinary experiences to the desert. With sustainability being an important part of the JW brand, Eric is further integrating the farm fresh concept into JW Marriott Desert Springs menus, elevating food quality and limiting environmental impact by using local and organic products. Theiss is also sourcing ingredients and inspiration from the property’s very own California native and edible-forward JW Garden created by STUDIO LILY KWONG. The garden recently debuted and is inspired by the expansive and diverse landscape of the California desert region.
New Pastry Chef Hired
With the goal of advancing the overall dining experience for guests, Theiss will push the envelope creatively in dish selection and presentation while embracing Marriott’s commitment to inclusivity by utilizing minority-owned, women-owned, and small business vendors. Theiss will also be developing new catering menus with an array of healthy options as well as a refreshed Spa Bistro menu, serving up refreshing smoothies, sushi, sandwiches, and salads. Theiss has hired Sefika Kaya as the resort’s Pastry Chef following her extensive experience working with Marriott International, Ritz Carlton and Omni Rancho Las Palmas.
Theiss was most recently the Executive Chef at Hotel Paseo and oversaw the opening of Larkspur Grill, which offers a classic twist on modern California cuisine. In his role, he was responsible for developing the restaurant concept, creating menus and sourcing ingredients as well as key elements of the design and layout. Prior to that, Theiss served as Director of Restaurant Operations & Executive Chef at Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells for eight years. His role included overseeing all restaurants on property as well as opening the once popular Italian eatery, Sirocco Pizza Co. (SPC).
Theiss also worked as Executive Chef with several Marriott properties from 2007 onwards, including Marriott Park Ridge and Teaneck Marriott in New Jersey, bringing the California Fresh concept to both hotels. He later spent time as a Banquet Sous Chef at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, catering a range of meetings and events up to 6,000 guests.
Growing up outside of Philadelphia, Eric’s passion for cooking began early as he acted as a mini–Sous Chef to his grandmother as she prepared their extended family’s large, food-filled holiday gatherings, which he would later take over. Living in a 1714 farmhouse as a child, he was also heavily influenced by the local farmers who spent time teaching him about the land and crop cycles. Eric went on to attain a degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.
Theiss is an avid mountain biker, who also enjoys camping with his wife Dawn and their three sons Kale, Cam, and Spencer.