Pechanga Resort & Casino first welcomed Chef Andre Pinto to the top position at Paisano’s Italian Restaurant inside Pechanga Resort & Casino. Since then, he has been promoted to head chef at Great Oak Steakhouse. Promoted from the position of kitchen supervisor for Kelsey’s restaurant, Chef Pinto, 32, showed Pechanga culinary management he possesses both the technical and creative passion for food required to be a head chef at California’s largest resort/casino. Before spending a year and one-half in the kitchen at the newly renovated Kelsey’s restaurant, Pinto spent 10 years working at two of the east coast’s top restaurants.
Originally from Salvador, Bahia in Brazil, Andre Pinto recalls helping his mother in the kitchen at home often when he was a teenager. “The other kids would be out playing soccer, and I love soccer, but I wanted to help my mom make cold feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew) and see how it came together,” says Pinto. He also tried his hand at making cakes.
He moved to the United States at 20. Settling in Boston, Mass., he met up with a cousin who was one of the top chefs at Stonefordge Grill in Easton, Mass. His cousin brought Pinto in to work in the kitchen as a prep cook. He quickly fell in love with the fast pace and excitement of the popular restaurant. Within two years, he was promoted to the job of kitchen supervisor. The restaurant’s owners moved him to their new dining room in Dartmouth, Mass. where he spent three years as a sous chef. At the end of 2011, management at LaScala, a fine dining Italian restaurant in a Boston suburb, recruited him as their sous chef. “LaScala was a great experience and prepared me well for Paisano’s,” said Pinto. Ultimately, the New England winters wore on him and Pinto set his sights on Southern California. Seeing that Pechanga Resort & Casino had 11 dining outlets and was one of the top resort-casinos in the country, he figured correctly there would be a lot of room for growth in the culinary department. He applied and was hired on as the kitchen supervisor for Kelsey’s just as plans for its transition into an upscale American pub were being developed.
“I’m so happy and humbled to have been promoted to the head chef for Paisano’s,” said Pinto. “We have a great team here, and already, it’s exciting to see some of the regulars who have come back for my dishes. My approach to food is Brazilian meets East Coast meets West Coast while still remaining true to authentic Italian flavors, though the most important thing, every ingredient must be the freshest it possibly can.”
When he’s not in the kitchen, Pinto plays soccer every Sunday morning with a group in Temecula, likes to play golf and watch sports on television.