Joël Hoachuck was born December 24, 1959 in the small town of Carcassonne, in the south of France. He was raised by his mother and grandparents until the age of 17. After graduating high school, he joined the army where he spent five years and then joined the French police. France was becoming too small for Joël, who dreamt of travelling the world. He inherited his sense of adventure from his grandfather, a teacher who travelled throughout the French colonies and shared his stories of faraway places with Joël. His grandmother, who was always cooking up something delicious in the kitchen, instilled a love for food that continues to this day. After leaving the police, Joël took a few jobs—as a cook, captain waiter and then as manager of a restaurant in Nice on the French Riviera, where he met a man who changed his life.
Joël was working as a chef de rang (captain waiter) in the Hotel Sofitel in Nice for two years when Pascal came to work. Pascal was 35, had been working as a waiter and then manager on several cruise ships for 15 years, circumnavigating the world. After some long conversations with Pascal, Joël realized that if you knew how to speak English and how to wait tables, you could travel anywhere. That’s when he took Pascal’s advice and sent out a few resumes. Joël landed a job as a captain waiter on the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2). On cruise ships things were different. Dealing with international food and products in a high-end setting allowed Joël to sharpen and expand his knowledge and skills. By chance, or perhaps it was fate, Joël was serving a table in 1990, when he met his sweet American wife of 30 years, Barbara Schwartz (in the most romantic way, during a stop in Cherbourg, France). She was travelling with her grandparents on the ship. He subsequently quit his job on the ship, moved to America, married Barbara and had two children, Julien and Arielle.
Joël’s first three years in America were spent in the Washington D.C. area where he worked as waiter and manager in several restaurants—another enriching experience. Joël and his family then picked up everything and moved west to Napa, California. In 1993, Napa Valley was poised to become universally recognized for its abundance of talented chefs serving farm fresh food paired with world-renowned wines—the convergence of the food and wine industries was about to explode, right in this beautiful Valley. Joël arrived just in time to become part of the journey, an epic culinary gold rush that put Napa on the map of trending destinations for epicureans worldwide.
Joël honed his skills in some of the best restaurants in the Valley. He first took a waiter job at TraVigne, under the tutelage of Kevin Cronin. Back then, TraVigne was the place to go, to see, and to be seen. The food, wine, and service were all amazing. He then moved on to help open Bouchon in Yountville, for the exceptionally talented, Thomas Keller. He started as a waiter but was rapidly promoted to the General Manager position. Joël’s knowledge and style helped put this restaurant on track to what it has become today.
In 2003, Joël accepted the position of Restaurant Manager at Auberge du Soleil, a Relais & Chateaux Resort, another renowned Napa Valley establishment. After several years, he was called upon by celebrity chef, Michael Chiarello, to help him open Bottega in Yountville. As General Manager, Joël played a pivotal role in the restaurant’s success. He then decided to check out what was happening nearby in San Francisco and spent some enjoyable times at “ame”—a one Michelin star Japanese-inclined restaurant. Joël returned to Napa to work at Farm Restaurant, part of the Carneros Resort and Spa, but soon returned to work with the Moana LL Corporation, former owners of Auberge du Soleil. He is currently at the helm of El Dorado Kitchen (EDK) in Sonoma, California, located on the Sonoma Plaza.
Joël is also proud to announce the release of his first book: Welcome to Waiters’ World, available on Amazon and in your local bookstore.