Victor Gielisse was born in the Netherlands and, like most good cooks, was inspired by his mother and grandparents, who owned a restaurant in Scheveningen that served mostly seafood prepared in an international French-influenced style. Victor called it cold weather food – soups and stew and of course, lots of seafood. At 13 he went to a technical college and finished his apprenticeship at 17. He worked in West Germany to learn game and pastry, and in Switzerland he learned international cuisine and catering to very sophisticated, wealthy customers. In Italy he learned about the earthy quality of good Italian cooking.
In 1973, he was hired by Westin Hotels and eventually moved to the USA where he became the executive sous chef of the Westin Oaks in Houston in 1979. Chef Victor became one of a handful of Certified Master Chefs, always studying on how to improve himself. He also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree, a Master of Business Administration and a Doctorate in Business Administration as well as a Certified Hospitality Educator.
At Westin, he met his future wife Kathryn Gray, who was director of catering at the hotel, and a friend, Clive O’Donoghue, who started planning their own restaurant in Dallas, where they had just opened the Dallas Westin Blom’s Restaurant. In October 1986, they opened Restaurant Actuelle (cuisine actuelle or today’s cuisine) featuring the kind of food he wanted to serve. Chef Jean Banchet called Great Chefs Television and said this chef is one that you should consider.
In 1994, Great Chefs finally reached out to Chef Gielisse, and was informed that he is closing the restaurant but he also just opened Culinary Fast-Trac Associates, a walking think tank for corporations such as Boston Market, United Air Lines, Tyson Foods, etc. He suggested that he was also the culinary advisor and chef for the Zale Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas, and that we could film him there, which we did in 1995, for our Great Chefs – Great Cities series for the Discovery Channel. One member of the TV crew said “if I ever get sick, I want to come to this hospital, just for the food”.
Chef Gielisse went on to advise the US Culinary Olympic teams, was named one of the “50 New Taste Makers” in the US and named the “Best Seafood Chef in America”. In 1998 he joined the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and in 2016 is the Vice President of Advancement and Business Development for the Institute.
The president of the culinary school, Johnson & Wales, summed up Chef Gielisse in one sentence: “Sports has Payton Manning; Entertainment has Clint Eastwood and Culinary Arts has Victor Gielisse”.