Fabulous People: James Mclver

James McIver is the newly appointed executive chef at W San Francisco, an urban oasis in the heart of San Francisco‘s culturally vibrant SoMa district. “Guests can sip, sample and socialize in the hotel’s Living Room Bar and indulge in fresh, locally sourced cuisine in the hotel’s signature restaurant, TRACE.” Learn about James Mclver…

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Hometown: I’m from San Bernardino, which, while not known as a culinary hotspot, is a vital part of my background. My culinary inspiration comes from my parents’ Southern roots and my wife’s Louisiana Creole heritage, enriched further by my classical training in Paris and across Europe. These diverse influences infuse my approach to cooking, blending tradition with innovation.

First Job: My first job was at Burger King during high school, earning $3 an hour. Seeing my first paycheck was a real wake-up call to the value and the challenge of earning money.

Favorite Ways to Spend Your Free Time in CA: I enjoy taking scenic drives to find the best eats, often stopping at roadside stands and mom-and-pop restaurants. There’s nothing like discovering a hidden gem that serves up simple, honest flavors. 

Your Biggest Accomplishment and Why: My ability to always land on my back when I fall because it means I’m always looking up. In those moments, I see what I’m reaching for—whether it’s a new dish, a new challenge or a new dream.

The Biggest Obstacle You Overcame: The loss of a child. It is a deep pain that never truly heals but teaches. This experience has made me realize that I still have a purpose and a reason to press forward because my journey isn’t finished yet.

Someone Who Inspires You and Why: One of my greatest inspirations is Les Brown, a man who turned impossible odds into astounding successes. Although he faced significant academic and social setbacks early in life, his determination and belief in his potential drove him to become a celebrated motivational speaker. His journey motivates me to push beyond the expected, to innovate and to inspire in the kitchen and beyond.

Advice to Someone Pursuing a Career Path in What You Do: To anyone aspiring to be an executive chef, remember that this path demands more than just culinary skill—it requires grit, resilience and an undying passion for food. Embrace every setback as a lesson and every challenge as an opportunity to improve. Outwork everyone, learn from your mistakes and never stop reaching for excellence.

Favorite Quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” —Les Brown

I also have a motto from my own kitchen: “A dish is only as good as the passion stirred into it.” 

Something Someone Would Be Surprised to Learn About You: After crafting elaborate dishes all day, I unwind with something simple—cereal for dinner. It’s my comfort food after a long day’s creative journey.

What Makes Someone Fabulous: Being fabulous is about embracing challenges with grace and standing out by the sheer force of your character. It’s about maintaining your integrity and passion, no matter the pressures around you. 

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