Kirsten Ponza went from cooking for the Rolling Stones to heading up Chaminade’s kitchen.

Kirsten Ponza went from cooking for the Rolling Stones to heading up Chaminade’s kitchen.

Kirsten Ponza, executive chef for Linwood’s Bar & Grill at Chaminade Resort, gave up the rock & roll lifestyle but learned a lot of from touring as a chef with the Rolling Stones. “My hardest days at Chaminade, I always think about working on the tour, and am glad that I’m not a part of that,” she says. “I’m glad I have this security, and being home is nice.” Ponza just took over at Linwood’s after working for 10 years under former executive chef Beverlie Terra, who’s now executive chef at Cabrillo’s Pino Alto Restaurant.

SANTA CRUZ WEEKLY: What’s your favorite appetizer?

KIRSTEN PONZA: We’re doing this seasonal pumpkin with an artichoke soufflé. It gets served with pear slices and crostini. The best part is you can eat the pumpkin, too, which is always so fun for me when you can eat the vessel that your food is served in.

How was the last farm-to-table dinner?

We did an ostrich carpaccio and changed a few people’s minds on it, which is exactly what you try to do as a chef—say “Here’s something outside of your regular eating routine. Try it. Just try it. You don’t have to like it, you can tell me you hate it. But on the off chance, try it because you could love it.”

What’s the best way to make chicken?

If I’m going to have chicken, it’ll be roasted. Basic vegetables, your mirepoix, your potatoes. But it’s hard for me because it’s cold outside, so automatically my brain has a switch and goes straight to comfort food. In the summer, I’d still prefer it roasted. But it’d be much fresher with more fruits and vegetables. Probably very little starch—more of a citrus-y lemon type of roasted chicken. Winter, I go more hardy; maybe a gravy sauce instead of an au jus.

Which Stone was the pickiest, and is it true Keith Richards is a zombie who only eats brains?

No band member was picky, and they never complained about what was on the menu. Keith Richards is nowhere close to being a zombie. He was very cool—sent little notes to people who worked on the tour. All of the ladies that worked on the tour got a rose one night when we were in New York, saying, “Thanks for all your hard work.”