Putting a new twist on a historic hotel, San Antonio’s The St. Anthony Hotel is reshaping its food and beverage offering with the hiring of veteran chef John Zaner.
Zaner brings more than 30 years of experience to an iconic property that is inching toward its 110-year anniversary in a city that is celebrating a tricentennial.
But what is old is new again, in that the property is actually transforming itself via a journey to the past.
“What we’re trying to do is bring back the grandeur of the hotel,” Zaner said.
“We did a major renovation two years ago with the room product and now we’re in the midst of a major upgrade with the food product,” he added.
“We’re doing things that are very indicative of San Antonio and the 300-year anniversary of the city, so when people come to the St. Anthony, we want to give them an [updated] taste of the history.”
[Featured Recipe: Chilled Avocado Soup by Chef John Zaner]
Zaner spent 12 years with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua—a resume piece for resort chefs—and as director of culinary operations at San Antonio’s impressive La Cantera Resort & Spa. He also counts stints with restaurant legend Jeremiah Tower and the late multimedia culinary juggernaut Anthony Bourdain.
Any elite chef will tell you everything starts with the ingredients, as no culinary master is a magician that can pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat if they’re burdened with substandard product.
Getting back to basics with farm-to-table cuisine is one culinary trend that will hopefully never go out of style, and Zaner is on-point at his new posting.
“We’re in Texas, so the good thing is we can get a lot of things seasonally—Texas has a lot of ranches and farms—as well as south of the border for Tex-Mex,” he said.
“We want to give people a little of the flavors of here,” Zaner added.
Some of those flavors greet guests in the lobby, with Texas treats such as pecan sandies waiting to be paired with morning coffee and Texas sun-dried peaches coated in chocolate to complement tea.
Those Texas sun-dried peaches? The St. Anthony sprang from a local peach orchard.
Another trend Zaner is up on is the avocado craze.
“We try to do different things to keep groups’ energy level up during the day, such as an avocado station with avocado toast, avocado shooters, avocado sorbet; things that are sweet and salty,” Zaner said.
“It’s a superfood; very high in protein and good fats,” he added. “It gives you good energy and you don’t have to do much to it to have a good flavor.”
In the end, it’s all about paying homage to the glory of the past while catering to contemporary tastes.
“Everyone in San Antonio has a history [with] and an attachment to the St. Anthony, so we try to keep things nostalgic with old classics that are modernized a bit,” Zaner said.
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