• 82°

Global master chef retires to Arvonia

He’s cooked for celebrities, sultans, prime ministers, emperors and even the Queen herself. Now, this world-renowned chef resides in Buckingham County.

Certified Global Master Chef Wilhelm Jonach was born March 25, 1948, on a farm in Villach, Austria.

One of 12 children, Jonach first discovered his skill and passion for cooking when he was 10 years old and his mother fell sick and had to be hospitalized. With many brothers and sisters to feed, Jonach used what he had learned from helping in the kitchen to put dinner on the table for his family. To their surprise, his cooking was as good as Mom’s.

Jonach entered his chef apprenticeship at 15 and completed cooking college in Oberwollanig, Austria before taking up a summer saison chef position in a small pension. After working in countries such as France, Hungary and Italy, he received an offer for a restaurant grill chef position in Park Hotel Villach where fellow Austrian chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck did his apprenticeship.

After serving in the military in Austria, Jonach returned to Park Hotel before leaving for Australia at the age of 20 to work at the Chevron-Hilton hotel in Sydney. He then served as “chef de tournant” to replace vacationing chefs in places such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

In 1978, Jonach opened his own restaurant in Sydney, which he ran successfully for five years. In the 1980s, he began what would be a very long and successful career working in executive and corporate chef positions for major hotel companies across the globe, many of which had hundreds of locations.

Jonach’s work took him to places like New Zealand, Tasmania, Hong Kong and Peking, but he returned to Austria in order to enter an Austrian master chef program in Carinthia, which he completed in December of 1988. He then ventured to the United States where he accepted a position as executive sous chef at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

After working at the Mayflower, Jonach became executive chef of The Carlton Hotel. It was there he met and cooked for Queen Elizabeth II.

Jonach later served as executive chef at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and even started his own catering company, catering primarily for the Austrian Embassy. In 1999, he joined the Fairfax County Police as a safety officer, and in 2004 he accepted a teaching position at Northern Virginia Community College. In 2006, he became an official U.S. citizen, and in 2020 he retired and married his wife, Marie Hill of Arvonia.

During his career, Jonach has cooked for and met countless celebrities, including the likes of Liz Taylor, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra. He’s also served up dinner for a variety of world leaders, including former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

And if you’re wishing you could get a taste of one of Jonach’s dishes, chances are you may already have. The Stouffer Hotel Company, a subsidiary of Nestle, owned the Mayflower hotel during Jonach’s employment there. Jonach crafted the recipe for Stouffer’s stuffed peppers and lasagna, both of which are still used today.

Although he’s lived quite an exciting life, Jonach has no problems settling down in Buckingham County with Hill.

“I could not have chosen a better place and woman,” he said.