Food has always been a big part of Karl Holst’s life as a fifth-generation Ventura County resident whose family first moved to the area to farm in the 1800s. Karl fondly recalls family cooking nights during his childhood, when his mother assigned cooking duties to each member of the family.
“It was something that was so enjoyable, and I just stuck with it,” says Karl, who today serves as the head chef at the exclusive North Ranch Country Club in Thousand Oaks.
“My parents encouraged me to cook at a young age. They loved great food, eating at great restaurants, and they had a passion for cooking at home,” says Karl, who went on to pursue his love of food in college, studying Culinary Arts at Santa Barbara City College and traveling extensively to learn about various cuisines throughout the world.
A professional chef for more than 27 years now, Karl’s resume includes time at Birnam Wood Golf Club, Spanish Hills Country Club, Topa Tower Club and several restaurants in Ventura County.
Renowned for his incredible food and wine pairing dinners, Karl says his menus are inspired by influences near and far.
“Definitely my travels through four continents learning the food ways in so many countries,” and local farmers markets and wines play a part in his culinary creations.
“Farmers markets always inspire me to ask questions and taste foods seasonally. Tasting wines also influences my menus tremendously,” says Karl. “I get a lot of ideas from designing wine dinners, tasting wine and creating the perfect pairings.”
His specialties usually include fresh locally grown produce.
“Talking with my farmers about what is coming into season also inspires my menus. Often, just the weekly farmer’s pick list can sound so delicious—peaches, basil, tomatoes—that’s a pick list but also the beginning of a delicious salad or chutney to top fresh caught fish,” says Karl, who thoroughly enjoys whipping up new dishes.
“It’s always fun to make something new. Lately, I’ve enjoyed making new recipes using my smoker, including maple smoked pecans—they are so addictive!”
While Karl says his favorite food is Pho, his wife, Rachel, says, “only half-jokingly that she married me for my smoked brisket and fried chicken,” Karl says. When he’s not in the kitchen, Karl spends time with Rachel (also a great chef!) and their greyhound dogs, Bean and Boona.
Karl also spends considerable time riding his bike.
“I love cycling,” he says. “I’ve been racing bicycles since I was 13. I was inspired by watching the 1984 Olympic Road Race in Mission Viejo, and I’ve been hooked ever since! Cycling helps me stay fit and keep up with the physical demands of being a chef. It also helps keep me from putting on too many pounds since I taste so much food each day. I typically ride my bike to work from Camarillo. It’s good for the environment and just about the only way I have time to train with my demanding work schedule.”
Despite his busy lifestyle, Karl still finds time to have weekly dinners with his parents in Camarillo and says he sincerely enjoys his chosen profession.
“I love being able to be creative. I love mentoring and teaching my team and watching their careers blossom, and I really enjoy helping to make people happy—great food does that,” says Karl, adding, “I really love working at North Ranch Country Club. We have such a great membership that loves food and wine. I can see they really enjoy our culinary programs at the Club. We also have such a great team on staff. We are all very passionate and work hard to improve the members’ experience and exceed expectations. I look forward to coming in to work every day. It’s truly a dream job.”