Chef Proprietor Todd Kniess

Chef Todd

At 12 years of age, Todd’s passion for food began as he assisted his father in the catering business preparing Christmas dinner for the governor of Connecticut. At only 15, he worked all stations of the Yankee Silversmith Inn in Wallingford, Connecticut under the direction of Chef Kevin Smith. Todd pursued a culinary career at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York where he learned the fundamentals and fell in love with French cuisine. Upon completing his apprenticeship with Chef Tell on Grand Cayman Island in the British West Indies, and after graduation at the C.I.A., Todd set his sights on New Orleans in 1991.

Securing a position at the Four Star Sazerac Restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel, Todd was re-enforced by the techniques of classic French preparations. Quickly promoted to Sous Chef of the restaurant, he was in charge of a staff of 8. Todd also assisted in the banquet kitchen preparing meals for up to 5,000 guests including off-site parties on the Mississippi River boat, Natchez. Searching for the next challenge, Todd accepted a position at the 5-Star, 5-Diamond Ritz Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida.

Starting as Sous Chef in the Ritz Grill Room in 1993, Todd was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of the Café Restaurant. As the youngest Chef de Cuisine in the company, Todd refined his skills both as a chef as well as a manager. He was certified in Total Quality Management. The Ritz Carlton won a Malcolm Baldrige Award for Excellence in Service that year. During his tenure as Chef de Cuisine, Todd took charge of the Café Restaurant serving up to 1,000 guests daily. He assisted in large banquets and functions in the hotel banquet kitchen. Then he set his sights on the San Francisco Bay Area.

In June 1994, Todd met Chef Roland Passot of La Folie in San Francisco. He began as Sous Chef at the Left Bank in Larkspur and was promoted the next year to Chef de Cuisine. At Left Bank, Todd refined his passion for rustic French cuisine and opened the Left Bank in Menlo Park in 1998. He received several Three Star reviews from San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer. Falling in love with Northern California, Todd next pursued a lifelong dream, his own restaurant.

On March 21, 2001, the first day of spring, Liaison was born and a new beginning created in Todd’s culinary journey. Liaison is a neighborhood French bistro in the heart of Berkeley, dubbed “French Food for the Soul.” It is critically successful and a favorite destination for locals and Bay Area Francophiles seeking an authentic bistro dining experience.

“Mais oui!” exclaim proponents of the “French bistro fare” at this “little piece of Paris” in Berkeley, with “belle epoque” ambiance, “friendly” service and “quite reasonable” prices; it’s a “fine choice” before the “Berkeley Rep or Aurora Theater”, and you might even leave feeling “like you’ve had a vacation in France.” Zagat Survey 2012; Food 22, Decor 20, Service 22, Cost $34, Excellent Food and Service, Top Prix Fixe Lunch

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