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Meet the Innkeepers


A native of the Midwest and the Chicago-land area, Dean began his career in the hospitality industry as a young dishwasher for an Italian Chef who took Dean under his arm. Dean went to Joliet Junior College to study Culinary Arts and soon moved on to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to gain experience at opening many of the plantation developments. Dean took a sabbatical in pastries working for Chef Kurt Buchi at the Intercontinental Resort, and soon became the outlet chef for the Carolina Café at the Westin Hilton Head 5-Diamond Resort. Chef Dean met his wife Nicole and adopted family of Olivier and Frederic.

Chef Dean and Nicole Thomas Welcome You

Dean & Nicole not only personally care for each and every guest’s hospitality needs, are the concierge for Temecula Valley and service the very best breakfast “experience” in Southern California.

After Hilton Head Island, the Thomas family departed to Tucson, Arizona where Chef Dean took the helm at the Westin La Paloma Resort’s Country Club. After two years, Chef Dean took another sabbatical to Caneel Bay Rock Resort on St. John, United States Virgin Islands where Yanik, son number three was born. A return to the La Paloma Resort soon followed. Chef Dean’s professional career exploded on the competition scene at a number of venues including winning the 1993 Pork Recipe Grand Prize, Champion of the “Arizona Taste of Elegance-1994” and competing at the National Taste of Elegance held in Chicago that year. In 2007, Dean received the honor by the National Pork Board as one of the five Celebrated Chefs in America and has hosted 2007-2008 consecutive National Taste of Elegance Championships at Barona Valley Ranch. Chef Dean is truly a seasoned veteran to competition with numerous American Culinary Federation, (A.C.F.) Gold, Silver and Bronze medallions to his portfolio of accomplishments. Most recently, Dean organized and coordinated the 2008 San Diego Fancy Food Show A.C.F. Sanctioned Hot Food Competition. Dean represented the State of California in the 2008 National Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans and was a finalist in both the National Wild Boar Contest and Veal Competition.

Chef Dean and Nicole Thomas Serving at a Special Event

In Tucson, Chef Dean taught at Pima Community College Culinary Arts program and was a major influence in the Westin La Paloma A. C. F. Apprenticeship program. New England Culinary Institute recruited Chef Dean in 1995, accepting the position of Executive Sous Chef-Essex Campus. This hands-on challenge of developing new generations of young talent lasted for 8 ½ years. The experience taught Chef Thomas that one must be a lifetime learner.

In 2004, Chef Thomas became the Executive Chef at the aspiring Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in San Diego, California. Chef Dean oversaw twelve food venue concepts and a culinary staff of 350+. Chef Dean established the Barona Culinary Institute on property that trains associates on three various levels: Management, Hourly and an A.C.F. Apprenticeship Program. Chef Dean served a 3-year devotion to the A.C.F. National Apprenticeship Committee. Dean was also honored with the nomination for 2009 California Restaurant Association San Diego Chef of the Year.

For two consecutive years, Chef Dean led the Barona Culinary Team to recognition by peers of Santé Magazine for Traditional Cuisine in California; 2008-2010 Dean was one of the National Judges for the Santé awards. Chef Dean has been the Vice President and Apprenticeship Chairman of the San Diego Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. Dean is an A.C.F. Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator. Chef Dean is involved with the community through constant fundraisers, R.O.P. Advisory Boards, a member of Slow Food, the California Restaurant Association and once a San Diego board member for the American Institute of Wine and Food. Chef Dean has been honored the 2008 A.C.F. Chef of The Year in San Diego. Chef Dean is a certified culinary evaluator for A.C.F. Practical Examinations.

Chef Dean Thomas is a consummate teacher, a true professional of leadership and possesses the passion for cooking. Chef Dean believes in seasonal cuisine approach, regional ingredients, supporting sustainable products and that “less is more”. One is only as good as their last meal served.

Today, Dean and his lovely wife, Nicole, also a culinarian and a proud heritage of Quebec, reside and operate The Inn at Europa Village. May it be noted they also prepare all catering events at Europa Village in their spare time.

Cheers! Salute!


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