Executive Chef Johnny Hornibrook presents his own magic for Mystique Dining

Photos BY Donny Michel

The intimate and beautifully appointed grand dining chamber of Mystique Dining sets the perfect stage for the gourmet cuisine of Executive Chef Johnny Hornibrook. In fact, it is winning as much praise as the magic shows that follow his five-course presentations.

It sounds like you have been perfecting your craft since you were a young boy. How important is “hands-on” learning to a chef? I think hands-on learning is very important. I think back to some of my training, and the tips and tricks my mentors taught me to become the most efficient chef I can be. To me, a hands-on approach is the act of constantly tasting and improving. When I do this daily, I never stop learning and perfecting my craft. Repetition and experience also give me the confidence I need to take risks and excel in the creation of my dishes. 

How do you describe your culinary style? My culinary style is derived from my culturally diverse ethnicity and expansive palate. For one thing, I eat everything. If there ever is something I don’t care to eat or cook, I find a way to modify the ingredients to better suit my taste. In a word, I’d call my culinary style “adaptive,” because I’m adaptive to location and resources. I grew up on California’s coast and Central Valley, so I feel connected to the land and the local ingredients available to us here. I also credit my palate to my extensive international travels where I’ve gained knowledge of other flavors and culinary styles. I love to prepare dishes with Asian, European, and Latin influences.

Can you describe the Mystique Dining culinary experience? The culinary experience at Mystique begins with the elegant atmosphere of the dining room itself. It was designed by the owner, Terry Commons, whose attention to detail is unmatched. The cuisine appeals to the senses through exquisite plate presentation and the intoxicating aromas and flavors of the food. The timing of the evening is meticulously planned so nothing is overlooked. The duration of the experience is 2.5 hours: 1 hour and 45 minutes to enjoy five seasonally rotating courses including an appetizer, soup or salad, palate-cleansing sorbet, entrée, and dessert. I change up the entrée selections every 90 days to appeal to our returning guest and provide them with new selections to try each visit. We also feature a chef’s showcase every 60 days that allows me to offer something truly spectacular, unique, and different for our guests that want a little something more.

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January and February’s Chef Showcase: Wagyu Tomahawk steak
January and February’s Chef Showcase: Wagyu Tomahawk steak

You currently oversee three kitchens. How do you and your team continually produce five-star culinary excellence? Communication, honesty, integrity, and accountability are all standards we uphold to the highest degree. Feedback doesn’t go ignored. We have frequent team meetings and nightly staff dinners to keep morale strong. Team members also receive free tickets to our shows, so they know what it’s like to be a guest. Each team member plays a vital role in facilitating a world-class experience for our guests, who are all VIPs.