The Rittenhouse, Philadelphia’s iconic luxury boutique hotel, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is excited to announce two new talented additions to their stellar hotel culinary team, Pastry Chef Tova du Plessis and Sommelier Justin Timsit.
A native of South Africa, Tova du Plessis joins as the hotel’s Pastry Chef, bringing her unique culinary style to Lacroix, the hotel’s award-winning international restaurant and the iconic Mary Cassatt Tea Room, as well as the new Library Bar. Dessert specialties available upon request.
Justin Timsit brings a unique background in wine, travel and fashion to Lacroix, the hotel’s award-winning international restaurant. A highly accomplished Sommelier, Justin earned the only perfect score in the first exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers, and afterwards received the Walter Clore Scholarship for top honors in the Certified Sommelier exam.
Tova du Plessis, Pastry Chef
Tova du Plessis joined The Rittenhouse in March 2014 as the hotel Pastry Chef, bringing her unique culinary style to Lacroix, the hotel’s award-winning international restaurant and the iconic Mary Cassatt Tea Room, as well as the new Library Bar. Tova’s culinary philosophy is not limited to sweet flavors, but rather focuses on desserts that experiment with many different taste sensations, including sour, bitter, spice and heat.
A seasoned chef, Tova was most recently the Pastry Chef at Avance Restaurant, Justin Bogle’s progressive American restaurant in Philadelphia. She also spent a short time as Sous Chef at Le Ben Fin as well as Sous Chef at Citron and Rose at Merion Station, a kosher Philadelphia restaurant featuring a menu inspired by Jewish culinary traditions around the world. Tova’s time spent in the savory kitchen deeply influenced her cooking style in the pastry kitchen. She enjoys experimenting with savory flavors in desserts and recognizes the benefit of producing dessert components ‘to taste’. This philosophy allows Tova a certain level of flexibility and spontaneity to her food that is untraditional in the pastry kitchen.
Tova’s culinary roots extend to Johannesburg, South Africa, where she grew up in an observant Jewish home. Her mother baked challah every Friday, prepared three course meals for Shabbat, and planned elaborate dinners and lunches for Jewish holidays. As a child, she loved being involved in the kitchen and all aspects of cooking and baking, but did not initially consider a career in the culinary world. She instead enrolled in college in New York with the intention of becoming a doctor, but towards the end of her undergraduate career, she decided to pursue her true passion, food.
After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Biology, Tova attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley and earned an Associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. While there, she interned at the Restaurant at Meadowood, and continued to work at the restaurant for a year and a half as Chef de Partie. During Tova’s time in California, she met Michael Solomonov of Zahav, a modern Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia serving authentic Israeli dishes, who offered her a job and prompted her move to Philadelphia 2012.
Tova enjoys the food scene in Philadelphia, especially the variety of casual and fine dining spots, and is an integral part of The Rittenhouse team.
Justin Timsit, Sommelier
Justin Timsit joined The Rittenhouse team in early 2014 as the hotel Sommelier, bringing a unique background in wine, travel and fashion to Lacroix, the hotel’s award-winning international restaurant. Timsit’s wine philosophy is one that translates winemakers’ stories to the table. He appreciates wines of generations past: wines of complexity, and finesse that celebrate the transparency of their terroir, and create intense and memorable flavors in the dish and in the glass. Timsit enjoys discovering new wines from around the world, and believes there is nothing more exciting than bringing these wines to the table for guests to experience.
Justin most recently operated a focused and intimate wine and dining experience in Los Angeles as Wine Director at Tagine Beverly Hills. Prior to this role, he spent 8 years working in the fashion industry on the west coast, during which time he explored his passion for wine, traveling to various wine regions around the world. In 2012, Justin launched a wine website www.redwinelovers.com and pursued the Court of Master Sommeliers, achieving the only perfect score in the first exam, and afterwards receiving the Walter Clore Scholarship for top honors in the Certified Sommelier exam.
Justin’s passion for wine is rooted in his Moroccan background and upbringing in Los Angeles, CA. He grew up in a household where wine was an essential part of every meal. In this environment, Justin learned to appreciate wine as an experience and a story, rather than just a beverage, and recalls that at family gatherings, wine was considered an essential part of the stories that were shared around the table. Justin began to collect wine at a young age, and learned about different varieties from his father and his peers, who were avid wine collectors themselves. Much of his early knowledge was grounded in French Bordeaux and Burgundy from iconic chateaux and hallowed vineyard sites, but ultimately, his curiosity expanded and he was drawn to a new world of wine and fine dining. He spent many years exploring new regions, styles, cultures and traditions, following many of the legendary winemakers and professionals he admired.
Justin moved to Philadelphia in February of 2014 and is excited to continue his journey of wine exploration at The Rittenhouse Hotel and Lacroix Restaurant. Justin looks forward to sharing his memorable experiences visitors and hotel guests alike, and creating new memories along the way.
About The Rittenhouse
The Rittenhouse, a 116-room independent luxury hotel that has received the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award for more than 20 years, is a member of Leading Hotels of the World and considered Philadelphia’s most distinguished address. Opened in 1989, The Rittenhouse is ideally situated on Philadelphia’s famed Rittenhouse Square, within walking distance to the heart of the business district and premier shopping corridor. Additionally, the hotel affords easy access to the Philadelphia Convention Center and all of the City’s numerous arts, cultural, dining and entertainment venues.