Danko first started cooking at the local Village Inn restaurant at just 14 years old. By the time he graduated high school, he had been exposed to every position in the restaurant. Danko completed his culinary education at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He relocated to San Francisco in 1977 and worked as a waiter at the Waterfront Restaurant. Chef Danko returned to New York to enroll in Madeleine Kamman's class at Peter Kump's New York Cooking School in 1983. In 1985, Danko became the executive chef at Beringer Vineyards. He later became the executive chef at Chateau Souverain in Sonoma County. In 1992 Danko left to become the chef of the Terrace restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco. He was then appointed the executive chef of the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, S.F.Ritz-Carlton.
In 1999, Danko created his own restaurant 'Gary Danko', near Fisherman's Wharf. Gary Danko has also made appearances as the feature chef on the Food Network and PBS. In 2002, the restaurant Gary Danko was designated one of eighteen Relais & Chateaux properties in North America.
Diners select from three, four or five prix-fixe menu courses. Danko's signature dishes include roast Maine lobster with white corn, tarragon and chanterelles, pancetta wrapped frog legs with garlic purée, and roasted quail stuffed with mushrooms and foie gras. Most dishes are served year round, but ingredients are adjusted seasonally to emphasize local produce. Before it was banned in California, in late spring, Danko's seared foie gras was paired with Bing cherries, but in early fall, with roast figs.
Awards and honors
|1995||James Beard Foundation||Best Chef-California|
|1999||Esquire Magazine||Best New Restaurant|
|1999||Mobil Travel Guide||First "Five Star" rating|
|2000||James Beard Foundation||Best New Restaurant|
|2000||San Francisco Magazine||Chef of the Year|
|2002||James Beard Foundation Award||Nominated Outstanding Chef of the Year|
|2002||Relais & Chateaux||Relais & Chateaux property|
|2007||Zagat Survey||Top Restaurant|
|2008||Michelin Guide||One Star Rating|
|2012||Michelin Guide||One Star Rating|