first_imgARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 16, 2019)–As she readies for Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet opener on Friday, Sept. 27, popular Executive Chef Paula Smagacz brings a ready smile and up-beat attitude that complement her vast culinary experience on a daily basis. From fast paced local television appearances to interaction with fans and employees, Smagacz brings a positive energy to her position that is tough to deny.“I love the people and I love working here,” said Smagacz, who is nearing her third year at The Great Race Place. “We’ve got an outstanding food and beverage team and I think everyone, our employees and patrons, respond to a smile and words of encouragement. Everyone has issues in their lives, but in many ways, what we do here is similar to entertainment. Our customers are coming here to have a good time and to enjoy great food. Let’s give it to them!”A central Wisconsin native, Smagacz was very much raised as an “All American” girl.“I’m from a very close family,” she said. “We grew up hunting, fishing, camping and gardening and enjoying all the seasons have to offer. We were always baking and cooking and canning what we grew ourselves. Food is a passion and you can never stop learning about it and developing new ways to prepare and present it.”Shortly after attending college in Milwaukee, Smagacz moved with her husband to Las Vegas, where she soon found employment at Four Seasons and the Bellagio, working for current Santa Anita Corporate Executive Chef, Wolfgang von Wieser.“Working for Wolfgang at the Bellagio was a great experience and I learned a great deal,” said Smagacz. “We participated in international events like the Bellagio’s version of ‘Iron Chef’ and I was also involved with buffets, in-room dining, banquets and many other event-specific presentations.”Smagacz’s most recent work experience prior to joining the Santa Anita Hospitality team came in the Caribbean, where she served a five-year stint as Executive Sous Chef at the world famous Sandals Resorts International/Beaches.“This is truly a team effort here at Santa Anita and everyone is looking forward to opening day on Sept. 27 and to the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1 and 2,” said Smagacz. “We look forward to welcoming our patrons back and to making new friends. We can’t wait!”For further information and to make dining and seating reservations for the upcoming Autumn Meet, please visit or call (626) 574-RACE.last_img