WineCountry.com Personality - Perry Hoffman, étoile

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personality_Chandon_PerryHoffman1.jpgThough he literally grew up in fine-dining kitchens (his grandparents Sally and Don Schmitt, were the original owners of The French Laundry in Yountville, which was later made famous by current owner Thomas Keller), Chef Perry Hoffman, still chooses a hamburger as one of his favorite meals. Although what he describes certainly isn't a typical fast-food burger: an 8oz rare hamburger with prosciutto di Parma, forme d'ambert, and tarragon aioli, with a brioche bun. Moreover, he would pair it with a glass of Shafer Cabernet - a true indication he grew up in wine country.

A Napa Valley-native, Hoffman first became interested in cooking by helping his grandmother in the kitchen at The French Laundry making croutons, roasting bell peppers and chopping parsley. After taking his first formal restaurant job in a local restaurant working as a pastry chef at age 15, Hoffman learned quickly that working in professional kitchens wasn't always glamorous. He recalls an embarrassing moment his first day on the job, when he literally passed out as a result of being sick and dehydrated. 
After stops at the Boonville Hotel in the Anderson Valley, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, the Mauna Lani in Hawaii and two years as sous chef under Robert Curry at Auberge du Soleil, before coming to étoile in 2007, Hoffman has come a long way from that first day on the job. Although, ironically he's located less than one mile from where he first began working in another Yountville kitchen more than 20 years ago. Out of all the places he's traveled, he has a special affinity for the Napa Valley; and the bar deck at Auberge du Soleil at sunset is one of his favorite places to visit for its unbeatable view.

personality_Chandon_PerryHoffman2.jpgThe 28 year old Hoffman certainly has made a name for himself in the culinary world, although a guest of the restaurant once confused him for Thomas Keller's son (and refused to believe otherwise). Not surprisingly he describes his biggest career highlight as receiving a Michelin Star. "It's amazing because Michelin is nothing you apply for or try out for," said Hoffman. "One day the phone rings and its Jean-Luc Naret, Director of Michelin telling me 'Congratulations, you have just received a star.'"

At étoile, Hoffman enjoys creating wine-inspired cuisine, drawing on the restaurant's extensive gardens, located just steps from the kitchen door. He describes this daily job activity as foraging for wild foods. Yet this remains one of his favorite parts of his job; and he even playfully ponders if gardening as an alternate career path because of the opportunity to work under the sun and experience less stress.

Hoffman also draws inspiration for his cuisine from daily interaction with the winemakers. A wine connoisseur, Hoffman looks forward to the opportunity to travel to Spain's wine regions in the future.

Combining his love of fresh seafood with his love of the outdoors, Hoffman enjoys fishing in his spare time and seizes any opportunity to sneak away for a day and go fishing.

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