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Meet the Chefs of Sonoma Wine Country

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stFrancisWinery_DavidBush.jpg*David Bush, Executive Chef
St. Francis Winery

Combine equal parts culinary prowess, creativity, charisma and leadership skill. Stir-in a handful of good humor, and an impressive amount of useless trivia knowledge. Add a dash of unpredictability and endearing sarcasm . . . and you get Executive Chef David Bush -- or "Chef" as St. Francis Winery affectionately calls him. He's the capable leader of St. Francis culinary and events programs and serves delectable food and wine pairings at the Visitor's Center which always receive rounds of applause from guests. Try one of the Recipes prepared by "Chef" for your next dinner or party.

antonio.JPG*Antonio Ghilarducci, Executive Chef
Depot Hotel Restaurant

Antonio Ghilarducci, the son of owners Mike and Gia Ghilarducci will be permanently joining the team at the Depot Hotel as Executive Chef.  As a young boy Antonio often helped his father in the kitchen and often returned over the years to work special functions. Read More. Try one of the Recipes made at the restaurant for your next dinner party.

Steven Snook, Executive Chef

wcPersonality_KenwoodSpa_snook1.jpgAfter six years in the Michelin Star-rated kitchens of the esteemed, charismatic and outspoken British chef Gordon Ramsay, Steven Snook has traded in the big city, pressure cooker life working in such critically acclaimed, high profile restaurants for the Executive Chef position at the much slower-paced, award-winning, guests-only Restaurant at the Kenwood Inn and Spa. Opened in 1989 as a luxury hideaway in Sonoma's Valley of the Moon, the Kenwood Inn and Spa offers 29 Mediterranean-styled guest rooms flanked by courtyards, three saline pools, and vineyard views. The Spa at Kenwood features cutting edge, results-oriented skincare treatments and body treatments utilizing vinotherapy -engaging the exceptional rejuvenating and protective powers of the grape. 

What Chef Snook brings with him from those priceless years under such a talented and exacting chef is expertly sharpened culinary chops, exceedingly high standards and a profound respect and connection to the bounty provided by local artisan food growers and producers.

During his tenure as Sous Chef at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, both in London, Chef Snook stood out to Chef Ramsay's team for his impeccable standards and discriminating palate, which allowed him some very interesting experiences not afforded to most chefs. 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. 

Wine Country Personality: Khambay Khamsyvoravong

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kenwoodInnSpa_Personality_Khambay_Pic1.jpgExecutive Pastry Chef at
Kenwood Inn and Spa

As Executive Pastry Chef at the Kenwood Inn and Spa, Khambay Khamsyvoravong displays her considerable culinary talent by planning and creating the Inn's decadent desserts and pastries at both dinner and the complimentary breakfast.
After receiving her BA from Brown University, Khambay followed her passion for cooking, graduating from The Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, NY in 2009. From there, she honed her skills in the kitchens of several well-known Sonoma-area bakeries and kitchens, preparing cupcakes and planning wine-paired dinners, before joining the Kenwood culinary team in 2010.
kenwoodInnSpa_Personality_Khambay_Pic2.jpgKhambay's broad culinary vision is revealed in her delicious creations such as Chocolate Ravioli with Blueberry filling and Salted Ganache, Banana Cream Tart with Sweet Dough, Banana Butter, Fresh Bananas, Pastry Cream, Pound Cake Croutons and Toasted Meringue or delights like a House made Braised Pork, Roasted Apple and Pear pie.
Whether sweet or savory, Khambay's creations are thoughtful, distinctive and delightful.

The Small Kitchen Magician

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wcPersonalityWineTrain.jpgby Kira Devitt, Napa Valley Wine Train Marketing
If you were to meet Chef Kelly Macdonald on the street, with his charming smile and fiery personality, you'd immediately notice that he is not your average celebrity chef.  As Executive Chef on the Wine Train, Macdonald has one of the most unique jobs in the Napa Valley.  Not only does he create delectable gourmet meals, but he does it all in a vintage railcar traveling to and from St. Helena and Napa.  Some might think that this job, in a small and moving kitchen, may be less than ideal for a chef exploring his talent. But Kelly Macdonald sees it as something completely different. Instead, he sees it as a challenge to make him a better chef. 

Wine Country Personality: Jon Mortimer

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jopnb.jpgEarth Meets Ocean:
Modern comfort food from the Sonoma Coast

My life long journey with food began on the east coast. Charles Mortimer, my grandfather, was a true pioneer in the food manufacturing industry, but my food adventure has always followed a different map. At a young age I learned to love a great meal and the process by which it was attained. While enjoying the dining aspect, service and trying new flavors my thoughts would always wander to where the ingredients came from. What we were enjoying at the table never had as much an impact as picking and shelling peas with my grandmother earlier that afternoon.

    In the subsequent decades to those early food memories I found myself perpetually moving west. Across the fertile plains of the Rocky Mountains I learned of the fruitful bounties of the rich, irrigated soils. I found great respect for the majestic animals that roamed the monochromatic hills and boned many trout from the cool, clear streams. All wonderful, yet still there existed an incognizant limit to my culinary dreams and I always longed for a place where you didn't have to perpetually out-think the food as a cook. 

    In what amounted to an almost unexplainable fervor in a breathless week's time as if irresistibly pulled by a cosmic magnet my family headed west to lands end in the greatest food continent on the blue planet. It was the blue I'd been missing, teaming with life and crying out to be married with the fruits of the farmer's labors. The sense of place with which the wine epitomizes the food on the Sonoma Coast is a combination rarely experienced with such seamlessness. It is all so clear sitting on the coast at Timber Cove with the fertile, mineral rich soils behind me and ocean stirring before's time to capture Earth and ocean in a pan and use all the respect of a lifetime with food and capture it on a plate.

hilton_chef.jpgRene Jakushak, a Northern California resident since 1995, has permanently joined the team at Nectar Restaurant as Executive Chef.  As a young boy Rene often helped his mother create authentic German dishes with a California twist in their family kitchen, and has followed that tradition by creating a fresh and delicious menu with a focus on local and sustainable foods at Nectar Restaurant. 

Rene grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and at 16 years old was working in the kitchens at the local university, cooking for faculty and students there.  He enrolled in the Hotel Management program at the local City College, famous for its classroom views of the Pacific, and in his spare time continued cooking professionally.  By 18 he was in charge of the kitchen at a popular local eatery, and cooking quickly became more important than academics.  He left both to complete his Culinary Arts training at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR., graduating in 1993.  He brought with him to Oregon his high school sweetheart, and they married in 1999.   

Executive Chef Bruno Tison

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Updated March 2012chef_tison.jpg

Executive Chef Bruno Tison of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is a celebrated chef with numerous awards and led the resort's culinary team at Santé Restaurant to the coveted Michelin star in 2012.

A 20- year veteran and the youngest appointed Executive Chef of the legendary Plaza Hotel in New York, Tison's nouvelle cuisine has earned extensive critical acclaim. During his tenure in New York, he captured a number of awards including FOOD ARTS "Silver Spoon", a gold medal at the NY International Food Show Exposition and first prize at the NYC Hotel & Motel Culinary Olympics.

Chef Tison trained in the kitchens of several of France's legendary master chefs including Bernard Waterlot, Roger Verge, Michel Guerard and Alain Chapel. Under their watchful tutelage, Chef Tison developed and refined his own unique style. "My cooking is heavily influenced by my strong classical background and the use of fresh American products."

Antonio Ghilarducci, the son of owners Mike and Gia Ghilarducci will be permanently joining the team at the Depot Hotel as Executive Chef.  As a young boy Antonio often helped his father in the kitchen and often returned over the years to work special functions.

Antonio graduated high school in 2000 from Justin-Siena in Napa and moved to San Jose to study at San Jose State University.  Before long, Antonio began working in the kitchens at the university, cooking for faculty and students there.  Cooking quickly became more important than academics and he left both to study at San Francisco City College in the Culinary Arts Department.  This is the oldest cooking school on the West Coast and the same school that his father attended thirty years earlier.  He graduated among the top five in his class in 2002 and obtained his Associates Degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies.

Wine Country Personality: Jeff Cox

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JeffCox.jpgFrom Farm to Table

"I want to help people discover their unique preferences in fine wines so they become their own experts," says Jeff Cox, author and owner of From Farm to Table.

Jeff Cox has a very colorful background in wine and food, especially when it comes to writing. During his time as managing editor of Organic Gardening magazine in the 1970s, Jeff planted a vineyard on his property, learning to grow the vines, prune them, harvest the grapes, and make wine. In 1983, he put this hard-won information into a book, From Vines to Wines, that has become the standard work on the subject of do-it-yourself winemaking - from planting the grapes to aging the wine. It sold well over 100,000 copies and continues to sell well today.

Sondra Bernstein

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Sondra Bernstein:

Signature Restaurant, Gourmet Picnics, Private Cottages and Catering- The Exclusive Experience on combines it all.

Just like a plump ripe fig, the girl & the fig food is fresh, healthy, and bursting with flavor. With a seasonal menu featuring garden vegetables, herbs, and an abundance of creativity, the rustic Provençal-inspired cuisine allows earth's true and natural flavors to shine.

Janine Falvo :The Fresh Face of Wine Country Cuisine

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Janine Falvo's passion for food stems from a family deeply rooted in culinary tradition. Today she enjoys being the Chef de Cuisine of Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar for The Lodge at Sonoma. Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her childhood years were filled with memories of berry picking, seasonal harvest canning and celebratory holiday feasts. After years of showcasing her culinary prowess to her family and friends at such gatherings, she decided to hone her skills and make a career out of her life long passion.

Catherine Bergen

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Catherine Bergen:

Inspiring "Foodies" with Gourmet Every Day Cookbook

Over the past six years Catherine Bergen local culinary entrepreneur and founder of Made In Napa Valley®, has brought locals and visitors to a new level of cooking and entertaining with her premium-quality pantry foods inspired by the abundance and beauty of the Napa Valley.

She has developed over 70 intensely flavored gourmet food products which are made in small batches using the very best, all-natural ingredients. This attention to quality and freshness helped Made In Napa Valley win the National Association for The Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) 2004 Outstanding Product Line award, the most coveted in the specialty food business; as well as ongoing press accolades and two listings on the coveted "O" list in Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine.

Leslie Rudd

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Leslie Rudd: Entrepreneur with the Heart of Napa Valley

Leslie Rudd is an entrepreneur and philanthropist with a real heart for the Napa Valley. Already a proprietor of Dean & DeLuca, Rudd Winery, Edge Hill Estate, PRESS restaurant, and Distillery 209, he recently adopted the historic Oakville Grocery in an effort to restore the beloved destination for wine country visitors.