Current Schedule Chef-Instructors

Our Chef-Instructors come from a wide variety of culinary backgrounds, resulting in classes that are diverse and stimulating. We offer classes with well-known chefs from successful restaurants, cookbook authors, caterers and private chefs, wine experts, food purveyors, and other culinary authorities. In alphabetical order:

Bruce Aidells is the founder of Aidells Sausage Company, television host and award-winning author of twelve cookbooks, including the IACP Julia Child award-winning Hot Links and Country Flavors, James Beard Award nominees The Complete Meat Cookbook and Bruce Aidells’s Complete Book of Pork, and his most recent The Great Meat Cookbook: Everything you Need to Know to Buy and Cook Today’s Meat. Bruce is widely known as an expert in all things "meat" and regularly contributes to numerous publications, including Cooking Light, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, and Food & Wine, and has appeared as an expert chef on the LiveWell Network, Today and Martha Stewart Living.

Bruce Aidells

Many refer to Chef John Ash as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine”.  In 1980 he opened his namesake restaurant, John Ash & Company, in Santa Rosa. It was the first restaurant in Northern California wine country to focus on local, seasonal ingredients used to create dishes that complemented the wines being made in the region. Nationally renowned as a wine and food educator, Chef John is an adjunct professor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, has hosted two shows on the Food Network, and has co-hosted a radio show for more than 27 years on KSRO 1350AM. John has written four books including the From the Earth to the Table: John Ash’s Wine Country Cuisine, American Game Cooking, and the James Beard Award Winning John Ash Cooking One-on-One: Private Lessons in Simple Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher. Just this year, Chef John won another James Beard Award for his latest book Culinary Birds.  

In 2008 John was voted “Cooking School Teacher of the Year” by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.  He served for many years on the Board of the Chef’s Collaborative, a national organization of chef’s committed to sustainable and ethical food issues.  He has also served on the Board of Advisors of Seafood Watch, an educational initiative for sustainable seafood by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  In 2014 the Aquarium named him “Seafood Educator of the Year” at their annual Cooking for Solutions gathering.

The Beverage People is a family owned and operated retail and mailorder store, in business for almost 30 years right here in beautiful Sonoma County. The Beverage People staff are experienced, knowledgable, and enthusiastic about all your fermentation hobbies. The Beverage People founders broke ground for the good beer movement in the 1970's by searching out products for home use and teaching thousands of customers how to make great beer, mead, wine, and now cheese, at home. The Beverage People website and catalogs feature all the equipment and ingredients needed to craft these goodies at home.

Carrie Brown owns the landmark Jimtown Store, located in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, celebrated for its lusty country cooking and reinterpreted American desserts. Carrie is the coauthor of The Jimtown Store Cookbook, Recipes from Sonoma County’s Favorite Market that includes 150 of Jimtown’s earthy, full-flavored recipes with a special emphasis on stylish, casual entertaining. Carrie’s unique style and recipes have been featured in countless publications including Country Home, House & Garden, Food & Wine, and Sunset, and on television’s Martha Stewart Living and Food TV’s Ultimate Kitchen. Carrie is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic instructor who loves to share her creative and stylish entertaining and presentation ideas.

Peter Brown started cooking in his hometown of Honolulu in a neighborhood deli at the age of 16. He attended the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in New York City and interned at famed Hawaii chef Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant in Manhattan. After a variety of stints in New York, he stayed in Healdsburg during a visit to the California wine country, ending up with a job at Santi Restaurant in Geyserville where he worked under former Jordan Winery chefs Tom Odin and Franco Dunn. A bit homesick he returned to Hawaii and worked under Chef Hiroshi Fukui at L’Uraku restaurant, then traveled the world as the personal chef to famed Irish dancer Michael Flatley. Peter returned to Healdsburg to master his skills, immersing himself once again in the copious bounty of wine and ingredients in Sonoma county, becoming the chef at the Jimtown Store in October 2007.

Although Dino Bugica was born in Reno, Nevada he still considers himself a "transplant" from Pisa, Italy. He grew up with the influence of his Italian mother and grandmother always cooking with fresh ingredients from his grandfather's ranch and farm. At 18, his passion for food and his heritage took him back to Italy where he lived and cooked for seven years, including stints at three restaurants, a Dutch chocolate maker and a butcher shop and salumerie. As the co-owner and chef at Diavola Pizzeria in Geyserville, Dino is passionate about authentic, old world Italian cuisine where everything from the pizza to the salumi and sausages is made from scratch.

Deborah Dal Fovo

Deborah Dal Fovo is an accomplished Italian chef and culinary food and wine expert who mastered her culinary education hands-on while living in Italy for 20 years. Now based in the San Francisco Bay area, Deborah shares her vast Italian experience working as a private chef, cooking instructor and enthusiastic Italian ambassador of good taste. She appears frequently as guest chef on television shows, including The View from the Bay and Good Cookin' with Bruce Aidells, and is currently writing a cookbook and developing her own cooking show concept.

Watch Chef Deborah make Nona's Italian Apple Cake

Franco Dunn's career as a professional chef started with Jordan Winery where he was Executive Chef for five and a half years. He lived in Italy for two and a half years where he worked in fourteen different restaurants. Among these were two Michelin three star restaurants, a two star, and a one star, and many excellent trattorias. Franco started Santi Restaurant in Geyserville with his long time friend Thomas Oden where he was co-chef for five and a half years. He is currently chef emeritus at Santi.


John Franchetti is co-owner and chef at Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. A Sonoma County native, John graduated from USF/Johnson & Wales before working in kitchens at Commander’s Palace and Emeril’s in New Orleans with Emeril Lagasse and the Mission Lodge and Gesine’s Restaurant in Alaska where he was voted best chef two years in a row. Chef John was manning the pizza oven at Pizzeria Tra Vigne when he met future business partner Kevin Cronin in 2005 and ideas for a joint venture were conceived. Two years later, Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar opened and since then has garnered amazing reviews for its wood-fired pizzas and piadines.

Brandon Guenther earned a B.S. degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management from Northern Arizona University and an A.A. in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu.  His career includes several restaurant kitchens throughout Arizona, foodservice and hotel management at the Renaissance Madison Hotel in Seattle, Washington, event management for two premier west coast caterers and consulting on the design, construction, menus, staffing and successful opening of two restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.  He and his wife Shona Campbell founded Firefly Catering in Oakland, California in 2003 and relocated the business to West Sonoma County to open Valley Ford Hotel and Rocker Oysterfeller’s Kitchen + Saloon in Valley Ford.  He now consorts with local ranchers, fishermen and organic farmers using the bounty of West Sonoma County as the inspiration for his Southern-influenced kitchen.

Brandon Guenther

Kathy Gunst is a freelance writer, editor and radio personality living in Maine. She is the author of fifteen cookbooks, including Stonewall Kitchen Favorites and Stonewall Kitchen Harvest (best American Cookbook 2005). Kathy is a graduate of the London Cordon Bleu School of Cookery and a former culinary editor at Food & Wine magazine. She has been a contributing editor at Parenting Magazine and has written for the New York Times; Travel & Leisure; Bon Appétit; the Los Angeles Times; Better Homes and Gardens; O, The Oprah Magazine; Country Living; and the Boston Globe. Since 2000, she has been the "Resident Chef" for the award-winning show Here and Now on WBUR National Public Radio where she won a 2015 James Beard Award for Journalism. She just published two new books—Stonewall Kitchen Grilling and Stonewall Kitchen Appetizers (Chronicle Books, September 2010). She is currently teaching classes at the new Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School and working on a food memoir.

Jennifer Harris is a self described Bacteria Advocate and traditional preserver. Discovering that "good bacteria" is necessary for our health, Jennifer set out on a mission to learn to preserve traditionally long before it became a culinary DIY trend. A big supporter of local farms and farmers, you can find Jennifer out at a farm, gleaning produce, creating the first annual Kraut-a-palooza or just spreading the gospel of fermentation. Jennifer supplies traditional beverages and seasonal fermets for the The Farmer's Wife, pours at the Fermentation Bar at Shed, and is the coordinator of the annual Farm to Fermentation Festival. Read more about Jennifer and the Fermentation Festival in this Bite Club Eats post.

Jennifer Harris

Jack Herron

A native Oklahoman, Jack Herron divided his chef training between Oklahoma State Universities in Okmulgee and Stillwater, earning a Bachelors in Hotel/ Administration. Jack was mentored by Chef Marc Dunham of the Ranchers Club in Stillwater where he was enlightened to pursue a path with deeper purpose: to make an impact on the future of food through wholisitc practices. Jack and his wife Katie moved west to Sonoma County in 2010 to start a 5-year tenure as the Executive Sous Chef at iconic master chef Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Jack is currently a co-founder of Eat It Make It Grow It, a working farm which will sustain pastured American Heritage Guinea Hogs, Nigerian Dwarf Goats and a mobile Chicken coop, in rotation with a ‘No Till’ Soil Management Program to grow diverse ancient grains and Heirloom crops.

Louella Hill loves making cheese. Years ago, while on a sheep farm in Italy during a college year abroad from Brown, it dawned on her that she could actually make cheese as a profession, could be a part of the process all the way from grass to dinner plate. Since then, she's only continued to fall more in love with this art form. Before moving to San Francisco, Louella was a community organizer and advocate for sustainable food in Rhode Island where she organized farmers’ markets, food forums, cheese apprenticeships, potato shipments, media blitzes, label printings, and more. Currently, Louella offers classes and lessons in DIY cheese making through SF Milk Maid, and hosts a very entertaining cheese blog called Milk and Mold about her cheese making adventures.

Louella Hill

Lia Huber is the founder and CEO of the rich-content website Nourish Network and its companion small-group coaching program, My Nourish Mentor. Lia is also a widely published food writer and recipe developer for magazines like Cooking Light, Prevention and Health, and a rising food and nutrition personality both on-screen and in-person. In any format she tackles, Lia brings passion—and fun—to her message of nourishing body, soul and planet with every bite.

Michele Anna Jordan writes three popular columns about food and wine in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, is a regular contributor to The Wine Enthusiast and has written nearly 20 books to date, including her most recent Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.  She hosts two radio shows, “Mouthful, the Wine Country’s Most Delicious Hour” and “Red Shoes Rodeo.”  Mouthful is available as a podcast at itunes and at Michele worked as a chef for many years and was a restaurant critic, including for the San Francisco Chronicle, for fifteen years.  She has won numerous awards for both her cooking and her writing, including a James Beard Award. Currently, she writes full time, teaches, cooks for family and friends and studies traditional Hawaiian dance.  She is (always!) at work on several new books.

Michele Anna Jordan

Mei Ibach was born in a small, Malaysia fishing Village near Singapore where she learned the secrets of cooking fresh, seasonal cuisine from members of her extended Chinese family while growing up. She gathered her own spices, grew her own vegetables and grilled the catch of the day over an open fire.  In Sonoma County, she has worked in a variety of Asian kitchens, including Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Pacific Rim restaurants.  More recently, she has shared her professional techniques and authentic recipes at Santa Rosa Junior College Culinary Arts program and through her business Malaysia Mei, offering catering services and culinary tours through Asia. Her passions include Dim Sum and Tea, cooking with children and showcasing artisan ingredients from local farms and purveyors.

Chef Todd Knoll joined Jordan Vineyard & Winery in 2003 as chef de cuisine and was promoted to executive chef in 2007. Chef Todd oversees the entire culinary program which includes preparing exquisite tastes daily for winery guests, cooking renowned meals for trade guests and special events, managing the beautiful estate garden and more. Chef Todd was raised in Hawaii and draws inspiration from his childhood home and Asia when creating menus for Jordan. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, Chef Todd worked at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco before joining Jordan.

Chef Todd Knoll

Chef Laura Lee

Chef Laura Lee has a wealth of knowledge and experience in restaurants, catering and culinary instruction that stretches over 2 decades. She started her career in the restaurant industry, opening catering businesses, restaurants and a restaurant consulting business. In 1995 Chef Laura turned her attention to teaching and spent the next 5 years with Home Chef Cooking School as an Instructor and Manager of Curriculum Development. An interest food and wine pairing brought Chef Lee to the wine country where she worked first as the Chef de Cuisine at Simi Winery and later provided wine-centric catering for other exclusive wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties, including Signorello Vineyards in Napa. Laura Lee is a Chef with an eye on the future of the culinary industry.  She has a  sincere commitment to create food that empowers people  with the knowledge that every food choice they make has an impact on the health and sustainability of our world.

Chef Rob Lippincott grew up in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans and got his culinary start cooking at a po-boy shop. A former fisherman and charter boat captain, the pull to Healdsburg began when he met his wife, Healdsburg native Karla Seppi, while he was running a charter boat in San Diego. They married, moved to New Orleans then to Healdsburg in 2004 where Chef Rob cooked on the line at Bistro Ralph. He garnered a following with his beignets, a new Orleans pastry dusted with powdered sugar, selling at local farmers markets. The interest spurred him to open The Parish Cafe in 2012 where he serves traditional New Orleans cuisine for breakfast and lunch, including po-boys, gumbo, muffaleta jambalaya, fresh beignets, chicory coffee and much more.

Rob Lippincott

Danny Mai

Danny Mai was raised in Vietnam in a small farming village. The culture in his village included street vendors who came by the neighborhood nightly with delicacies such as Pho, a Vietnamese staple soup. His greatest influence was from his grandmother who, as the town caterer, would gather the villagers together to make handmade plates, bowls and utensils from bamboo, coconut and anything else nature had to offer. Her influence formed the basis for his passion for food and events at an early age. Chef Danny brought that appreciation for fresh handmade food to Northern California as he started working in a variety of restaurants, including Santa Fe Mary’s and Left Bank with Laurent Pasol where he learned the intricacies of French cuisine. He was the executive chef at Tolay at the Petaluma Sheraton where he also managed the site's hotel kitchen for several years. Most recently, Chef Danny is the culinary driver behind the newly opened Persimmon in Healdsburg which features Asian cuisine with touches of France and Mexico.

Chef Louis Maldonado attended the California Culinary Academy, beginning his career in the high-wattage kitchen of One Market, moving on as sous chef and co-executive chef at Cortez, which was awarded a Michelin star during Maldonado’s tenure. After stops at the famed French Laundry and Café Majestic, where he was named “Rising Star Chef” by San Francisco Chronicle, Maldonado worked for three years as chef de cuisine at the Michelin starred Aziza. Chef Louis ran the kitchen at both Spoonbar and Pizzando for five years, enjoyed a successful and historic run on Bravo's Top Chef and now is the executive chef at Mugnaini Wood-Fired Ovens.

Louis Maldonado

Jeff Mall is the Executive Chef at ZIN Restaurant and Wine Bar. Jeff attended the University of San Francisco where he earned a degree in Hospitality Management. He then went on graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Jeff moved back to Northern California and began working with chef/mentors of different disciplines, such as, Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz at Stars Oakville Café, Bradley Ogden at Lark Creek/Walnut Creek, and Anne and David Gingrass at Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco. This variety of experience helped Jeff to develop his own vision for ZIN, featuring updated and enhanced American home cooking and farm fresh produce much of it from his own Eastside Farm).

Susan Mall attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and went on to work at some pretty great places in San Francisco. In LA, she worked for a combination of restaurants and catering companies, and found that she enjoyed the pace of catering much more than that of restaurants. In 1998 Susan moved to Healdsburg to run the kitchen at Oakville Grocery where she met Jeff. About six years ago they started farming and created Eastside Farm. Two years ago they were given 13 chickens which have multiplied to more than 100. Susan's alter-ego Chicken Mama shares her chicken and other farm escapades on her Eastside Farm Chronicles blog. She shares her expertise through backyard chicken classes to Slow Food members and other locals.

Susan Mall

Andrea Mugnaini has become known as America’s ambassador to the world of wood fired cooking through her company Mugnaini Imports, Inc.  Having dedicated the last 20 years of her life to bringing this style of cooking and living to American families and restaurants, she has been able to drive what is now considered a fad to the forefront. She even sponsored the California State Assembly Bill allowing restaurants to use wood-fired ovens outdoors. Mugnaini ovens now grace the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park, NY and prestigious restaurants such as Chez Panisse.  Homeowners across the country travel to her acclaimed “Art of Wood-Fired Cooking” classes to learn how to enjoy their ovens. Andrea newly published cookbook The Art of Wood Fired Cooking demonstrates just how versatile and fun cooking  in a wood oven can be.

A California boy, Todd Muir was born and raised in the small town of Sonora. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and landed a coveted spot at Alice Waters's Chez Panisse when Joyce Goldstein ran the line. He and his family opened the Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, California where his kitchen was recognized by Wine Spectator, earning a clutch of honors during his tenure. He opened Mangia Bene Italian restaurant in Healdsburg, established the outstanding food and wine program at St. Francis Winery and built the creative Wine Country Chefs catering enterprise. Always the inventor and adventurer, Chef Muir is now a freelance wine country chef and runs a food production business when he isn’t traveling the world.

Todd Muir

Gerards Nebesky's interest in the culinary arts went hand-in-hand with his travels around the world. His adventure travels always include the goal of eating well while on the road, trail, summit, ocean or wherever he may end up. He became (by default) the trip cook which led him to perfect dishes that require as few pans as possible and easily procured ingredients. Paella was a favorite long before he became famous cooking for the crew of Desperate Housewives and Saturday Night Live and won a Throwdown with Bobby Flay on Food Network. You can find Gerard at any number of winery events, private parties and other festive gatherings with his Gerard's Paella business. 

One of the most highly regarded chefs in America today, Charlie Palmer has received critical acclaim for his signature “Progressive American” cuisine, a style which reinterprets classic European cooking using American artisanal products and small farm producers. Beginning in 1988 with the opening of Aureole in New York, Charlie has combined his creative cooking spirit with his flair for business to establish an impressive roster of restaurants across the country, including the local Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. Charlie is the author of three cookbooks, Great American Food, Charlie Palmer’s Casual Cooking, The Art of Aureole, and Charlie Palmer's Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen.

Charlie Palmer

Joyanne Pezzolo

Chef Joyanne Pezzolo grew up in the midwest on a large farm in Wisconsin, sheering sheep, foraging and cooking fresh ingredients for family and farm staff. In the late 60s, a yearn for adventure pulled Joy and her family to to a commune in SF where she cooked family meals with chef Nancy Oakes, now of Boulevard in SF. She and Nancy opened their first restaurant the Barnacle in the SF Dogpatch before moving to Pat O'Shea's Irish Bar where they created much-lauded food for more than 10 years. After some time at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, she took over Ravenous in 1991 and offered sophisticated, hearty dishes well ahead of the culinary boom. Ravenous transformed more than once over its life, always with Joy at the helm creating delicious, creative food. her cooking combines her midwest roots with the use of seasonal flavors. She's now taking a breath, teaching at Relish and looking for new adventures.

Rian Rinn was born and raised in Dry Creek Valley where his parents owned the Dry Creek General Store. Rian attended culinary school in San Francisco and worked in some of the finest restaurants in the world, including the Fifth Floor in San Francisco and El Bulli in Spain where he fueled his interest in cured meats. He followed his passion for meat and livestock production as head butcher at Willowside Meats and positions at Golden Gate Meat Company. giving him the opportunity to perfect his craft at custom beef, lamb, and pork cutting, smoking, and sausage making. Along with being the co-owner of Wyeth Acres farm, Rian will be opening a butcher shop Sonoma County Meat Co. in Santa Rosa at the end of 2013.

Rian Rinn

Lindsey Roberts

Growing up in Sonoma County, California, blessed Lindsey Roberts with an appreciation for local and organic foods. Her passion for culinary arts began at the age of 3 when her mom enrolled her in her very first cooking class. Lindsey earned her teaching credential and worked in K-12 education for a few years before she was invited to intern at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, a 100-acre organic farm/cooking school in Ireland. That summer changed her forever. Lindsey now combines her loves of cooking and K-12 education by leading culinary, gardening and nutrition programs in Sonoma County.

Ari Rosen grew up in Ukiah, foraging and cooking with his family. He worked at one Italian restaurant after another and was so drawn to food that he abandoned any ideas of going into law or medicine. After high school he spent time in the Piedmont region of Italy where his grandfather's family ran a restaurant. He returned to Italy after college and worked under chef Lorenzo Torrini where he learned both technical skills and artistic stylings. Upon returning to the US, he worked under local chef Franco Dunn at Santi. He opened Scopa in 2008 and Campofina in 2012; both are well recognized destinations for hand-crafted authentic Italian food.

Ari Rosen

Elissa Rubin-Mahon

Elissa Rubin-Mahon’s foraging and gleaning business, Artisan Preserves, specializes in wildcrafted and rare heirloom ingredients. Elissa's small batch preserving methods were deservedly rewarded when she took home a Good Food Award in 2011 for her Orange Marmalade made with old grove oranges. In addition to leading perserving workshops for public and community groups, she writes a culinary column for Mushroom: The Journal of Wild Mushrooming, is past president and founding culinary chairperson of the Sonoma County Mycological Association, and teaches about foraged and heirloom foods. Elissa's work with Slow Food USA to research and evaluate rare and endangered foodstuffs for Slow Food's Ark of Taste is evident in her ability to create menus and recipes that feature distinctive and exquisite ingredients.

Monica Sallouti, a Certified Natural Chef, is a graduate of Bauman College in Penngrove, CA, a Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts School. Sallouti has been cooking for family and friends since she was a teenager and was influenced by her Lebanese and American grandmothers and the ten years she lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  A life-threatening (and life-transformative) encounter with metastatic melanoma in her late 20s created an interest in self-healing when food, cooking and health became inextricably linked in her quest for health.  Sallouti now works as a personal chef and caterer, planning, preparing and serving delicious, highly nutritious and beautiful food.

Karl Seppi has owned and operated Costeaux French Bakery since 1981. A former golf professional, Karl learned the art of bread baking from the prior owner, Jean Costeaux, with an emphasis on sourdough. After ten years of increased bread baking production and further refinement of product offerings at the original site, Karl and his wife Nancy purchased the old Cerri-Maggenti market, the current location at 417 Healdsburg Avenue. A French bistro café, an expanded dessert and cake line, and catering services were introduced and continue to this day. In 2006, Karl stepped away from day-to-day operations at the business but is still highly involved in community activities with the bakery.

A walking melting pot, Oded Shakked winemaker and co-owner of Longboard Vineyards was born in Israel and raised on three continents. Growing up a hundred yards from the beach just north of Tel-Aviv, he was splashing in the Mediterranean by age two months, and later became one of the area's first surfers. While studying winemaking at UC Davis (can't beat the homework!), Oded worked harvests in Napa and in Bordeaux, but his heart was captured by the rich diversity of Sonoma County - the soils, the climate and the people. Passionate about his craft, Oded is also a great believer in perspective, saying, "Relax, it's only frickin' wine...enjoy it with food you like and trust nothing but your own palate." Oded is known not only for his winemaking prowess, but also for his appreciation and skill of great handcrafted foods. He continues to ferment, pickle, preserve and cook wonderful cuisine inspired by his homeland.

Josh Silvers grew up consumed by the love of good food. He began cooking at the tender age 17 and quickly rose through the ranks of pantry, finish line and sous chef before venturing out on his own as an executive chef. He gained a breadth of experience at several restaurants including Mustard’s Grill in Napa with Chef Cindy Pawlcyn, Café SFA (Saks Fifth Avenue) in San Francisco, and the Orinda Grill in Orinda where he also shared his culinary vision and skills by teaching cooking classes. In 1999, Josh Silvers and his wife Regina moved to Santa Rosa to open their dream restaurant Syrah Bistro and the newly-opened Jackson's Bar and Oven.

Tom Simoneau is a former country rocker turned grape grower, winemaker, wine marketer, educator, wine judge and critic—the living definition of “The Wine Guy.”  Tom farms 12 acres in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley and has transitioned from award-winning amateur wines to the 2005 launch of Simoneau Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.  After winning the prestigious Sonoma County Harvest Fair Sweepstake Award for the Best Amateur Red Wine in 1992, Tom began broadcasting The Wine Minute on Santa Rosa’s News Talk 1350 KSRO where he is still heard daily. He is the director of sales for Windsor Vineyards and an adjunct professor at Santa Rosa Junior College where his wine education courses are perennial favorites.

Laurel in a Tea Ceremony moment

Laurel Skurko’s passion is food and culture, and she has studied cooking in schools across the world, including the Cordon Bleu, Paris, Sankoin Buddhist temple, based in Kyoto, Japan, Nam Singh’s Medicinal School of Chinese Herbal Cooking, based in San Francisco. Laurel has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and a B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University. She has held executive and management positions at The Estée Lauder Companies in New York, Procter & Gamble, France, and Yagami-Shinwa Medical in Japan. Today, Laurel is pursuing several projects relating to food and culture with her business The Culture Kitchen. She hosts cultural events, teaching guests about food and culture through in-depth cultural journeys into regional cuisine. She is an avid practitioner of the Japanese art of tea, and dances classical ballet, modern and salsa.

Born and raised on the Chesapeake Bay, Mark Stark received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He created a sound foundation in Washington, D.C., with the Four Seasons Hotel, Maison Blanche and the City Club of Washington, then in Seattle with the Bellevue Club. Mark spent several years as a regional chef for the California Café Restaurant group as well as a corporate chef for Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants. His desire to establish culinary roots and define his own style led him to Sonoma County where, with his wife Terri, he created Stark Reality Restaurants, including Willi’s Wine Bar in 2002, followed by Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar in 2003, Monti's Rotisserie in 2004, Stark's Steakhouse in 2008, and the most recent Bird in the Bottle, all to rave reviews.

Mark Stark

Kathleen Stewart is the owner of the wonderful Downtown Bakery and Creamery, a delectable Healdsburg landmark, that also sells its goodies at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market. Master baker Kathleen is an alumnus of Chez Panisse in Berkeley where she was part of the original Bakers Dozen organization lead by Marion Cunningham and contributed to the The Baker's Dozen Cookbook. Kathleen's luscious and well-tested recipes have also been featured in Fine Cooking, Gourmet Magazine, and

Gayle Okamura Sullivan and her husband Brian (with son Patrick) own Dry Creek Peach and Produce in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley of Healdsburg. Surrounded by world-renown vineyards, Dry Creek Peach is the last remaining fruit farm in the valley and the only dedicated, certified organic peach farm in the county. Gayle and her family split their time between the peach farm and San Francisco where Gayle works as a pastry chef at Postrio restaurant. The Sullivans and their orchard have been featured in House and Garden and Savor Wine Country magazines.

Poppy Tooker is a culinary activist who has worked tirelessly to promote and preserve the historic food ways of New Orleans. With her motto “Eat It To Save It”, she has helped revive endangered foods across the U.S. and abroad in collaboration with Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. Poppy's efforts to rebuild culinary landmarks after Hurricane Katrina earned her a "Hero of the Storm" award from the Times Picayune. She is a contributing editor for Hallmark Magazine and regular columnist for LA Cookin’ and has also written for Fine Cooking. Poppy’s on-camera flair has made her a sought-after guest on the Food Network, the History Channel and in multiple PBS documentaries. Her new book The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook was published in March 2009.

Dustin Valette is the chef de cuisine at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen. Chef Dustin is a native of Sonoma County, starting his culinary career in a winery kitchen at the age of 13. After studying at the Culinary Institite of America at Hyde Park, Chef Dustin worked at Michelin-starred Aqua in San Francisco and Napa Valley’s Bouchon and then traveled to Italy where he studied the art of cured meats. Dustin opened his own restaurant Vox outside of Las Vegas before being hired by Charlie Palmer for Dry Creek Kitchen, returning him to Sonoma County. At Dry Creek Kitchen, Dustin draws on the strong relationships he cultivated with local farmers and purveyors in order to provide the restaurant with the area’s freshest and most exceptional ingredients. 

Justin Wangler grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, where he began working in restaurants before attending A. B. Tech Culinary School. Justin gained a true appreciation for food and wine pairing while testing recipes with David Rosengarten for his cookbook, It’s All American Food (Little, Brown & Company). Chef Justin came west and took a job at Napa Valley’s Culinary Institute of America in 1999, and in 2000, he moved to Saddleback Cellars in Napa Valley where his understanding of pairing food with wine was enhanced. After three years working with chef/owner Josh Silvers at Santa Rosa’s Syrah, Chef Justin took the reins as the Executive Chef at the renowned Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates where he creates memorable combinations of textures and flavor, finding a tremendous amount of inspiration and ingredients from the wine center's 2 1/2-acre culinary sensory gardens and local food producers.