About Our 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

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.

Manuel Azevedo

Manuel Azevedo's dream is to champion Portuguese cuisine throughout the United States and beyond. This dream was born at an early age when he would assist his mother as she prepared recipes from their former home in the Azores Islands. At the unemployable age of fourteen, he finagled his way into a dishwasher’s position at a local restaurant; by sixteen, he was a head cook. During the following years, Manuel worked every position a restaurant offered him, from the front to the back of house. When the opportunity came to open his own restaurant in 1998, Manuel followed his passion for Portuguese cuisine and named the restaurant after his mother LaSalette. Manuel is known for “Cozinha Nova Portuguesa” (New Portuguese cuisine) dishes as featured in his LaSalette Cookbook, a culmination of years of fine tuning his craft. Most recently, he and his sister Lucia opened Cafe Lucia in Healdsburg.

Scott Beattie

When Scott Beattie moved to Healdsburg in early 2005 to develop the bar program for the acclaimed Cyrus Restaurant, he became immediately enthralled with the goods available at Healdsburg’s weekly farmers’ markets. Scott's book, Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus, published in 2008 by Ten Speed Press, reflected his leading-edge approach to seasonal cocktails. Since his days at Cyrus, Scott has founded a cocktail catering company HMS Cocktail and created a bar program focused on updated cocktail classics at the newly opened spoonbar! in the h2hotel in Healdsburg.

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.

Jack Burton brings over 30 years of world travel and kitchen experience to the table. He is the author of the popular guidebooks Sonoma Picnic – A California Wine Country Travel Companion and (with Ken Stanton) Napa Valley Picnic, as well as the collection of short stories and recipes Dreamsalad Picnic. Jack also writes extensively on local food, wine and agriculture and publishes an on-line magazine of California Food and Wine Arts at www.sonomapicnic.com. Jack will be incorporating stories, menus and recipes in the class from his upcoming folio of illuminated recipes titled: A Circle of Soup.

Born and raised in Stansted, Essex, England, Martin Courtman pursued a culinary education at Harlow College in Essex, where he was awarded top honors as valedictorian of his class. Schooled in classic French cooking techniques, he believes that sauces are the key to effectively tying a dish to a particular wine; he favors wine reduction sauces for their ability to enliven the fresh flavors of ingredients. As the executive chef of Alexander Valley Grille at Chateau Souverain Winery for fifteen years, Martin created a bistro-style menu suited to his love of cooking “to the market.” Courtman’s talent is creating menus based on Sonoma County’s vast resources ranging from artisan cheeses, seafood, meats and free-range poultry, to locally grown fruits and vegetables, to maximize freshness and reflect the seasons.

Kerr Craig was born and raised in Scotland and came to the US in 1999 after a successful career in corporate training. He has a lifetime of experience drinking malt whiskeys (scotch) and has visited and led tours to many of the distilleries in Scotland—he says, “too many to remember, but that’s what happens when you visit too many distilleries.” Kerr is a charming host who peppers his fact-filled classes with Scottish humor. www.scotchrocks.info 

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

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).

The Epicurean Connection's Sheana Davis is celebrating 20 years as a Chef, Caterer and Culinary Educator. You will find Sheana teaching cooking classes, conducting workshops and participating as a guest chef at local and national culinary events. Sheana is the founder and host of the annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference featuring local and international guests. A new project for Sheana this year is the national release of a new cheese called "Delice de la Vallee". Sheana offers a creative and versatile range of food experiences and services while traveling between Sonoma and New Orleans.

Throughout her career Maria deCorpo has worked in many capacities in the food and wine industry, from Executive Chef to wine buyer and restaurant manager and now as a Chef/Instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College. A graduate of the Culinary Institue of America at Hyde Park, she is the owner of Fat Cat Culinary, an enterprise that offers culinary education in the form of private cooking instruction and cooking demonstrations for individuals and groups as well as custom recipe development for wineries and local food producers for use in their marketing programs.

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.  

After a 30 year career building high-tech telecommunications equipment, it occurred to Dave Ehreth that now people telecommunicate with each other, the next thing they’d need would be a really good pickle. Combining a lifelong passion for food with his hobby of making pickles in the summer from cucumbers grown in his garden, Dave started Alexander Valley Gourmet maker of barrel-fermented pickles and raw sauerkraut. Dave's products have been featured in Food and Wine and 7x7 magazines, and he recently served his raw sauerkraut at Slow Food Nation. Today, Alexander Valley Gourmet provides a variety of all-natural pickles to stores and restaurants throughout the West.

Ziggy “The Wine Gal” Eschliman ― whose award-winning wine radio shows are broadcast on both coasts ― has the brightest, most refreshing voice in wine and spirits today. “Most wine lovers value quality and like good wine but dislike the stuffiness and ritual often associated with it; that’s where I come in!” beams Ziggy. Whether it’s bubbly, Bordeaux or Zinfandel, vodka or tequila, Ziggy knows the dirt: the who, the what, the where and the why in every bottle. Ziggy is a seasoned radio journalist, a highly sought-after guest speaker, a dynamic lecturer and an advocate for the good life. (April 24)

Duskie Estes began cooking at the age of five in her EZ-Bake oven. Growing up in San Francisco, she fell in love with everything restaurant through her weekly Wednesday night dinners out with her father. She worked in kitchens across the country, landing in Seattle for many years working closely with Tom Douglas in his numerous successful restaurants. In 2001, Duskie and her husband chef John Stewart opened ZAZU restaurant + farm in Santa Rosa and in 2005 added BOVOLO in Healdsburg. The two have been featured on P.B.S.’s Chef A Field and on Emeril Green, along with numerous food and lifestyle publications. In 2009, Duskie & John received the Rising Star Chef Awards for Sustainability and, most recently, Duskie's culinary prowess was recognized when she was chosen as an Iron Chef competitor for the 2010 season.

John Franchetti 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.

After graduating at the top of her class from the Art Institute of Seattle's Culinary Arts Program, Janis Frey cooked at the Sooke Harbour House and the Art Institute of Seattle before shifting gears to become an assistant instructor at the Blue Ribbon Cooking School. Upon moving to Sonoma County in 2004, Janis familiarized herself with local chefs and ingredients as the Assistant Program Coordinator at Sur La Table in Santa Rosa before joining Relish in 2005. Janis contributed to the expansion of Relish during her three-year tenure and is now chef with Mugnaini Imports.

Agustín Gaytán was born in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, and learned the secrets of regional Mexican cuisines in his mother’s kitchen. He has been featured in Sunset magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, on national and local radio shows, and many Bay Area television cooking shows. He is a food consultant, an admired cooking class teacher and culinary tour guide who is known for highlighting the complex, colorful, and delicious cuisine of his native country.

Rick Goldberg is one of Sonoma's County's best kept secrets. He is an intuitive cook and a great teacher who enjoys sharing all aspects of cooking, from simple, healthy preparations to ethnic specialties to the most sophisticated French Laundry-style entertaining. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Rick grew up in the restaurant/food business and is currently the co-owner of G&G Specialty Foods, a 15 year old Santa Rosa-based food manufacturing business.
Aliza Green Aliza Green, the Philadelphia-based cookbook author, journalist and pioneering chef, is the author of ten highly successful cookbooks with one more on the way. Chef Aliza has appeared twice on NBC’s Today Show to promote her books. After the success of her series of Field Guide cookbooks, including Field Guide to Meat, Field Guide to Produce, Field Guide to Herbs & Spices and Field Guide to Seafood, Chef Aliza published her masterly Starting with Ingredients: Quintessential Recipes for the Way We Really Cook in 2006 and is poised to release Starting with Ingredients: Baking. As one of the pioneer chefs who helped make the city of Philadelphia a dining destination, Chef Aliza began her career in the mid-1970's as Executive Chef at the renowned Ristorante DiLullo. In 1988, The Philadelphia Inquirer inducted Chef Aliza into its Culinary Hall of Fame, citing her as one of the ten most influential people in the city's food industry.
Christopher Greenwald is a maverick chef who has cooked in California’s wine country since 1998. From the Chez Panisse-sponsored garden project at the Sierra Youth Center to multi-course, pinot noir soaked soirees at Iron Horse to intimate VIP receptions for some of the biggest names in rock and roll, chef Christopher provides a unique and exciting forum for the palate. As the Chef/Owner of Bay Laurel Culinary, Chef Greenwald continues to combine his years of experience in the kitchen and on the farm with his passion for travel and different cultures, presenting wine-friendy global comfort cuisine that is both casual and elegant.
Brandon Guenther 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.
Jennifer Harris

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.

Louella Hill

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.

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 Erik Johnson

Erik Johnson made a decision in 2004 that engineering was not for him when he transferred into the culinary school at Boise State University. After graduating Erik I worked in a number of Boise area restaurants, becoming Head Chef at 8th Street Wine Company.  In search of a location with a more diverse restaurant scene, Erik moved to San Francisco in 2007 and immediately began working at Farallon Restaurant under Chef Mark Franz.  With a love for seasonal ingredients Erik decided to become more immersed in the Northern California agriculture community. He moved to Healdsburg to work at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchenand quickly worked his way to Executive Sous-Chef. Erik left Dry Creek Kitchen to try his hand at culinary entrepreneurial opportunities in the Healdsburg area.  

Shelly Kaldunski

Shelly Kaldunski received her culinary degree from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She worked as the Executive Pastry Chef at Charles Nob Hill restaurant, San Francisco, and The Inn at Little Washington, Virginia. Shelly then shifted gears to publishing, working for Martha Stewart Omnimedia developing, writing and food styling the Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook along with writing and editing stories for Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings. Shelly returned to the west coast in 2005 and now works as a freelance food stylist, baking and pastry instructor, and cookbook author, publishing four books for Williams Sonoma: Cupcakes, Sweet Scoops, The Art of the Cookie and Ice Pops.

Marko Karakasevic grew up around pumps, hoses and tanks. This was his father's world and the family always lived close to the Napa Valley winery where Miles, his father, made wine. In the fall of ’95, Marko realized he wanted to apprentice under his father and be the 13th generation to carry on the Karakasevic family tradition. Marko conceived the idea of Domaine Charbay's whole-fruit flavored vodka program. He found the fruit and designed the packaging. Now, with two generations of enthusiastic winemakers & distillers behind the Domaine Charbay label, there are even more releases of "perfumes for the soul” to watch for. (January 12)

Chef & Author Mary Karlin

Mary Karlin is a chef, author and founder of Elements of Taste. Mary is a founding staff member and Chef Instructor at Ramekins Culinary School, Sonoma, Ca, where she has taught a variety of cooking classes for the past ten years. She also teaches at Rancho La Puerta, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and Sur La Table in Scottsdale, AZ.  Mary’s acclaimed first book, Wood-Fired Cooking, was published by Ten Speed Press in spring 2009. Her second book, Artisan Cheese Making at Home, will be published by Ten Speed Press in summer 2011. A freelance food writer and traveling instructor, Mary splits her time between northern California and Arizona where she teaches her seasonal Live Fire Cooking Camp and Cheesemaking Workshops.

Following the completion of her studies at the California Culinary Academy, Nitsa Prousalis Knoll worked as sous chef and on-site coordinator at Barcelona’s Conde and Carreras under Conxita Carreras. Upon her return to San Francisco, she joined the Ritz Carlton and was lead cook and trainer in both the restaurant and Garde Mange kitchen. She has instructed at the California Culinary Academy, set high tea for British Royalty, and, most recently, established her own catering business called Sonoma Culinaire. Nitsa's strongest influence, though, is that of her father, a former chef himself, and her yaya in Athens, Greece.

Chef Todd Knoll

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.

Renaud Kolpin learned to cook with his parents who influenced him with their French heritage and their extensive travels to Asia. He trained at the California Culinary Academy and has worked at restaurants in San Francisco, including Beetlenut, Postrio, and Embarko. Renaud is passionate about food, knowledgeable on technique, and intuitive with flavors. He was chef de cuisine at Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg for several years and is now a freelance caterer and private chef.

Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth brings vitality, passion and extensive knowledge to his role as Wine Director of The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant in the Russian River Valley. He has helped lead the Farmhouse to critical acclaim; with a Michelin star, a 27 score in Zagat, and the recent naming by Gourmet magazine as one of the world's top 36 food destinations. Having worked at some of America's finest dining establishments, Kruth is on a short list of the top young American wine professionals. In 2008 he became one of less than 150 people worldwide to have ever earned the designation of Master Sommelier.
Constantinos Laliotitis, better known as "Chef Taki," is a graduate of the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française in Paris and a veteran of some of the most respected centers of culinary excellence in the world. His broad scope of endeavor has included positions at Market-Jean Georges and Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris, and The French Laundry in Yountville. Chef Taki has worked the line at the Culinary Institute of America Wine Spectator restaurant in Napa, Grande Hotel Villa Feltrinelli in Gargiano, Italy, and the Four Season’s Aviara in San Diego, in addition to participating in stagiers around the world at Jan Hurtingcarl in Copenhagen, Kasteel St. Paul in Lummen, Belgium, and Le Relais de Louis XIII in Paris. Chef Taki is now the estate chef for Hartford Family Winery, creating exquisite food and wine experiences around Hartford’s Russian River wines.  
After teaching elementary school and educating teachers, Jennifer Lange turned to her other passion—cooking. She graduated from the Bauman College Natural Chef Program and found her greatest love—teaching cooking to adults and children. As the owner of The Vital Gourmet, a personal chef business specializing in healthy gourmet cuisine, Jennifer loves to inspire others to find their way back to the kitchen, improve their eating habits through healthy gourmet choices and connect with the abundance we find here in Sonoma County.
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.

Rob Lippincott

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.

Chef John Lyle

In the early 1990's Chef John Lyle, formerly of Kendall-Jackson and The Inn at Shelburne Farms, traveled to the Vishwa Shanti Ashram in Mumbai to study temple cooking with Sri Ramamatta, who is considered to be a living incarnation of Lakshmi. There he learned age-old traditional Southern Indian techniques of cooking with less meat and more fresh fruit and vegetables, and developed a greater appreciation for the spices from the region. Chef John is now a partner in Hardcore Farm To Face which creates unique dining experiences that bring together farms, food and fundraising.

Shane McAnelly

Chef Shane McAnelly has a culinary approach distinctly focused on ingredients and seasonality. A Bay Area native, Shane has worked in sous chef and chef de cuisine positions at Garibaldi’s restaurant in Oakland, the executive sous chef role with the opening team at Zero Zero in SF under Bruce Hill, and the executive chef position at Va de Vi restaurant in Walnut Creek, named a Bay Area Top 100 restaurant by the San Francisco Chronicle. Shane moved his family to Healdsburg in 2013 to be the executive chef at Chalkboard where he has been involved in every aspect of bringing the restaurant to life, from creating a bright, modern space for diners to developing a menu that’s reflective of his years invested in cooking the best ingredients that the Bay Area has to offer.

Kevin McKenzie launched his career at the beginning of the California Cuisine movement, working alongside such notables as Jeremiah Tower and Jonathan Waxman. He spent several years in Los Angeles as a caterer and private chef for the entertainment elite, orchestrating such events as the Academy Awards Governors Ball three years in a row. Kevin was also the proprietor of the acclaimed Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle. Kevin is now a freelance chef and writer who is very knowledgeable about the bounty of artisan food producers in Sonoma County. Kevin is a true craftsman, applying his years in the world's top kitchens to creative food and wine expressions. 

Chef Ciara Meaney

Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California, Ciara Meaney has been involved with food since her early days.  A native of Dublin, Ireland, Ciara spent much time learning the deep connection between sustainable growing, living well, and creating gastronomic experiences for friends and family. In addition to Dublin, Ciara lived in Tokyo and San Francisco, and travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, and South America before setting in Healdsburg where she honed her appreciation for a culinary lifestyle that includes food and wine. Ciara worked under Chef Michael Tusk at Quince in San Francisco and honed her Italian cuisine skills at Diavola in Geyserville. Ciara enjoys living and working in Sonoma County, where there is such a bounty of local ingredients to creatively play with and explore.

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.

After college and serving in the U.S. Army, Richard G. Norgrove (aka Ricardo) started working for mountain bike company Salsa Cycles. At night Ricardo was homebrewing in his basement. By enlisting the help of his family, Ricardo turned his hobby into Bear Republic Brewing Co. in 1995. Ricardo is nationally recognized as a beer judge and as a brewer in pursuit of making honest ales, true to traditional methods. The daring and bold brews of Bear Republic have earned top honors in American brewing, including the Great American Beer Festival® Small Brewing Company and Brewer of the Year in 2006. Inspired by fatherhood, the challenges of firefighting as well as the fast lifestyle of race car driving, Ricardo continually strives to set himself apart by cultivating the success of Bear Republic.

Jill Nussinow, aka The Veggie Queen, has been teaching people about the joys of choosing and cooking local produce for more than 20 years. She is a Registered Dietitian on the culinary faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College. Jill is the author of The Veggie Queen:  Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment cookbook and stars in the DVD Pressure Cooking:  A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes.  She teaches nationally and writes for various publications on the web and elsewhere. She is working on her next book which is about pressure cooking, which will be available winter 2008.

Peter Reinhart's food work began as ministry outreach and later became a full-fledged culinary and teaching career. Both an educator and lay minister, his lessons focus on both secular and spiritual education. One of his books, Bread Upon the Waters: A Pilgrimage Toward Self Discovery and Spiritual Truth, is the first in a series of books exploring nourishment in terms of food and one's life mission. Peter was the co-founder of the award-winning Brother Juniper's Bakery in Santa Rosa, California. He is the author of eight books on bread baking, including Crust and Crumb and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (winner of the 2002 James Beard Cookbook of the Year and IACP Cookbook of the Year), and the 2008 James Beard Award–winning Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. He's now a full-time faculty member in the International Baking and Pastry Institute at Johnson and Wales University.

Peter Reinhart and Denene WallaceDenene Wallace started baking goods that would help her manage blood sugar issues after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and gluten intolerance. Soon after, she founded Proseed Flour, a business specializing in the production of high-protein/low-carb gluten-free flour. Although at one time Denene needed five insulin shots a day to control her blood sugar, her gluten-free, sugar-free approach to cooking has helped her completely eliminate her need for insulin.

Award-winning chef and writer Christine Piccin loves nothing better than to taste her way through her travels, which have flavored her articles for magazines including Bon Appétit, Saveur, and many others. Christine is a regular contributor to Santé, a magazine for chefs, a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and has worked in numerous Sonoma County restaurants during her chef tenure. A past winner of the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Sweepstakes Award, Christine taps her experience in the kitchens of Hotel La Rose and Mixx in Santa Rosa, and Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, to teach professional techniques that make cooking at home easy and fun.

  Sandy Poze has great food in his genes: his grandfather was a butcher, grandmother was a caterer, mom was a gourmet cook and his father was an avid wine collector well before wine collecting was a "thing." Growing up in Hollywood in the 70s, Sandy was exposed to fine food in the kitchens of Wolfgang Puck and Emilio Baglioni. He was a natural, becoming the head cook at Uno's in Beverly Hills at 17. Sandy moved to northern California to study viticulture/enology at UC Davis and worked at a variety of local wineries (Souverain, Buena Vista) before shifting his focus back to food. Sandy ran the kitchens at notable local restaurants, including Prospect Park, Lisa Heminway, Bona Sera and Bear Republic, before choosing a more normal work life (not the restaurant business!) in food distribution, working at Ritz Foods and, now, North Coast Fisheries. Sandy has a deep curiosity about food lore and is a very entertaining and engaging instructor!

Charmoon Richardson has been studying & collecting wild mushrooms in Northern California for over 25 years. He is the owner of The Wild About Mushrooms Co., a business dedicated to sharing the joys and benefits of wild mushrooms. He is a past president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association and is also a member of the Mycological Society of San Francisco. He has organized numerous mushroom forays, camps, and events over the years, and teaches classes on mushroom identification, cultivation, and cooking. Charmoon has appeared with noted chef Bobby Flay on his show Food Nation. He was also featured in Sunset, mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, and been the subject of numerous local & SF Bay Area news features and guest radio programs.

Billy Reid

Billy Reid started his culinary adventure in Las Vegas where he worked as a line cook with notable chefs at MGM Corporation restaurants Sea blue, Fiamma and Spago, including Micheal White, Tom Colicci and Wolfgang Puck.  In 2004, he became the executive sous chef for New York New York Hotel and Casino, then chef de cusine of the now infamous Nine Fine Irishmen tavern. Here he reached his love for all things "pub and tavern," most notiably BEER!  He pursued an education in beer, wine and spirits and how to work them into fine food, including visits to wine country. He was drawn further to Sonoma County in 2009 where he was a natural fit to Dean Biersch’s then-new concept HopMonk Tavern. Billy was the executive chef at Hopmonk, opening additional locations over the last several years.

Rian Rinn

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 is owner/founder of Sonoma County Meat Co.

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

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.

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, and 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.


Paul Smith graduated from Johnson & Wales University Culinary Arts program followed by three years working with Chef Cedric Tovar at Joel Rubichon in New York. He then freelanced as a private chef for a variety of guests at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He finished his time in New York as Sous Chef at Bobby Flay's Bolo before coming to Sonoma County.

Marlena Spieler broadcasts and writes internationally on her favorite subject:  food. He bon viveuer, wit and humor result in an unpretentious style of writing and teaching, and her original recipes are distinctive and innovative. With over fifty cookbook titles to her credit, Marlena conjures up flavors and dishes from the Mediterranean to Mexico and California to the Italian Islands. Everyone from BBC Radio to NBC Weekend Today agree:  Marlena can talk about food...and talk and talk and talk. Marlena is passionate about discovering and sharing the good flavors of life. She lives in Britain with her husband and returns frequently to San Francisco to share her latest discoveries. Catch up with her culinary adventures in her The Roving Feast column at the SF Chronicle or on her website.

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, 101cookbooks.com and seriouseats.com.

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1987, Yvonne Tally's adventurous spirit took her to France and Italy. Upon returning to the US, she began a catering business while teaching aerobics for fun; this was the beginning of Your Fit Gourmet, a food and wellness lifestyle coaching system. In 2000, Yvonne co-founded Poised®, an exclusive personal fitness and wellness center in Menlo Park.  As a single mom and CEO of her own company, she knows how eating healthy can be challenging in our hectic fast-paced lives. She combines her years of experience as a professional cook into a wellness system for balanced living that is fabulously gourmet! Her book Your Fit Gourmet: Cooking Secrets for the Overscheduled Woman is the first book in her healthy lifestyle series.  Delightfully entertaining, she is a frequent guest on CBS and Fine Living Network.

Frank Toledo has been on a quest for the perfect martini for almost 20 years. He comes equipped with the finest martini-making supplies and has been known to dazzle audiences with cocktail facts and lore.

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.

Patrick & Casey Van Voorhis are co-executive chefs at Spoonbar in Healdsburg. They met in San Francisco while working at Quince and Cotogna under Michael Tusk. Both were trained at CIA at Hyde Park and have enjoyed much acclaim in prior endeavors at The Greenbrier, Acquerello, Bouchon, Jane Bakery and other notable restaurants around the country. They love working with Sonoma County's dazzling array of seasonal ingredients to create market-driven menus and dishes.

Patrick & Casey Van Voorhis

From his extensive travels through Europe and Asia, Jake Whitely attained a deep respect for the power of tea to bring people together and help bridge cultures. In 1994 he began blending tea at Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg, which he opened with two partners, and established relationships with many importers of rare and unusual teas. He and his wife Christine Hanna opened Bungalow Coffee and Tea in 2004 with the goal of marrying their love of the Craftsman artisan aesthetic with a teahouse/café environment. At Bungalow, Jake has developed his own tea blends, some of which reflect traditional profiles, while others are a personal pursuit of the strange quirks of human history and geography. 

Lance Winters used to be a nuclear engineer on an aircraft carrier stationed in Alameda. After dabbling in beermaking, he found himself on the doorstep of St George Spirits with a bottle of homemade whiskey in his hand. Owner Jorg Rupf tasted it, and Lance has been part of St George ever since. Lance's technical knowledge and finely honed sense of taste have helped earn St. George many accolades and a devoted following over the years, particularly for the company's Hangar One vodka and Winter's craftsmanship, from a Kaffir-lime-infused vodka to single-malt whiskies to the first absinthe produced in the United States since 1912 (the ban on domestic production of the much-maligned spirit was lifted in 2007.) Combine this skill and knowledge with his quick wit and colorful stories, and you've always got a great class.

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