A Press Democrat Blog

Meet the Chefs

Profiles on chefs participating in Sonoma County's Wine Country Weekend

Mark Stark


Mark Stark, Executive Chef/Owner Stark Reality Restaurants James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur semifinalist Mark Stark is executive chef and co-owner with his wife Terri of five wildly successful restaurants in Sonoma County: Willi’s Wine Bar, Stark’s Steak & Seafood, Monti’s in Santa Rosa, Willi’s Seafood and Bravas Bar de Tapas in Healdsburg. They are putting the finishing touches on their sixth—Bird & The Bottle, a modern tavern in downtown Santa Rosa featuring Mark’s interpretation of American and Asian street food served… Read More »

Chef Robert Nieto

Robert Nieto, Pastry Chef Jackson Family Wines A native of Texas, Robert received his cooking and baking certificate from Del Mar Community College. His first job was at the Corpus Christi Country Club as a line cook, but he always had a thing for sweets—so, the Pastry Chef there worked side-by-side with him to teach him the fundamentals of pastries and baking.  Robert then headed west to Las Vegas to work in 5-star hotels, such as: Bellagio, Paris Las Vegas… Read More »

Jamil Peden

Jamil Peden, Executive Chef The Restaurant at Applewood A west coast native, Chef Jamil spent his early career cooking in Santa Cruz, Seattle, and the Napa Valley. A sous chef position at The Madrona Manor lured him to beautiful Sonoma County where he gained the upmost respect for not only local ingredients, but also more refined techniques. After a few years in Las Vegas as sous chef for Wolfgang Puck and a stint waiting tables he returned to Sonoma County… Read More »

Chef Andrew Cain

Andrew Cain, Chef de Cuisine Santé at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa Chef Cain joined The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa’s culinary team from Sonoma’s St. Francis Winery, where he held the position of Executive Chef. At the neighboring winery Cain was responsible for ongoing menu development and daily operations.  A graduate of the New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Cain’s background includes stints at some of the country’s finest including La Folie, San Francisco,… Read More »

Tracey Shepos Cenami

Tracey Shepos Cenami, Chef/Cheese Specialist Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Shepos headed to New York, working under Chef Michael Romano at Union Square Cafe as a tournant for two years. Returning to San Francisco, she served as lead line cook at 2223, then became opening consulting chef at Fly Bar and Restaurant. She ran her own catering business followed by sous chef positions at Lulu Catering and Harvest Grill. In… Read More »

John Franchetti

John Franchetti, chef Rosticceria+Eventi I was born and raised in Santa Rosa and 
graduated from Cardinal Newman High School in 1985. 

Growing up in wine country, it was easy to want to become a chef and put the food and wine and beer together. So basically living the dream in the area where people meca too for food, wine and beer. The principle of knowing where your ingredients come from is and will always be important to me. Education: University… Read More »

Ari Weiswasser

Ari Weiswasser, Chef/Proprietor Glen Ellen Star Ari Weiswasser, a Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef 2015, spent his formidable culinary years in numerous fine-dining establishments in New York City and Philadelphia, mastering the fundamentals of elevated cuisine and service before moving to California and deciding to do things differently. Glen Ellen Star—which he operates with his wife, Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser, in the Wine Country town of Glen Ellen, CA—utilizes his acutely honed culinary expertise in an inviting, rustic farmhouse-style environment.… Read More »

Duskie Estes & John Stewart

Duskie Estes & John Stewart Chef & Salumist Zazu Kitchen + Farm / Black pig Meat Co. Duskie Estes was voted City Search’s Seattle Best Chef in 2000. Under her leadership, Palace Kitchen was rated by Gourmet magazine in the top five Seattle restaurants in 2000 and in the nation’s top 50 restaurants in 2001. She coauthored Tom Douglas’s Seattle Kitchen, which received the James Beard Award, 2001. Duskie was a fierce competitor on the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef,… Read More »

Chef Armando G. Navarro

Armando G. Navarro, Executive Chef El Dorado Kitchen Executive Chef, Armando Navarro, has had a noteworthy resume packed with top restaurants along both coasts. After five plus years as Executive Sous Chef at Auberge du Soleil, Armando went to New York where he trained under some of the best chefs at Le Bernardin, Jean Georges and Daniel Boulud. He returned to California and worked at Jardiniere and Masa’s before relocating to Redd in Yountville as the Chef de Cuisine. Prior… Read More »

Chef Dustin Valette

Dustin Valette, Chef/Owner Valette Dustin Valette began his culinary career at 13 at Catelli’s in Geyserville. Two years later he took an apprenticeship at Chateau Souverain under Martin Courtman. Now, 20 years later, Valette finds himself back in Northern California’s wine country continuing the dream that started 22 years ago. Valette honed his craft in some of the most celebrated restaurants on the West Coast, including Aqua in San Francisco, Napa Valley’s Bouchon and VOX in Henderson, Nevada. For the… Read More »