We like to surround ourselves with excellence here at Williams Sonoma. Not only do we staff our test kitchen with the top cooks around, but we have selected a group of chefs and bar experts that inspire us in every way: They give back to their communities, inspire us, and boy, can they cook (and make drinks!)
These are the people we go to when we’re developing new products, showcasing unique cooking ideas, and generally wanting to be awed. We selected them because they represent the future of the restaurant, chef, and bar industries; they are innovative, approachable, and have trusted, relevant voices in their industry.
The first class of our Chefs’ Collective from 2015 have officially become alumnae; welcome, Chefs’ Collective 2020! We can’t wait to show you what they’ve been cooking up. Here’s a little bit about each member of the new class.
David Nayfeld is the Executive Chef and Co-owner of Italian hot spots Che Fico and Che Fico Alimentari in San Francisco. He has worked with world-renowned chefs at top restaurants around the world, received a Michelin Guide The Plate Award, and Che Fico was featured in Bon Appétit as one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America. A powerful culinary voice during the current crisis, Nayfeld founded the Che Fico Family Meal Fund to help provide meals for those in need. He’s also a new(ish) dad to a toddler daughter.
“My biggest thing has been getting my daughter to try as many different fruits and vegetables as possible. And that’s been my biggest excitement, is we go to the farmer’s market, I bring things back and see how she reacts to the best plum on the planet in that moment, the best tomato on the planet in that moment, and giving her the ideal scenario. And I know, in a way, that’s spoiling her palate for later when they’re like, “Oh, these plums aren’t that great.” But I do want her to get an essence of seasonality where it’s like, “Cool. Well, plums might be available at the supermarket, but that doesn’t mean that they’re incredible.’“
Mashama Bailey is an Executive Chef and Partner at the iconic Georgia restaurant, The Grey, and reality TV personality specializing in Southern cuisine. She appeared in Netflix’s Chef’s Table and as a guest on Top Chef. In 2018, Bailey opened The Grey in Savannah, which has been hailed as one of Food & Wine’s best restaurants and Time’s best 100 places in the world. In 2019, she received a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast. She also serves as chairwoman of the Edna Lewis Foundation, which works to “revive, preserve, and celebrate the rich history of African-American cookery by cultivating a deeper understanding of Southern food and culture in America.” She remembers:
“I was 39 when I moved to Savannah. And I’m a career changer, I started cooking at the age of 26, professionally. And I did a lot of half in half out with it. I was personal cheffing for a little while. I worked at really small mom and pop places, which was really formative because those are the places where I was actually able to reach out and touch the passion and the drive and the survival techniques that are needed in order to run a small business—and a restaurant, of all small businesses.“
Claudette Zepeda is most recently known for her time as the Executive Chef and Partner behind El Jardín in San Diego. A James Beard Best Chef West semifinalist, she’s a former Top Chef and Top Chef Mexico competitor. Zepeda has been featured in The New York Times, included in Esquire’s 2018 Best New Restaurants and recognized by Michelin’s 2019 Bib Gourmand list. In support of Feeding America‘s efforts to raise funds that will help hungry Americans, she has joined Storytellers Project LIVE, in Your House!, a group of nationally renowned chefs sharing their personal stories around food with USA TODAY. Chef Zepeda relies on her culinary community:
“So I have… I call them my food family, right? Like my brothers and sisters, my work husband. We stay in touch. I have friends, early in the morning is my UK friends, and then in the evening it’s the state friends. And we just literally touch base with each other at least once a week with like, “How are you? How are you?” Not work, like, “How are you doing?” And I am really thankful for that community that I have. We really care about each other, not “How’s business?”
Shannon Mustipher is the Beverage Director of Glady’s Caribbean in Brooklyn, a role she’s occupied since 2014. She also works as an independent spirits consultant with a strong focus on rum. Her passion for education is conveyed through Women Leading Rum, a cane spirit–centric professional development organization she cofounded, and Women Who Tiki, a pop-up tropical cocktail series celebrating talented female bartenders across the country. Earlier this year, Mustipher released her first cocktail book, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails, an essential guide to the ultimate rum and Tiki classics. Shannon explains her process:
“I look at ingredients as a palette, especially when it comes to rum and the color wheel. I also look at art history references in how I present cocktails. I’m always inspired by the base spirit – what I’m working with, what I love about it. From there, I’m inspired by seasonality. When a guest is enjoying a cocktail, I like to talk about those other ingredients and aromatics.”
Alba Huerta is a bartender turned bar owner and writer – and one of the country’s most celebrated mixologists. At her Houston bar, Julep, Huerta serves up her own Southern-inspired craft cocktails. In 2018, Huerta released her first cocktail book, Julep. She was named Imbibe’s 2013 bartender of the year, one of Food & Wine’s top 10 mixologists, and Texas Monthly’s 2015 best bartender in Texas. Huerta is part of Full Hands In, Full Hands Out, a group working to help lead recovery efforts for bar owners. She’s also a long-time supporter of No Kid Hungry and served as Bar Director for Taste of the Nation, Houston. The famously stylish bartender says,
“The essence of my business — the thing that people love about it—is this idea that it creates this space that feels intimately celebratory. People come here to get engaged! I’ve worked in bars since 1998, owned Julep for 6 years, and have never had so many people have a first date, get engaged, take wedding photos… Julep becomes part of their life in these iconic moments, and it feels like a piece of it belongs to them.“
Miles Macquarrie is the Co-owner and Bar Manager at Kimball House and Watchman’s Seafood & Spirits in Decatur and Atlanta, Georgia. A nationally celebrated mixologist, he worked his way through the Atlanta cocktail scene, spending time behind the bar of Holeman & Finch Public House and Leon’s Full Service. Famous for his passion and technique, he culls from local traditions of the Southeast, including mixing his own house-made bitters. Macquarrie has been recognized as a Rising Star Mixologist and featured in both Imbibe and Food & Wine. In addition to professional accolades, he has developed a cult following among industry and civilian tipplers alike. When it comes to making your home cocktail game smarter, he has this pro tip:
“I think herbs, herbs, herbs, are super crucial in not only classic shaken drinks, but you can incorporate them in tinctures or infusions to work into stirred drinks to give this really nice element that can play well with dishes.”
Kwame Onwuachi is a former Top Chef contestant based in Washington, D.C. A James Beard Award winner, he was named Esquire’s Chef of the Year, one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2019, and a 30 Under 30 honoree by both Zagat and Forbes. Onwuachi also cowrote Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir, which received a 2019 Goodreads Choice Award nomination for Best Food & Cookbooks. He has partnered with the Bronx Community Relief Effort to feed healthcare workers, first responders and students in his hometown – and is an avid supporter of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. Kwame has a varied culinary heritage, but knows exactly what his comfort food is:
“Chinese food. American Chinese food: chicken wings, and pork fried rice from the Chinese takeout is my comfort food. It’s what I grew up eating. When my mom didn’t want to cook, we would get Chinese takeout, egg foo young and things like that. That’s what brings me comfort or reminds me of my family. That’s the only one time we’re not fighting over anything. Everyone loves everything in this and it’s amazing.“
Timothy Hollingsworth is a restaurateur and winner of Netflix’s cooking competition show The Final Table. Formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, he later opened his own L.A. restaurant, Otium. This fall, he’ll open his new San Francisco restaurant, All This Time. Hollingsworth has won multiple awards, including the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Chef of the Year Award, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rising Star Chef Award – and placed sixth in the Bocuse d’Or. He has also joined with Ask Chefs Anything to raise funds for immigrant workers in service industries affected by the current global situation. The Napa Valley chef has recently been working on his green thumb, with a lot of help from his family:
“I’ve just been really enjoying growing my own food. I’ve always loved the different stages of food. Whether it be the blossoms or with tomatoes using the green tomatoes and then the red tomatoes or even a lot of my herbs are flowering and stuff like that. Using those little buds helping brighten up dishes. It’s just been a fun process and really spending time with the kids and teaching them the process of planting and growing different things.”
Gregory Gourdet is a chef and television personality known for being the runner-up on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 12 – and recently competed on Top Chef: All-Stars Season 17. A three-time James Beard Award semifinalist and native New Yorker, he honed his culinary skills in celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant empire. In 2010, he became Executive Chef at Portland’s Departure, gaining praise for his innovative dishes and taking on a key role in the local culinary scene. Gourdet’s first cookbook, Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health, is slated to come out in Spring 2021. Gregory loves to run, enjoys his quiet time, and places an emphasis on his health:
“I’m in recovery. I got sober over 11 years ago. And when I did get sober, I just wanted to really just change everything about myself and my lifestyle, and health is one of those things that I just had the “help zone,” things that I explored. I just started experimenting with different types of diets when I got sober. And I went paleo and that was kind of how I took gluten and dairy out of my diet. I started getting on whole foods and I don’t eat anything processed. I came to understand over the years, though, that just because something’s a plant that grows in nature doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you. Which I don’t think all people understand.“
Melissa King is a chef and television personality who was a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 12 and the winner of Top Chef: All-Stars Season 17. She has been recognized as one of the best chefs in San Francisco, a 40 Under 40: Rising Star – and was cohost of the James Beard Award–nominated special “Taste Buds: Chefsgiving.” King also helmed several legendary Michelin-starred kitchens in San Francisco. As a proud Asian American and queer woman, she works passionately with nonprofit organizations and LGBTQI+ charities, including The Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project and the Tegan and Sara Foundation. The San Francisco-based chef has been cooking since she was five or six, but it’s other people cooking for her that brings her to tears:
“I mean, honestly, for me, I’m so simple. It’s like, anytime someone just cooks for me, I’m so happy and I don’t even care what it is. To me, it’s more of the thought and the love behind it because, oftentimes, I’m the one cooking and doing everything and trying to please people, and I rarely feel the other side of it. But, when I do, it feels so special and it could just be like a simple, home cooked meal and I will cry over that.“
Husband-and-wife team Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito are Chefs/Owners of Don Angie in New York City. They’re known for refined Italian-American dishes, which have earned them two-star reviews from The New York Times and Eater NY. Most recently, Don Angie was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America. The duo was among Zagat’s 13 under-the-radar-chefs-to-watch in NYC and received a 2019 James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef New York City. They’re now partnering with Ask Chefs Anything to raise funds for immigrant workers in service industries affected by the current global situation. In their dishes, they focus on every aspect of flavor:
“When you dry herbs, especially oregano, in a lot of the applications in which we use it, it concentrates the flavor, so it’s more intense. There’s a specific flavor profile to dried oregano, that is so Italian-American. We use it as a base for a lot of our sauces…and it really does make a difference when you dry them your own. Either in a low oven or with a food dehydrator. It’s sounds weird, but fresh dried herbs, they’re a lot more potent.“
Philip Krajeck is a chef celebrated for his original work at some of the world’s best restaurants. As Chef de Cuisine at the WaterColor Inn & Resort’s Fish Out of Water in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, he earned four James Beard Award nominations. Later, he opened the critically acclaimed Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, which earned Best New Restaurant nods from Esquire and Bon Appétit, as well as a Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Stars Award. To support the local community, Krajeck has teamed up with the CEO of Shearwater Health in Nashville, delivering weekly meals to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center staff. When it comes to building flavor and texture in his dishes, the Nashville-based cooking superstar extols the virtues of flaky salt:
“Big, flaky salt. Maldon or Jacobsen. Especially in summertime, the difference that the texture of the salt brings to a tomato is massive, or a salad of raw stone fruit and summer squash. Again, the way you use that salt to layer in an extra amount of texture and finish with it really will make something pop. So that’s a huge thing for me.”
Mason Hereford is a chef best known for his popular New Orleans sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf, which Bon Appétit magazine named America’s Best New Restaurant. He’s also a 2020 James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef. Hereford developed his passion for creative cooking with restaurant jobs around the country, including San Francisco and Charleston. He later moved back to New Orleans, working as Chef de Cuisine at Coquette and Sweet Olive – opening Turkey and the Wolf in 2016. Hereford has now teamed up with Duke’s Dishes for Donations in support of the Southern Smoke Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund. The chef is renown for his New Orleans sandwiches. He admits his perfect sandwich is something pretty darn straightforward:
I hadn’t made it in a while and then we ate it again [recently] and we were like, “Holy *s&(!, it’s still our favorite!” It’s a ham sandwich with Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce, like from Thanksgiving. Add an herb mayonnaise, like, mayonnaise with a few chopped up herbs in it, and then cheddar cheese and arugula.