On Saturday, Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams died at the age of 100. As we look back on his life, we celebrate it, and the culinary legacy that he left behind for the rest of us. Here are a few memories of Chuck from those he touched—customers, associates, TV chefs, cookbook writers, chefs, media, restaurateurs—that will live in our hearts forever.
“I have and always will be a devout follower of Chuck Williams. I not only learned how to cook, I learned how to entertain in the most elegant way. Preparing a beautiful meal and serving it to family and friends is a true gift of love.” — Carol Macaluso, Williams-Sonoma customer
“When I was first appointed CEO, I went to see Chuck in his office. I asked him what he would like me to do. He said, ‘Just make it better—just make it better.’ At 95 years old, his main concern was that I was focused on improving our culture and work environment, our standing in the communities where we operate, and the products and services we deliver to our customers. I hope Chuck would agree that collectively we have made it better. My commitment to Chuck is to continue to grow and make better this great company that bears his name.” — Laura Alber, CEO, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
“Chuck Williams’ story reminds us that every big startup idea begins and ends with execution.” — Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group
“It was an honor to have met Chuck after spending half of my life shopping in his stores, teaching there, and working in one of the stores. Chuck’s was a life well lived. Chuck left a legacy for all of us when he changed the way Americans cooked.” — Catherine Daum Lucas, former Williams-Sonoma associate
“Chuck Williams brought a world of inspiration to a country starved for a culinary identity. The last time I spoke, I asked him what it took to start such a dynamic company, and he said, ‘I walked the whole way. I got up every day and put one foot in front of the other.’ Our generation has some big shoes to fill. Thank you, Chuck Williams, for an amazing life. We look forward to walking in your footsteps.” — Tyler Florence, cookbook author, restaurateur and TV chef
“Chuck Williams once said, ‘If you love what you do, then the whole world will fall in love with you.’ We fell for you, Chuck, and we thank you for touching our lives.” — Thomas Keller, chef and owner, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group
“Mr. Williams was such an inspiration to me. I read his biography a couple of years ago and was just amazed at his passion, which helped my own to grow. The Williams-Sonoma stores have always been my very favorite…almost requiring a moment of silence before entering. What a wonderful and full life he had. He will be missed. May his passion continue to thrive in all of us.” — Shari Payne, Williams-Sonoma customer
“So sorry to hear that Chuck Williams died this a.m. He was a visionary with a warm, gentle spirit.” — Michael Bauer, restaurant critic, San Francisco Chronicle
“I bought my first cookbook in a Williams-Sonoma at age 20. Now I collect them while teaching our teams around the world why our customers become our friends and our family. They all sit right next to that first book. Thank you, Chuck, for inspiring so many of us.” — Kari Hazelton, Director of Global Operations, Williams-Sonoma
“I remember going into his store on Sutter Street in San Francisco when it was just a modest shop selling top-quality cookware from France, and elsewhere. Many of the things they carried were new to Americans at the time, and now, things like Duralex glasses, food processors and Le Creuset pots and pans are widely available. It’s a different era and world now, but it’s hard to overestimate his influence on the evolution of cooking in America.” — David Lebovitz, cookbook author and blogger
“Chuck Williams: Thank you for inspiring us to want to cook better, and for supplying us with the tools to do so.” — Michael Voltaggio, chef, restaurateur and Top Chef: Las Vegas winner
“I still remember the first time I visited the Williams-Somoma at Copley Place in Boston in the late eighties. At the time, it was the only Williams-Sonoma in Massachusetts. It was magical! The copper pots! The brioche molds as and fluted tart pans! The European knives! Now, even 30 years later, I still feel that same magic every time I cross the threshold of a Williams-Sonoma. And somehow, I think that would make your founder happy. What an amazing life. What an amazing man. So happy he saw his 100th birthday. May he rest in peace. Thank you, Mr. Williams!” — Alex H., Williams-Sonoma customer
We’d like to hear: How did Chuck Williams inspire you? Please share your favorite memories with us below.