WINE COUNTRY AUCTION : CHEF BIOS
Chef Tom Fundaro, Villa Creek – LEAD
Born and raised on the Central Coast, Tom Fundaro left for Santa Fe just after high school. He worked his way through college cooking at some of the region’s progressive restaurants, including Zia Diner and Corn Dance Café. The latter served only indigenous native cuisine, and sparked in Tom an interest in a fresh, natural and sustainable food culture, which has remained a constant focus throughout his career.
Since then he has cooked in New York City, San Francisco, Napa and Denver. He enjoys the bounty of the Central Coast and is dedicated to the “farm to fork” concept, fostering relationships with many of the top local growers and producers. Tom is the chef of Paso Robles Villa Creek Restaurant. His love and passion is making simple, flavorful fare using the best ingredients the Central Coast can produce.
Chef Chris Kobayashi, Artisan
Chef Kobayashi graduated at the top of his class at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and went on to earn a certificate in Baking and Pastry at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. He has extensive culinary experience from Asia de Cuba at Clift Hotel, Roy’s in San Francisco and Brix in Napa Valley. In 2006, Chris opened Artisan in Paso Robles with his brother Michael. Among his awards and recognition, Chris Kobayashi received a coveted nomination as a semi-finalist for Best Chef Pacific by the James Beard Foundation Awards in both 2009 and 2011.
Showcasing locally grown produce and foods, Executive Chef Chris Kobayashi draws much of inspiration for his dishes from regular trips to the farmers market and organic farms in the area. His menu evolves to meet the seasonality of the area's products, yet his unique approach to the American Bistro remains constant. His menu features local and organic produce, and proteins that are wild caught or sustainably farmed with no growth hormones or antibiotics.
Chef Julie Simon, Thomas Hill Organics
Chef Julie Simon was born in Paris, France. At the age of twelve, her family moved to the southwest of France where they opened a bar and bistro. After embarking on a path to study Law, Julie realized that her true passion was for cooking. Inspired by her experiences growing up around the family kitchen and table, she arrived in California to begin her culinary career. She has worked at Windows on the Water in Morro Bay with Pandee Pearson, as well as, The Park Restaurant in San Luis Obispo with Maegan Loring.
Julie’s enthusiasm for fresh, seasonal organic ingredients and her creative ability for unique pairings is a perfect match for Thomas Hill Organics where she has been Executive Chef for the past three years. Her belief in nurturing strong relationships with local ranchers, winemakers, artisans and purveyors brings her back to the values she grew up with in France: Good Food Builds Good Community.
Chef William Torres, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery
Chef William Torres developed a passion and love for food and cooking at a very young age while watching his Grandfather and Mother cook in the kitchen. This passion was the driving force in his attending the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, CA where he graduated with top honors in 2003. While attending C.S.C.A., he gained valuable experience in the kitchen working on events for Spago Catering, Patina, The Playboy Mansion, and Aubergine’s in Newport Beach. Will began his culinary career at the elite West Hollywood hotspot KOI working his way through the different stations in the kitchen and taking on a leadership role. Making a choice to be closer to his family, Will moved to the central coast and began working as the Sous Chef at JUSTIN Winery in February 2005. Will briefly left JUSTIN to take an instrumental role in the menu development and kitchen operations as the Executive Sous Chef of Level 4 in Downtown Paso Robles. After five months, he came back as the Executive Chef at JUSTIN Winery and has made the menu his own, demonstrating his distinctive cooking style using fresh, organic, and local ingredients. Will is elated to have the opportunity to bring a new culinary venture to JUSTIN Winery and the Central Coast. When not busy in the kitchen or staying current on new culinary trends he loves to spend time with his wife Kari, and their two children, Madisyn and Mason.
Chef Kelly Wangard, Summerwood Winery & Inn
Executive Chef Kelly Wangard, a native of Paso Robles, has had a lifelong appreciation for the fresh ingredients found on the Central Coast. It was this affinity that led Kelly to attend the California Culinary Academy, where she received the prestigious Daniel Carlisle Walker award and graduated with high honors. During her time at the academy, Kelly had the opportunity to hone her skills under mentor Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, with the experience invaluable in providing the foundation for Kelly’s future endeavors. Kelly’s travels have lent to an impressive resume at acclaimed restaurants, including the Kimpton Hotels, the Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, the Kohler's American Club & Riverbend Mansion and the Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. In 2010, Kelly joined Summerwood Winery & Inn, where she prepares daily farm-to-table cuisine for inn guests, in addition to providing an epicurean experience at Summerwood Winery events.