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Chefs Come to Napa for 2016 Truffle Festival

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Ken Frank and Truffle Chefs at La Toque PicmonkeyDr. Paul Thomas and Robert Chang of the American Truffle Co. are flanked by Chefs David Barzelay, Frank Tramonto, Ken Frank, and Stefano Ciotti 


By Betty Teller

January 28, 2016 - What do a former lawyer turned chef of an underground restaurant, an Italian chef who began his career as a teenager, and a well-known restaurateur have in common? They were the exciting guest chefs for the 2016 Truffle Festival.

Every year, Host Chef Ken Frank invites several distinguished colleagues to join him in the La Toque kitchen preparing the event’s signature Truffles and Wine Dinner. This year’s master chefs were particularly diverse, bringing a broad range of perspectives.

David Barzeley, executive chef and owner of Michelin-starred Lazy Bear in San Francisco, didn’t set out to be a chef. He attended Georgetown University law school and moved to San Francisco to begin his career as a lawyer. But the self-taught chef’s passion for food soon won out. His underground restaurant began as a series of paid dinner parties in his home. They proved so popular that he moved to a warehouse location and then opened his more permanent restaurant space in the Mission.

Chef David brought his innovative vibe to the Festival lunch at Merrivale Winery on Saturday, in addition to working with Chef Ken on the truffle dinner.

By contrast, Stefano Ciotti, executive chef and owner of Nostrano in Pesaro, Italy, began his training from a very young age, working his way up through the kitchens of celebrated chefs in his region and throughout Italy. As executive chef of Vicolo Santa Lucia restaurant in Cattolica, he was awarded a Michelin star, and went on to gain accolades for Urbino dei Laghi, a modern twist on a pizza restaurant. He and his wife opened Nostrano last July.

James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Tramonto currently is executive chef and owner of highly regarded Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans. He first came to prominence as executive chef of Tru in Chicago for 11 years. He is a prolific cookbook author as well as a “celebrity chef,” with TV appearances ranging from Top Chef to Oprah.

Editor’s note: With this article Taste California Travel begins a series of articles on the recent truffle festival held in Napa, California.

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