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Culinary Arts Museum Opens in Napa

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TASTE News Service, July 9, 2019 – Chuck Williams had a passion for quality, useful cookware and cooking tools, and it was this passion that led to the opening of the first Williams-Sonoma store in Sonoma, CA in 1956.

Chuck Williams UnionSt PicmonkeyThe late Chuck Williams in his Union Street store in San Francisco

During his years of global travels in search of products to introduce to the American public, he accumulated an assortment of items he particularly treasured. This personal collection is the inspiration for the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum at The CIA at Copia in Downtown Napa. The public can enjoy the new museum seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Located on the second floor of The CIA at Copia, the museum features over 4,000 rare artifacts of specialty cookware, including baking and culinary tools, appliances, and tableware. As The CIA at Copia strives to offer the most interesting and informative gastronomic experiences, this comprehensive culinary collection is yet another way to showcase and celebrate the craftsmanship, beauty, and diversity of cookware and kitchen tools.

Some standout pieces displayed at the museum include whimsical tureens shaped like boar's heads, rabbits, or lambs and curiosities like a duck press that will remind you of the ingenuity of the chefs who created it centuries ago.

"Chuck Williams was an entrepreneur and visionary, and his passion for both simple and exquisite items have, for generations, influenced the way America cooks, eats, and entertains," says Thomas Bensel, managing director of CIA California. "This collection brings to life the evolution of a wide range of cookware, food preparation tools, and serve ware since the mid-18th century."

Williams discovered his own fascination with the utility and craftsmanship of cookware and culinary tools while on a trip to Europe in 1953. He returned often to scour shops, restaurants, and factories for high-quality items that eventually led him to open the first Williams-Sonoma. The items now serve as a way to understand the history of cooking, the creativity of chefs, and how functionality and decorative arts can join to create practical, yet beautiful items.

For decades, Chuck Williams directly supported the mission of The Culinary Institute of America, enhancing culinary education for generations. Williams, who died in 2015 at age 100, helped launch the careers of many young culinarians through scholarships at the CIA and the Williams Center for Flavor Discovery at the college's Greystone campus in St. Helena, CA is named in his honor. Now, through his generous support, along with his friends and former Williams-Sonoma associates Wade Bentson and James West—who completed and curated this extensive exhibit—culinary enthusiasts can enjoy it for free.

Editor’s note:  Readers who gotten this far probably understand that our mentions of the CIA refer to the Culinary Institute of America, not the cloak-and-dagger outfit of spy stories. For more information visit www.ciaatcopia.com

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