On Friday night, an American icon returned to his roots and reminded many of us, merely by his presence, that commerce and community go hand-in-hand, and that bigness isn’t always bad.
Chuck Williams wore his 98 years elegantly and serenely as he joined more than 150 friends and admirers for the Sonoma Community Center’s annual Muse banquet, at Ramekins, a particularly special celebration because, in many ways, Williams has been America’s culinary muse.
In the 1950s, when the country was marching into middle-class prosperity, the average housewife or amateur chef was stuck with what Williams called “lousy equipment.”
Chuck changed all that, thanks to an impeccable sense of style and taste, along with an excellent palate. He brought us souffle molds, saute pans and real, hefty chef’s knives. He brought us an awareness, in other words, of the range of tools used by Europeans – principally the French – whose cooking horizons stretched far beyond the limited culinary imaginations of most Americans.
And he anchored that awareness in this small California town long before we became known as the epicenter of a new American romance with food and wine.