Two years after taking over the historic Tra Vigne building, St. Helena restaurant the Charter Oak is undergoing a chef shuffle as opening chef Katianna Hong moves on. Taking her place is chef David Guilloty, a former sous chef at sibling restaurant the Restaurant at Meadowood.
Hong, who rose through the ranks to become the Restaurant at Meadowood’s first female chef de cuisine in 2015, will not return after she departs for maternity leave; there’s no word yet on what her next project will be. Guilloty, who worked under Hong at the Restaurant, has been transitioning into the Charter Oak’s kitchen for the past couple months.
Before Hong began her culinary career, she trained as an Olympic-level gymnast; after an injury cut those dreams short, she focused that intensity on cooking, eventually becoming the first female chef de cuisine at a three-Michelin-starred U.S. restaurant (and the only woman to hold that title until Dominique Crenn earned three stars at Atelier Crenn).
“She’s a beast,” says Guilloty of Hong. “She has so much drive. I worked with her my entire time [at the Restaurant at Meadowood] and grew so much because of her and chef [Kostow].”
Guilloty got his start at Meadowood when he knocked on the restaurant’s back door five years ago, asking for a chance to work in the kitchen. Before that, he’d spent time in fine dining restaurants on the East Coast, working at a restaurant under an alum of Joel Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurant. That experience was where he first encountered the drive and intensity that he’d become accustomed to in the Meadowood kitchen.
Chef/owner Christopher Kostow opened the Charter Oak as a simpler, but still upscale, version of his three-Michelin-starred restaurant, serving produce from the Restaurant’s culinary garden, and proteins cooked in the restaurant’s hearth. Dishes like grilled buttermilk brined chicken with preserved lemon and herbs, and raw vegetables served with fermented soy dip have earned it high marks with diners and critics.
Guilloty has been coming up to speed, working with Hong in the Charter Oak’s kitchen for the past two months. His arrival won’t change the menu or style of service there, he says. “It’s very much about a sense of place there,” says Guilloty. “We’re still showcasing the Napa Valley with the garden and everything around us.”