18th Annual Signature Fundraising Event
Taste for a Cure
Friday, April 26, 2013
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
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Chris Kobayashi was raised in Bishop, California, at the northeast foot of the California Sierras. His parents moved there when he and his brother, Mike, were children, with the purpose of raising them in a healthy small town environment. As owners of the local hardware store, the Kobayashis put their boys to work, learning about merchandising, customer service and the many facets of running a community business. “Working in the hardware stores taught me how to fix things, which somehow evolved into figuring out how different foods can be put together to make them work,” says Kobayashi. “It’s the same at Artisan. We find that our culinary philosophy is about understanding the elements of every dish and fine tuning them into a balanced creation.”
Kobayashi was drawn to cooking early. At the age of eleven, he asked his parents to buy him a Pillsbury Cookbook at the supermarket check-stand in order to begin baking desserts and experimenting with ingredients. In high school, he opted for a class in home economics rather than the traditional male-oriented wood shop, a bold move for a boy not yet exposed to the “Food Network” era that helped launch chefs into rock star status.
Cooking wasn’t always his ambition. Kobayashi left Bishop to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder to study both business and sociology. In 2000, he realized it was time to take cooking seriously and applied to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco to pursue real training. For the next eighteen months he immersed himself in both his courses and discovery of the city’s Asian fusion cuisine, gaining on-the-job training at Asia de Cuba and Roy’s, and graduating at the top of his class.
In 2003, Kobayashi moved to Napa Valley with his future wife, Shandi, to earn his baking and pastry certificate at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone. He found work at the acclaimed Brix Restaurant – a wine country classic – as a line cook, and advanced to Sous Chef and ultimately the restaurant’s Executive Pastry Chef.
The move to Paso Robles came in 2005, when Kobayashi and his brother Mike decided it was time to pursue their childhood dream and open a restaurant. Chris partnered with Mike and began laying the groundwork for what would become Artisan. “We saw Paso as an upcoming wine region with lots of possibilities. It was our time to start a business and be part of a community like Bishop. We saw that Paso had room to grow and was a perfect fit for all of us,” says Chris Kobayashi.
By October 2006, Artisan opened to outstanding reviews from locals, travelers and journalists around the nation. With the assistance of Shandi, who leads Artisan’s wine program; brother, Mike, who oversees the business and front of the house; and Tina Soto, Mike's wife who handles all of the finances, Artisan has successfully become a family business and part of Paso Robles as the community develops into a richly diverse wine country destination.
Kobayashi is committed to providing sustainable, fresh and seasonal foods at Artisan and frequents local farmers’ markets to ensure the restaurant uses only the best regional and organic products available thus supporting the community. He exhaustively researches sources that can supply proteins that are wild-caught or sustainably farmed, containing no growth hormones or antibiotics. “The unique variety of micro-climates affords the farmers exciting choices for planting and gives me so much more to work with here than I’ve found either in Napa or San Francisco,” says Kobayashi. Working closely with local producers, Kobayashi tailors the Artisan menu to showcase the best of Paso Robles and the Central Coast. Many farmers plant and grow exclusively for Artisan, knowing that their products will be presented by a chef that respects the ingredient and lets it shine through in every dish. Wild arugula and Romano beans from Windrose Farm, fresh eggs from Rocky Canyon Farms, flatiron steaks from Hearst Ranch and fresh ground beef from Charter Oak can be found on Artisan’s daily market menu.
As his cooking style matures, Kobayashi finds influence in the work of fellow chefs that create soft and elegant dishes. More often, he leans to the cooking of women chefs – Alice Waters, Suzanne Goin, Suzanne Tracht and Nancy Oakes – who make uncomplicated foods with subtle yet distinct flavors, not over-seasoned, bringing to light the natural flavors of every component.
Kobayashi and Artisan regularly lend their support to the community and are yearly participants in the “Pinot and Paella” fundraiser for children’s art programs in San Luis Obispo County; the Boys and Girls Club of Paso Robles; the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival of San Luis Obispo; and Wally’s Central Coast Wine & Food Celebration for the Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund. He is a four time participant of “Outstanding in the Field,” a nation-wide roaming culinary dinner series that partners diners to the land and the origins of their food, thereby honoring the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.
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. Artisan has garnered a 2 star review from S. Irene Virbila, restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times and has been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times, Oakland Tribune, Bon Appetit, Sunset, Los Angeles, Angeleno, San Francisco, W, Wine Spectator, Details, Central Coast and National Geographic Traveler magazines.
It’s rare to find Chris Kobayashi taking time off from Artisan. When he does, he spends it outdoors amongst the beauty of the Central Coast’s landscape with Shandi and their young son, Cooper