Executive chef Christopher Kostow of the Restaurant at Meadowood hasn't cooked for the Auction Napa Valley since 2008, the year he was hired.
Since then, however, the chef has raised the bar by snagging three Michelin stars for the St. Helena resort, which traditionally hosts Saturday's live auction on its fairway. As head chef for this Saturday dinner, Kostow will land in the heart of the batting order.
"Traditionally, the restaurant lends some support," he said of the community fundraiser put on by the Napa Valley Vintners Association. "But what's really attractive for me this year is that it's all about the valley."
Rather than bring in talent from around the country, this year's auction will feature an all-star line-up of local chefs, ranging from pioneers like Thomas Keller and Michael Chiarello to up-and-comers like Kostow and Brandon Sharp of Solbar at Solage Calistoga resort.
For Kostow, who won a 2013 James Beard award for "Best Chef: West," the past year has been full of new challenges. He not only teamed up with a ceramacist to launch a line of artisanal plates, but he also completed his first cookbook, "A New Napa Cuisine," due out this fall.
"The book really dovetails with the theme of the auction," Kostow said. "It details the transformative process of moving to the valley, and our relationships with our growers, our gardens, our artisans and our foragers."
Rather than look toward Europe, Kostow said the new generation of local chefs is trying to forge "a nascent style of cooking in the Napa Valley."
"We need to scratch the veneer of what we see, and to embrace the grape-growing but also the agricultural heritage of the place and even the Indian practices," he said. "It's really digging in deep."
During the family-style dinner on Saturday night, Kostow and his team will show off a wide range of Napa products, from Rancho Gordo Beans and Bale Grist Mill grains to pork raised in the Carneros and produce grown by Meadowood and Long Meadow Ranch gardeners.
"We really challenged ourselves to use products that are produced and purveyed in the valley," Kostow said. "That is the whole of the menu."
Vegetable dishes include potatoes cooked in Napa beeswax with sorrel, carrots baked in Calistoga clay, and beets roasted in coals and served with dried elderberries.
"We bury things in those warm coals from the oven," Kostow said of the beet dish. "We call it paleo style."
For the main course, the team will smoke local pork over cabernet barrels, then serve it with local prunes.
"It's family-style and super rustic," Kostow said. "But I think the point will be well communicated."
Sharp, who has earned a Michelin Star for Solbar several times during his seven-year tenure, will be part of an impressive team serving the Saturday luncheon.
A native of North Carolina who has cooked in Spain, New Orleans and at Keller's French Laundry in Yountville, Sharp has earned a reputation for his "California soul food."
The "soul" part comes from the fact that cooking has rural roots and started out in home kitchens before making its way into cities and restaurants.
"There's a lot of Americana that goes into it, and a lot of eclectic things from around the globe," he said. "We think globally and cook locally."
How to help
Olivia Weber’s new GoFundMe page