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Dressed in a black Patagonia jacket, Boll?sunglasses and a pair of green Crocs, Gerard Nebesky barrels out of Occidental in his sea-green 1961 Chevy truck with both hands clutching the steering wheel.

The broad-shouldered Wine Country chef famous for cooking up big, bubbling pans of paella ? the national rice dish of Spain ? has a hearty appetite for life.

?I pack a lot into a day,? says the 41-year-old chef, who sports a curly gray mane and a goatee. ?In the summer, I often do two or three paellas a day.?

There?s no such thing as a dull moment with this peripatetic paella master, who routinely pops wheelies on a snowboard, ascends Europe?s tallest peaks and free dives in the chilly Pacific Ocean for abalone and rockfish.

And all the while, he?s thinking about the next meal he?s going to serve at a rustic beach in the Bahamas, the windswept Sonoma Coast or an upscale Napa Valley winery. This guy loves to eat, and Nebesky?s penchant for adventure may be his greatest asset as a chef, since it translates into vibrant, exciting flavors on the plate.

Even a short drive on Coleman Valley Road turns into an E-ticket ride, with Nebesky popping into second gear and cranking the steering wheel around the bucolic road?s twists and turns. And at the end of the ride, the chef proudly cooks up a Wine Country repast from ingredients he has foraged himself, including porcini mushrooms and abalone pried off an undersea ledge, washed down with a glass of his own Cabernet Sauvignon. He finishes it off with a dollop of sea urchin roe.

?It?s so easy to get stuff here,? Nebesky says, happily hammering the abalone, then saut?ng it with garlic and mushrooms. ?Everything, except for the wine, was alive when it came into the kitchen.?

A Bohemian at heart (his father was born in the former Czechoslovakia, his mother hails from Australia), Nebesky makes his home in Occidental, where he owned the Bohemian Cafe from 1990 to 2000. The homey restaurant showcased an eclectic mix of authentic dishes, from pizza to Pad Thai, collected from his travels all over the world.

Wherever he wanders these days, this chef takes his kitchen with him: paella pans and propane burners, cutting boards and knives, coolers and work tables. He always cooks his paella outdoors, rain or shine, in a protected spot that?s out of the wind.

?I bring a tent if it?s rainy, some tablecloths, and that?s basically it,? says Nebesky, who has thrown paella parties for celebrities like Teri Hatcher and Corbin Bernsen, the cast of ?Lost? and the crew from ?Saturday Night Live.?

In the summer, Nebesky often can be found tending a steaming pan of paella outside the Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg on Tuesday evenings, or cooking gourmet lunches for Wine Country Bikes, a tour company based in Healdsburg.

Last fall, he gave a paella cooking class for Relish Culinary School at Wright?s Beach, south of Goat Rock in Jenner. It sold out early, despite its rustic setting. Relish founder Donna del Ray described it as ?extreme cooking.?

Thanks to del Ray, Nebesky landed a job this past winter as the chef at a luxury helicopter-skiing lodge in the remote, 11,000-foot-high Ruby Mountains of eastern Nevada. When the wilderness outfit asked her for a recommendation, she didn?t have to think twice.

?No one else I know on the whole earth would want to cook there,? she says. ?But Gerard was made for this. It?s a match made in heaven.?

In April, Nebesky will start warming up his paella pans and his natural charm again at various wineries and private venues in the North Bay, where he serves as an ad hoc ambassador for Wine Country through the busy spring, summer and fall harvest season.

In his bright orange chef?s coat and sunglasses, the down-to-earth Nebesky demystifies the cooking process while providing a unique peek into his world of extreme cooking.

?People really get into being outdoors,? he says. ?They love the nuts and bolts, and they love rolling up their sleeves. They get to work with the locals and feel a part of it.?

Nebesky does paella over an open fire each spring and fall at Vincent Arroyo Winery in Calistoga, where owner/winemaker Vincent Arroyo helped launch Nebesky on the road to paella fame. When he?s around, it feels homey, says Arroyo ? like a cooking show in person.

Although he can make all kinds of paellas (vegetarian, seafood, rabbit, you name it), Nebesky?s signature Paella Mixta has a distinctive Wine Country twist.

He uses garbanzo beans instead of the Spanish garrafon beans and showcases Pacific shellfish like the New Zealand Green Lip mussels and whole shrimp in the shell. Instead of chorizo sausage, he sticks to chicken, which lightens up the hearty dish.

But he always uses the requisite Spanish aromatics: saffron and smoked paprika. The spices add a crimson tint to the sofrito flavor base, a sauce made from onions, garlic and tomatoes. And in the end, there?s always a generous sprinkling of fresh lemon juice.

?The lemon really lifts it,? says his brother Mark, a former restaurateur in New Zealand who lives in Freestone. ?It?s hard to stop eating it, especially if you?re the type of person who likes shrimp. ... It?s everything on one plate, and it?s filling.?

The humble paella dish can be traced back to the Moorish invasion of Spain in the eighth century, when the Arabs first brought citrus, almonds, saffron and rice to their northern neighbors.

Ever since that time, rice fields have been planted in the wetlands around Valencia, on the Costa Brava of eastern Spain. The hearty rice dish evolved as a rib-sticking lunch, designed to keep field hands going until sundown.

In Spain, the dish is traditionally cooked in a two-handled shallow pan made of a thin-gauge steel, which allows sugars from the rice to caramelize on the bottom. The Spaniards consider the socarrat crust the best part of the paella.

Tinted subtly with saffron, infused with olive oil and sweetened with caramelized peppers and tomatoes, the rustic paella dish has an affinity with wine.

?It?s not very spicy,? notes Nebesky, ?so it really complements the wine rather than battles it.?

Nebesky?s paella ? studded with red peppers, green beans and yellow lemon ? is as pleasing to the eyes and nose as it is to the palate. He?s particular about the visual presentation, making sure each paella can be eaten with the eyes first.

Although he was born in San Francisco, Nebesky grew up all over, from Czechoslovakia and Australia to Carson City, Nevada, where his mother, Rosemary, runs a tea house. His father, Ladislav, fled Czechoslovakia in 1968, the day that Soviet tanks arrived in Prague. The young Czech immigrated to Australia for a time and now resides in the Czech Republic.

Nebesky graduated from high school in Australia and toyed briefly with a career in graphic design. He got hooked on cooking while helping his brother launch a restaurant in New Zealand. Although he considered going to culinary school, Nebesky opted instead to open his own restaurant. At the Bohemian Cafe in Occidental, he hired chefs and trained on the job.

In the winter, Nebesky would take his entire restaurant staff skiing every Tuesday, generously cooking all their meals while providing lessons on the slopes. Now that he works as a freelance chef, Nebesky has more time to pursue his outdoor passions ? snowboarding, diving, biking, climbing.

In winters past, Nebesky has scaled Mont Blanc ? the highest mountain in Western Europe ? and traversed the high route from Chamonix to Zermatt with a group of European climbing buddies. Even during these Alpine trips, Nebesky still works as the chef, using a tiny gas stove to cook up gourmet meals that they wash down with wine.

Meanwhile, back home in Occidental, Nebesky has started to make his own wine with a small circle of friends and family members.

It?s a well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon, made from grapes he sources from his friends at Rafanelli in Dry Creek and Silver Oak in the Alexander Valley.

Of course, the key ingredient for anything made by Nebesky ? whether it?s a delicious red wine or a mouthwatering paella ? is the chef himself. Somehow, everything tastes better when Nebesky is around, telling stories and offering tips, doling out smiles and big bear hugs around the paella pan and the fire.

?I live every day like it?s my last,? he says with a twinkle in his eye. ?I could not be happier.?

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