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hiro sone &
        lissa doumani

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biography

Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani met in 1983 while working at Los Angeles' renowned restaurant, Spago. Hiro was there on a two-month training stint in preparation for a sous chef position at Spago's new Tokyo branch. Lissa had earned herself a position as a pastry cook after marching into the kitchen one night and asking Wolfgang Puck for a job. Over the next five years, serendipity and old-fashioned match-making on the part of Wolfgang Puck and his wife, Barbara, would bring the young couple together to combine their considerable talents in their own restaurant, Terra, in St. Helena, California, in 1988.

 

Hiro Sone was born into an eighteenth-generation rice farming family in the Miyagi district of Japan. Encouraged in his culinary interests by his grandfather, he attended the highly regarded Japanese cooking school, École Technique Hôtelière Tsuji, where he trained under such legendary French chefs as Paul Bocuse, Pierre Troisgros, and Joel Robuchon. During the course of his education, he was also exposed to chefs from Japan, China, Hong Kong and Italy. Just before graduation, he traveled through Europe visiting his teachers' restaurants-a formative experience that created the framework for what would become his own personal style of cuisine. After graduation, he worked in Tokyo at an Italian restaurant for five years, beginning as a dishwasher and working his way up to sous chef-an experience that he says taught him respect for every position in the kitchen. He credits growing up on a farm with teaching him respect for ingredients and the work that goes into raising them, as well as a sense for seasonality and using only what is ready in the garden.

He had no idea what "California Cuisine" was when he was offered the position as sous chef at Spago, but two months at the restaurant in L.A. opened his eyes to more than the culinary possibilities-he met Lissa Doumani. Raised in a California winemaking family, Lissa grew up in the Stag's Leap vineyards. She always knew she wanted to own a restaurant and boldly began her culinary career as a pastry cook under Nancy Silverton at Spago. Despite the language barriers, Hiro and Lissa formed the beginnings of a relationship out of the common bond of having families that made a living off of the land. Hiro went back to Japan, but with some good-natured encouragement from Wolfgang Puck and his wife, Barbara, he and Lissa kept in touch. A year later, Lissa traveled to Tokyo to train Spago's pastry chef. They both eventually returned to the United States-Hiro became the chef at Spago in Los Angeles, and Lissa moved on to become the pastry chef at Roy Yamaguchi's 385 North.

Hiro and Lissa spent the next few years dreaming about their ideal restaurant, but the real thing had yet to materialize. Then, in 1988, Lissa's dad woke them "at an ungodly hour" with a phone call about an old chicken hatchery in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena. It was love at first sight. Fourteen years later, their restaurant, Terra is a cornerstone of the Napa Valley restaurant community. They have received the DiRona Award every year since 1994, and have earned the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for their wine list and service. In 2000, Hiro merited the Robert Mondavi Culinary Excellence Award. The James Beard Foundation awarded Hiro as "Best Chef in California" in 2003. The Bay Area Zagat Guide consistently rates Terra in the top ten for food, service and décor. In 2001, they published their eagerly-awaited cookbook, Terra: Cooking from the Heart of Napa Valley, with Ten Speed Press.

 


  

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