Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef William Werner

May 2013

Katherine Sacks: What drew you to a pastry career?
William Werner: It’s kind of an off story. I was lifeguarding at the time and wanted to pursue a career in emergency medicine. I was lifeguarding on the beach, the youngest by far, and the guys I was working with were really into food. It just kind of exposed me because I was an only child and cooking very healthy wasn't something I was into at a time. Being exposed to these guys and the camaraderie was great. I remember the first Food & Wine magazine I bought; I hid it under my surfer magazine. So I started looking for a food job; I wanted to go to culinary school but couldn’t get the financial support for it. I landed in a vegetarian kitchen. The chef was really awesome, he had worked at all these great places, Chez Panisse, The French Laundry. It gave me tons of exposure to the food scene and the depth of cooking, he challenged me with that. I cooked for awhile, and I started dating the pastry chef. Things went south and it became my responsibility to do desserts. I didn't want to go home smelling like fish and I like the aspect of pastry that’s really cerebral.

KS: Where do you find inspiration?
WW: A lot of different things. Maintaining your craft, inspiration, can come from a lot of different sources. I'm inspired by anyone and everyone. I’m fortunate to be in San Francisco where we have some of the most talented chefs in the country.

KS: How would you describe your style?
WW: I think it's clean, minimal flavor combinations, texture driven, technique driven. Good ingredients are only a starting point.

KS: Now that you have your own shop, do you see yourself as a baker or a pastry chef?
WW: Definitely pastry chef. Chad at Tartine is a baker. We do breads but we are definitely pastry focused.

KS: What are the three rules to pastry success?
WW: Patience, discipline, and unrelenting drive to better yourself. To be a great pastry chef you need to be multidisciplined, to learn how to temper chocolate, laminate dough, work with sugar. Everyone has a strong suit but the cook who comes to me who can only laminate dough is only good to me if I only need someone to laminate dough.

KS: Where will we find you in 5 years?
WW: Hopefully on a sunny hot beach, somewhere relaxing.  We have a concept called Kettle Whistle, which is like high tea, and we’d like to do it brick and mortar. There are different concepts built around this dynamic.