Chuck Williams (author)
October 2, 1915 |
Florida, United States
Charles E. "Chuck" Williams (born October 2, 1915) is the founder of the Williams-Sonoma company and author and editor of dozens of books on the subject of cooking.
Born in 1915 in northern Florida, Williams learned to cook from his maternal grandmother, who had owned a restaurant in Lima, Ohio. When the Great Depression hit, his father's auto repair business failed, and the family moved to southern California. His father fared no better there and soon abandoned his wife, son and daughter.
Eventually, Williams found work on a date farm near Palm Springs, Sniff's Date Gardens in Indio. The couple who owned it, Dana and Abagail Sniff, took him in and drove him to high school in the mornings while he spent the afternoons working at the date shop and grounds. Williams lived with the Sniffs for 7 years until just after his graduation from high school. His sister died in 1933 from a brain injury, after being hit in the head with a baseball. His mother returned to Florida, and Williams finished school and moved to Los Angeles.
During World War II, he spent four years overseas as an airplane mechanic for Lockheed International, working on aircraft in India and East Africa.
After the war, Williams returned to Los Angeles and one weekend, joined friends for golf in Sonoma. He fell in love with the town and moved there in 1947, starting a successful business as a building contractor.
Williams bought the Ralph Morse Hardware Store in Sonoma, California in 1953.  Over the next few years, he gradually converted its stock from hardware to French cookware, filling a niche in the market as European cookware was difficult to buy in America at the time. The concept was successful and he moved his operations to San Francisco in 1958. More than a decade later, in 1971, Williams-Sonoma introduced its first cookware catalog. Soon after, the business began expanding to more locations and now includes over 200 stores nationwide. In addition, in recent years, Williams-Sonoma has begun expanding into Canada, with four stores as of 2005.
Contributions to cooking
Williams operates a test kitchen at Williams-Sonoma corporate headquarters in San Francisco, where recipes are tested for the company's catalogs and cookbooks. He is an editor or contributor to nearly every cookbook that Williams-Sonoma releases, including the large multi-volume Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library set, co-published by Time-Life Books. The series includes over 40 volumes and has sold nearly 10 million copies. Williams was the sole author of another Time-Life/Williams Sonoma series, Simple Cooking, which comprised Simple American Cooking, Simple French Cooking, and Simple Italian Cooking as well as a "best of" collection with selections from all three. All told, Williams has been involved with the production of more than 100 cookbooks.
In addition to his involvement with The Culinary Institute of America, Williams has served on the Board of the American Institute of Food & Wine and has contributed to events offered by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). He was named as the "Who’s Who of Food & Beverage" in 1994 by the James Beard Foundation, and was given the Foundation’s highest recognition in 1995 — "The Lifetime Achievement Award."