Cindy Pawlcyn (born Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American chef best known for the restaurants she opened in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Napa Valley between 1983 and 2008. Pawlcyn was an early advocate for using local, sustainable meats and produce in her restaurants. In 2009, Pawlcyn appeared in the first season of Bravo’s "Top Chef: Masters."
Pawlcyn began working in a Minneapolis cooking school at the age of 13 and while in high school she ran her own catering business. She earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She took courses at Le Cordon Bleu and received formal training at La Varenne in Paris before working at the Pump Room in Chicago. She moved to California in 1980 to take a job at McArthur Park. Pawlcyn left McArthur Park to be the opening chef at Meadowood in St. Helena and then joined Bruce LeFavour at Rose et LaFavour. Pawlcyn collects cookbooks and owns more than 4,000 books in her personal library.
Mustards Grill, Yountville, opened 1983: named for the wild mustard flowers that grow in the wine country every year, Mustards became known for French-trained chef-quality food in a casual setting.
Fog City Diner, San Francisco, opened 1985: when Pawlcyn opened the Fog City Diner in 1985, it became an iconic restaurant because it served critically acclaimed food in a building that looked like an Airstream trailer. Visa filmed an ad about the Fog City Diner.
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, opened 2003: the restaurant was called Miramonte when it opened in 2003 but Pawlcyn changed the name to Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen within a year.
Go Fish/Brassica/Cindy Pawlcyn's Wood Grill & Wine Bar, St. Helena, opened 2006: in 2011, the restaurant, committed to sustainability, took sushi off the menu. Shortly thereafter, Cindy and partner Sean Knight announced that they would be transitioning Go Fish to a Mediterranean restaurant called Brassica, opening in September 2011. In 2012 the restaurant transitioned to another new concept and is now called Cindy Pawlcyn's Wood Grill & Wine Bar.
Cindy Pawlcyn also was involved with opening Tra Vigne, Bix, Roti (opened in 1993), Betelnut, and Buckeye Roadhouse. She currently owns and runs Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.
In 2013, Pawlcyn's restaurant group, CP Cooks LLC, managed food and beverage concessions for the BottleRock festival in Napa Valley. As of June 26, over a month after the festival had concluded, 142 union workers, a number of other vendors and charities had not yet been paid. BottleRock co-founder Bob Vogt claimed that that the delay in payments were largely caused by CP Cooks LLC not providing a timely accounting of the food and beverage concessions sales. According to Vogt, the festival was entitled to 67 percent of the net food and beverage sales in addition to a $1 donation per drink earmarked for the charities. Food and beverage revenue from the festival has been estimated at $7 million to $8 million.
CP Cooks LLC representative Sean Knight disputed Vogt's claims, claiming the accounting documentation was sent on time and that no additional money was owed to the festival. According to Knight, the way in which the $1 per beverage donations to the charities were accounted for was at the center of the dispute. Pawlcyn herself declined to comment on the situation in detail when contacted by the Napa Valley Register on June 25, 2013 citing a confidentiality agreement, stating only that "I wish I could say something. We are working on it and we are trying to move it forward".
- "Fog City Diner Cookbook," 1993, Ten Speed Press
- "Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook," 2001, Ten Speed Press (Won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best American Cookbook in 2002.)
- "Big Small Plates," 2006, Ten Speed Press
- "Appetizers," 2009, Ten Speed Press
Awards and accolades
- James Beard Foundation Award in 2002 for Best American Cookbook for "Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook."
- Twice nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in California.
- Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence.
- Fine Beverage and Food Federation’s Career Achievement Award.
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