Los Angeles, California
|Residence||Los Angeles, California|
|Education||Le Cordon Bleu |
Ecole Lenotre Culinary Institute
|Years active||1984 - present|
|Employer||Osteria Mozza |
|The Mozza Cookbook |
Breads from the LaBrea Bakery
|Awards||Outstanding Chef, James Beard Foundation Award (2014) |
Best of Food and Entertaining (1999) Bon Appétit
Pastry Chef of the Year, James Beard Foundation (1990)
Nancy Silverton is an American chef, baker, and author. The winner of the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award in 2014, Silverton is recognized for her role in popularizing sourdough and artisan breads in the United States.
Early life and education
Silverton grew up in Sherman Oaks and Encino, in Southern California's San Fernando Valley. Her mother, Doris, was a writer for the soap opera General Hospital and her father, Larry, was a lawyer. Silverton enrolled at Sonoma State University as a political science major, but decided to become a chef in her freshman year after she had what she later described as an epiphany. "I was cooking in the dorms in a stainless steel kitchen, cooking vegetarian food, and I remember this light bulb going off and thinking 'Oh wait, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,' " she said in a 2013 interview.
Silverton dropped out of Sonoma State in her senior year, and decided to train formally as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in London. In 1979, following her graduation, she returned to Southern California, where she worked with pastry chef Jimmy Brinkeley at Michael’s, an acclaimed restaurant in Santa Monica. Inspired by his creativity, she returned to Europe to attend Ecole Lenotre Culinary Institute in Plasir, France to further her studies.
After Silverton returned to Los Angeles in 1982, she was hired by Wolfgang Puck as Spago's opening pastry chef, and in 1986, she wrote her first cookbook, Desserts. In 1989, Silverton, her then-husband, chef Mark Peel, and Manfred Krankl opened Campanile, about which critic Jonathan Gold would later write: "It is hard to overstate Campanile's contributions to American cooking." Almost as an afterthought, Silverton and Peel opened La Brea Bakery in a space which adjoined the main restaurant; it opened prior to Campanile. Silverton served as the head baker at the bakery and the head pastry chef at the restaurant, which was located on La Brea Avenue in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles.
Silverton had limited experience from baking bread while a pastry chef at Spago and began to experiment with recipes after she read an article about a San Francisco artisan bakery, Acme. She used grapes, which had natural yeast, and let them soak for days in flour and water. She then mixed the dough, shaped the loaves by hand, and let them rise twice over a two-day period. After six months and "hundreds" of attempts to perfect the recipe, she was satisfied. Artisan bread was then largely unknown in Los Angeles, and within weeks, sales were up to $1,000 a day at the bakery. On Thanksgiving in 1990, the line to buy bread stretched around the block and partway down a side street.
Campanile was equally successful from the start. Silverton and Peel were well-known through their work at Spago and Michael's, and Campanile was uniformly lauded by the press. Reservations were difficult, and during their first year, annual sales exceeded $2 million. Silverton would bake bread all night, sleep briefly, wake mid-morning to prepare pastries and desserts for the restaurant, and nap again before dinner. In 1991, she won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Pastry Chef award. In an article on the awards, the Los Angeles Times wrote that she had "not only given Los Angeles great bread, but through her work at Campanile, she has virtually redefined what dessert is." 
Silverton, however, was "frazzled." In 1992, she and Krankl went back to the group of investors who had funded Campanile, and built a much larger, fully staffed, commercial bakery. At the same time, they split the bakery into a separate entity. Silverton became less involved with the bakery in 1993, serving mainly as an advisor. In 1996, her second book, Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur, was published.
In 1998, Silverton began "Grilled Cheese Night" at Campanile, which became an establishment in Los Angeles. Described as the "godmother of grilled cheese sandwiches," by NBC's Today Show, "Grilled Cheese Night" started a worldwide trend. Her book Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever--from Thursday Nights at Campanile was published in 2005.
In 2001, an Irish investment group, IAWS, purchased La Brea Bakery for a price that was reported as ranging from $56 million to $68.5 million. Silverton earned more than $5 million in the sale, and invested with Bernard Madoff; her profits were lost in 2008 with the collapse of his pyramid scheme. In 2005, she and Peel separated, and Silverton left Campanile after their divorce in 2007. The restaurant closed in October 2012.
In 2007, Silverton partnered with New York chef Mario Batali and his frequent collaborator Joseph Bastianich to open an Italian restaurant, Osteria Mozza. Reminiscent of the evolution of La Brea bakery, a pizzeria, Pizzeria Mozza, opened in an adjoining space prior to the opening of the main restaurant. It was met with an "instant and outsize swoon." The Los Angeles Times gave it a four-star review, and the New York Times called it a "serious and impressive restaurant."
Four months after the opening of the pizzeria, Osteria Mozza opened to similar acclaim. Although the restaurant's entire menu was widely praised, Silverton's interpretation of antipasti as a Mozzarella bar won particular recognition, with Zagat's noting that she had "perfected the art of cheese." It was nominated as Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation the year it opened, and was awarded a Michelin star in 2008.
Osteria Mozza later opened restaurants in Newport Beach, California, and Singapore. The main Mozza location has since grown to include Mozza2Go and a third restaurant, Chi Spacca, which focuses on meats.
Silverton won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award in 2014, the Beard Awards' most prestigious honor.
Silverton serves as mentor to the team of pastry chefs at Short Cake Bakery, a bakery she helped her longtime friend, the late Amy Pressman, to open. She has been a member of the Macy's Culinary Council since 2003 and is involved in the Meals on Wheels programs in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.
Silverton lives in Los Angeles. She has three children.
Selected awards and distinctions
- Eater's TV Chef of the Year (2017)
- Outstanding Chef, James Beard Foundation Award (2014)
- International Star Diamond Award for Outstanding Hospitality (2010)
- RCA Pioneer Award (2003)
- James Beard, nominated for Outstanding Service (2003)
- James Beard, nominated for Outstanding Service (2002)
- James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award, Campanile (2001)
- IACP Julia Childs Cookbook Awards Nominee (1997)
- James Beard, Nominee, Best Cookbook of the Year, Baking (1997)
- Los Angeles Culinary Master of the Year, The 1994 Fine Spirit Wine & Food Tasting Exhibition (1994)
- James Beard "Who's Who in American Cooking" (1990)
- James Beard Best Pastry Chef of the Year (1990)
- Food & Wine Magazine, Best New Chefs (1990)
- Desserts. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0061817700. 1986.
- Mark Peel & Nancy Silverton at Home: Two Chefs Cook for Family & Friends. With Mark Peel. Warner Books. ISBN 0446517364. 1994
- Breads from the La Brea Bakery. Villard Books. ISBN 0-679-40907-6. 1996
- The Food of Campanile: Recipes from the Famed Los Angeles Restaurant. With Mark Peel. Villard Books. ISBN 0812992032. 1997
- Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery. Villard Books. ISBN 0-375-50193-2. 2000.
- Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever—from Thursday Nights at Campanile. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41260-3. 2005.
- A Twist of the Wrist: Quick Flavorful Meals with Ingredients from Jars, Cans, Bags, and Boxes. Knopf. ISBN 1400044073. 2007.
- The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria. With Matt Molina, Carolynn Carreno and Mario Batali. Knopf. ISBN 0307272842. 2011.
- Hallock, Betty (May 5, 2014). "Nancy Silverton wins Outstanding Chef at James Beard Awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
- Lurie, Joshua (September 23, 2013). "Interview: Nancy Silverton (Mozza Restaurant Group)". foodgps.com. Food GPS. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- Witchel, Alex (October 25, 2011). "Mozzarella as Medium and Muse". New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- Trueting, Jennifer. "Nancy Silverton saved sourdough in American culinary culture, becoming one of the world's top bakers". delish.com. Delish.
- "Desserts". culinate.com. Culinate. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Baum, Gary (February 22, 2014). "L.A. A-LIST CHEF NANCY SILVERTON GETS SERIOUS ABOUT PORK". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- Gold, Jonathan (September 29, 2012). "el Campanile closing? The dining scene loses a standard-setter". Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- Parsons, Russ (January 29, 2014). "Nancy Silverton looks back at 25 years of La Brea Bakery". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Fromartz, Samuel (October 1, 2001). "Rising Empire L.A. chef Nancy Silverton sold her ultra-trendy bread-baking business for millions. So how'd she pull that off without selling out?". CNN/Fortune. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Reichl, Ruth (May 16, 1991). "Food Oscars : The James Beard Awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur". publishersweekly.com. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Balla, Lesley (May 17, 2014). "5 Reasons to Love Nancy Silverton". zagat.com. Zagat. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Virbila, S. Irene (October 20, 1998). "At Campanile, a Special Night for the Grilled Cheese Sandwich". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Silverton's sandwiches are heaven-sent". today.com. NBC/Today Show. April 14, 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Green, Emily (October 24, 2010). "An Elegy for Campanile". LA Weekly. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Bruni, Frank (May 9, 2007). "In Los Angeles, the Accidental Pizza Maker". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Balla, Lesley (October 20, 2008). "Michelin Results ARE OUT". laeater.com. Los Angeles Eater. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Ziamont, Rachel Heller (September 1, 2014). "HOW MOZZA CHEF NANCY SILVERTON HAS MADE THE MOST OF UNEXPECTED CHANGE". fastcocreate.com. Fast Company. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Parsons, Russ (January 7, 2015). "Nancy Silverton launches new line of fancy ice creams". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- "Guest Chefs To Help Meals On Wheels". Chicago Tribune. February 21, 1991. Retrieved 4 December 2014.