There are only two restaurants in Napa with Michelin’s top award of – count ’em – three stars. One of them is the famed French Laundry, the other is run by Chef Christopher Kostow.
Kostow’s The Restaurant at Meadowood is a stylish experience from start to finish. From the Howard J. Backen-designed dining room (whose other local projects include Skywalker Ranch) to the perfect service, the whole place sparkles with Michelin stars. The front of house staff have earned James Beard awards of their own right.
Known for his deep appreciation and masterful reinvention of local Napa elements, Chef Kostow brings the local food movement to new heights. We are thrilled to include him in our chef series, In the Kitchen and love his responses below that give us a glimpse inside his highly creative life. Chef Kostow is only the second American-born chef – and third youngest – to ever receive three Michelin stars.
A Chicago native, Kostow studied philosophy before transitioning into the kitchen. That depth translates well into menus that are as stimulating for the brain cells as they are for the taste buds. Enjoy our interview with Chef Kostow below…
In my kitchen you’ll find plenty of:
In the kitchen you’ll always find our culinary team and front-of-house team bustling before and during service. I always look to fill open kitchen positions with motivated and kind individuals; it makes for a strong, talented team and healthy environment.
Food philosophy in one sentence:
Find local, quality ingredients and let them shine.
Recipe staples always on hand:
My advice is that a recipe can always benefit from local oils and vinegars. While not everyone may have access to local olive oils like we do here in the Napa Valley, try to find quality oils and vinegars in your local grocery stores.
Ingredient that makes everything taste better:
Similar to improving a recipe, a good local olive oil can elevate simple ingredients and add depth to the overall dish. Also, a quality salt for cooking and/or finishing.
Fave ingredient lately:
Currently I’ve been working with our farmer Zac Yoder on multiple varieties of summer squash. At Charter Oak we grill them over the hearth and serve them chilled with a topping of mixed seasonal herbs. Squash has the ability to take on different flavors, and the chilled, smoky component combines well with their natural sweetness.
Best food memory:
When I was a kid I visited Milwaukee and listened to the live music at Summerfest and had some incredible grilled corn. It wasn’t lavish or fussy, just a simple ingredient skillfully grilled.
Food you love to eat with zero prep:
When looking for food that doesn’t need much preparation or additions, my first thought is farm-fresh eggs. They’re quick to hard-boil or cook, and when they’re fresh eggs, they have great flavor.
Healthiest habit in the kitchen:
In terms of mental health, we always have good music playing. It sets the tone of the kitchen.
Michel Bras is the author of Essential Cuisine, a wonderful resource for finding inspiration in creating vegetable-driven meals.
Midnight snack perfection:
After a long dinner service at The Restaurant at Meadowood or The Charter Oak, I will typically eat some of the tempered leftovers from my family’s dinner a few hours prior.
Most impressive dish:
An impressive dish to me is something simple yet revelatory. I think of the grilled cucumbers at Charter Oak or the bean and caviar at The Restaurant at Meadowood.
Everything? I use a variety of condiments and find they work well as an added component and flavor to dishes.
Best bargain tip:
A less expensive cut of protein can taste just as delicious as a prime cut if you learn how cook it correctly. Spend the time perfecting your grilling and cooking skills (and invest in a meat thermometer) – you’ll be able to transform any cut of meat.
Fave veggie + what you make with it:
I appreciate the versatility of potatoes. I’ll make simply steamed potatoes with honey, olive oil and salt.
For snacking, I gravitate towards rice cakes. The puffed rice patties can be found at most grocery stores and are the perfect base for a variety of toppings or eaten plain.
Craziest thing I buy at the market:
My family and I often visit our local farmer’s market to pick up seasonal and local produce. The craziest thing I buy is likely the expensive coffee.
For last-minute entertaining, I...
When we need to create a quick and delicious meal for last-minute entertaining I’ll turn to the grill. It’s a quick and easy way to prepare flavorful protein and seasonal vegetables at the same time.
My signature cocktail is rye whiskey on the rocks.
Your idea of an ideal dinner setting:
An ideal dinner setting would consist of a homemade meal at home with my family. Bonus points if our dog, Charlie, has been given a bath and exercise.
Simple go-to recipe:
For a simple go-to recipe, I’ll make a tartine made with fresh bread and seasonal toppings. During the summertime we have endless fresh fruits, berries and vegetables, which make for endless options.